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 drama 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, descended from a long line of witches. Raised by their aunts after their parents' death from a family curse, the sisters were taught the uses of practical magic as they grew up. As adults, Sally and Gillian must use their magic to destroy an evil spirit before it kills them.

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


In a small Massachusetts town, the Owens family have been regarded with suspicion for over three centuries due to their ancestor Maria Owens, who survived an attempted execution for witchcraft. Heartbroken when the father of her unborn child never returned to her, Maria cast a spell to prevent herself from ever falling in love again. The spell developed into a curse upon Maria's descendants, dooming any man an Owens woman loves.

In the present, Gillian and Sally Owens are taken in by their aunts Frances and Jet after both their parents succumb to the Owens curse. As children, Sally and Gillian are frequently ridiculed by the town's schoolchildren. After witnessing their aunts cast a love spell for a woman obsessed with her beloved, Sally casts a spell on herself to ensure she will only fall in love with a man who possesses certain impossible traits, with the goal that she will never fall in love. Meanwhile Gillian, witnessing the same incident, cannot wait to fall in love. When the girls are teens, Gillian elopes with her boyfriend and leaves for Los Angeles. Before Gillian departs, she and Sally make a blood spell to always be faithful to one another.

Gillian spends the next decade moving from relationship to relationship across the country, while back in Massachusetts, Sally meets and marries a man named Michael. The two have two young daughters, Kylie and Antonia. After Michael is fatally hit by a truck, Sally and her daughters return to live with the aunts. Realizing that the aunts secretly cast a love spell on her so that she could marry and be happy, Sally says the aunts will never teach her daughters magic.

Gillian unexpectedly tells Sally she has become involved with a dangerously abusive man named Jimmy Angelov. When Sally arrives to rescue her sister, Jimmy holds them both hostage in his car. Sally puts belladonna into Jimmy's tequila to sedate him, but inadvertently kills him instead. The sisters take his body back to the aunts' house, where they attempt to resurrect him using a forbidden spell, which causes him to return and attack Gillian. Sally kills him again, and the sisters bury his remains in the garden. State investigator Gary Hallett arrives from Tucson, Arizona in search of Jimmy, who is also a serial killer. Sally breaks down and confesses to Gary, only to realize he is the impossible man from her childhood love spell. Unable to deny their attraction, they kiss.

Returning home, Sally discovers Jimmy's spirit has possessed Gillian's body. Gary sees Jimmy's spirit emerge. Jimmy tries possessing Gary, but is turned aside by his silver badge. Sally tells Gary he is there because of her spell, the feelings they have for each other are not real, and the family curse will kill him if they pursue a relationship. Gary replies that curses only work if one believes in them, before returning to Tucson.

Jimmy possesses Gillian again and tries killing Sally before Frances and Jet return. Realizing she must embrace magic to save her sister, Sally asks the aid of the townswomen and they form a coven to exorcise Jimmy's spirit. They break the Owens curse, exorcising Jimmy's spirit and allowing the coven to exile him permanently. In Tucson, Gary clears the sisters of any suspicion in Jimmy's case and returns to Massachusetts to be with Sally. The Owens women are finally welcomed into the community by the townsfolk, who now accept them as witches.


  • Sandra Bullock as Sally Owens, a witch who becomes widowed after the Owens curse kills her husband. She abandons magic and doesn't allow her daughters to practice it.
  • Nicole Kidman as Gillian Owens, Sally's free-spirited sister who embraces her heritage, leaves their small town and becomes the victim of an abusive relationship.
    • Lora Anne Criswell as young Gillian Owens
  • Goran Visnjic as James "Jimmy" Angelov, Gillian's lover. Originally from Bulgaria, he's an abusive alcoholic with a cowboy style who kidnaps the sisters, and is killed by them in self-defense, twice.
  • Stockard Channing as Frances Owens, aunt of Sally and Gillian, who tends to be frank and assertive.
  • Dianne Wiest as Bridget 'Jet' Owens, aunt of Sally and Gillian, who is kind and gentle.
  • Aidan Quinn as Investigator Gary Hallet, from Tucson, Arizona, who questions 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 and the one who casts the spell that curses all her descendants.
  • Evan Rachel Wood as Kylie Owens, Sally's elder daughter, who lives with her mother and the aunts after the death of her father, Michael. She looks and acts like Gillian.
  • Alexandra Artrip as Antonia Owens, Sally's younger daughter, who also lives with her mother and the aunts after the death of her father. She has dark hair and a spunky personality.
  • Mark Feuerstein as Michael, Sally Owens' husband and the late father of Kylie and Antonia Owens. He is a victim of his 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 committed suicide 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 family 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.[5] 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.[6] 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 Cove on Whidbey Island.[7]

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.[8]


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


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[9] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


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 23% approval rating based on 96 reviews, with an average rating of 4.60/10. 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."[10] Another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100, gives a score of 46 based on reviews from 22 critics.[11] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B-" on an A+ to F scale.[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. ^ Eksouzian-Cavadas, Ana (2019-08-21). "Cult '90s film Practical Magic is getting a TV reboot". Vogue Australia. Retrieved 2020-08-16.
  5. ^ "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.
  6. ^ "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.
  7. ^ "Coupeville- The Home to "Practical Magic"". 4 October 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  8. ^ "Coupeville Celebrates 'Practical Magic'". 15 October 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  9. ^ "American album certifications – Soundtrack – Practical Magic". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  10. ^ "Practical Magic". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved June 27, 2022.
  11. ^ "Practical Magic". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  12. ^ "Home". CinemaScore. Retrieved 2022-09-20.
  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]