The Rocketeer at 30: An underrated classic of 1990s cinema

The Rocketeer is available to stream now on Disney +

Released on this day in 1991 The Rocketeer, carries a special place in my heart. The Rocketeer was the final cinema trip I made with my Nan, as my weekend sleepovers at her small council house came to an end. Of course, we continued to watch the occasional movie on TV together, but our 45 minute walks to the picture house ended that day. The magnificent Granada Cinema in Bedford had been demolished, and a new theatre had opened. Still, it was clear on arrival at the six-screen Cannon Cinema that my Nan’s big-screen outings had ended with the Granada – she felt uncomfortable at the new cinema and was eager to get back home. But, despite this air of something ending, we both enjoyed The Rocketeer, our conversation as we walked home turning to my nan’s experiences of the 1930s and her journey from Ireland to the UK.


Created by comic book writer and artist Dave Stevens, The Rocketeer first flew onto shelves in 1982. Providing a mix of serial adventure, nostalgia, and Indiana Jones inspired action. However, despite its comic book success, the film version struggled through production as disagreements between director Joe Johnson and Disney constantly held the film in a production void. And this may explain why Johnson’s film never received the praise it duly deserved on its final release.

Inhabiting the same world of adventure as Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Rocketeer is stylish and different. Here, Johnson bathes the viewer in the action and adventure of the 1930s and 1940s Saturday afternoon serial. While at the same time delivering us a smart, humorous and engaging comic book world that soars with passion. And while The Rocketeer may not have found success at the box office, it remains one of the best comic book movies of the early 90s. Its energy, action, score and cinematography flying high above many similar movies.

Rating: 4 out of 5.