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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?


The film began principal photography in October 1985, amidst high political tensions in North Africa. Israeli warplanes had just bombed Palestinian Liberation Organization headquarters in Tunis and, seven days later, the Palestine Liberation Front hijacked a cruise ship, the Achille Lauro, murdering a wheelchair-using elderly Jewish American, Leon Klinghoffer. The Moroccan military was fighting the Polisario Front guerrillas at the time as well. There were rumours Palestinian terrorists might try to kidnap Dustin Hoffman, and some locations had to be checked for land mines before shooting could begin. See more »


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


Chuck Clarke: Either shoot me or lower your voice.
See more »


Referenced in Bad Movie Beatdown: Hudson Hawk (2010) See more »


Love in My Will
Lyrics by Elaine May and Paul Williams
Music by Paul Williams
Performed by Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman
See more »

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User Reviews

Often misunderstood and truly funny...
18 October 2004 | by (California) – See all my reviews

I am just old enough to remember the two movies of the same approximate era (1980s, anyway) that became synonymous with big-budget box office bombs: "Ishtar" and "Heaven's Gate."

At the time, "Ishtar" was considered so bad as to be unwatchable. It was skewered and vilified so strongly that the critics rapidly drove it out of the theaters. Few--including me--ever had the nerve to rent the movie.

It wasn't until roughly 10 years after its release that my in-laws introduced me to the comedic greatness that is "Ishtar." To this day when I tell friends and family that I love Ishtar, it is somewhat like saying, enthusiastically, "Hey, I just contracted leprosy!" Such is the stigma that still lingers with this film.

To the credit of critics, this is by no means a work of pure comedic genius.

The movie has essentially one theme that works--the effortless cluelessness of Lyle and Chuck as the world's worst songwriters--and this is exhausted almost completely within the first 30 minutes. Still, it is a totally knee-slapping hilarious 30 minutes. The meandering remaining plot that takes them to Morocco for a singing gig and leads them to become CIA "agents" is what cemented the bad taste in the mouth of critics for time immemorial. This theme by the end of the movie is rather re-treaded and worn-out. We kind of want Warren and Dustin to just shut up by then.

This second act suffers from a kind of Hope-Crosby wannabee syndrome, and the writing isn't up to the slapstick pedigree the movie had begun revealing quite hilariously in the first act. Considering this film came from the pen of Elaine May--of "Nichols and May" comedy duet fame--I would have expected more, but perhaps this movie spiraled out of her hands because of the oft-misunderstood first act. I could easily see studio test audiences handily rejecting it and thus twisting the movie's priorities out of whack.

Still, "Ishtar" shouldn't be brushed aside as a mere footnote in movie history. It is worth watching for its true hilarity and the performances of both Hoffman and Beatty.

32 of 39 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
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