Nuns on the Run

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Nuns on the Run
Nuns on the run poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jonathan Lynn
Produced by Michael White
Written by Jonathan Lynn
Music by Yello
Hidden Faces
Frank Fitzpatrick (Music Supervisor)
George Harrison
Cinematography Michael Garfath
Edited by David Martin
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
16 March 1990
Running time
89 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $10,959,015

Nuns on the Run is a 1990 British comedy film starring Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane, also featuring Camille Coduri and Janet Suzman. Essentially a modern interpretation of Some Like It Hot, the film was written and directed by Jonathan Lynn and produced by HandMade Films. Many of the outdoor scenes were shot in Chiswick. The soundtrack was composed and performed by Yello and also features George Harrison's song "Blow Away".


Two common thugs, Brian Hope (Eric Idle) and Charlie McManus (Robbie Coltrane) pull off a bank heist with their mob, but their boss is killed and replaced with a young, brash one, Mr. "Case" Casey. Disapproving of Casey's methods, Brian and Charlie wish to leave, and a corrupt auto dealer, Norm, on Casey's payroll, desiring the same, tells Casey of this. Casey has Norm killed to make an example of him, apparently intending to spare Brian and Charlie. Meanwhile, Brian meets and begins a romantic relationship with Casey's waitress Faith Thomas (Camille Coduri), a short sighted aspiring psychology student.

Brian and Charlie ultimately come up with a plan to betray their gang and flee the UK, whilst robbing a Triad gang of their ill-gotten money through drug dealing. However, Casey, no longer trusting Brian and Charlie, plans to eliminate them at the same time, ordering his hit men, Abbott and Morley, to kill them after the Triad gang robbery. Faith, now working in Casey's company, having overheard all about the plan, tries to remove Brian from the scene, but fails. Brian and Charlie's plan to rob the Triads and flee, goes well until their car runs out of petrol, as Charlie had forgotten to refill it. They flee the Triads, Abbott and Morley on foot and hide in a nunnery, later dressing up as Nuns and introducing themselves to the Sister Superior, Liz (Janet Suzman) as Sisters Euphemia (Brian) and Inviolata (Charlie). When Casey comes to know about their back-stabbing, he becomes enraged and places a bounty on Brian and Charlie's heads. The Metropolitan police in the meantime set up road cordons in the area.

Faith, who witnessed the gunfight and saw Brian and Charlie enter the nunnery, goes to the nunnery to find them, but she is taken to the infirmary after Sister Liz notices a gunshot wound on Faith's arm (inflicted by Abbott, who wanted to silence her). Brian spots her and visits Faith in her room, but in wanting her to leave them alone for her safety, he tells her that he is married. Faith lets slip that she is going to the church to confess. Brian, worried that the priest, Father Seamus, may advise Faith to go to the police, enlists Charlie's help in distracting Father Seamus long enough for Brian to impersonate him. During the confession, Faith admits that she does love Brian, with the latter advising her to "keep her trap shut". However, as Faith leaves the church, the Triads who have been waiting outside, abduct her in their van and interrogate her about their stolen money. Faith tells them that Casey will most likely have it, as Brian and Charlie worked for him. The Triads release her, but she bumps into a pole and bangs her head when she falls over, ending up in the hospital.

Brian attempts to call Faith at her home to renew their relationship, but she does not answer. They break into her apartment, but at the same time, Morley and Abbott come looking for her. They narrowly escape through the window, at the cost of leaving their nun attire behind. Abbott and Morley break down the door, but are too late to catch them. That night, after narrowly avoiding the Triads, Brian and Charlie sneak back into the nunnery through the window of a rather eccentric nun, Sister Mary, who wakes up and starts a commotion. Brian and Charlie make it to their rooms just in time and slip into their spare nun clothes. Once alone, Charlie convinces Brian that their best option now is to take their money and just go to the airport, but Brian learns that Faith is in the hospital and goes to see her as a nun. Brian begs Charlie to let him bring Faith with them, but Charlie refuses, spotting a Triad posing as a janitor, observing Faith.

Brian and Charlie prepare to carry out their plan, but Sister Mary asks them about the previous night and recognises them as the two men who broke into her room by noticing Charlie's growing beard and the upright toilet seat. They tie her up and break into the cupboard to regain their confiscated money, but the other nuns, including the mother superior confront them and they are forced to tell them the truth before making a run for it. Unfortunately, Morley who happens to be in the area sees them steal a man's utility truck with the money and he and Abbott give chase, as do Sisters Liz and Mary. Morley contacts Casey, who joins the chase, as do the Triads, who were closely watching him. Brian forces Charlie to drive to the hospital, where he tells Faith the truth whilst Charlie distracts their enemies, the nuns and the police. Casey is arrested after police find his gun, while Morley is head butted and Abbott presumably flees to evade arrest. Brian and Charlie escape from the hospital with Faith, after stealing two nurses' uniforms and an ambulance. Soon after, two police officers apprehend the two nurses dressed with Charlies and Brians nun habits, only to find out that they are not who they are looking for. The Triads later spot them, but are unable to give chase due to injuries sustained from their previous encounters with Brian and Charlie. Sisters Liz and Mary find a briefcase of money left behind accidentally by Brian and Charlie, and decide to donate it to a drug rehabilitation clinic.

At the airport, Brian and Charlie book a flight to Brazil for themselves and Faith, but an airport police officer appears and requests the airline agent to notify him if she comes across anyone called Hope or McManus. The final scene shows Faith on the plane to Brazil, apparently alone, until Brian and Charlie appear before her, disguised as flight attendants. There is an alternative ending in which the three of them are aboard a cruise ship.


  • Eric Idle as Brian Hope/Sister Euphemia of the Five Wounds.
  • Robbie Coltrane as Charlie McManus/Sister Inviolata of the Immaculate Conception.
  • Janet Suzman as Sister Liz, the Sister Superior of the nunnery.
  • Camille Coduri as Faith Thomas.
  • Robert Patterson as Mr. "Case" Casey.
  • Doris Hare as Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart.
  • Lila Kaye as Sister Mary of the Annunciation.
  • Tom Hickey as Father Seamus, the somewhat lecherous priest of the nunnery.
  • Robert Morgan as Morley, one of Casey's henchmen.
  • Winston Dennis as Abbott, one of Casey's henchmen and the bouncer of his health club.
  • Gary Tang as Ronnie Chang, the head of the Triads.
  • David Forman as Henry Ho.
  • Ozzie Yue as Ernie Wong, the most senior of the Triads.


The movie received mixed reviews from critics, and was criticised in the United States for its lack of depth and excessive use of nuns for humour. Nuns on the Run currently holds a 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Roger Ebert asked, "Why do filmmakers so often insist that nuns are funny? I'll bet there are some psychological reasons buried around here somewhere."[1] Ebert and Gene Siskel had also ridiculed Fox's advertising campaign for the film; in retaliation, Fox's president of marketing, Bob Harper, announced that they would be barred from press screenings of future films released by the company, though he backed down later that year under pressure from the Chicago Film Critics Association (of which neither Siskel nor Ebert was a member).[2] Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times noted that as far as drag comedies go, the film "has some bawdy class--but only because of its casting."[3]

Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times that "Nuns on the Run is a great leveler. It makes everyone in the audience feel a rascally 8 years old, the age at which whoopee cushions (when they work) seem the greatest invention since firecrackers."[4] Owen Gleiberman wrote in one of Entertainment Weekly's first issues that the film "isn't a madcap-hysterical, end-of-the-empire drag farce; it doesn't hash over what Monty Python did definitively over 20 years ago. It's a cleverly directed caper comedy about two crooks on the lam, and it has its fair share of chuckles."[5]

Box office[edit]

The film was successful in the US on limited release, making $658,835 in first screenings at 76 theatres.[6] Nuns on the Run grossed $10,959,015 US dollars, according to Box Office Mojo.

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