Joe Versus the Volcano

1990 film by John Patrick Shanley

Joe Versus the Volcano is a 1990 film about a hypochondriac who learns that he is dying and accepts an offer to throw himself in a volcano at a tropical island so that an industrialist can get a mining concession from the superstitious natives. Along the way, he finds love and learns to truly live.

Directed and written by John Patrick Shanley.
An Average Joe. An Adventurous Comedy. taglines

Joe Banks

  • [watching the moon rise] Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how big... thank you. Thank you for my life.
  • I have no people of my own, Chief. I'm my only hope for a hero.

Patricia Graynamore

  • [to Joe] I've always kept clear of my father's stuff ever since I got out on my own. And now he's pulling me back in. He knew I wanted this boat and he used it and he got me working for him, which I swore I would never do. I feel ashamed because I had a price. He named it and now I know that about myself. And I could treat you like I did back out on the dock, but that would be me kicking myself for selling out, which isn't fair to you. Doesn't make me feel any better. I don't know what your situation is but I wanted you to know what mine is not just to explain some rude behavior, but because we're on a little boat for a while and... I'm soul sick. And you're going to see that.
  • Marry me...Marry me and then jump in the volcano. What is the problem? You're afraid of the commitment? You're gonna have to love and honor me for about 30 seconds. You can't handle that?

Frank Waturi

  • [to Joe] Do you think I feel good? Nobody feels good. After childhood, it's a fact of life. I feel rotten. So what? I don't let it bother me. I don't let it interfere with my job.
  • [On the phone] I know he can get the job. But can he do the job? Harry. Yeah, Harry. But can he do the job? I know he can get the job. But can he do the job? I'm not arguing that with you. I'm not arguing that with you. I'm not arguing that with you. I'm not arguing that with you' Harry! Harry, Harry. Yeah, Harry, but can he do the job? I know he can get the job. But can he do the job? I'm not arguing that with you. Harry, I am not arguing that with you! Who said that? I didn't say that. If I said that, I would have been wrong. Maybe. Maybe. I'm not arguing that with you! Yeah, Harry, I know he can get the job. But can he do the job? I'm not arguing that with you! I am not arguing that with you! I am not arguing that with you! Who told you that? No! I told you that! Me! What? Maybe. Maybe, maybe. Maybe!

Samuel Harvey Graynamore

  • [to Joe] Well, does it take more guts to twice traverse a staircase in a burning building, or to make a one-time leap into the mouth of a smoking volcano? Damned if I know, Kimosabe. All I know is when you're making those kind of calls, you're up in the high country.
  • I see it as a sign of tremendous sophistication that you haven't demanded my name or asked me what I'm doing here.
  • Ninety percent of people are asleep, and those of us who are awake look around in wonder.

Dr. Ellison

  • You have some time left, Mr. Banks. You have some life left. My advice to you is: live it well.


Joe: So I'm not sick except for this terminal disease?
Dr. Ellison: Which has no symptoms. That's right.

Joe: This life. Life, what a joke. This situation, this room.
Mr. Waturi: Uh, Joe. Maybe you should just go.
Joe: You look terrible, Mr. Waturi. You look like a bag of shit stuffed in a cheap suit. Not that anyone could look good under these zombie lights. I, I, I, I can feel them sucking the juice out of my eyeball. Suck, suck, suck, SUCK... [makes a sucking noise] For 300 bucks a week, that's the news. For 300 bucks a week, I've lived in this sink, this used rubber.
Mr. Waturi: You watch it, mister! There's a woman here!
Joe: Don't you think I know that, Frank? Don't you think I am aware there is a woman here? I can smell her, like, like a flower. I can taste her, like sugar on my tongue. When I'm 20 feet away I can hear the fabric of her dress when she moves in her chair. Not that I've done anything about it. I've gone all day, every day, not doing, not saying, not taking the chance for 300 dollars a week, and Frank, the coffee, it stinks, it's like arsenic. The lights give me a headache. If the lights don't give you a headache, you must be dead; let's arrange the funeral.
Mr. Waturi: You better get outta here right now! I'm telling you!
Joe: You're telling me nothing. And why, I ask myself, why have I put up with you? I can't imagine, but now I know. Fear. Yellow freakin' fear. I've been too chicken shit afraid to live my life so I sold it to you for 300 freakin' dollars a week! You're lucky I don't kill you! You're lucky I don't rip your freakin' throat out! But I'm not going to! And maybe you're not so lucky at that. 'Cause I'm gonna leave you here, Mr. Wahoo Waturi, and what could be worse than that?

Marshall: They just pay me to drive the limo, sir. I'm not here to tell you who you are.
Joe: I didn't ask you to tell me who I am.
Marshall: You were hinting around about clothes. That happens to be a very important topic to me, sir. Clothes, Mr...
Joe: Banks.
Marshall: Banks. Clothes make the man. I believe that. You say to me you want to go shopping, you want to buy clothes, but you don't know what kind. You leave that hanging in the air, like I'm going to fill in the blank. Now, that to me is like asking me who you are, and I don't know who you are. I don't want to know. It's taken me my whole life to find out who I am, and I'm tired now. You hear what I'm saying?
Marshall: What kinda clothes do you got now?
Joe: Well, I got the kinda clothes I'm wearing.
Marshall: So you got no clothes.

Luggage Salesman: Have you thought much about luggage, Mr. Banks?
Joe: No.
Luggage Salesman: It's the central preoccupation of my life. You travel the world, you're away from home, perhaps away from your family, all you have to depend on is yourself and your luggage.
Joe: Yes, I guess that's true.
Luggage Salesman: Are you traveling light or heavy?
Joe: Heavy.
Luggage Salesman: Flying?
Joe: Flying. And by ship.
Luggage Salesman: An ocean voyage?
Joe: Yes.
Luggage Salesman: Ah. Yes. So. A real journey.
Joe: And then I'll be staying on this island and I don't even really know if I'll be living in a hut or what.
Luggage Salesman: Very exciting. As a luggage problem. I believe I have just the thing.
[the Luggage Salesman opens doors to reveal a steamer trunk of dark, wine-colored leather and brass fittings]
Joe: Wow.
Luggage Salesman: This is our premier steamer trunk. All handmade, only the finest materials. It's even watertight, tight as a drum. If I had the need, and the wherewithal, Mr. Banks, this would be my trunk of choice.
Joe: I'll take four of them.
Luggage Salesman: May you live to be a thousand years old, sir.
Joe: Thanks...same to you.

Joe: Marshall?
Marshall: Yeah.
Joe: I was wondering if you want to have dinner with me tonight.
Marshall: I can't do that; I got the wife and kids at the end of the day.
Joe: Yeah...
Marshall: Listen, haven't you got anybody?
Joe: No. But there are certain times in your life when I guess you're not supposed to have anybody, you know? There are certain doors you have to go through alone.
Marshall: You're gonna be all right.

Joe: What's the matter?
Angelica: Did you ever think about killing yourself?
Joe: What... Why would you do that?
Angelica: Why shouldn't I?
Joe: Because some things take care of themselves. They're not your job; maybe they're not even your business. I like your poem.
Angelica: I'm a grown woman and I live on my father's money. That restaurant that had my painting up, that's my father's restaurant.
Joe: Why are you telling me?
Angelica: I don't know. I'll tell anybody who'll listen. No, that's not true. I don't know why I'm telling you.
Joe: Listen to me. If you have a choice between killing yourself and doing something you're scared of doing, why not take the leap and do the thing you're scared of doing?
Angelica: You mean stop taking money and leave L.A.?
Joe: You see? You know what you're afraid of doing. Why don't you do it? See what happens?
Angelica: You must be tired.
Joe: I don't mind talking.
Angelica: Well, I do! This is one of those typical conversations where we're all open and sharing our innermost thoughts and it's all bullshit and a lie and it doesn't cost you anything!
Joe: Look. I don't know you. I don't think I know anybody. You're angry, I can, I can see that. I'm very troubled. I'm not ready to... [sighs] There's only so much time. You wanna use it well. So I'm here, talking to you. I don't wanna throw that away.
Angelica: I have no response to that.
Joe: Then maybe you should take me back to the hotel.

Joe: Are you used to this?
Patricia: What?
Joe: The ocean, the stars.
Patricia: You never get used to it. Why do you think I want this boat? All I want to do is sail away.
Joe: Where would you go
Patricia: Away from the things of man.
Joe: Do you believe in God?
Patricia: I believe in myself.
Joe: What does that mean?
Patricia: I have confidence in myself.
Joe: I've done a lot of soul searching lately. I've been asking myself some tough questions. You know what I've found out?
Patricia: What?
Joe: I have no interest in myself. I think about myself, I get bored out of my mind.
Patricia: What does interest you?
Joe: I don't know. Courage. Courage interests me.
Patricia: So you're going to spend the rest of your life on a tiny island in the South Pacific?
Joe: Well, up till now I've lived on a tiny island called Staten Island, and I've commuted to a job in a shut up room with pumped in air, no sunshine, despicable people, and now that I've got some distance from that situation, that seems pretty unbelievable. Your life seems unbelievable to me. All this like life, seems unbelievable to me. Somewhat. At this moment.
Patricia: My father says almost the whole world's asleep. Everybody you know, everybody you see, everybody you talk to. He says only a few people are awake. And they live in a state of constant, total amazement.
[they nearly kiss]
Joe: I have less than six months to live. The Waponis believe they need a human sacrifice or their island's going to sink into the ocean. They have a mineral your father wants. He's hired me to jump in their volcano.
Patricia: What?
Joe: You're not going to make me say that again, are you?
Patricia: No.
Joe: Aren't you going to say anything?
Patricia: I don't know what to say. You tell me you're dying, you tell me you're jumping into a volcano, my mind is a blank.

Patricia: Wait, stop right there! I love you! I've fallen in love with you. I've never loved anybody. I don't know how it happened. I never even slept with him or anything. And now you're gonna kill yourself.
Joe: [to the Chief] Can you give us a minute?
[Chief nods]
Joe: You love me?
Patricia: Yes, I love you. I can feel my heart...I feel like I'm going crazy. You can't just die and leave me alone on this stinking earth without you.
Joe: I've gotta do it.
Patricia: Why? Why? The Chief doesn't even want you to do it. Do you, Chief?
Joe: 'Cause I've wasted my entire life and I'm gonna die. Now I have a chance to die like a man, and I'm gonna take it. I've gotta take it.
Patricia: I love you!
Joe: I love you, too! I've never been in love with anybody before, either. It's great. I'm glad. But the timing stinks. [kisses her on the cheek] I've gotta go.

Patricia: [as they are about to jump in the volcano] Joe - nobody knows anything. We'll take this leap, and we'll see. We'll jump, and we'll see. That's life.
Joe: I saw the moon when we were out there in the ocean, shining down on everything. I've been miserable so long, years of my life wasted, afraid. Been a long time coming here to meet you - a long time, on a crooked road. Did I ever tell you? The first time I saw you, I felt like I'd seen you before.

Patricia: Isn't this romantic? Who gets a honeymoon like this?
Joe: Yeah, but...
Patricia: What's the matter?
Joe: I still have a problem.
Patricia: What?
Joe: I have a brain cloud.
Patricia: A brain cloud... what is a brain cloud?
Joe: It's - well, maybe I should get a second opinion.
Patricia: You didn't get a second opinion on something called a brain cloud? I mean what are you, a hypochondriac?
Joe: I was. Oh not now.
Patricia: I don't think anything is wrong with you.
Joe: Dr. Ellison said-
Patricia: So some quack told you... Dr. Ellison?
Joe: Yeah.
Patricia: That's my father's doctor.
Joe: He is?
Patricia: Dr. Ellison doesn't have any other patients. My father owns Dr. Ellison.
Joe: Why would he...?
Patricia: He set you up.
Joe: Who?
Patricia: My father.
Joe: You mean, he set me up?
Patricia: Yeah.
Joe: No.
Patricia: Yeah.
Joe: I don't have a brain cloud?
Patricia: I mean, couldn't they think of anything better than a "brain cloud"?
Joe: My whole life I've been a victim. A dupe. A pawn. [coughs] My throat is closing up.
Patricia: No, Joe. Your whole life is ahead of you.
Joe: That's true.
Patricia: That's good news!
Joe: I suppose so.
Patricia: It's great!
Joe: Yeah, that's good. I', relieved. That's great. I'm saved! [pause] But...
Patricia: What is it now?
Joe: We're on a raft, no land in sight. I don't know.
Patricia: It'll always be something with you, won't it?
Joe: Yeah. [pause] I'll tell you one thing: wherever we go, whatever we do, we're taking this luggage with us.
Patricia: Deal.

Patricia: I wonder where we'll end up?
Joe: Away from the things of man, my love. Away from the things of man.


  • An Average Joe. An Adventurous Comedy.
  • A story of love, lava and burning desire.


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