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Mountains of the Moon (1990)

The story of Captain Richard Francis Burton and Lt. John Hanning Speke's expedition to find the source of the Nile river in the name of Queen Victoria's British Empire. The film tells the ... See full summary »



(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Larry Oliphant
Isabel Arundell (Mrs Burton as from 1861)
John Savident ...
Lord Murchison
Lord Oliphant
Lord Houghton
Richard Caldicot ...
Lord Russell
Ben Amir


The story of Captain Richard Francis Burton and Lt. John Hanning Speke's expedition to find the source of the Nile river in the name of Queen Victoria's British Empire. The film tells the story of their meeting, their friendship emerging amidst hardship, and then dissolving after their journey. Written by Greg Bole <bole@life.bio.sunysb.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

23 February 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Aux sources du Nil  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$4,011,793 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This motion picture's opening title card reads: "East African Coast 1854". See more »


In an scene set in 1854, Isabel is looking at a copy of "The Perfumed Garden" translated by Burton. Burton did not publish this translation until 1886. See more »


Arab chief in Cairo: In this wilderness you will find only Allah's terrible whimsy.
See more »


Spoofed in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995) See more »


Wagogo Soothing Song
Recorded by David Fanshawe
From the album "Africa - Ceremonial & Folk Music"
See more »

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User Reviews

The Great Journey
27 January 2002 | by (Kansas City, MO, USA) – See all my reviews

Every time I watch "Mountains of the Moon," I grow more and more fascinated by it. An epic drama and adventure, an exploration of what makes a hero and the value of friendship... this movie is a marvel.

I barely know where to begin. The acting is exceptional, of course. Patrick Bergin really makes Captain Richard Francis Burton come alive, so much so that I started reading up on Burton on my own after seeing the movie. His Burton is a man of great courage and insatiable curiosity, but also of great pride (the film only hints at Burton's infamous sexual escapades). Iain Glen brings great depth to John Hanning Speke, a man who desires greatness but cannot escape his fundamental weakness. It would have been so easy to make these two characters into square-jawed cartoons or place them in the easy Great Hero / Cowardly Villain mold, but director Bob Rafaelson, the script, and the actors wisely give us three-dimensional real people.

While I was watching this movie, I felt like I was actually transported to Africa in the 1850s, when the first explorers ventured into what was truly the Dark Continent. You see Burton and Speke's expedition endure weather, illness, injury, and attacks by hostile tribesmen, bringing home the reality of how dangerous these expeditions really were. By the time the film ended, I felt I had been to Africa itself.

If you want to see a real epic and a fine, exciting film, this is the one to see.

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