Netflix Crime Thriller Adventure Is An Overlooked ’90s Gem Finally Getting Fans

By TeeJay Small | Published

If you have fond memories of beloved 90s blockbusters, you probably recall the box office hits such as Total Recall, Jurassic Park, and Independence Day. Despite thousands of excellent films reaching the masses during this time, many fell under the radar due to low advertising budgets, mismanaged marketing strategies, or a plain-old inability to compete against the sheer volume of box office giants produced in that decade. One such film, which is finally seeing its shine now that it’s streaming on Netflix, is the 1994 crime thriller The River Wild.

A-List Talent On Both Sides Of The Camera

The River Wild was written by Denis O’Neill and directed by Curtis Hanson, who would later go on to helm such films as L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys, and 8 Mile. The film was developed by the producers behind such classics as The Thing, American History X, and The Graduate. The River Wild stars a top-tier cast of A-listers, including Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, David Strathairn, Joseph Mazzello, Stephanie Sawyer, Diane Delano, and Talladega Nights’ John C. Reilly.

Suffered Against The Competition

The film was originally scheduled to premiere in the Summer of 1994, which may have led to The River Wild becoming a widely recognized household name. Unfortunately, executives at Universal Pictures became concerned about the film’s box office potential when they discovered that it would premiere against Forrest Gump and True Lies. As a result, The River Wild was pushed back into a Fall release, which essentially doomed the action-packed outdoorsy thriller to obscurity.

Overlooked And Forgotten

As a result, The River Wild was heavily overlooked during its time, taking in only $94 million globally against an estimated production budget of $45 million. While these margins offered a small return on investment for the producers, the film’s longevity paled in comparison to its contemporaries and was essentially forgotten over time until its recent resurgence on Netflix.

Family Trip Gone Wrong

The narrative of The River Wild centers on the Hartman family, headed by Meryl Streep’s Gail and David Strathairn’s Tom, as they embark upon a spontaneous white water rafting trip in Idaho. The Boston-based couple hope that the trip will repair the strain placed on their marriage by Tom’s workaholic behavior, while also bringing them closer to their son Roarke.

Unfortunately, their trip becomes complicated when the Hartman’s cross paths with a gang of mysterious armed individuals, who are rafting their way down the river to escape from the local police.

Award-Nominated Performances

Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon provide the strongest performances in The River Wild, resulting in both stars earning Golden Globe nominations for their respective roles. The film shot primarily along the Flathead and Kootenai rivers of Montana, as well as the Colorado and Rogue rivers in Southern Oregon. Due to budgetary restraints, most of the cast did their own stunts for the movie, resulting in one nearly fatal incident that saw Meryl Streep passing out and almost drowning due to exhaustion.

New Life On Netflix

Luckily, nobody sustained any serious injuries on the set of The River Wild, and the resulting film offers some truly spectacular set-pieces. If you’re interested in catching The River Wild, the film has been picking up steam on Netflix today. Just be sure to pack a lunch, wear some floaties, and keep an eye out for any fun-loving bank robbers along the way.