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Running on Empty (1988)

PG-13  |   |  Crime, Drama, Music  |  9 September 1988 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 9,610 users  
Reviews: 85 user | 38 critic

The eldest son of a fugitive family comes of age and wants to live a life of his own.



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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jonas Abry ...
Harry Pope
Ed Crowley ...
Mr. Phillips
Gus Winant
Donald Patterson
Augusta Dabney ...
Abigail Patterson
Dr. Jonah Reiff
Contact at Eldridge St.
School Clerk
Sloane Shelton ...
Mrs. Phillips
Justine Johnston ...
Hospital Clerk


The Popes are a family who haven't been able to use their real identity for years. In the late sixties, the parents set a weapons lab afire in an effort to hinder the government's Vietnam war campaign. Ever since then, the Popes have been on the run with the authorities never far behind. Today, their eldest son wants a life of his own although he is aware that would mean that his parents would either get caught or he will never see them again. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In 1971, Arthur and Annie Pope blew up a napalm lab to protest the war... Ever since then they have been on the run from the FBI. They chose their lives. Now their son must choose his.


Crime | Drama | Music | Romance


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

9 September 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die Flucht ins Ungewisse  »

Box Office


$3,000,000 (estimated)


$2,835,116 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


One of only a handful of films to successfully have its MPAA rating changed through the formal appeals process. Originally given an "R" due to more than one use of the "F" word, it was revised to "PG13". See more »


As they stop at a gas station on the run from authorities, one of the characters is shown removing a Delaware license plate from the front of the gray van. Delaware has never issued nor required front-mounted plates. See more »


Michael: So, what are you doing over the summer?
Lorna: I have a job pumping gas.
Michael: You finally got the Supreme Court to hear your case, huh?
Lorna: Yeah.
See more »


Referenced in Suburgatory: No Me Gusta, Mami (2014) See more »


Oh Pretty Woman
Written by Roy Orbison & Bill Dees
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User Reviews

A Well-Acted, Powerful Story
24 May 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I thought this was a powerful movie about '60s radicals on the lam for 14 years and a crisis that develops when the family's 17-year-old son is talented enough to enter Juliard School Of Music which means , because of identity problems, they may never see him again. Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti play the husband and wife and River Phoenix and Jonas Abry are their kids.

There is excellent acting in this film and particularly by young Phoenix. The story shows us a good portrait of what it must be like to live in hiding. Politically, people will view this movie as they think (conservative or liberal) because it could be viewed a number of ways.

To me, it showed the worst of what could have happened to young people in the '60s who believed they were doing the right thing but broke the law....and paid the consequence. The sad part, as this shows so vividly, is how it affects the rest of the family and others. I think the most powerful scene in the film is when Lahti meets her dad after 14 years in hiding: very, very emotional stuff and one of the most intense short talking scenes I've ever seen on film.

19 of 24 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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