A River Runs Through It movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was A River Runs Through It filmed?

1992

About A River Runs Through It

A River Runs Through It is an American drama made in 1992 by Robert Redford. The movie is based on a semi-autobiography by Norman Maclean about his life growing up with his younger brother Paul Maclean in Missoula, Montana. The storyline follows the upbringing, values, morals, and ethical codes set by their devout father, the Reverend of a Presbyterian Church, and their religious mother. All A River Runs Through It locations are as close to the real ones in the book and are based around Montana and Wyoming.

The Maclean brothers grow up in the Rocky Mountain areas, with the story set in the early 1900s from the Depression-era to World War I. The character of Norman Maclean is portrayed by Craig Sheffer, while Paul is played by Brad Pitt. Norman is the studious one who grows up graduating from Dartmouth, while Paul studies locally and becomes a fearless, alcoholic investigative journalist/ reporter. As the boys grow up, the film follows their love for fly-fishing (inculcated by their father) for trout and the ups and downs of small-town life that decide their characteristics from an early age.

Norman grows up to be a studious young man, while Paul grows to be reckless and carefree. While Paul becomes a skilled fisherman, Norman starts enjoying college and university life and loses hold of his fishing skills. Norman Maclean returns to Missoula after his graduation and gets involved in the local life, meeting new people, falling in love, and facing his brother's downfall. Paul is addicted to alcohol and gambling, and while he does exceedingly well at his job, he eventually gets lost in the bottle as he gets into plenty of brawls and nights at the local jailhouse.

What follows is the emotional bond that gets tugged on both sides with unconditional love and the inability to help a loved one. This incredible movie is still considered to be one of the greatest for its American tragedies, passion, commitment, religious sentiments, and fly-fishing.

City Locations

Livingston, Bozeman, Missoula, Montana, Jackson, Wyoming

Location Types

Architectural, American, Cabins, House, NatureScapes, Automotive, Bars, Jails, Religious, Colleges, Warehouses

Location Styles

Americana, Boat Style, Classic Car, Classic Truck, Dated, Old Hollywood, Rustic

A River Runs Through It Locations

Most of the filming was done locally at Livingston in Montana, with several scenes in the Bozeman, Missoula, and Jackson surrounding areas. Fans can visit A River Runs Through It locations without issues since most of the main sites are still there. All the fishing scenes are shot by the Gallatin River and Yellowstone River. Robert Redford used these areas again while filming The Horse Whisperer a few years later.

Fans will have to show decorum and restraint while visiting the private residences in the film since these are all owner-occupied, and the homes were rented by the A River Runs Through It production team for the duration of the filming.

The backdrop of the locations, geographic importance, pristine waters, and some thrilling scenes like the waterfall were perfectly aligned with the descriptions in the semi-autobiography. The filming locations, cars, and other period housing were perfect for the adaptation considering the importance of fly-fishing in the Montana region.

Even though the film talks about the big Blackfoot River, all the fishing scenes in the movie are shot at Gallatin River. Livingston, which is approximately 200 miles away, was used for the filming location of Missoula.

Fun fact:

This film won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography and countless other accolades earning it substantial critical acclaim.

Church congregation scene in A River Runs Through It

Lutheran Church, 1505 East Street, Livingston

Like many films in the 90s, this A River Runs Through It film scene starts with a bit of narration. The Reverend of the Church, Reverend John Norman Maclean (Tom Skerritt), is giving a sermon, "The poor without Christ are, of all men, the most miserable. But the poor with Christ are princes and kings of the Earth." A young Normal Maclean (young Joseph Gorgon-Levitt) is narrating his day and how the town of Missoula, Missouri, treats fly-fishing for trout as a religion and not just a hobby or career.

He then continues narrating how his father, the Reverend, would start the day with Church and walk with his sons, Paul and Norman, simply unwinding from the sermon in the afternoon. Their father always chose a pathway that meandered along the Big Blackfoot River. For the young boys with their father, the Blackfoot River was so familiar that the boys considered the river to be their family river.

This introductory scene was shot at the Lutheran Church in Livingston. This Church is still open to visitors, and those wishing to sit in for a sermon can enjoy some time with the Lord while viewing the interiors. Before clicking pictures in a religious location, it is always best to take permission to not hurt any religious sentimentalities. To get to the Church, turn right onto W Geyser St and left onto S East St till you reach 1505.

Paul and Normal are fishing scene in A River Runs Through It

Gallatin River, Montana

Young Norman Maclean narrates how he and his brother would fish in the afternoons once his lessons were over in the morning. Since Norman and Paul were home-schooled by their father, the Reverend, they would only be allowed to fish once their father was satisfied with their progress. Norman narrates, "There was a balance to my father's system. Every afternoon, I was set free, untutored, and untouched, till supper to learn on my own the natural side of God's order. And there could be no better place to learn than the Montana of my youth."

Young Norman starts tutoring young Paul (portrayed by young Vann Gravage) about the do's and don't's with fly fishing and which mistakes he should not repeat. As Norman continues narrating about his childhood with his brother and father, he says about Montana, "It was a world with dew still on it," to explain the wonder and possibility of his childhood.

This A River Runs Through It filming location is at the banks of the Gallatin River, a tributary of the Missouri River. Its origin is at Yellowstone National Park and is used by many to explore the rapids. In this region, visitors may also come across other hikers, trekkers, and adventurers, so it is necessary to continuously maintain decorum. To get here, follow Frontage Road E to Yadon Rd, and continue this road to reach the Gallatin River.

Paul doesn't want to eat his oats scene in A River Runs Through It

Front Street, Livingston

Young Paul fights with some bullies while his elder brother Norman is getting beaten up. As a result, the boys, Paul and Norman, get a sound thrashing from the older boys. Norman keeps feeling that Paul has an inner strength different from others. However, their father, the Reverend, finds out about the fight, and the house has a tense environment.

The Reverend and his wife, Clara Maclean (Brenda Blethyn), are at the dining table with both the boys. Norman has finished his oats, but Paul isn't touching his plate. The Reverend looks at Paul and says, "Grace will not be said until that bowl is clean. Man has been eating God's oats for a thousand years. It's not the place of an eight-year-old boy to change that tradition." Even after the table is cleared, Paul sits with his entire plate of oats left uneaten.

This is one of the best scenes in A River Runs Through It since it shows the stubbornness of young Paul, which is a strong indicator of the man he will grow up to be. The house used in the filming is Front Street, Livingston. Since it is a private residence, visitors need to show some restraint. To get there, cross over from N 5th Street and turn left at the first crossroad. The house is a minute from the intersection.

Paul is arrested and is at the police station scene in A River Runs Through It

32 S Tracy Ave, Bozeman, MT

Paul starts dating a young woman named Mabel (Nicole Burdette). Paul fights with a patron who racially insults Mabel (for being Native American). As a result, he is arrested, and the police call for Norman to come to get Paul from jail. Norman reaches the police station and introduces himself to the in-charge. The in-charge tells him, "He doesn't have to post bond. He covers the police beat and has friends here. All you have to do is look at him and take him home."

Norman nods his head in understanding and asks, "What did he do?" The in-charge said, "He hit a guy, and a guy is missing a couple of teeth." When Norman asks why Paul hit the guy, the in-charge says, "It says here a remark was passed concerning the Indian woman he was with." Norman scoffs and says, "Well, the guy deserved it."

This filming location of A River Runs Through It is at 32nd St S Tracy Ave, Bozeman. An actual police station wasn't chosen for this scene, and instead, a makeshift was quickly adapted using one of the local buildings. To get here, hop onto the Blueline bus and get off at the Babcock and Tracy stop. The walk to 32nd St S is one minute.

The Maclean brothers navigate dangerous waterfall scene in A River Runs Through It

Granite Falls

Norman Maclean (portrayed by Craig Sheffer) and Paul Maclean (Brad Pitt) get into a boat and start navigating the dangerous river. This is mainly done as a dare to prove they are adults. Paul and Norman's friends see the rapids and decide to back out of getting into the rickety rowboat. Paul gets disgusted by his friends and looks to Norman as a partner while he gets into the boat. While pushing the boat off, the friends grin and say, "Be careful," not realizing the danger the boys are in.

The Maclean brothers navigate the rapids and out-row their friends running along, while Norman says, "See you later, boys!" As the brothers navigate a bend, their boat hits some rocks, and they veer into dangerous rapids. Norman tells Paul, Watch it, on the right! On the right!" As they near the waterfall, both brothers let go of their oars and grab the rowboat tightly. Both brothers go down the waterfall, and their friends run screaming, "Macleans! Pauley!!

This is one of the first A River Runs Through It action scenes with plenty of heart-pumping adrenaline as audiences waited for the brothers to resurface with bated breaths. Fans can make an entire trip by visiting the falls and experiencing the wonderful outdoors. However, if you prefer to drive, take US-189 S to Forest Rd 30500. Follow this road to Forest Rd 30526 in Teton County.

Norman gets acceptance letter outside the Maclean house scene in A River Runs Through It

Springhill Community Road, Belgrade

The postman, Mr. Sweeney (Jess Schwidde), comes to deliver a letter to the Maclean house, where Norman is resting outside on the porch writing in his journal. The postman greets Norman, who returns the greeting with, "Hi there, Mr. Sweeney." Mr. Sweeney asks Norman, "Who do you know at the University of Chicago? Chicken in the car. The car won't go. That's how you spell Chi-ca-go!" The gentle old postman chuckles as he walks away after delivering the letter to Norman.

Norman opens the letter from the University of Chicago. It is an acceptance letter for the post of instructor of English literature commencing in the fall quarter of 1926 and admission to the graduate studies program. He comes into the house to tell his family the news and realizes his father, the Reverend, is reading aloud from the Bible. In a moment of sheer emotion, Norman joins his father in quoting scripture.

This scene is shot at the Springhill Community Road in Belgrade. Fans of the film can see the house from outside, but should respect the owner's privacy since it is a private residence. To get here, get onto Springhill Road and turn right onto Springhill Community Road. The house is a few minutes' drive from the turning.

Conclusion

A River Runs Through It is considered one of the most tasteful period dramas to feature the 1900s till World War I, with exceptionally stately work by Robert Redford. All the actors have shown incredible maturity in their roles and have portrayed the characters beautifully. Many viewers felt this movie might be another ordinary commercial film by actors Brad Pitt and Craig Sheffer. Still, they were astonished by the depths of the subject matter, emotional experiences, and issues surrounding the era.

The filming locations were stunning, with each scene more beautiful than the next. Everything from the waterfalls, burning up in the sun, and old constructions, to city jails, cars, and turn-of-the-century automobiles were perfectly portrayed in this movie.

As the end credits clearly point out that no fish were harmed during the making of the film, the same goes for the pristine locations, fly-fishing scenes, and overall ethical treatment of the area.