Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

PG  |   |  Comedy, Romance  |  9 March 1990 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 5.7/10 from 26,547 users  
Reviews: 193 user | 34 critic

When a hypochondriac learns that he is dying, he accepts an offer to throw himself in a volcano at a tropical island, and along the way there, learns to truly live.

Watch Trailer
0Check in

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Video




Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Comedy | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

A detective must adopt the dog of a dead man to help him find the murderer.

Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Stars: Tom Hanks, Mare Winningham, Craig T. Nelson
The Money Pit (1986)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A young couple struggles to repair a hopelessly dilapidated house.

Director: Richard Benjamin
Stars: Tom Hanks, Shelley Long, Alexander Godunov
Comedy | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  

A man picked randomly out of a crowd is made the target of CIA survelliance and pursuit.

Director: Stan Dragoti
Stars: Tom Hanks, Lori Singer, Dabney Coleman
Dragnet (1987)
Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

The equally-straight-laced and "by the book" nephew of Joe Friday must work with his more laid-back partner to solve a mystery.

Director: Tom Mankiewicz
Stars: Dan Aykroyd, Tom Hanks, Christopher Plummer
The 'Burbs (1989)
Comedy | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

An overstressed suburbanite and his paramilitaric neighbor struggle to prove their paranoid theory that the new family in town is a front for a cannibalistic cult.

Director: Joe Dante
Stars: Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher
Punchline (1988)
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

Steven Gold is a stand-up comedian who is flat broke and has recently dropped out of medical school. He and several others work regularly at the Gas Station, a New York comedy club. The ... See full summary »

Director: David Seltzer
Stars: Sally Field, Tom Hanks, John Goodman
Splash (1984)
Comedy | Fantasy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A young man is reunited with a mermaid who saves him from drowning as a boy and falls in love not knowing who/what she is.

Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, Eugene Levy
Volunteers (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  

Lawrence is a rich kid with a bad accent and a large debt. After his father refuses to help him out, Lawrence escapes his angry debtors by jumping on a Peace Corp flight to Southeast Asia, ... See full summary »

Director: Nicholas Meyer
Stars: Tom Hanks, John Candy, Rita Wilson
Comedy | Drama | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Two sisters join the first female professional baseball league and struggle to help it succeed amidst their own growing rivalry.

Director: Penny Marshall
Stars: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

A successful ad man (Hanks) must juggle his ever-demanding career while his parents' marriage breaks up.

Director: Garry Marshall
Stars: Tom Hanks, Jackie Gleason, Eva Marie Saint
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A soon-to-be-married man's friends throw him the ultimate bachelor party.

Director: Neal Israel
Stars: Tom Hanks, Tawny Kitaen, Adrian Zmed
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  

After his mistress runs over a young teen, a Wall Street hotshot sees his life unravel in the spotlight, and attracting the interest of a down and out reporter.

Director: Brian De Palma
Stars: Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith


Cast overview, first billed only:
DeDe / Angelica / Patricia
Dr. Ellison
Chief of the Waponis
Mr. Waturi
Barry McGovern ...
Luggage Salesman
Jayne Haynes ...
David Burton ...
Jon Conrad Pochron ...
Tony (as Jon Pochran)
Fred - Guard
Antoni Gatti ...
Italian Tailor
Darrell Zwerling ...
Underwear Salesman


Joe versus the Volcano is a fable which opens with somewhat surrealistic scenes of the dehumanization of Joe Bank's job and work environment (at a company whose product rather literally screws people) with imagery that seems to have been inspired by the classic film Metropolis. Joe is diagnosed with an incurable disease, quits his dehumanizing job, and accepts an offer to briefly "live like a king, die like a man" - but to fulfill his agreement he must willingly jump into a live volcano on the island of Waponi Woo in order to appease the volcano god. En route to the island, Joe meets a series of interesting characters in NYC and LA, then boards a yacht, captained by Patricia Graynamore. During the voyage Joe and Patricia survive disaster, fall in love, and finally arrive at the island where they face their destiny. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

island | volcano | love | tropical | yacht | See All (28) »


A story of love, lava and burning desire. See more »


Comedy | Romance


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

9 March 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Joe contra el volcán  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$25,000,000 (estimated)


$39,404,261 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The cab seen taking Joe's steamer trunks to the sailboat belongs to Hawaii Congressman Neil Abercrombie who is famous for driving a refurbished plantation-era taxi. The graphic on the side of cab is that of the congressman - and is a small nod to the island residents of Hawaii where some of the movie was filmed. See more »


Mr. Graynamore sets out the credit cards atop Joe's stereo, orientating them so Joe can read them. Joe takes one and turns it over as if it were turned upside down. See more »


Joe Banks: So I'm not sick? Except for this terminal disease?
See more »


Referenced in Spud (2009) See more »


Sixteen Tons
Written by Merle Travis
Performed by Eric Burdon
used in the introduction where Joe goes to work
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Great talent - but too individual for today's film audience?
14 November 2004 | by (Kentucky) – See all my reviews

The work of highly individual artists often prompts extreme

reactions in moviegoers. Based on the evidence of "Moonstruck"

and the woefully underrated "Joe Versus the Volcano," writer/director John Patrick Shanley could have developed into a

vital film figure on the level of a Frank Capra or Woody Allen, a

creator whose personal voice would have given him a distinctive

identity - potentially his artistic and commercial strength (or


"Joe Versus the Volcano" has its occasional shortcomings, but its

sheer conceptual audacity set it apart from the film fare of its day.

Now, nearly a decade and a half after its premiere, the quality of

the dialogue alone reminds us how far our THX-ed out, Dolbyed-out, effects-obsessed movie "culture" has fallen.

The plot combines fantasy and satire in equal proportions. Joe

(Tom Hanks), a seemingly passive man who's worked at a

dreadful, abusive, dead-end job for years is told he has an

incurable disease (authoritatively diagnosed by physician Robert

Stack as a "brain cloud.") Joe quits his job and receives an offer

the next morning to go on an all-expenses paid journey to a tiny

island...that will culminate with his leap into a volcano!

Meg Ryan portrays three separate characters, and her glee in

masking her "All-American Sweetheart" screen persona is

palpable, particularly in the first segment. Even the occasional

gambits that fall slightly flat (for instance, Abe Vigoda's turn as a

leader of island natives obsessed with orange soda) cannot

seriously mar the overall brilliance of Shanley's work.

As it turned out, the box-office failure of "Volcano" didn't deter

Hanks and Ryan from reteaming for the enormously popular but

comparatively colorless "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got

Mail." (It's probably no accident that these were far safer

commercial bets than "Joe," both owing large debts to earlier


On the other hand, John Patrick Stanley has returned to crafting

plays for live theater, apparently for good; one hopes his finely

tuned ear and immense imagination will flourish in an environment that's largely removed from the demographic

panderings of Wal-Mart Nation. His gain is our loss.

Earlier, I mentioned Frank Capra as a semi-analogue to Shanley.

Perhaps this comparison may help: If you are one of the many who

can't abide Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life," you probably should

stay away from "Joe Versus the Volcano" as though you had the

plague...or even a "brain cloud."


35 of 49 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
When does the dream sequence actually begin? godzillatemple
Film's esoteric meaning, that only a few truly understand hawk102256
Bringing up the ending again. joe-england
Was I the only one who liked this movie? tvdramafreak
Favorite Quotes ilovemovies2
My theory on Joe vs. the Volcano ncfrank23
Discuss Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: