A Cinderella Story

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A Cinderella Story
A young man and a young woman standing in front of a white background. The man wears a grey shirt with black sleeves, blue jeans and black sneakers with white shoelaces. The woman, being carried on his back, wears a white tiara, white ballgown and pink-and-white sneakers with white shoelaces. On their image, the text "A Cinderella Story " is written in blue print, with the phrase "Once upon a time... can happen anytime" is written in black print to their right.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mark Rosman
Produced by
  • Clifford Werber
  • Ilyssa Goodman
  • Hunt Lowry
  • Dylan Sellers
Written by Leigh Dunlap
Starring Paul Rodriguez
Music by Christophe Beck
Cinematography Anthony B. Richmond
Edited by Cara Silverman
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s)
  • July 16, 2004 (2004-07-16)
Running time 95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $19 million[1]
Box office $70,067,909

A Cinderella Story is a 2004 American teen romantic comedy film. The film stars Hilary Duff, Jennifer Coolidge, Chad Michael Murray and Regina King and was directed by Mark Rosman. The film's plot revolves around two Internet pen pals (Duff and Murray) who meet at a school dance and fall in love but two different worlds keep them apart. It received negative reviews from critics, but was a commercial success and has since gained a cult following. The film was followed by two sequels.


Nine-year old Samantha Montgomery (Hannah Robinson) lives in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, with her widowed father Hal (Whip Hubley), who runs a popular sports-themed diner. Hal soon marries a vain, self-absorbed woman named Fiona (Jennifer Coolidge). During the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Hal is killed when he runs to save Fiona. Supposedly he has left no will, so Fiona receives all of his belongings, including the house, the diner, and to her dismay, Sam.

Eight years later, Sam (Hilary Duff) is employed as a worker at the diner to save money to attend Princeton University, where she is tormented by Fiona and her dim-witted fraternal twin daughters, Brianna (Madeline Zima) and Gabriella (Andrea Avery). Fiona emotionally abuses Sam and uses unnecessary amounts of water during a drought. A running gag throughout the film demonstrates Sam's stepsisters participating in synchronized swimming, for which they are found to have absolutely no talent. Sam struggles to cope socially at North Valley High School, where Queen Bee cheerleader, Shelby Cummings (Julie Gonzalo), also torments her and calls her "Diner Girl".

Sam confides in her online pen pal "Nomad" about her dream to attend Princeton, a dream which he also shares. However, "Nomad"'s true identity is Austin Ames (Chad Michael Murray), the popular, yet unhappy, quarterback of the school's football team, and Shelby's boyfriend (although Austin broke up with her, she chooses to ignore it). "Nomad" proposes that they meet in person at the school's Halloween dance. Initially reluctant, Sam is convinced by her best friend, Carter Ferrell (Dan Byrd), to go to the dance and meet her mysterious online friend. On the night of the dance, Fiona orders Sam to work the night shift at the diner, then leaves to drive Brianna and Gabriella to the dance.

Carter, Rhonda (Regina King), Sam's other best friend, and the rest of the diner's staff convince her to disobey Fiona and go to the dance anyway. Carter and Rhonda take Sam to find a costume for the dance. Sam, wearing a mask and a beautiful white dress, meets "Nomad" at the dance, and is surprised and shocked to learn that he is Austin. The two decide to leave the party to walk alone and get to know each other. After sharing a romantic dance together, Sam and Austin begin to fall in love. But just as Austin is about to unmask her, Sam's cell phone alarm goes off, warning her to return to the diner before Fiona comes back at midnight. She leaves without revealing her identity to Austin, and drops her phone on her way out.

Austin picks up her phone and begins a desperate search to figure out who his "Cinderella" really is, the result being that every girl at the dance claims to be the mysterious owner of the phone. Sam is reluctant to reveal her identity to Austin, feeling that he won't accept her due to her being an outsider. Carter, dressed as Zorro, rescues Shelby from the unwanted amorous advances of Austin's distant friend, David (Brad Bufanda). Shelby falls for "Zorro" not knowing who he is and Carter resolves to tell her who he really is the next day, only to end up being shunned when he does. When Austin comes into the diner one day, Sam is forced to help him and, after a talk, she attempts to reveal her identity to him, but is cut off by Fiona. Sam's stepsisters convince Shelby that Sam tried to steal Austin from her, and, during a pep rally, Sam's identity is revealed to Austin. Hurt by Sam's secrecy, Austin does nothing to come to her defense as she is humiliated in front of half the school, causing Sam to believe he betrayed her.

Like Austin, Sam had been accepted to Princeton, only to be duped by Fiona into believing she was rejected. Sam then decides to give up her dreams and resigns herself to working at the Diner. Rhonda gives Sam a pep talk. When her stepsisters come in, they cause a guitar to fall off the wall, taking the wallpaper it is attached to with it. Sam then sees her father's words, "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game," and regains her confidence. A fed up Sam then confronts Fiona about the mistreatment she's given her, quits her job at the diner and moves out to live with Rhonda. Simultaneously, Rhonda and the entire diner's staff quit along with Sam, having put up with Fiona's abuse for Sam's sake all those years after Hal died. The customers, who watched the whole scene, leave the diner as well.

Before a school football game, Sam confronts Austin about his cowardice and lies. Before the final play of the game, he sees Sam making her way out of the stands, and finally faces up to his father that he wants to attend Princeton rather than simply play football all his life. He hands his helmet to his good friend, Ryan Henson (J.D. Pardo), then chases after Sam and apologizes. She accepts his apology and they share their first kiss as rain falls over the drought-plagued valley. Soon after, Sam finds Hal's will hidden in her childhood fairytale book, stating that all of his belongings belong to her. Sam sells her step-family's fancy cars so that she can pay for college, and Fiona, who signed the will as a witness but claims she never saw that will, is arrested after being chased through the front yard of what is now Sam's house by the LAPD.

Fiona, Brianna and Gabriella are made to work off the money they stole from Sam at the diner, which is restored to its former glory before Hal's death by its new owners, Sam and Rhonda. Sam finds that she was in fact accepted by Princeton; the acceptance letter was found in the garbage by her stepsisters. Also, Austin's father comes to accept his son's desire to attend Princeton. Things even work out in the end for Carter as he makes a commercial for acne medication. After being dumped by Austin, Shelby then makes a play for Carter, only to be spurned in favor of the school's DJ, Astrid (Aimee-Lynn Chadwick). The film ends with Sam and Austin happily driving off to Princeton, now officially a couple.



The film was nominated for five Teen Choice Awards at the 2005 ceremony, winning the award for Choice Movie Blush Scene, the same year Duff won the Kids Choice Awards for Favorite Movie Actress. Although most critics praised her performance, Duff received in 2005 a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress nomination. Reviews to the film were generally negative. On Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds an 11% rating.

Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend, the film grossed $13,623,350 in 2,625 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #4 at the box office, behind I, Robot, Spider-Man 2 and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, was the best debut for an Teen film that week. By the end of its run, A Cinderella Story grossed $51,438,175 domestically and $18,629,734 internationally, totaling $70,067,909 worldwide.[1]


1272 E Calaveras St. Altadena, California, USA George's 50's Diner - 4390 Atlantic Avenue, Long Beach, California, USA Monrovia, California, USA San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, California, USA



The film was followed by two sequels: Another Cinderella Story, starring Selena Gomez, Drew Seeley and Jane Lynch, was released on September 16, 2008, A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song, starring Lucy Hale, Freddie Stroma, Megan Park and Missi Pyle, was released on September 6, 2011.


  1. ^ a b "A Cinderella Story (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 14, 2010. 

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