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My Own Private Idaho (1991)

R  |   |  Drama  |  29 September 1991 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 34,952 users   Metascore: 77/100
Reviews: 151 user | 57 critic | 18 from Metacritic.com

Two best friends living on the streets of Portland as hustlers embark on a journey of self discovery and find their relationship stumbling along the way.


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9 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
William Richert ...
Rodney Harvey ...
Michael Parker ...
Jessie Thomas ...
Tom Troupe ...
Jack Favor
Sally Curtice ...
Robert Lee Pitchlynn ...


Surreal character study focusing on the friendship between two male hustlers, Mike and Scott, in Portland, Oregon. They live on the streets, do drugs, and sell themselves to men and women. Mike is quiet, gay and suffers from narcolepsy. Abandoned as a child, he is obsessed with finding his long-lost mother. Scott is the rebellious son of a high-ranking family, who lives this life mostly to embarrass his father. Mike is in love with Scott, who still maintains he is straight and insists that his wild lifestyle on the streets is only temporary. Together, they embark on a quest to find Mike's mother, traveling from Portland to Idaho to Italy, with Scott picking up a beautiful girl along the way. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Some people take your heart, others take your shoes, and still others take you home. See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sensuality, language and drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

29 September 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Caminho de Idaho  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$2,500,000 (estimated)


$6,401,336 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


River Phoenix wrote the campfire scene in private, on little scraps of paper. Gus Van Sant was under the impression that he had been writing song lyrics and was surprised when River told him he'd rewritten the scene. Van Sant liked what River presented, but didn't know if Keanu Reeves would be up for it. River assured him that he'd already privately talked to Keanu about it and he was fine with everything. Gus Van Sant says he's he had to give complete faith to River, since he was completely left out of the loop on the whole scene. See more »


At the campfire scene, whenever the camera shows Scott, Mike's hands are hanged to each other, but whenever the camera shows Mike, he is playing with piece of wood. See more »


Jane Lightwork: I'm the one who heard him cry out last night. He said "God, God, God..." three or four times. And when I got there I put my hand into the bed and felt his feet. And they were cold as stone. And I checked the rest of his body. And it too was as cold as stone...
See more »


Referenced in Bollywood Hero: Episode #1.1 (2009) See more »


Bachu Ber
Traditional Dauphinoise Melody
Performed by Jean G. Poulot (as Jean Poulot) and Jamie Haggerty
See more »

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User Reviews

A triumph of pathos and bitter poetry
10 March 2005 | by (Rome, Italy) – See all my reviews

I adore this movie, have owned it on VHS long before there was anything else and have seen it an insane number of times. It isn't perfect, but with me personally, though I'm a European female and thus have no personal life experience that could resemble anything the main characters go through, it struck a chord of universality that made it heart-breaking. The pathos in it, the bitter poetry, the warped magic is just unbelievably beautiful... and painful. It is visually inventive and the casting - even Keanu Reeves's, which has been so often criticised - is top-notch. Reeves's character is a flippant, spoilt young man who goes through life acting in his own self-glorifying drama: what better actor to cast in that role than someone whose acting is so contrived? And Phoenix... well, what can I say... to me, this is THE River Phoenix role, the one that can single-handedly turn him into an immortal, a legend. The Shakespearian quotations I adored: the relationship between Prince Hal and Falstaff from Henry IV, Part II is among the most mesmerising of the Bard's dramatic repertoire - that play was like an emotional earthquake to me. My Own Private Idaho caught its spirit perfectly, and translated it into a context that was original in its own right yet more faithful to Shakespeare in feeling than a more literal transposition might have been. Also, I found the portrayal of Rome in the part in which River's character goes out there to search for his mother, refreshingly true to life and totally cliché-free. As an Italian from Rome, it's very rare that I see a non-Italian film portraying my city of origin with so much authenticity. The FEEL of the place at a given time - the late 80s - was spot-on. In conclusion: to me, not only was My Own Private Idaho one of the best adaptations of (at least parts) of a Shakespeare play that I've seen, but also a tragedy of almost Shakespearian intensity in its own right. It had it all: the unhealthy, consuming passion (the fatal flaw), the power struggles, the young heir in his reckless, youthful days eventually maturing into the arrogance of the privileged (Keanu), the parental ghost that one of the protagonists looks to as his prophetic voice, the voice that may give his life a meaning (River's search for and the flashbacks to the memory of his mother), the intense pathos throughout, the tragic deaths at the end... that film is just pure magic to me! Just writing about it makes me want to see it again - what, for the 20th time or something?! And the tragedy at My Own Private Idaho's core is so universal, it really becomes completely secondary whether it's about and between men, women, homosexuals or heterosexuals.

103 of 129 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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