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Ishtar (1987)

PG-13  |   |  Action, Adventure, Comedy  |  15 May 1987 (USA)
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Ratings: 4.1/10 from 8,402 users   Metascore: 52/100
Reviews: 125 user | 47 critic | 16 from

Two terrible lounge singers get booked to play a gig in a Moroccan hotel but somehow become pawns in an international power play between the CIA, the Emir of Ishtar, and the rebels trying to overthrow his regime.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jim Harrison
Marty Freed
Emir Yousef
Fijad Hageb ...
Abdul (as Fuad Hageb)
Mr. Clarke
Rose Arrick ...
Julie Garfield ...
Siri Darma (as Christine Rose)
Robert V. Girolami ...
Bartender (as Bob Girolami)
Abe Kroll ...
Mr. Thomopoulos


Two terrible lounge singers get booked to play a gig in a Moroccan hotel but somehow become pawns in an international power play between the CIA, the Emir of Ishtar, and the rebels trying to overthrow his regime. Written by Stern

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

emir | cia | map | morocco | hotel | See All (100) »


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

15 May 1987 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Иштар  »

Box Office


$51,000,000 (estimated)


$14,375,181 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In one of Gary Larson's "The Far Side" comic strips, captioned "Hell's Video Store," the entire store is stocked with nothing but copies of Ishtar (1987). Larson later apologized, saying "When I drew the above cartoon, I had not actually seen 'Ishtar.' Years later, I saw it on an airplane, and was stunned at what was happening to me: I was actually being entertained. Sure, maybe it's not the greatest film ever made, but my cartoon was way off the mark. There are so many cartoons for which I should probably write an apology, but this is the only one which compels me to do so." See more »


By the chandelier when Jim talks to the Emir. See more »


Chuck Clarke: So what do you do?
Jim Harrison: I'm with the CIA.
Chuck Clarke: Interesting work?
See more »


Referenced in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #1.8 (2011) See more »


Lyrics and Music by Paul Williams
Performed by Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman
See more »

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User Reviews

Its bad rep is undeserved
7 February 2000 | by (Cincinnati, Ohio) – See all my reviews

For the most part, films that bomb badly usually deserve to, but Ishtar is a curious exception. For the life of me, I cannot understand the critical drubbing it took upon its initial release. Admittedly, it did go way over budget, and none of that opulence is visible on screen (the film has a murky and washed out look to it, and its sets and locales are not particularly impressive) but this is a comedy after all, and so lives or dies based on the quality of its jokes and situations, not its production design. And on that level Ishtar not only gets by but succeeds wonderfully.

Beatty and Hoffman play two dim bulbs who fancy themselves songwriters and pair up in an attempt to become the next Simon and Garfunkel. The tortured lyrics these guys come up with must be heard to be believed, and the scenes showing them working on their songs or presenting their act to audiences are some of the most screamingly funny ever committed to film. If for no other reason than to see these scenes, you should rent the movie.

Perhaps the film might have been funnier (and better accepted by critics) if it had focused exclusively on the show business dreams of its stars. However, early on the two get a booking to play an extended gig in Morocco (that alone should tell you how bad they are); they get waylaid in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Ishtar where they become inadvertently roped into a shady CIA dominated plot having something to do with rebellions, arm shipments and military coups. It's all rather hokey and confusing - but deliberately so, in the best screwball sense. And through it all Hoffman and Beatty truly shine: the bafflement on their faces and in their gestures as they are shepherded from place to place as dupes in a plot they don't understand is just priceless. Who would have thought that two such intelligent actors could play stupid so convincingly (either one of them, for example, would have made a preferable sidekick to Jim Carrey than Jeff Daniels was in Dumb and Dumber - his performance showed all the strain of a bright guy trying to force himself into a pose of ineptitude). Even more, who would have imagined that two such prima donnas could put their egos aside to work off each other so well and become a truly great comedy TEAM? No matter how crazy the plot may get, Hoffman and Beatty are never less than a delight as they hold down the center of the film.

Oh yeah, and if that weren't enough, there's also the treat of the wonderfully droll and deadpan Charles Grodin as the CIA operative in Ishtar. He's the villain of the piece, but his beautifully underplayed exasperation at the exploits of the two stars makes you like him almost as much as you do them.

So what are you waiting for? If you like a good, well done comedy with sharp performances and a kooky atmosphere, check out Ishtar today. Don't allow all those sourpuss, stone-faced critics to ruin your fun.

27 of 37 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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If you like Ishtar yakipoo
why dos everyone hate this movie noer86
Hands down one of the worst movies I've ever seen. So bad I walked out ShazzMatazz
Dustin Hoffman defends Ishtar on Talk of the Nation nnnn8
Hell's video store madmoizelle
Quentin Tarantino introduced Ishtar last night at a screening horrorbargainbin
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