Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Accidental Tourist (1988)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Accidental Tourist (1988)

In director Lawrence Kasdan's quirky, award-winning romantic drama about a middle-aged travel writer whose life was upended by death and a marital split:

  • under the film's opening title credits, fastidious, emotionally-withdrawn travel guide writer Macon Leary (William Hurt) of a series known as The Accidental Tourist, who was living in Baltimore, MD, advised (in voice-over) about how to pack a carry-on bag to avoid unnecessary "trouble":
    "A business traveler should bring only what fits in a carry-on bag. Checking your luggage is asking for trouble.
    - Add several travel-size packets of detergent so you won't fall into the hands of unfamiliar laundries. There are very few necessities in this world which do not come from travel-size packets.
    - One suit is plenty, if you take along travel size packets of spot remover. The suit should be medium gray. Gray not only hides the dirt, but is handy for sudden funerals.
    - Always bring a book as protection against strangers. Magazines don't last and newspapers from elsewhere remind you, you don't belong. But don't take more than one book. It is a common mistake to overestimate one's potential free time and consequently overpack. In travel, as in most of life, less is invariably more.
    - And most importantly, never take along anything on your journey so valuable or dear, that its loss would devastate you"
  • Macon was emotionally numbed by the previous year's violent shooting death of his 12 year-old son Ethan (Seth Granger) in a fast-food restaurant robbery - he also was subsequently divorced from wife Sarah Leary (Kathleen Turner)
  • Macon experienced a painful flashback when he identified his son's body with a flat, drained confirmation: "Yes, that is my son"
  • flirtatious, divorced single mother Muriel Pritchett (Best Supporting Actress winner Geena Davis) (with a son named Alexander (Robert Gorman)) was introduced as a wacky dog trainer who worked in an animal hospital and was tending to Macon's spunky Welsh Corgi named Edward during boarding services while Macon was on a business trip to London, England
  • there were many forward attempts of Muriel to get to know Macon; she wished to date the oblivious Macon, offering more than dog obedience training for Edward: (Muriel: "Or just call for no reason. Call and talk." Macon: "Talk?" Muriel: "Sure! Talk about Edward, his problems. Talk about anything. Just pick up the phone and talk. Don't you ever get the urge to do that?" Macon: "Not really")
  • during a moving scene, Macon attempted to break off a dinner date with Muriel by a written note - and then when he tried, awkwardly in person, to explain the loss of his son and his reasons for not wanting to get close or to get married again: ("I can't go to dinner with people, I can't. I can't talk to their little boys. You have to stop asking me. I don't want to hurt your feelings, but I'm just not up to this"), she gave him a comforting hug followed by a non-sexual invitation to go upstairs to her bed to sleep - she responded: "I'm bashful" when he asked her to remove her gown next to him
  • for awhile, Macon (with Edward) and Muriel (with Alexander) lived together in her apartment, until Macon attempted to reconcile with his estranged wife Sarah and start over again in their former house
  • and then later in the film's conclusion, Macon was in Paris doing business research - where he was followed by Muriel (who stayed in the same hotel); she wanted to re-establish their relationship, although he repeatedly spurned her
  • in the tearjerking finale just before he was on his way to DeGaulle airport, he broke up once and for all with his divorced wife Sarah and told her that he was returning to Muriel: ("I tried but I can't make this work...I'm beginning to think it's not just how much you love someone. Maybe what matters is who you are when you're with them")
  • after Macon was helped into a taxi by a blonde French-speaking boy (Gregory Gouyer) who strongly resembled Ethan, he spotted Muriel leaving the hotel and hailing a taxi
  • the film ended with their mutual shocked reactions (Muriel's delighted and smiling reaction and Macon's teary-eyed look and half-smile) when she saw him in the back seat of the taxi that he had ordered stopped to pick her up

Travel Guide Writer Macon Leary Identifying Dead Son

Muriel Pritchett (Geena Davis)

Comforting Hug with Muriel

Muriel and Macon in Paris


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