The film begins with an animated cartoon slide of Popeye on his ship with the words "MAX FLEISCHER presents" at the top; the cartoon is Blow Me Down (1933). When the doors open, he is quick to say, "Hey! What is this, one of Bluto's tricks?! I'm in the wrong movie!"
One night in the middle of a storm, Popeye (Williams) rows his dinghy into the harbor of Sweethaven. When he arrives there, everyone seems to fear him. He rents a room at the Oyls' boarding house, where he falls for their daughter, Olive (Duvall). Olive's hand has been promised to Captain Bluto (Paul L. Smith), a bully and ruffian who is in charge of collecting taxes for the mysterious Commodore. Popeye and Bluto are quick to dislike each other and fight.
Popeye, who was orphaned at an early age, is searching for his missing father. Along the way he encounters Geezil (Richard Libertini), Wimpy (Paul Dooley), Oxblood Oxheart (Peter Bray) and a greedy, unnamed taxman (Donald Moffat). Popeye and Olive are brought together when they find Swee'Pea (Wesley Ivan Hurt), a foundling. Swee'Pea can predict the future, whistling when he hears the right answer to a question.
Popeye allows Wimpy to take Swee'Pea on a walk, but Wimpy takes him to the horse races. Wimpy uses Swee'Pea's power to find out which horse will win, incurring in Popeye and Olive's anger. Soon afterwards, Popeye throws the tax collector into the sea, making the entire town happy. With everybody in town busy celebrating Popeye, Wimpy steals Swee'Pea away under Bluto's threat and gives the infant to him who in turn gives him a hamburger. Popeye hurries to find Swee'Pea, but it is too late.
With Swee'Pea kidnapped, Popeye and Olive go looking for him. Olive and Wimpy learn that Swee'Pea had been taken to the Commodore's ship, and it transpires that the Commodore is Popeye's father, Poopdeck Pappy (Ray Walston). Bluto has betrayed and tied him up, and is going to use Swee'Pea to find Pappy's treasure. When Olive and Wimpy tell Popeye what they have discovered, Popeye deems it a joke and goes to the Commodore's ship to prove them wrong. He finds the Commodore and sees the family resemblance. He learns from his father the secret to gaining great strength from eating spinach, but states his dislike of it, infuriating Pappy.
Bluto then kidnaps Olive as well as Swee'Pea then sails to a small island on which the Commodore has said his treasure is located. He tries using Swee'Pea's predictive ability to locate the treasure while Popeye, Pappy, Wimpy and their friends chase Bluto to Pirate's Cove. Using a cannon, Pappy tries to sink Bluto's ship, but, in the end, he is forced to ram it. Olive is trapped in a tube that is then tossed in the water, as Pappy manages to get up on the cove with Swee'Pea and Popeye's friends.Bluto and Popeye get into a sword fight. Bluto, being bigger and stronger, knocks Popeye into the water. Meanwhile, a giant octopus tries to eat Olive alive. Pappy calls to Popeye and tells him that if he ate spinach he would not be losing. Bluto attempts to add insult to injury by forcing Popeye to eat a can of spinach, then wrapping him in chains and dropping him into the water. Popeye, now with extraordinary strength, shoots up from the water and defeats Bluto with a mighty punch. He then rescues Olive using a "Twisker Sock", sending the octopus flying into the air. Now beaten, Bluto turns literally yellow and swims out to sea, never to be heard from again.
Pappy finds his treasure, containing items from Popeye's infancy, including a framed "Me Son" portrait. The characters sing "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man", while Popeye dances and falls back in the water, only to pop back up smiling. The credits then play through a scene of the cove showing Bluto still swimming out to sea.
- Robin Williams as Popeye the Sailor
- Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl
- Ray Walston as Poopdeck Pappy
- Paul Dooley as J. Wellington Wimpy
- Paul L. Smith as Bluto
- Richard Libertini as George W. Geezil
- Donald Moffat as The Taxman
- MacIntyre Dixon as Cole Oyl
- Roberta Maxwell as Nana Oyl
- Donovan Scott as Castor Oyl
- Allan F. Nicholls as Rough House
- Wesley Ivan Hurt as Swee'Pea
- Bill Irwin as Ham Gravy
- Robert Fortier as Bill Barnacle
- David McCharen as Harry Hotcash
- Sharon Kinney as Cherry
- Peter Bray as Oxblood Oxheart
- Linda Hunt as Mrs. Oxheart
- Stan Wilson as Oscar
- Geoff Hoyle as Scoop
- Wayne Robson as Chizzelflint
- Larry Pisoni as Chico
- Carlo Pellegrini as Swifty
- Klaus Voormann as Von Schnitzel the Conductor
- Doug Dillard as Clem the Banjo Player
- Van Dyke Parks as Hoagy the Piano Player
- John E. Bristol as Bear the Hermit
- Pietro Torrisi as Bolo (a bully)
- Dennis Franz as Spike (a bully)
- Alan Autry (credited as Carlos Brown) as Slug (a bully)
- Roberto Messina as Gozo (a bully)
- Hovey Burgess as Mort (a bully)
- Ned Dowd as Butch (a bully)
- Julie Janney as Mena Walfleur
- Patty Katz as Mina Walfleur
- Diane Shaffer as Mona Walfleur
- Nathalie Blossom as Blossom Walfleur
- Paul Zegler as Mayor Stonefeller
- Pamela Burrell as Mrs. Stonefeller
- Susan Kingsley as La Verne the Waitress
- Michael Christensen as Splatz the Janitor
- Ray Cooper as The Preacher
- Noel Parenti as Slick the Milkman
- Karen McCormick as Rosie the Milkmaid
- Margery Bond as Daisy
- Judy Burgess as Petunia
- Saundra MacDonald as Violet
- Eve Knoller as Min
- Peggy Pisoni as Pickelina
- Barbara Zegler as Daphne
- David Arkin as The Mailman / Policeman
- Roberto Dell'Acqua as The Chimneysweep
- Valerie Velardi as Cindy the Drudge
- Jack Mercer as Popeye the Sailor (animated prologue only)
Popeye premiered on December 6, 1980 at the Mann's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles.
ReceptionThe film grossed US$6,000,000 on its opening weekend in the U.S., and made US$32,000,000 after 32 days. The film earned $49,823,037 at the United States box office—more than double the film's budget—and a worldwide total of US$60,000,000.
Popeye received overall mixed to negative reviews: some favorable, from critics such as Roger Ebert; but most unfavorable, from critics such as Leonard Maltin, who described the picture as "...Astonishingly boring. The beloved sailorman boards a sinking ship. A game cast does its best with an unfunny script and cluttered staging. Tune in a few hours' worth of Max Fleischer cartoons instead; you'll be much better off." Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 57% "Rotten" rating with the critical consensus stating [that] "Altman's take on the iconic cartoon is messy and wildly uneven, but its robust humor and manic charm are hard to resist."
Popeye was the subject of MAD Magazine's parody comic Flopeye.
Popeye: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is a soundtrack composed by Harry Nilsson for the movie Popeye. Harry Nilsson took a break in the middle of production of his album Flash Harry to create the music for this movie. He wrote all the original songs and co-produced the music with producer Bruce Robb at Cherokee Studios. Nilsson took his band of musicians to the island of Malta where they had a purpose-built studio constructed for them. In general, the soundtrack was unusual in that the actors sang some of the songs "live". For that reason, the studio-recorded soundtrack album did not quite match the tracks heard in the film. On the end credits, Van Dyke Parks is credited as music arranger. He also acted in the movie in the role of a piano player.
All songs written by Harry Nilsson except "I'm Popeye The Sailor Man," which was composed by Sammy Lerner for the original Max Fleischer Popeye animated cartoon.
- "I Yam What I Yam" - (2:16)
- "He Needs Me" - (3:33)
- "Swee' Pea's Lullaby" - (2:06)
- "Din' We" - (3:06)
- "Sweethaven - An Anthem" - (2:56)
- "Blow Me Down" - (4:07)
- "Sailin'" - (2:48)
- "It's Not Easy Being Me" - (2:20)
- "He's Large" - (4:19)
- "I'm Mean" - (2:33)
- "Kids" - (4:23)
- "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man" - (1:19)
- The song "Everything Is Food" was not included on the soundtrack album, while the song "Din' We", which was cut from the film, was.
- The song "He Needs Me" was also featured in the film Punch-Drunk Love. Coincidentally, Punch-Drunk Love was originally released on DVD the same day as Popeye.
- The song "Sweethaven - An Anthem" is the only song heard twice in the film.
- The soundtrack is now available either as a digital download from music retailers such as iTunes and Amazon MP3 or as a CD-R through Amazon.com. Again, "Everything Is Food" has not been included on the soundtrack.
- "The Search for Popeye's Poppa"
- Popeye's Pappy
- "Me Quest for Poopdeck Pappy"
- Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy
- Popeye at the Internet Movie Database