After a bizarre encounter at a party, a jazz saxophonist is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to prison, where he inexplicably morphs into a young mechanic and begins leading a new life.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Roselius ...
Louis Eppolito ...
Ed (as Lou Eppolito)
Jenna Maetlind ...
Party Girl
Guard Mike
Forewoman (voice)
Leonard Termo ...
Judge (voice)
Ivory Ocean ...
Guard Ivory
David Byrd ...
Gene Ross ...
Warden Clements


Fred Madison, a saxophonist, is accused under mysterious circumstances of murdering his wife Renee. On death row, he inexplicably morphs into a young man named Pete Dayton, leading a completely different life. When Pete is released, his and Fred's paths begin to cross in a surreal, suspenseful web of intrigue, orchestrated by a shady gangster boss named Dick Laurent. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Mystery | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for bizarre violent and sexual content, and for strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

21 February 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Carretera perdida  »

Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$212,710 (USA) (21 February 1997)


$3,796,699 (USA) (18 April 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


David Lynch: [highway at night] Used numerous times in many scenes, usually signifying some kind of transition of the plot, and also used as a background for both main titles and end credits. See more »


[Pete, disturbed by the saxophone music on a radio, switches the channels]
Phil: What'd you change it for? I liked that.
Pete Dayton: Well, I don't!
Phil: I liked that.
See more »

Crazy Credits

A Real Trooper-Guadalupe Hurst See more »


Referenced in The Straight Story (1999) See more »


Various Ominous Drones
Created by Trent Reznor with Peter Christopherson
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Lynch's most bizarre movie to date....[Possible explanation, only for those who have seen the film]
11 November 2002 | by (Calgary, Alberta) – See all my reviews

David Lynch is known for his art films; films that defy the rules and rubricks a movie should follow. Of course, Lynch isn't one to follow any kind of Hollywood Rule. His films always have a general sense of the surreal, of emotions only understandable to the characters and actions that defy comprehension. They always have lurid eroticism or at least one character with a sexual perversion. And, for the most part, his films are incomprehensible to a mainstream audience. 'Lost Highway' has just been defined for you, though not explained. Perhaps the film is not meant to be explainable, perhaps it is just an abstract work meant to involve us and toy with our emotions until we forget it right after we leave. But the film is memorable so that cannot be the reason. Maybe Lynch is just working out personal demons and only he is meant to benefit from doing the film. I'll explain what I mean.

'Fred Madison' [Bill Pullman] is a sax player who performs at the local club. He and his wife 'Renee' [Patricia Arquette] live in a funky Lynchian house that seems designed specifically to disturb the audience. Their marriage and sex life is not going well. One day, 'Renee' finds a videotape on the doorstep. When they play it, it is almost like a promotional video for their house, moving down every hallway before entering the bedroom where 'Fred' and 'Renee' are shown sleeping. The tape abruptly shorts out to snow. 'Fred' and 'Renee' are obviously quite bothered by this. They call the police, who don't really impact the situation in any way. Later, at a party, 'Fred' meets an ingratiating pasty-faced man [Robert Blake] at a party who calmly explains ''We've met before, haven't we'' and then goes on to explain they met at 'Fred's house and that the man is ''There right now, phone me''. He does seem to be at both ends of the line. 'Fred' immediately grabs 'Renee and they leave to go home. This leads to one of the most tense and terrifying sequences I have ever viewed on a piece of celluloid since Hitchcock. Since we know Lynch is directing, we know anything could happen......And does.

I have not given away anything. In fact, the events I have described might have never happened. In fact, any event or character that enters the film may or may not have happened. The film exists in it's own queer dimension. Lynch shots the film like a noir, with 'Renee' as the femme fatale. The colors are pitch-dark and lush which helps structure the film into what it is, a psychological nightmare. It manipulates our emotions to a shocking extent and we don't know how Lynch is doing it because nothing in the movie makes sense. Lynch himself uses the phrase 'psychogenic fugue' when describing the movie as he says the hero is 'inventing a fantasy because his real life is so screwed up.' Patricia Arquette is more blatant when describing the film; 'Fred Madison is a f@#$ed up guy who invents a fantasy because his real life is so f%$#ed up. But Fred is so f%$#ed up that his fantasy falls apart...'' Makes sense to me. It would explain the bizarre events and would explain the ending. Fred is so angry and so paranoid that he has a fit in his car, twisting and whipping his head around in circles because his fantasy has gone wrong and collapsed. The film reveals clues that support this explanation. At one point, the pasty-faced man says of Renee ''Her name is Alice, if she told you her name was Renee, she was lying. And you, who the f$#@ ARE YOU!'' This suggests that Renee has used him and that 'Fred' doesn't even know who he is. If you were inventing a fantasy about yourself and you wanted to create a given persona, isn't it possible that you could forget who you were in the first place?

Some people have suggested that the 'Mystery Man' [Robert Blake] is a manifestation of 'Fred's' illness. But then why does it seem that the 'Mystery Man' is trying to help 'Fred'? Perhaps 'Fred' has created the 'Mystery Man' in the hopes that this being will solve the mystery for him, to egg him on until he saves himself. And the mob boss 'Mr Eddy' [Robert Loggia] is the real villain: cold, calculating, abusive and spontaneously violent, just like a virus. And 'Renee/Alice' is just one of the virus' cohorts, reproduced from the DNA of the virus to spread the illness and incapacitate the victim.

Or perhaps the most likely explanation; It is a Lynchian fantasy designed to screw the mainstream audience and entertain open moviegoers.This makes the most sense. People will always want to explain this film, to dig up it's secrets. Maybe the secrets will never be uncovered. Maybe there are no secrets and it is just a Lynch film calculated to please his fans. Any way you see it, it will never be solved. I wish you good luck if you try to solve the film in its entirety,... But you will certainly have fun doing it.

207 of 266 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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