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Film / Romancing the Stone

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Jack Colton: Wait a minute, he's after you? Who the hell are you?
Joan Wilder: Well, I'm a romance novelist.
Jack Colton: You're what? What are you doing here?
Joan Wilder: I told you, my sister's life depends on me.
Jack Colton: Ah, don't give me that shit. I thought you were donating a kidney or something.

An Affectionate Parody of romantic adventures that also qualifies as an example of the genre, this 1984 film was directed by Robert Zemeckis and stars Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas, and Danny DeVito.

Joan Wilder (Turner) is a successful New York City-based author of mass-market romance novels, with a long-running series centering around the heroine Angelina and her love interest Jesse. Unfortunately, success in Joan's career has not translated into success in her love life. Even her publisher chides her on her unrealistic expectations, and accuses her of waiting around for a Jesse of her own.

Her life changes when a mysterious package arrives in her mail. The return address lists her brother-in-law, who was recently found hacked into little pieces in Colombia. Joan then receives a phone call from her sister, who's being held hostage. Her kidnappers are looking for a very specific map, one that used to belong her husband. Opening the package, Joan finds the map's now in her possession, and the kidnappers will kill her sister unless she delivers it to them. In Colombia.

Unfortunately, Joan's knowledge of the locale is limited, to say the least. She starts her adventure by boarding the wrong bus on the advice of a not-so-friendly local. It turns out, the kidnappers aren't the only ones interested in her treasure map. Her troubles worsen when her bus crashes, thrusting her right into the path of a mysterious stranger named Jack T. Colton (Douglas), who – unbeknownst to Joan – is actually the man of her dreams.

Adventure ensues.

The first commercially successful film in the Robert Zemeckis canon. Diane Thomas, the movie's screenwriter, was famously discovered by Michael Douglas working as a waitress. After Stone she seemed on the verge of a great career, before dying tragically in a car accident just a year later. Thus this became the only film she ever wrote. There's now a screenwriting award named in her honor.

A sequel called The Jewel of the Nile was released the following year. Zemeckis was not involved, as he was busy at the time with a little film called Back to the Future, nor was Thomas, although she was still living when it went into production (she's one of the people the movie's dedicated to). Turner, Douglas, and DeVito all returned, however.

The trio actually had the option to do a third Romancing film, but they opted to do The War of the Roses instead.

This film provides examples of:

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     Romancing the Stone 

  • Action Survivor: Joan Wilder is a classic case. Starting out as a romance novelist who barely leaves her dowdy apartment, she ventures off to aid her sister and becomes . . . a romance novelist who lives her plot lines.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist:
  • Adrenaline Makeover: Joan Wilder is a mousy, reclusive romance novelist. But when she gets in over her head in Colombia, Jack T. Colton is there to help her out — for a price. Along the way, after he chops the heels off her shoes and tosses her suitcase full of sensible business suits into the jungle, they ride a mudslide, swing on vines, and do the sort of things she writes about in her novels. By the midpoint of the movie, her hair is down and she's dip-dancing in Jack's arms. By the end of the movie, she's no longer mousy or reclusive. By the sequel, Joan's backslid a little and goes through the transformation a second time.
  • Affably Evil: Ira, unlike Zolo, who is Faux Affably Evil.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of action-adventure pulp serial movies.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking - From the opening scene:
    That was the end of Grogan... the man who killed my father, raped and murdered my sister, burned my ranch, shot my dog, and stole my Bible!
    • Values Dissonance: Granted, in some periods and cultures someone's Bible was often a huge deal. Especially if it's a family Bible.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The are no rivers in the Córdoba department that drain into the Amazon, the nearest tributary of the Amazon River is over 500 kilometers away.
  • A-Team Firing: in a movie full of people shooting at each other with handguns, shotguns, rifles, assault rifles, and even bona fide machineguns, only one extra ever gets hit by a bullet. There's a few more deaths but they either involve knives or crocodiles.
  • At Least I Admit It: Ralph, when accusing Jack of being a thief.
    But at least I'm honest. I'm not trying to romance it out from under her.
  • Battle Bolas: Joan's sister Elaine is intentionally incapacitated by bolas thrown by an apparently playing child. The boy then abducts Elaine, recklessly driving her red Shelby Cobra away, setting the plot in motion.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Ira and Ralph and Zolo both want the Stone, but are totally separate factions and bitter enemies.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Ralph calls his cousin Ira "maricon", which is Spanish slur roughly translated as "faggot."
  • Blatant Lies: Ira's promises that he would never hurt Ralph because "they're the same person" and "I'd never hurt me!", and especially his promise at the end to send the boat back "very soon". It's no wonder Ralph turns on him.
  • Bottomless Magazines: On several occasions, Jack fires many, many more rounds than his shotgun can actually hold without reloading. Subverted at the end when Jack has Zolo in his sights, and hears the dreaded click when he pulls the trigger.
  • Bridal Carry: Jesse picks up Angelina like this in the opening (and, hilariously, smoothly mounts a horse with her in his arms).
  • Broken Heel: Averted: Joan does this once, leading Jack to grab her shoes and remove the heels. With a machete.
    Joan: Is nothing I own sacred to you? Those were Italian!
    Jack: Now they're practical.
    • Which is major Fridge Logic for those who know the engineering of high heels. If you tried to wear them sans heel you'd be walking around with your toes pointed nearly 90 degrees straight up.
  • Bumbling Sidekick: Ralph. Would be a Butt-Monkey if he weren't so contemptible as to deserve almost everything that happens to him.
  • The Butcher: Zolo, as described verbatim by Ira.
  • Call-Back: At the beginning of the film, the villain of the book Joan is writing tells the heroine, "You can die two ways: quick like the tongue of a snake, or slower than molasses in January." During the film's climax, Zolo poses a similar question: "How will you die, Joan Wilder? Slow, like... a snail? Or fast, like a shooting star?"
  • Cat Scare: When Joan returns to her apartment and finds it vandalized, her pet cat Romeo startles her by jumping out at her
  • Catchphrase: Ira's "Look at those snappers!"
  • Chastity Dagger: The Fake-Out Opening ends this way. And Joan resorts to a Chastity Switchblade before it's all over.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When Joan is getting ready to rush off to Colombia, her publisher Gloria mentions, amongst a list of terrible traits to be found amongst the locals, that there are a lot of "macho men" there who love her books. Later, what looks like a tense gunpoint scene turns into a chance to procure a valuable ally, just because it turns out that Juan the drug-runner is Joan's biggest fan, and reads her novels to his mooks, who are fans too.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Ira (Look at those snappers!) to a degree, but most definitely Juan, the drug-runner and Joan's Biggest Fan.
  • Colonel Kilgore: Colonel Zolo, Deputy Commander of the Secret Police, who is implied to be associated with FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
  • Contrived Coincidence: All over the place. The package with the map is too big to fit in the mailbox, so Joan's neighbor gives it to her as she's on her way out to meet her publisher; thus it isn't there when her apartment gets ransacked. When Zolo misdirects Joan into getting on the wrong bus, it happens to take her into the heart of the province where the map says El Corazon is hidden. And of course, Jack's jeep happening to be parked in the middle of the road, causing the bus to crash when Joan distracted the driver.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Zolo is eaten alive by Ira's crocodiles.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jack Colton.
  • Deconstruction: Of the Lovable Rogue (among other archetypes). Joan fantasizes about rugged, rough and tumble men of adventure, and then she actually meets a real one - Jack T. Colton - and finds that the real thing isn't all that easy to deal with.
  • Deconstructive Parody: Of the Indiana Jones-esque pulp serial/Adventurer Archaeologist movies, although clearly one made with a lot of love. Joan discovers that the swashbuckling adventure heroes she writes about in her books are great if you're the hero, not quite as much fun if you're the hapless sidekick/Damsel in Distress swept along for the ride. Moreover, Jack lives a hard, lonely, and dangerous life, without much capacity to relax or enjoy the comforts that Joan is accustomed to.
  • Determined Homesteader: Angelina draws liberally from the archetype.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Lampshaded by Jack on how he killed the crocodile. Joan murmurs she doesn't blame the croc at all.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: The movie is initially set up with it looking like Ira and Ralph are the main villains due to the kidnapping and ransom plot. Zolo's first appearance is in fact a Red Herring in this regard, since it takes place just before Joan receives the critical phone call—thus suggesting he was sent by them to find the map, and only after he failed to recover it did they call to set up the ransom demand. It isn't until Zolo's real identity is revealed that the viewer realizes who the true Big Bad is, though perhaps the buffoonish nature of Ralph and Ira might have tipped them off sooner.
  • Double Subversion:
    • After obtaining the map, just when it seems he will pull a You Said You Would Let Them Go on Joan and Elaine, Ira...actually does release them. Then, just when it seems they've gotten away scot-free, gunshots suddenly ring out. It appears that Jack has come to rescue them...only to have it revealed he's been captured by the Big Bad.
    • Another, minor example is the expectation Joan and Jack both seem to have that no one in Colombia speaks English or has access to modern technology. With Joan, being the Naïve Newcomer and Fish out of Water that she is, it is understandable, but Jack has been living there over a year and a half and should know how frequently English is spoken—if not by a random drug runner, then at least by the staff of a hotel which has to deal with foreign tourists.
    • And one more: the villagers tell Joan and Jack that Juan has a car. When they have managed to befriend him and ask about it, Juan laughs it off, telling them the villagers were pulling their leg, and that "they must have meant my little mule, Pepe". Cue incredulous looks from the heroes...followed by The Reveal that indeed Pepe is no car.
  • Dramatic Thunder: During the confrontation at the fort.
  • The Dreaded: The character of Colonel Zolo is truly scary and other characters explain just how bad he is.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Kidnapper Ira really doesn't like Zolo.
      Elaine: The man who killed my husband?
      Ira: The Butcher who killed your husband. A very powerful man with his own private army to back him up. And whether he calls himself "Dr. Zolo, Minister of Antiquities", or "Colonel Zolo, Deputy Commander of the Secret Police", he's still just a butcher.
    • Ralph is also blatantly uncomfortable with Ira’s kidnapping plot, and is genuinely disgusted by Jack trying to con Joan into giving him El Corazon. However, when Zolo's hand is bitten off, the look on his face is pure delight.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The finale, where Joan's exchange with Ira is ambushed by General Zolo, who in turn was led there by capturing first Ralph, then Jack. Made literal when Ira's men shoot it out with Zolo's as a means to cover Ira's escape.
  • Fake-Out Opening: As if being an Affectionate Parody of Adventurer Archaeologist movies wasn't enough, it opens with one of a romance novel set in The Wild West, complete with Joan's hammy narration.
  • Fanservice: The sex scene, which doesn't show off too much of either of them, but as much as possible without losing the PG rating. You can also see Kathleen Turner's nipple at one point.
  • Foreshadowing: Joan's publisher Gloria warns her against going to Colombia, saying "Do you have any idea what it's like in Colombia? I do. Your books do very well in these macho countries." Drug lord Juan loves reading her books to his rugged henchmen on Saturday nights.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Averted. They don't get married until the sequel.
  • Friend-or-Idol Decision: Jack has to choose between rescuing Joan from Zolo and getting the stone back from the crocodile that swallowed it. He chooses love, of course...only to have his gun be out of bullets, so that he has to climb the wall. And by the time he gets there, she's already rescued herself. He's surprisingly not too upset about this.
    • Then again, he eventually finds and kills said crocodile and retrieves the stone after the fact anyway.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages: When Zolo asks Ralph if they've met, Ralph says 'no comprendo'. Zolo asks if he's an American (since when he met Ralph earlier, he was speaking in an American accent). Ralph hastily says in badly broken Spanish, and that he isn't an American, he hates them.
    Ralph: I hate Americano! I spit on 'em! Ptui! American scum-o! Scum-o!
    Zolo: Etes-vous Francais? (Are you French?)
  • Genre Savvy: When Jack finds nothing but a kid's porcelain bunny at the end of the map and laments all their trouble in search of The Stone, Joan points out that in one of her books, she hid the treasure inside a statue. Guess where The Stone turned up.
  • Gorn: Zolo's hand being bitten off by a crocodile is surprisingly bloody.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Zolo being devoured by Ira's pet crocodiles is kept mercifully offscreen.
  • Groin Attack: Ouch, poor Jack.Talk about the family jewels
  • High Heel Hurt: Joan is trying to hike through the jungle in high heels and keeps falling. Jack grabs them and chops the heels off using a machete. She says, "Those were Italian." He says, "Well, now they're practical."
  • Horseback Heroism: Jesse, in the opening scene
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: Ira and Ralph's plan vis-a-vis Elaine and the map.
  • How Would You Like to Die?:
    • Done twice, first in an excerpt from one of Joan Wilder's novels and played for comedy:
      Grogan: You can die two ways: quick like the tongue of a snake, or slower than the molasses in January.
      Joan, narrating: But it was October.
      Grogan: I'll kill you, goddammit, if it's the Fourth of July!
    • Near the end of the movie proper, Zolo echoes the previous scene, much less humorously: "How will you die, Joan Wilder? Slow, like... a snail? Or fast, like a shooting star?"
  • I Call Her "Vera": An automotive variety, as Juan denies having a car, just a "little mule" named "Pepe". "Pepe" is a custom four-wheel drive bulletproof (and fireproof!) Ford Bronco.
  • I Should Write a Book About This
  • I Wrote Our Story: Near the end, it's revealed Joan's latest romance novel was based on the events of the film, albeit she included a happy ending before she actually got one.
  • I'm Your Biggest Fan: Juan is a huge fan of Joan's books.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Jesse. Of course, being an In-Universe Marty Stu, it's a given.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: After Joan and Jack are racing away from Zolo and his goons in Ralph's car, she decides to reproduce Juan's "Lupe's Escape" ramp jump over the river. But since there isn't a ramp, they end up in the river...and carried downstream until they go over the waterfall, forcing them to jump out of the car to make it through unscathed. Since they end up separated on opposite sides of the river, she with the map and he with the stone, this ups the stakes for the climactic face-off/hostage exchange, making this actually a significant plot point. To further keep the waterfall from seeming like a random danger, it's actually one of the landmarks on the map (and behind which the stone was hidden).
  • Intoxication Ensues: Well, when all you have to burn for warmth is kilos and kilos of marijuana, you gotta do what you gotta do.
    Jack: [leans back out of a cloud of smoke with a goofy smile on his face] Yeaaah, that's what I call a campfire.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Mondo dismal, which Joan and her publisher call men who take advantage of women.
    • Juan is half-offended when Joan and Jack say he heard he has a car. No, he has his "little mule", Pepe. Pepe being a tricked-out four-wheel drive Ford Bronco — which is definitely not a car.
  • Irony: Jack and Joan take refuge in a crashed drug-smuggling plane, with the pilot a skeleton (wearing sunglasses!) still half-hanging out the window. When they move inside, you can see he's wearing a jacket bearing the logo of The Grateful Dead.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jack T. Colton and Juan.
  • Jungles Sound Like Kookaburras: Kookaburra sounds can be heard in the segments that are set in the Colombian jungle.
  • Just Desserts: Zolo's hand is bitten off by a crocodile, and then he drops into a pit of them.
  • Karma Houdini: Ira escapes just as the police arrives on the scene, ditching Ralph in the process.
  • Karmic Death: Averted. We're led to believe that it's gonna be the villain who always plays with his crocodiles, but it's actually Zolo who gets eaten by them.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Zolo. When he's around there's always a sense of threat and fear, particularly where Ira speaks about 'em.
  • Latin Land: The story takes place in Colombia.
  • Leg Focus:
    • Angelina in the opening sequence, which also conceal a dagger.
    • Jack takes a few chances to ogle Joan's legs in the jungle.
  • MacGuffin: The eponymous stone. Also, the map.
  • MacGuffin Title: Romancing the Stone.
  • Meaningful Name: At the end of the film, Jack names his newly-purchased boat Angelina, after Joan's fictional heroine.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: When Joan asks what the T stands for in Jack T. Colton, Jack replies seriously, "Trustworthy."
  • Mineral MacGuffin: El Corazon ("The Heart"), an enormous emerald.
  • Mixed Metaphor: Joan turns Grogan's metaphors into this. He says he's gonna either kill her 'quick like the tongue of a snake, or slower than the molasses in January.' 'But it was October', she protests.
    Grogan: I'd kill ya if it was the Fourth of July!
  • Modesty Towel: Joan Wilder emerges from the shower with a towel around her.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: By a female writer about a female author.
  • Mr. Exposition: Ira, with Elaine being an audience stand-in, spells out just how evil Zolo is, as described above in Even Evil Has Standards.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Angelina in the opening, played by Playmate Kymberly Herrin.
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: Jack gives his name as "Jack T. Colton." While berating him, Joan says (among other things) that "a real man is trustworthy." Later, when she asks what the "T" stands for, he says, "Trustworthy." But we never find out what the "T" really stands for.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile:
    • El Corazon is temporarily lost when a crocodile swallows it along with Zolo's hand. Jack Colton gives chase after it, and returns in the final scene with boots made from crocodile-hide.
    • Ira also keeps a pit full of crocodiles that he’s weirdly fascinated with, and feeds them steaks and other meats. Zolo later has the misfortune of dropping into said pit, and gets torn apart.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: It's implied Zolo and his private Colombian army are part of the real-life Colombian guerrilla terrorist group FARC, especially based on their uniforms.
  • Noble Demon: Ira.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Jack joins up with Joan to try to get El Corazon from her, but love and helping her save her sister turns out to be more important than the money...well, mostly.
  • Not Me This Time: Invoked by Jack: "Why the hell is the army after me? I haven't done anything...lately!"
  • Novelization: Both films had novelizations based on them. They were ghostwritten and, as a nod to the films, their author is listed as "Joan Wilder." Their covers are even done to resemble harlequin romance novels instead of standard movie adaptations.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Jack gets a good one (both verbal and expression-wise) just after Joan falls down the mudslide, and just before he gets sucked down after her.
    • When The Stone is revealed - a gigantic emerald - Jack mutters, "We're in a lot of trouble."
      Ralph: (*Click* Hello) Understatement of the year, asshole.
  • One-Film Screenwriter: Diane Thomas, because she died before she could write anything else.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Zolo is so damn tough that he manages to light a cigar and take a few puffs after a crocodile bites his hand off; in effect, he's taking a smoke break while bleeding to death.
  • Only in It for the Money:
    Joan: Is nothing that I own sacred to you?
    Jack: Only your $375.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Jack's main hat, which crosses over with Good Is Not Nice. Joan initially hates him for it, but soon comes to really appreciate it.
    (Jack chops off the heels of Joan's shoes.)
    Joan: (sighing) These were Italian.
    Jack: (unmoved) Now they're practical.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Ira. He is perfectly willing to kill if he doesn't get what he wants, but if you play by his rules, he is actually fairly Affably Evil and keeps the promises he makes, and has an extreme distaste for people who are pointlessly cruel for no reason. Bad for business, you see. He also has no qualms abandoning his own brother to the police to take the entire fall.
  • Ramp Jump: Lupe's Escape.
  • Ransacked Room: The "trash the place" method is used on Joan's apartment near the beginning of the movie. It's all the more shocking to Joan to see her apartment destroyed since at this point she doesn't even know that she has the map yet, let alone that there are bad guys looking for it.
  • Rasputinian Death: Zolo gets the kind of send-off a butcher like him deserves. He gets his hand bitten off by a crocodile, face burned with his own cigar, beaten with a wooden slat, set on fire when he falls on a gas lantern, and finally devoured by MORE crocodiles.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Subverted. Eddy Grant (known better for "Electric Avenue") recorded "Romancing The Stone" with intent to make it a pop hit and Oscar Bait — but it was edited down to background music playing when Joan and Jack are permitted to enter the Bellmaker's home.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: The original theatrical cut and HBO exhibition of the film had English subtitles for the Spanish dialog. Subsequent versions have ditched the subtitles, which invoke this trope.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Who hid the Stone in the bunny statue?
  • Right-Handed Left-Handed Guns: The right-handed Jack Colton wields a left-handed Remington 870 Wingmaster shotgun for some reason.
  • Road Trip Romance: Jack and Joan engage in the kind that happens in Joan's novels.
  • Rope Bridge: An aged trestle, actually. Jack was apparently being hyperbolic.
  • Running Gag:
    • Everyone seems to have photocopiers, no matter how remote in the Colombian wilderness
    • Whenever he's outgunned, Jack mutters to himself "I should have listened to my mother" (who apparently wanted him to be a cosmetic surgeon).
    • Also, random people in the movie (including Ralph) are shown reading Joan's novels.
  • Shameful Strip: What Grogan forces Angelina to do in the opening scene, with an implied threat of rape.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Hotel Cartagena, in Cartagena, which is to imply it's a one horse town.note 
  • Skeleton Crew: The crashed drug-smuggling plane in the Colombian jungle has the mummified corpses of two pilots still in their seats—one even acts as the Peek-a-Boo Corpse. Jack and Joan find refuge from the rain in the fuselage and raid the pilots' personal belongings for food and drink.
  • Stab the Salad: A slight variation, since no prop is involved. After bringing Ira the map he wanted in exchange for her kidnapped sister, Joan Wilder has nothing of value left to keep said villain from eliminating her. With the music playing menacingly, Ira growls "Joan Wilder ... you and your sister........ (cheerfully, as the music stops) can go!"
  • Stab the Scorpion: Jack and Joan are waiting out a rainstorm in the wreckage of an old plane. He whips out his machete and cuts the head off of a very long snake that was right behind Joan. Then he cooks it for them.
    Jack: Goddamn bushmaster.
  • Standard Snippet: The main theme to How the West Was Won is used, uncredited, during the Fakeout Opening, presumably as a stand-in for "epic exciting Western". The fact Joan is shown wearing headphones when she finishes writing the scene suggests this is actually a case of Left the Background Music On.
  • Suggestive Collision: Jack and Joan tumble down a muddy incline together, landing in a shallow pool... with his head between her legs.
  • Title Drop: Almost. Ralph says, "At least I'm honest - I'm stealing this stone. I ain't tryin' to romance it out from under her!"
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Both played straight and subverted. Played straight in the Fake-Out Opening when Angelina throws the knife strapped to her thigh to kill Grogan. Subverted when Joan tries to pull the same trick on Zolo. He blocks it with the broken board he's using to attack her with, and then tries to kill her with that instead.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Joan. She starts out the movie as a mousey, cringing Damsel in Distress, but by the end of it she's throwing switchblades, burning Zolo with his own cigar, bashing him with a broken board right in his handless stump, knocking him onto a lantern, and dodging so that he falls into a pit of crocodiles. How far she's come is first hinted at during the start of hostilities at the fort: when the guns start going off, Elaine (who Joan had initially thought was the stronger sister) screams and cowers on her knees, but Joan doesn't even bat an eye, simply helping her up and dragging her off to safety elsewhere. Later, when Joan's knife gambit doesn't work, Elaine faints.note 
  • Trashcan Bonfire: There's one at the abandoned fort where Ira tells Joan to come to make the exchange of the map for her sister. It's genuinely creepy.
  • Treasure Map: Played straight, thanks to the genre. Joan Wilder is sent a treasure map by her sister for safekeeping. But then the sister is kidnapped and Joan is forced to travel to South America to deliver the map. Inevitably, she and Jack Colton end up following the map themselves. The landmarks on the map are labeled in Spanish (but Jack can read it), and thanks to a couple of Contrived Coincidences (the bus Zolo directs Joan to going into Cordoba, the escape from him and his men leaving the pair right near the pitchfork-shaped tree Tenedor del Diablo) they end up in just the right place to follow the map. In a unique twist, the final hiding place for the Stone is revealed by folding the map so that a drawing of a woman with long hair becomes the waterfall it's behind.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Not Ralph and Ira who are too buffoonish and incompetent to count, but the sadistic and cruel Zolo is too serious and frightening for an 80's family movie.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Zolo completely loses it after a crocodile bites his hand off, and chases after Joan and Elaine trying to murder them.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: When Jack faceplanted between Joan's legs after a mudslide. Of course, he was talking about the mudslide, not the faceplant. Probably.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Subverted. Ira promises to release Joan's sister if he gets the map. When he gets the map, he says, threateningly, "You... and your sister..." and trails off menacingly, making the audience (and Joan!) think he's going to villainously renege on his promise, only to suddenly turn friendly, smile, and add, "...can go!"

     The Jewel of the Nile 
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba:
    Ralph: Come on, Colton! Where's the Jewel?
    Al-Juhara: Ralph, I am the Jewel. The Jewel of the Nile.
    Ralph: Yeah, and I'm a kumquat from Queens!
  • And Then What?: Joan's run up against this question at the start. Now that she's actually met, romanced, and sailed off into the sunset with the handsome hero, what comes next? This naturally gives her Writer's Block, so the movie begins with Joan pitching her typewriter overboard after she's unable to resolve a Cliffhanger in her latest novel.
  • Artistic License – Religion: The film was excoriated by several critics (Professor Jack Shaheen listed it among the "Worst" films in his documentary Reel Bad Arabs) for, among several other reasons, misleading audiences into believing that Islam is centered around worship of a "holy man", instead of the same deity as Judaism and Christianity.
  • Big Bad: Omar is the Obviously Evil main antagonist who invites Joan to join him.
  • Big Good: The Jewel is this. The titular Jewel of the Nile is not actually a gemstone this time, it is actually The religious title of a person His actual name is Al-Juhara.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: A quirky inoffensive man with glases and an umbrella is the most dangerous man (to Omar) in Kadir.
  • Cat Scare: Joan is taking photographs of The Big Board showing Omar's plans of conquest, with the flash from her camera showing through the windows. There's a camera shot to make it look like someone is about to walk in on her...when a hideous scream breaks out as Omar comes rushing across the courtyard below to dunk his hand in the fountain because it caught fire.
  • Comically Serious: Al-Juhara is The Stoic Nice Guy. When Ralph is hanging by his feet, Al-Juhara sighs, "Ralph, this is not the Sufi way."
    Ralph: What can I say, Jewels? They drive me crazy.
  • Commitment Issues: Jack is too free-spirited to marry Joan. He soon gets his priorities straight.
  • Deadly Dust Storm: The group encounters a sandstorm as they escape from the city. Luckily, they're driving an F-16 with its wings clipped and they make it through using the afterburner. (Although Jack says "It'll save us or kill us.")
  • Death by Adaptation: In the Novelization, Rachid gets killed falling down the big hole Joan and Jack are hanging over, in contrast to him just humorously having his eyebrows and some of his hair singed off by Ralph's fire-breathing trick in the film.
  • Death Trap: The villain puts our heroes in one, then describes how it works in lingering detail. Jack asks what kind of depraved mind comes up with such a monstrosity. Joan diffidently informs him it's from one of her novels.
  • Deconstruction: Jewel of the Nile is a deconstruction of Happily Ever After. What does happen after the heroes ride off into the sunset?
  • The Dragon: Rachid is this to African dictator Omar.
  • Expy: Omar Khalifa is stated to be the setting's equivalent of Saddam Hussein and based on him. However, he's the dictator of a country called Kadir which is close enough to the Nile that tribal people call their spiritual leader its Jewel. In effect, making Kadir probably a stand-in for Libya and Omar a Composite Character of Saddam Hussein and Quadaffi.
  • God Guise: Omar intends to fake the Jewel's miracles to unite the tribes behind him for his war of conquest.
  • Good Shepherd: The Jewel of the Nile is depicted as this. He's also extremely liberal for his time and place given he has no difficulties with Joan Wilder as an unmarried Western woman in a relationship with Jack (as well as encourages her to marry him).
  • Groin Attack: The Nubian warrior grabs Jack by a very sensitive part of his body.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Ralph intends to keep The Jewel for himself and joins the Sufis out of pragmatism, but by the end, he's gained some moral compass and embraces being on the side of the heroes.
    • At the end, some of Omar's guards are seen celebrating the eponymous Jewel's return. A number of them even dance hand in hand with the Sufis.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Omar ruins his chances of taking over the country by inviting Joan to be his novelist.
  • Leave No Witnesses: Omar bombs Jack's boat for this reason. The only reason Jack wasn't on it was because Ralph turns up on the dock looking for revenge, so Jack was stopped from getting on board. As Jack is still sore about Joan running off with Omar, he's more interested in getting payback for his lost boat than saving her, at least at first.
  • Lighter and Softer: Jewel is nowhere near as intense as Stone, and has no gore.
  • Obviously Evil: Omar is a Downplayed Trope version of this as he's known to be an evil dictator in-universe but charms Joan by appealing to her vanity. Even so, he keeps a torture chamber in his palace where the screams can be heard.
    Joan: What was that?
    Omar: Cats.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Jewel of the Nile is stated to be able to perform miracles and does a number of extremely implausible things as well as magic tricks (some of which are similar to stories Jesus of all people). However, we never find out if he's actually capable of doing supernatural actions. Either way, he's a good decent man — who is somehow fireproof.
    • The Jewel, himself, plays with this as he destroys the wall of the prison Joan and he are kept in.
      Joan: It's a miracle.
      Al-Juhara: Dry rot.
  • Meaningful Name: Al-Juhara means "Gift of God" and he's implied to be a miracle worker. It's also appropriate given he's the Jewel of the Nile as his title.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Omar fires a rocket launcher at our heroes, causing a rockfall that traps all his vehicles.
  • Qurac: Kadir is a military dictatorship desert kingdom with a Muslim majority tribal population.
  • Red Herring: When encountering Nubians, Al-Juhara mutters he was hoping to avoid them. No, not because they're violent, but because they'd overly delay his getting to Kadir.
  • Say My Name: Omar has a tendency to call out "Rachid!" whenever embarking on some task, even when Rachid is standing right next to him.
  • Shipper on Deck: Al-Juhara recognizes that Jack and Joan have a connection, and pushes them together. When Joan impulsively joins the Nubian dance, he questions Jack on his Commitment Issues, giving Jack an epiphany that, yes, he does love Joan.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Jack has a case of this as he's been overdoing the partying and sailing to the point Joan has become bored. Jack doesn't take this very well.
  • Unconventional Vehicle Chase: One of the chase scenes of this film involves Jack, Joan and Al-Juhara trying to escape Omar's forces in an F-16 "Fighting Falcon" (that Jack tore the wings off with his crazy driving), culminating with Jack firing up the jet's afterburner to try to lose Omar's forces in a sand storm.
  • Visionary Villain: Omar intends to fake supernatural powers from God in order to create an army to invade his neighboring nations as part of a larger plot to unite the Arab world. He also intends to redeem his publicity problem by getting Joan Wilder, a famous romance novelist, to write a puff piece on him.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Omar won't risk killing Al-Juhara because he's superstitious himself, though not enough to stop him from impersonating a holy man.

Alternative Title(s): The Jewel Of The Nile