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Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland, Jennifer Jason Leigh ... see more see more... , Scott Glenn , Rebecca De Mornay , Jason Gedrick , J.T. Walsh , Tony Mockus Sr. , Cedric Young , Jack McGee , Mark Wheeler , Clint Howard , Ryan Todd , John Duda , Charles Burns Jr. , J.R. Byrnes , Kevin M. Casey , Wanda Christine , Tom Clark , Anthony C. Ellis Jr. , Neil J. Francis Jr. , Janet Hirshenson , Peter C. Hobert Jr. , Jane Jenkins , Karel King , Ilene Kwitney , Richard Lexsee , Tony Mockus Jr. , W. Earl Brown , Juan Ramírez , Beep Iams , Robert Swan , Ron West , Kevin Crowley , Carlos Sanz , Harry Hutchinson , David A.C. Saunders , J.J. Chaback , Tim Grimm , David Crosby , Mike Mangano , Rick Reardon , Leslie A. Ford , Kathryn Jaeck , David Westgor , James Ritz , Joe Guastaferro , Don Herion , Gregory Widen , Andrew Lipschultz , Walter Williams , Bob Krzeminski , F. Pat Burns , Zita Visockis , Razz Jenkins , Irma P. Hall , Nydia Rodriguez Terracina , Hollis Resnik , Don Rimgale , Dennis Liddiard , David Luckenbach , Andre Melchor , Scott Baity , Gretchen Erickson , Joan Esposito , Bob Rice , Marcella de Tineo , Jane MacIver , Burton Stencel , Tony G. Chrisos , Cay de Vos , Gregory Lundsgaard , Louise Woolf , Ian A. Nevers , Kelsey E. McMahon , Fidel Moreno , Zan Heber , Jane Alderman , Kevin Petersen , Thomas A. Senderak , Michael Allen Mark

The sons of a Chicago fireman who gave his life in the performance of his duties, firefighting brothers Kurt Russell and William Baldwin carry their lifelong sibling rivalry into their work. Russell i... read more read more...s convinced that Baldwin hasn't got what it takes to remain in the fire department. Baldwin is transferred to a "safe" assignment, assisting arson investigator Robert DeNiro, who is trying to make sense of a series of fires involving an oxygen-induced ball of fire called a backdraft. The investigation reveals a link between corrupt alderman J. T. Walsh and imprisoned pyromaniac Donald Sutherland. The trail of evidence leads Baldwin to suspect that his brother Russell, a much-decorated hero, may be the "inside" man setting up the arsons. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Flixster Users

75% liked it

203,301 ratings


71% liked it

41 critics

DVD Release Date: November 1, 1998

Stats: 4,475 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (4,475)

  • October 27, 2012
    Good film. Good story. Almost good acting (I'm looking at you, Kurt Russell.)
  • May 29, 2012
    Lt. Steven McCaffrey: Look at him... That's my brother god damnit. 

    "Silently behind a door, it waits."

    Backdraft was a pretty big disappointment for me. The fire scenes were pretty cool, but they weren't enough to make up for everything that was wrong with the film. A great ca... read morest is wasted on terrible dialogue and by the numbers filmmaking from Ron Howard. Everything about the firefighters and the story is cliche and everything that occurs is predictable. Nothing in the film is at all original, and we pretty much end up watching the same movie we have seen countless times, except this time it is about firefighters. 

    I have trouble grasping how this movie doesn't work. I love the subject, I love the cast, and I even like Ron Howard. Sure he always goes for sentimentality, which is on full display here, but he also has a way of making entertaining and exciting movies. The problem with Backdraft is that it is only exciting when we are in a burning building. Outside of that, it is dull and too unoriginal. The brothers relationship has been done so many times, and Backdraft adds nothing new to the formula. Two brothers who don't get along, but work together, get over there differences through their job and a tragedy. 

    This story had potential. Two firefighter brothers are working together while an arsonist is running wild in Chicago. If the movie wasn't so dumb it could work, but every time Howard had the chance to take the story somewhere new, he instead chose to keep it in familiar territory. The result is a lackluster film, be it with some cool effects, that doesn't give any insight into firefighters, brothers, or human beings at all. When I want to get my firefighter kicks, I'll stick with rewatching episodes of Rescue Me.
  • November 15, 2011
    This firefighter adventure about two brothers and their unit, fighting their personal struggles and what turns out to be a murder series offers some excellent pyro action in pretty impressive scenes. Excellent actors like DeNiro and Sutherland also manage to make the investigatio... read moren parts fun, even if the solution to the case is a bit silly. It's built into such an impressively fiery showdown that you easily forget about that, though. Here, director Ron Howard is in his true element, stylizing the fire as a living, breathing villain. Those scenes make this a pretty impressive adventure with some minor flaws in the more every day sequences. Of course the American firefighters are depicted as the heroes of our time with the help of a bombastic Hans Zimmer soundtrack, slow motion and all that jazz.
  • September 22, 2010
    Backdraft is a near flawless action drama film. A terrific film directed by Ron Howard, Backdraft is THE firefighter film to watch. Fuck Ladder 49, this is the film to watch. The film boast equal amounts of drama and action to create a memorable film, and with a terrific cast to ... read moresupport this film, it truly makes Backdraft a remarkable film from Ron Howard. The special effects are amazing and The fire in this film is the real deal, it's no CGI. and it adds an atmosphere of reality to the film. The fire itself can be considered a character. Backdraft is a brilliantly directed and told film, and for me it's one of Ron Howards best films. Kurt Russell and William Baldwin play the rival McCaffrey brothers. They constantly butt heads in the film. Backdraft comprises a terrific cast including Donald Sutherland in a brief but a very memorable role as Pyromaniac Ronald Bartel. Sutherland's performance is chilling, and for the brief minutes he's on screen, he truly steals the show from bigger actors such as Robert DeNiro. The film steadily builds it's suspense as a deadly arsonist targets city officials. Ron Howard never gives into the mystery, and he effectively builds the story to an explosive action packed climax. Of all the films that Ron Howard has made, this is one of my favorite films and like I've said, this is also one of his best. The cast deliver something powerful on screen and the story is action packed with lots of drama, which adds a lot more to the initial storyline. The film doesn't suffer from overbearing cliches such as Ladder 49 tried to do. Instead Backdraft shows you exactly what it must be like to step into the shoes of a fireman. Firemen themselves have said that this is a pretty good portrait at what they do, despite of course for the fact that the film is fictional. Backdraft doesn't dwell on sentimental cliches to try to coax an audience in spilling buckets of tears when someone dies on screen. Backdraft does have drama, but it doesn't overdue it, and with a good mix of action, Backdraft is more than just a film that you should watch. This is a monumental film that delivers something great on screen. No bad cliches, just terrific action and drama mixed with great acting make this a definite must see film.
  • fb619846742
    September 10, 2010
    While definitely cliched and predictable in a sense, still an undeniably entertaining thriller with some of the most exhilarating fire sequences recorded in a film. Solid performances from most of the cast never hurt either, even if the ending is a little far-fetched.
  • August 22, 2010
    I don't know what it is exactly, but something about this movie just makes me really love it. The cast is good, the performances are decent, the effects are awesome, and the story is pretty good. Maybe I'm just fascinated by the portrayal of fireman and the firefighting culture.
  • May 15, 2010
    Update: My previous review of this socketed balls, watch out for xxxtreme flames and check dat door for heat. Good cast, Robert De Niro fighting fires is a funny site. Kurt Russell is great in these type of roles.
  • fb733768972
    February 4, 2010
    I thought that Backdraft considers all of the consequences of firefighters, and concludes this gripping story just barely!
  • September 24, 2009
    Burnt hair!
  • August 15, 2009
    "Backdraft" is a movie about two brothers (Kurt Russell & William Baldwin) who's father got killed trying to fight a fire a few years earlier. They end up being on the same firefighting team and they don't have the best relationship in the world. They must try to quit fighting ov... read moreer who's in charge or something bad might happen.
    After I watched "Backdraft," I thought it was a good movie, but it wasn't quite as good as I was expecting it to be. It has good special effects with the fires and especially the backdrafts. Kurt Russell and the rest of the actors also do a good job in the movie.

    If you like movies about being a hero with a little bit of conflict between family in it, you'll probably like "Backdraft." It'll keep you interested while you watch it. NOTE: That was my Amazon review from the year 2000. I remember this used to be about the only movie you heard anything about for a long time around the time of its release, and I thought I'd love it cause I like the actors, and I like Ron Howard movies, but I really didn't enjoy it that much.

Critic Reviews

Owen Gleiberman
February 5, 2008
Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

Backdraft has some of the raw filmmaking excitement that has been missing from Howard's recent work. Full Review

Variety Staff
February 5, 2008
Variety Staff, Variety

Visually, pic often is exhilarating, but it's shapeless and dragged down by corny, melodramatic characters and situations. Full Review

Jonathan Rosenbaum
February 5, 2008
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

Visually speaking, the film does pretty well with fire-as-spectacle, less well with everything else (Howard tends to trot out fuzzy-toned Spielbergian backlighting on any pretext). Full Review

January 26, 2006
Time Out

The fire sequences are stunning, and the build-up to them, complete with blaring sirens and bellowed conversations, has an aggressive immediacy. Full Review

Janet Maslin
May 20, 2003
Janet Maslin, New York Times

The spectacular fire sequences, which must have been hellish to film, are powerfully enveloping on screen, thanks especially to the eerie effect of the title. Full Review

Rita Kempley
January 1, 2000
Rita Kempley, Washington Post

Backdraft is sure to do for fire what The Poseidon Adventure did for water. Full Review

Roger Ebert
January 1, 2000
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

[The scenes involving fire] are so good they make me recommend the movie anyway, despite its brain-damaged screenplay. Full Review

Desson Thomson
January 1, 2000
Desson Thomson, Washington Post

Director Howard is so mesmerized by the flames, he squirts formulaic lighter fluid over everything. Full Review

Tim Brayton
July 26, 2014
Tim Brayton, Antagony & Ecstasy

Absolutely fantastic setpieces strung along an absolutely dimwitted script. Full Review

Brian Orndorf
May 24, 2011
Brian Orndorf,

Manipulative? Yes. But damn, citywide funerals, a cranked score, and some Baldwin blue steel redemption poses clears away any irksome storytelling dissatisfaction. Full Review

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    • Martin Swayzak: You see that glow in the corner of your eye. It's your career dissapation light and it's going into overtime.
    • Stephen McCaffrey: If anyone's lights are about to go out, believe me they are yours.
    • Stephen McCaffrey: [Steven enters after having saved a child from the fire] Man, that was pretty crazy, huh?
    • Brian McCaffrey: I waited. I would've waited.
    • Stephen McCaffrey: Come on, don't worry about it.
    • Brian McCaffrey: But you did it man. You did it all the way. You were really a hero.
    • Stephen McCaffrey: Brian... its not about being a hero. I went in because there was a kid up there. I do what I do because that's my way. And it was Dad's way. Maybe it's not everybody's way.
    • Stephen McCaffrey: You go, we go!

Backdraft : Watch Free on TV

Backdraft Trivia

  • In Backdraft, who is Kurt Russels character?  Answer »
  • Tag line : One breath of oxygen and it explodes in a deadly rage. Name what movie this is from.  Answer »
  • Many extras in the film Backdraft are actual Chicago Firefighters ?  Answer »
  • Which movie has Kiefer Sutherland not starred in?   Answer »

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