Mixed or average reviews - based on 16 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 16
  2. Negative: 3 out of 16
  1. 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. [15 May 1987]
  2. The most underestimated commercial movie of 1987 may not be quite as good as Elaine May's three previous features, but it's still a very funny work by one of this country's greatest comic talents.
  3. 75
    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. [15 May 1987]
  4. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    Reasonably genial and diverting. [18 May 1987]
  5. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Enter Charles Grodin, who upstages all involved via his savagely comical portrayal of a CIA agent.
  6. Ishtar is an unabashed vamp for a pair of household names, and as such it works, often hilariously.
  7. Is it worth seeing? Yes. The ability to charm in the modern world is rare, and Ishtar does charm. Essentially, it's a teen film for adults, which is to say, it's mindless but not stupid good fun. And there are at least four times when the audience laughs out loud.
  8. Reviewed by: Judy Stone
    It's worth seeing the movie just to observe [Grodin's] delicious blend of unctuous manipulation and anti-Communist sanctimoniousness. [15 May 1987]
  9. The worst of it is painless; the best is funny, sly, cheerful and, here and there, even genuinely inspired. [15 May 1987, p.C3]
  10. Reviewed by: Angel Cohn
    For all the bad press Ishtar received, it does have a certain odd charm... The biggest problem is that any attempted subtlety is swamped by May's bid to turn the film into an epic adventure story.
  11. 40
    The guys in Ishtar are the boring wallflowers of the world. They probably shouldn't be mocked, disgraced and beaten, but who really wants to spend close to two hours with them.
  12. Hoffman and Beatty are so tone-deaf they don't even know how to play the songs for deadpan humor. They seem old, white, and without shtick. [14 May 1987, p.26(E)]
  13. 40
    When Beatty and Hoffman doe their (deliberately hopeless) singing numbers, jerking like mechanical men, phrasing unmusically, going off-key, they don't have the slapstick skills for it. That's when you long for Martin and Murray, or some other comics. [1 June 1987, p.102]
  14. 30
    It's piddling -- a hangdog little comedy with not enough laughs...its spirit rattles around inside it like a marble in an oil drum.
  15. Reviewed by: Staff (Uncredited)
    The funny scenes are as far apart as oases in the Sahara. [22 May 1987]
  16. 12
    A truly dreadful film, a lifeless, massive, lumbering exercise in failed comedy. Elaine May, the director, has mounted a multimillion-dollar expedition in search of a plot so thin that it hardly could support a five-minute TV sketch.
User Score

Mixed or average reviews- based on 12 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 6
  2. Negative: 3 out of 6
  1. Nov 5, 2012
    Ishtar is literally the worst movie I've ever seen in my entire life. Anyone who sits through it, is either socially/financially obligated to, or they just hate themselves that much. Full Review »
  2. Sam
    Oct 29, 2005
    Ishtar isn't funny, it isn't clever, and it isn't entertaining, the complete opposite of Young Frankenstein, a true comedy classic. It is however, so damn close to being so bad it's good though. Full Review »