7.7/10
12,729
96 user 45 critic

Running on Empty (1988)

PG-13 | | Crime, Drama, Music | 9 September 1988 (USA)
The eldest son of a fugitive family comes of age and wants to live a life of his own.

Director:

Sidney Lumet

Writer:

Naomi Foner

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Prime Video

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

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Dogfight (1991)
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Before leaving to fight in Vietnam, a group of teenagers play a game where they try to seduce the ugliest girl they can find.

Director: Nancy Savoca
Stars: River Phoenix, Lili Taylor, Richard Panebianco
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

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.

Director: Gus Van Sant
Stars: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, James Russo
Little Nikita (1988)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

An F.B.I. Agent works to uncover an All-American family as Soviet sleeper Agents, and gets caught up in friendship with their unaware son.

Director: Richard Benjamin
Stars: Sidney Poitier, River Phoenix, Richard Jenkins
Comedy | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A group of newcomers to the country music business seek love and stardom.

Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Stars: River Phoenix, Samantha Mathis, Dermot Mulroney
Adventure | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

An inventor spurns his city life to move his family into the jungles of Central America to make a utopia.

Director: Peter Weir
Stars: Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, River Phoenix
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  

A charming womanizer has to find a way to get $80 to elope to Hawaii with his one true love, or else go to his father's chosen business school.

Director: William Richert
Stars: River Phoenix, Ann Magnuson, Meredith Salenger
Dark Blood (2012)
Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Dealing with nuclear testing and its long-lasting deadly effects, the story portrays Boy, a young widower living in the desert on a nuclear testing site. Living as a hermit, he waits for ... See full summary »

Director: George Sluizer
Stars: River Phoenix, Judy Davis, Jonathan Pryce
Silent Tongue (1993)
Drama | Horror | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  

Mad with grief after the death of his Kiowa wife, Talbot awaits death under a tree with her body beside him. She begins to haunt him because he won't burn her. His father, who bought him the wife, thinks her sister might reason with him.

Director: Sam Shepard
Stars: Alan Bates, Richard Harris, River Phoenix
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A New York City narcotics detective reluctantly agrees to cooperate with a special commission investigating police corruption. However, he soon discovers that he's in over his head, and nobody can be trusted.

Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: Treat Williams, Jerry Orbach, Richard Foronjy
Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Joey owns a pizza parlor, and is married to Rosalie. He's also a serial womanizer. Rosalie goes to extremes when she finds he has been cheating.

Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Stars: Kevin Kline, Tracey Ullman, William Hurt
Daniel (1983)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Daniel Isaacson attempts to determine the true complicity of his parents Paul and Rochelle Isaacson, who were executed for espionage in the 1950s.

Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: Timothy Hutton, Mandy Patinkin, Lindsay Crouse
Stand by Me (1986)
Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

After the death of one of his friends, a writer recounts a boyhood journey with his friends to find the body of a missing boy.

Director: Rob Reiner
Stars: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Christine Lahti ... Annie Pope
River Phoenix ... Danny Pope
Judd Hirsch ... Arthur Pope
Jonas Abry Jonas Abry ... Harry Pope
Martha Plimpton ... Lorna Phillips
Ed Crowley ... Mr. Phillips
L.M. Kit Carson ... Gus Winant
Steven Hill ... Donald Patterson
Augusta Dabney Augusta Dabney ... Abigail Patterson
David Margulies ... Dr. Jonah Reiff
Lynne Thigpen ... Contact at Eldridge St.
Marcia Jean Kurtz ... School Clerk
Sloane Shelton ... Mrs. Phillips
Justine Johnston Justine Johnston ... Librarian
Herb Lovelle ... Hospital Clerk
Edit

Storyline

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 <kchishol@execulink.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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.

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Music | Romance

Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

9 September 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Die Flucht ins Ungewisse See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$7,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$215,157, 11 September 1988

Gross USA:

$2,835,116

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$2,847,941
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

During a 2016 Q and A session at Austin's South by Southwest Film Festival, Jake Gyllenhaal (whose mother, Naomi Foner, wrote this movie's screenplay) recalled that he was allowed to sit in on two weeks of rehearsals before filming started. The rehearsals made a profound impression on Gyllenhaal, who was six years old at the time; he recounted what he could remember about Sidney Lumet's process: "I do remember the process of exploration, kind of that feeling that there were no rules in that space. I remember River Phoenix asking questions about things that he wasn't sure about, that he didn't really know, and then it would resolve something in the screenplay where, you know, it 'read well,' but then it wouldn't be playable, and he would ask the question and all of a sudden it would become playable and emotional. You could see the actor's instinct kind of open up in their scene. I remember also Sidney Lumet finishing the day really early, because he got what he wanted in six hours. I remember all these really weird things and had no idea who I was around. It's not until now that I realize what an extraordinary privilege and amazing time t was to be amongst that." Gyllenhaal also recalled having a crush on Martha Plimpton at the time. See more »

Goofs

During Danny's Juilliard audition, one of the school's admissions officers stated that he needed to supply them with SAT scores. Juilliard does not, and never has, required applicants to submit standardized test scores. See more »

Quotes

Michael: Now, I have no right in telling this to you. It's dangerous for you and it's dangerous for them, but i'm sorry i just couldn't stop myself. You can do what you want to, you can tell your dad; anything, i don't care. I just needed you to know... I don't know what i'm doing, and i love you.
See more »


Soundtracks

Oh Pretty Woman
Written by Roy Orbison & Bill Dees
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
RUNNING ON EMPTY is in essence a well-meaning, good-natured encomium of family value and altruistic sacrifice
26 October 2017 | by lasttimeisawSee all my reviews

A pair of anti-war radicals on the run with their nuclear family, Annie and Arthur Pope (Lahti and Hirsch) are answerable for a napalm laboratory bombing in the 70s (with one casualty of injury), designated as an anti-Vietnam war protestation, and have been lying low with new identities every once in a while henceforth, until their eldest son Danny (Phoenix) reaches 17, a watershed is laying out, some big decision needs to contemplate by both parties.

In Sidney Lumet's RUNNING ON EMPTY, River Phoenix starts his transition from child stardom to the perilous adult world, this is his only Oscar-nominated performance, although it is vexingly shunted to the supporting category as the default victim of the Academy's inherent bias towards tender-year performers or newcomers. Here, he is the bedrock of the movie, a piano prodigy in his making (hereditary from the mother side), but he cannot be forever cocooned in his family's unorthodox lifestyle, and the irony is pretty on the nose, this damning society is rife with all things against Annie and Arthur's counterculture tenets, yet in the context, there seems to be no better alternative at their disposal, making him a fugitive for something he hasn't perpetrated? That is just unfair, thus it is almost imperative that Danny must be released from the clutches albeit he is disposed to stick with the status quo in the end before bid farewell to his girlfriend Lorna (Plimpton, very good in her tomboyish, cool-girl complexion), whom he is besotted with.

There is certainly a waft of elitism in the air, Danny is wanted by Juilliard, so how can any compos mentis parents thumb their noses at that proposition, which leaves them no choice but to cut their deeply bonded familial cord, it is very intriguing if there is a sequel to cover Danny's grown-up years, to see whether his parents' sacrifice is worthwhile. Apart from that, it is a thoroughly judicious melodrama and Lumet's low-key directorial gesture successfully elicits Phoenix's most touching persona as a youngster on the cusp of adulthood, whose caring nature is torn between the obligation to his family and a new world suddenly opens to him.

The whole close-knit cast has done a cracking job, Judd Hirsch, although one can hardly condone that him and Phoenix are cutting from the same family tree from their physical appearances, pulls off an earnest father and an activist with ardor, whereas, Christine Lahti is viscerally sublime in her Janus-faced versatility: checking the scenes where Annie pseudo-cavalierly converses with Danny's teacher and later a lachrymose tête-à-tête with her own father for the first time in 15 years, that is the testimonial.

Sensibly filleting the more sensitive political agenda (there are worms in their noble cause too) which is concomitant with the story-line, RUNNING ON EMPTY is in essence a well-meaning, good-natured encomium of family value and altruistic sacrifice, only its rushed finale (at least the logistics team could have packed some items in their departing truck considering they are fleeing from the place for keeps), hits like a fly in the ointment in a hearty 80s tale, incidentally, if the same story happens in a CCTV-rampant age like today, the family's fly-by-night endeavor will definitely not last such a protracted length to even face their offspring's growing pains.


4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 96 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed