Practical Magic

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Practical Magic
Practical magicposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGriffin Dunne
Screenplay by
Based onPractical Magic
by Alice Hoffman
Produced byDenise Di Novi
CinematographyAndrew Dunn
Edited byElizabeth Kling
Music byAlan Silvestri
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • October 16, 1998 (1998-10-16)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$75 million[1]
Box office$68.3 million[2]

Practical Magic is a 1998 American fantasy romantic comedy film based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Alice Hoffman. The film was directed by Griffin Dunne and stars Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Stockard Channing, Dianne Wiest, Aidan Quinn, and Goran Višnjić.

Bullock and Kidman play sisters Sally and Gillian Owens, who are both witches. Raised by their aunts after their parents' death, the sisters grew up in a household that was anything but normal—their aunts taught them the uses of practical magic. However, being a member of the Owens family carries a curse: The men they fall in love with are doomed to an untimely death. Now adult women with very different personalities, the quiet Sally and the fiery Gillian must use all of their powers to fight the family curse and a swarm of supernatural forces that could take away all the Owens' lives.

The film is considered a cult classic.[3][4][5][6]


Maria Owens, a young witch, is exiled to Maria's Island in Massachusetts with her unborn child for escaping her execution. When her lover does not come to rescue her, she desperately casts a spell upon herself to stop falling in love due to heartbreak, only to die soon after. The spell becomes a curse for several generations. In the present day, Gillian and Sally Owens, two descendants of the Owens family, are taken in by their aunts Frances and Jet after the death of their parents. Sally is the more gifted of the two while Gillian's talents are more in charm and persuasion, and have been subject to ridicule during their youth. After witnessing their aunts cast a spell on a man for a woman who seems obsessed with having his love, Gillian decides to fall in love and Sally casts a true love spell to protect herself.

The sisters cast an oath to each other using blood from both of their hands and Gillian leaves for Los Angeles. Sally meets and marries Michael, a local apple salesman. Years later, the two open their botanical shop Verbena and have two young daughters, Kylie and Antonia. Michael is killed after being hit by a truck. Sally and her daughters return to the Owens home to live with the aunts, and realize that the aunts cast a spell so she could fall in love. Sally decides that she and her daughters will not perform magic. As Gillian begins a relationship with Jimmy Angelov in Orlando, Sally is devastated by her husband's death. Gillian feels that Sally needs her and drugs Jimmy to return to Massachusetts.

Gillian calls Sally from a motel, where she has been abused by Jimmy. When Sally arrives, Jimmy kidnaps them. Sally puts belladonna into Jimmy's tequila, inadvertently killing him. There is some ambiguity as to what actually killed Jimmy, as during the struggle he hits his head hard on the edge of the door window. The sisters apparently resurrect him using the forbidden spell from their aunts' book of spells, but Jimmy attempts to kill Gillian after being revived. Sally kills him again, and the sisters bury his remains in their home's garden. State investigator Gary Hallett arrives from Tucson, Arizona in search of Jimmy, who is also a serial killer. As Gary begins to suspect Sally, Gillian, Kylie and Antonia create a potion to banish Gary; however, the girls realize he is the one described in Sally's true love spell, and remove the potion. Later, Sally has Gary record her testimony and sees the letter she had once written Gillian, and realizes he must have read it more times than he had let on. Unable to deny their feelings for each other, they kiss and Sally realizes that he was there because of the spell she cast years earlier.

Sally discovers that Jimmy's spirit has possessed Gillian's body and Gary sees Jimmy's spirit emerge. Jimmy attempts to possess Gary, only to be hurt by his silver star-shaped badge and is temporarily exiled. Later, Sally tells Gary that he is there because of her spell and the feelings they have for each other are not real. Gary replies that curses are only true if one believes in them and reveals that he also wished for her, before returning to Tucson.

Jimmy possesses Gillian again and attempts to kill Sally before Frances and Jet return. Sally, realizing she must embrace magic to save her sister, asks the aid of the townswomen and they form a coven to exorcise Jimmy's spirit. Sally makes them stop when she sees that the effort might kill Gillian. Getting inside the circle, Sally and the townswomen reenact her oath with Gillian. They are able to break the Owens curse, exorcising Jimmy's spirit and allowing the coven to exile him permanently. After leaving for Tucson, Gary clears the sisters of any suspicion of wrongdoing in Jimmy's case and decides to return to Massachusetts to be with Sally. The Owens women celebrate All Hallow's Eve dressed up in witch costumes, and are embraced and welcomed by the townsfolk.


  • Sandra Bullock as Sally Owens, a witch who becomes widowed after the Owens curse kills her husband.
  • Nicole Kidman as Gillian Owens, Sally's sister, who grows restless with her family's estrangement in their small town, leaves, and becomes the victim of an abusive relationship.
    • Lora Anne Criswell as young Gillian
  • Goran Visnjic as James "Jimmy" Angelov, Gillian's lover, who becomes abusive and kidnaps the sisters, and is killed by them, twice, in self-defense.
  • Stockard Channing as Aunt Frances Owens, aunt of Sally and Gillian, who tends to be direct, assertive, and salty.
  • Dianne Wiest as Aunt Bridget 'Jet' Owens, aunt of Sally and Gillian, who is tenderhearted and gentle.
  • Aidan Quinn as Investigator Gary Hallet, from Tucson, Arizona, who investigates Sally and Gillian in the disappearance of Jimmy Angelov and falls in love with Sally.
  • Caprice Benedetti as Maria Owens, the first witch in the Owens family.
  • Evan Rachel Wood as Kylie Owens, Sally's elder daughter, who lives with her mother and maternal great-aunts after the death of her father, Michael. She looks and acts a lot like her Aunt Gillian.
  • Alexandra Artrip as Antonia Owens, Sally's younger daughter, who also lives with her mother and maternal great-aunts after the death of her father, Michael. She looks a lot like her mother.
  • Mark Feuerstein as Michael, Sally Owens' mortal husband and the late father of Kylie and Antonia Owens. He is a victim of his witch wife's family curse, which results in his untimely death when their daughters are young.
  • Peter Shaw as Jack, Sally and Gillian's father, who died from the Owens curse when they were children.
  • Caralyn Kozlowski as Regina Owens, Sally and Gillian's mother, who died of a broken heart after losing her husband to the Owens curse.
  • Chloe Webb as Carla, a good friend of Sally's, who works at her shop.
  • Lucinda Jenney as Sara, one of the town women, who initially fears the Owens but later responds to Sally's call for help.
  • Margo Martindale as Linda Bennett, another friend of Sally's who also works at her shop.
  • Martha Gehman as Patty, one of the town women who responds to Sally's call for help.


Practical Magic was filmed in part on an artificial set in California. Because the film's producers decided the house was a big part of the depiction of the Owens culture, a house to accurately represent that vision was built on San Juan Island in the state of Washington.[7] While much of the set from California was brought to that location and placed inside the house, it took nearly a year to perfect the image of the house and the interior.[8] The house, actually only a shell with nothing inside, was built only for this filming and was torn down after filming was completed. The small town scenes were filmed in downtown Coupeville, Washington, a Victorian-era seaside port town located on the south side of Penn's Cove on Whidbey Island.[9]

According to Sandra Bullock in the DVD commentary, while filming the scene where the Owens women are drunk and slinging insults, the actresses actually got drunk on very bad tequila brought by Kidman. The cast further stated in the film's commentary that they felt supernatural elements of the house started to affect them. Both the cast and crew claimed they heard supernatural noises while filming the coven scene at the end of the film. For the final scene with all of the townspeople at the Owens home, the entire population of the town where filming took place was invited to show up in costume and appear as townsfolk.[10]


Practical Magic
Photo by Suzanne Tenner
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedOctober 6, 1998 (original pressing)
RecordedAugust 15–16, 1998,
Abbey Road Studios (Michael Nyman tracks)
GenreSoundtrack, pop, minimalism, orchestral
Length56:58 (Nyman pressing); 51:46 (Silvestri pressing)
ProducerDanny Bramson, Sandra Bullock
Michael Nyman chronology
Strong on Oaks, Strong on the Causes of Oaks
Practical Magic
Alan Silvestri chronology
The Parent Trap
Practical Magic
Stuart Little

Composer Michael Nyman's score to the movie was abruptly replaced with music by Alan Silvestri for the theatrical release. This last-minute change resulted in the release of two soundtracks, although as primarily a compilation album only the two tracks of newly created material were changed. A 50-track demo (the last two tracks being "Convening the Coven" and "Maria Owens") of Nyman's score has been circulating among fans as a bootleg. The complete Nyman score runs 62:30 and contains music that would later appear, in altered form, in Ravenous and The Actors, as well as a bit of his stepwise chord progression theme from Out of the Ruins/String Quartet No. 3/Carrington/The End of the Affair/The Claim. "Convening the Coven", though not "Maria Owens," was subsequently reissued on The Very Best of Michael Nyman: Film Music 1980–2001, and music that uses material related to this piece has not been used elsewhere. "Convening the Coven" became "City of Turin" on The Glare.

Singer Stevie Nicks headlined the soundtrack's published advertisements, promoting her song "If You Ever Did Believe" and a new recording of her song "Crystal," both featuring Sheryl Crow on back-up vocals.

Track listing
  1. "If You Ever Did Believe" – Stevie Nicks
  2. "This Kiss" – Faith Hill
  3. "Got to Give It Up (Pt.1)" – Marvin Gaye
  4. "Is This Real?" – Lisa Hall
  5. "Black Eyed Dog" – Nick Drake
  6. "A Case of You" – Joni Mitchell
  7. "Nowhere and Everywhere" – Michelle Lewis
  8. "Always on My Mind" – Elvis Presley
  9. "Everywhere" – Bran Van 3000
  10. "Coconut" – Harry Nilsson
  11. "Crystal" – Stevie Nicks
  12. "Practical Magic" – Alan Silvestri / "Convening the Coven" – The Michael Nyman Orchestra
  13. "Amas Veritas" – Alan Silvestri / "Maria Owens" – The Michael Nyman Orchestra


Box office[edit]

Practical Magic opened at #1 with $13.1 million in ticket sales. The film went on to gross $68.3 million worldwide, less than its $75 million production budget.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Practical Magic received poor reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 22% approval rating, based on 93 reviews, with an average rating of 4.62/10. The site's consensus states: "Practical Magic's jarring tonal shifts sink what little potential its offbeat story may have -- though Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock's chemistry makes a strong argument for future collaborations."[11] Another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 1–100 reviews from film critics, gives a score of 46 based on reviews from 22 critics.[12]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave Practical Magic a negative review, calling it "a witch comedy so slapdash, plodding, and muddled it seems to have had a hex put on it."[13] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said that the film "doesn't seem sure what tone to adopt, veering uncertainly from horror to laughs to romance."[14]

Accolades [edit]

Year Nominated work Award Result
1999 Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Dianne Wiest
American Comedy Award Nominated
1999 Favorite Supporting Actress – Comedy/Romance
Stockard Channing
Blockbuster Entertainment Award Won
1999 Favorite Actor – Comedy/Romance
Aidan Quinn
Blockbuster Entertainment Award Nominated
1999 Favorite Song from a Movie
Faith Hill
For the song "This Kiss".
Blockbuster Entertainment Award Nominated
1999 Favorite Supporting Actress – Comedy/Romance
Dianne Wiest
Blockbuster Entertainment Award Nominated
1999 Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actress
Camilla Belle
Young Artist Award Nominated
1999 Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actress
Evan Rachel Wood
Young Artist Award Nominated

In other media[edit]

In 2004, Warner Bros. and CBS produced Sudbury, a television pilot written by Becky Hartman Edwards and directed by Bryan Spicer starring Kim Delaney in the role played by Bullock in the film and Jeri Ryan in the role played by Kidman. The series, named for the Sudbury, Massachusetts location of the novel and film, was not picked up.

In 2010, Warner Bros. and ABC Family attempted to develop a prequel television series.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sims, David (2018-10-16). "Thank the '90s for Practical Magic". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  2. ^ a b "Practical Magic". The Numbers.
  3. ^ Renae, Kirstie. "10 surprising things you didn't know about 'Practical Magic'". Insider. Retrieved 2020-08-16.
  4. ^ Tran, Amelia (October 30, 2019). "How 'Practical Magic' Became a Halloween Cult Classic". Her Campus. Retrieved 2020-08-16.
  5. ^ Eksouzian-Cavadas, Ana (2019-08-21). "Cult '90s film Practical Magic is getting a TV reboot". Vogue Australia. Retrieved 2020-08-16.
  6. ^ Turgeon, Carolyn (2017-09-05). "Practical Magic The Movie and Why We Still Love It". Enchanted Living Magazine. Retrieved 2020-08-16.
  7. ^ "Practical Magic: A Victorian House Fit for a Witch". Hooked. 25 October 2009. Retrieved 31 October 2012. It looks like a real house that was built in the 1850s, but it’s really just an “architectural shell” that took 8 months to build and was (sadly) destroyed after filming was over.
  8. ^ "Design". Practical Magic. Amas Veritas. Archived from the original on 6 May 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2012. Though this Victorian house looks as if it's been in place for a century, it's actually an architectural shell.
  9. ^ "Coupeville- The Home to "Practical Magic"". Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  10. ^ "Coupeville Celebrates 'Practical Magic'". Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  11. ^ "Practical Magic". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  12. ^ "Practical Magic". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  13. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (October 16, 1998). "Practical Magic Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 16, 1998). "Practical Magic". Sun-Times Media Group. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  15. ^ Hibberd, James (October 29, 2010). "ABC Family brewing 'Practical Magic' reboot". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 18, 2011.

External links[edit]