A Cinderella Story

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A Cinderella Story
A young man and a young 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 byMark Rosman
Written byLeigh Dunlap
Produced by
  • Clifford Werber
  • Ilyssa Goodman
  • Hunt Lowry
  • Dylan Sellers
CinematographyAnthony B. Richmond
Edited byCara Silverman
Music byChristophe Beck
  • Gaylord Films
  • Dylan Sellers Productions
  • Clifford Werber Productions
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • July 16, 2004 (2004-07-16)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$19 million[1]
Box office$70.1 million[1]

A Cinderella Story is a 2004 American teen romantic comedy film directed by Mark Rosman, written by Leigh Dunlap and starring Hilary Duff, Chad Michael Murray, Jennifer Coolidge and Regina King. A modernization of the classic Cinderella folklore, the film's plot revolves around two Internet pen pals who plan to meet in person at their high school's Halloween dance.

The film was released on July 16, 2004. While it received negative reviews from critics, the film was a box office success, grossing $70 million against its $19 million budget, and inspired multiple straight-to-video sequels. Over the years, it has developed into a cult classic.[2]


Seventeen-year-old Samantha "Sam" Montgomery is a waitress at a diner in the San Fernando Valley run by her stepmother, the vain and greedy Fiona; she received ownership of the diner as well as the family inheritance after Sam's widowed father, Hal, died in the Northridge earthquake eight years before and seemingly left no will. Sam is trying to save money to attend her dream college, Princeton, but is regularly tormented by her stepfamily, which includes Fiona and her twin daughters Brianna and Gabriella, with Fiona taking Sam's earnings and using the inheritance to spend on luxuries instead of necessities like water. Sam also struggles to fit in at North Valley High School, where she’s bullied by the popular clique including head cheerleader and queen bee, Shelby Cummings. At the same time, Sam confides in her online pen pal "Nomad", who shares her dream to attend Princeton to become a writer, her best friend but outcast, Carter Farrell, and finds comfort in the diner staff, including Rhonda the manager, Eleanor, a waitress and Bobby the chef. "Nomad"'s true identity is Austin Ames, the popular yet unhappy quarterback of the school's football team, The Fighting Frogs, and Shelby's boyfriend who he attempts to break up with. His father, Andy, has arranged for his son to attend the University of Southern California with a football scholarship.

"Nomad" and Sam plan to meet at the school's Halloween dance, and she attends wearing a white masquerade mask and a beautiful wedding dress as "Cinderella." The two share a romantic dance together, but while Sam learns "Nomad" is Austin, the inverse doesn't happen and Sam has to go back to the diner for her midnight shift. She leaves without revealing her identity to Austin, unaware that she's named the homecoming princess along with Austin as the homecoming prince by Mrs. Wells, the principal; she also drops her cellphone on her way out, which is picked up by Austin. She gets delayed because Carter stood up for Shelby at the dance from being forced by a boy, in result, she was making out with him. Finally, Sam and Carter flee to the diner, and the staff attempts to stall Fiona to give Sam enough time to come back, which she does. Brianna and Gabriella discover Sam's emails to Austin and realize that Sam is "Cinderella"; after failing to convince Austin that they are "Cinderella", they present the emails to Shelby and convince her that Sam tried to steal Austin from her. To retaliate, Shelby, Brianna and Gabriella perform a mean-spirited skit at a school pep rally, horrifying the school staff as the emails are read aloud and Sam's identity is revealed to Austin. Humiliated and upset, Sam leaves in tears.

Like Austin, Sam had been accepted to Princeton, only to be duped by Fiona into believing she was rejected by having a fake rejection letter made in order to keep Sam working at the diner and as her slave. Frustrated with her stepmother's emotional abuse for almost a decade and her school-wide humiliation, Sam stands up to Fiona, quits her job at the diner and moves out to live with Rhonda. Rhonda and the rest of the diner staff also resign, having only stayed for Sam's sake after Hal's death, and the disgusted customers also storm out after witnessing everything.

Before the school's homecoming football game, Sam confronts Austin about his cowardice and lies. Before the final play of the game, he sees Sam leaving the stands and runs to apologize to her, but only after standing up to his father due to not wanting to play football for the rest of his life. She accepts his apology and they share their first kiss, much to the dismay of Shelby, Brianna and Gabriella, as the football team wins. The drought her city was facing suddenly ends. Soon after, Sam finds Hal's will hidden in her childhood fairytale book, which states that all of his money, belongings, the house and diner actually belong to her. Since this leaves her as the rightful and legal owner, Sam sells her stepfamily's possessions for college, and Fiona, who signed the will as a witness but claims to have never seen it before, is arrested by the LAPD and the County district attorney for financial fraud, swindling Sam out of her inheritance and violating child labor laws by having Sam work long hours despite being a minor.

Sam's stepsisters retrieve her real acceptance letter to Princeton from a dumpster, where Fiona "filed" it. Soon, Fiona and her daughters are made to work at the diner to work off all the money they stole from Sam over the years as an alternate and well-deserved punishment over prison and juvenile hall by the D.A., and the diner is restored to its former glory before Hal's death by its new owners, Sam and Rhonda. Andy comes to accept his son's desire to attend Princeton and creates a promotion for Princeton alumni at his car wash. Carter soon films a commercial for new acne medication, causing him to become popular and Shelby to fall in love with him, but having witnessed her cruelty towards Sam at the pep rally, Carter rejects her for Astrid, the high school's goth DJ and announcer. Austin and Sam begin a relationship, after Austin gives Sam back her cell phone, and they both end up driving off to Princeton together.



Clifford Werber conceived a modernized adaptation of the Cinderella story due to its long-lasting appeal of being "the ultimate wish-fulfillment fantasy" with "an underlying message of empowerment."[3]


A Cinderella Story premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on July 10, 2004.[4] It premiered in theaters with competition from other products that starred princesses or were fantasy-themed, such as The Prince & Me (2004), Ella Enchanted (2004) and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004).[5]


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 12% based on 104 reviews, with an average rating of 3.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "An uninspired, generic updating of the classic fairy tale."[6] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score on 25 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[7] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[8]

Roger Ebert wrote that A Cinderella Story "is a lame, stupid movie, but Warner Bros. is spending a fortune to persuade [young audiences] to see it and recommend it."[9] Other critics panned the plot as "simple, lazy storytelling"[10] and "a dull rehash of the old girl-meets-boy chestnut."[11] They noted that its attempts to modernize aspects of the source material was gimmicky and led to illogical plot elements, such as a cell phone being the film's glass slipper and Sam looking too pretty and cheerful for an outcast.[12][11][13] Some particularly felt the use of a perfect teenager as a social reject delegitimized the moral of any average person believing in oneself.[11][13]

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.

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. 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]


The film won and was nominated for a number of awards throughout 2004–2005.

Year Ceremony Category Recipients Result
2004 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actress: Comedy Chad Michael Murray Won
Choice Summer Movie Nominated
2005 Kids Choice Awards Favorite Movie Actress Hilary Duff Won



A Cinderella Story was followed by five direct-to-video sequels, each presenting a separate modern-day version of the Cinderella story: The sequels use the themes and situations which also borrow from the Cinderella tale, but do not contain any characters from the first film. Unlike the first film, the sequels also include musical, dance and holiday event themes.

Film title Year Director Starring
Another Cinderella Story 2008 Damon Santostefano Selena Gomez
A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song 2011 Lucy Hale
A Cinderella Story: If the Shoe Fits 2016 Michelle Johnston Sofia Carson
A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish 2019 Laura Marano
A Cinderella Story: Starstruck 2021 Bailee Madison


  1. ^ a b c "A Cinderella Story (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on November 2, 2011. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
  2. ^ Russo, Gianluca (August 11, 2019). "It's Time For a More Inclusive "Cinderella Story". Teen Vogue. Condé Nast. Retrieved September 14, 2019. What began in 2004 as a modern retelling of the iconic fairy tale... quickly spiraled into a cult classic yielding a decade and a half of follow-up films with different actors and plots...
  3. ^ "A Cinderella Story Production Notes" (2004). Warner Bros. Pictures
  4. ^ Lyford, Kathy (July 12, 2004). "If the slipper fits..." Variety. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  5. ^ McNamara, Mary (August 17, 2004). "A royal gain". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  6. ^ "A Cinderella Story (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on September 3, 2010.
  7. ^ "A Cinderella Story Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on November 1, 2017. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  8. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  9. ^ Valero, Gerardo (July 16, 2004). "A Cinderella Story Movie Review (2004)". Roger Ebert. Archived from the original on January 11, 2018. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  10. ^ Smith, Anna. "A Cinderella Story Review". Empire. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c Vonder Haar, Pete (July 19, 2004). "A Cinderella Story". Film Threat. Archived from the original on September 4, 2004. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  12. ^ Holden, Stephen (July 16, 2004). "FILM REVIEW; Shattered Pieces of a Glass Slipper: A San Fernando Valley 'Cinderella'". The New York Times. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  13. ^ a b Anderson, Jason (July 16, 2004). "This Cinderella should have stayed home". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on August 4, 2004. Retrieved November 18, 2020.

External links[edit]