Ishtar (1987) - Rotten Tomatoes


Ishtar (1987)



Critic Consensus: Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, and laughter itself get lost in the desert during a flawed spoof of classic road movies that proves ill-suited for its mismatched and miscast stars.

Ishtar Photos

Movie Info

Ishtar has taken on a life of its own, infamous for the $40-million production cost, with Director Elaine May being compared to Eric Von Stroheim in terms of legendary extravagance resulting in costly overruns. The movie was mercilessly panned and declared one of the biggest box-office disasters of the 1980s, though the feature is not that bad, just not as funny as it could have been. Lyle Rogers (Warren Beatty) and Chuck Clarke (Dustin Hoffman) are two hopelessly inept but forever hopeful New York tunesmiths. With the help of agent Marty Freed (Jack Weston), the two get a gig at the Chez Casablanca in Morocco. After their arrival, the duo is entangled in the political chaos that plagues the region. Lyle and Chuck try to write inspired songs -- that are hilariously bad -- but they never give up the hope of penning a hit. CIA agent Jim Harrison (Charles Grodin) recruits Chuck to work for the agency, while femme fatale Shirra Assel (Isabella Adjani) gets Lyle to help do her bidding. Chuck and Lyle wander aimlessly in the desert on a blind camel as they become the targets of an accelerated manhunt. International spies gather with vultures in hopes of catching the singing saps. There are shades of the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby "Road" films here, but the overall results are uneven. Coupled with the budget problems and the high public interest of a film with both Hoffman and Beatty, the feature was viewed at the time as a disaster -- as well as becoming a box-office flop. Compared to Kevin Costner's costly flop Waterworld, however, this film is much better on all levels.

Watch it now


Dustin Hoffman
as Chuck Clarke
Warren Beatty
as Lyle Rogers
Charles Grodin
as Jim Harrison
Jack Weston
as Marty Freed
Isabelle Adjani
as Shirra Assel
Aharon Ipalé
as Emir Yousef
David Margulies
as Mr. Clarke
Mark Ryan
as Screamin' Honker
Rose Arrick
as Mrs. Clarke
Neil Zevnik
as CIA Agent
Cristine Rose
as Siri Darma
Bob Girolami
as Bartender
Abe Kroll
as Mr. Thomopoulos
Hannah Kroll
as Mr. Thomopoulos
Herb Gardner
as Rabbi Pierce
Bill Moor
as U.S. Consul
Edgar Smith
as Professor Barnes
Bill Bailey
as Gen. Westlake
Ian Gray
as Manager of Chez Casablanca
Bouhaddane Larbi
as Taxi Driver
Fred Malamed
as Caid of Assari
as Maitre 'd at Chez Casablanca
Warren Clarke
as English Gunrunner
Fred Melamed
as Caid of Assari
Arthur Brauss
as German Gunrunner
Sumar Khan
as Ishtari Gunrunner
Matt Frewer
as CIA Agent
Jon Paul Morgan
as Djellabah Seller
Nadim Sawalha
as Rag Shop Owner/Camel Seller
Haluk Bilginer
as Guerilla Leader
Ron Berglas
as CIA Agent
Aziz Ben Driss
as Waiter at Chez Casablanca
Neil Zevnick
as CIA Agent
Matt Brewer
as CIA Agent
Eddy Nedari
as Mohamed, The Camel Seller
Alex Hyde-White
as CIA Agent
Stefan Gryff
as KGB Agent
Adam Hussein
as Mohamed, The Camel Seller
George Masri
as Mohamed, The Camel Seller
Stuart M. Abramson
as Screamin' Honkers
John Freudenheim
as Screamin Honker
Bruce Gordon
as Screamin' Honker
View All

News & Interviews for Ishtar

Critic Reviews for Ishtar

All Critics (54) | Top Critics (14)

The film fails at every level.

March 19, 2019 | Rating: 0.5/4 | Full Review…

It is a smart, generous, genuinely funny affair. Sometimes, like the camel who almost ambles away with the picture, it's longish in the tooth, but it is based on an extremely astute vision of life.

March 19, 2019 | Full Review…

Reasonably genial and diverting.

March 19, 2019 | Full Review…

Ishtar is a good movie, but you can't help but wonder if, lurking somewhere in those cans of outtakes, there isn't a great movie, too.

March 19, 2019 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

This Elaine May comedy was the most underappreciated commercial movie of 1987. It isn't quite as good as May's previous features, but it's still a very funny work by one of this country's greatest comic talents.

March 19, 2019 | Full Review…

Though far from a masterpiece, the movie is often hilarious in a sly, seemingly improvisational way.

March 19, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Ishtar


Funny... I would watch it again.

Leigh Ryan
Leigh Ryan

Super Reviewer

Not as bad as it's reputation; It's just NOT funny.

Michael S
Michael S

Super Reviewer


Recognized as one of the worst movies of all time. And it is!! But hilarious (in a head-scratching way) because of how bad it is.

Byron Brubaker
Byron Brubaker

Super Reviewer

Ishtar Quotes

News & Features