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Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit

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Sister Act 2:
Back in the Habit
A nun wearing sunglasses and red high heeled shoes.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBill Duke
Written by
Based onCharacters
by Joseph Howard
Produced by
CinematographyOliver Wood
Edited by
Music by
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
  • December 10, 1993 (1993-12-10)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$38 million[2]
Box office$125 million[3]

Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit is a 1993 American musical comedy film, directed by Bill Duke, and released by Touchstone Pictures. It is the sequel to the 1992 film Sister Act, and is loosely based on the life of Crenshaw High School choir instructor Iris Stevenson. The story sees Whoopi Goldberg reprising her role as Deloris van Cartier, as she finds herself coming to the aid of her nun friends who need her help to save her old school. Maggie Smith, Kathy Najimy, Wendy Makkena, and Mary Wickes also reprised their roles in the sequel.[4][5]

The film performed well at the box office, but was less commercially successful than its predecessor, and initially received generally negative reviews from critics. However it has proved popular with fans and has become a cult classic.[6][7][8] It starred Lauryn Hill in her breakout role, as well as Sheryl Lee Ralph, Alanna Ubach, and Jennifer Love Hewitt.[9] Gospel singer Erica Campbell of the duo Mary Mary, R&B singer Ryan Toby of the group City High, and The War and Treaty singer Tanya Trotter, also made appearances as members of the film's choir.


Deloris Van Cartier, now a headliner of her own show in Las Vegas based on her experience hiding from the mob in a convent, is visited by Sisters May Robert, Mary Patrick, and Mary Lazarus. They explain that they’ve been working in the same high school Deloris attended, St. Francis High School in San Francisco, and convince her to return with them. Upon arrival, the Reverend Mother asks for her help turning the school around. She asks Deloris to resume her identity as Sister Mary Clarence and become the school’s music teacher. She reluctantly agrees.

The sisters introduce Deloris to the other school staff, including the humble school principal, Brother Maurice and school administrator Mr. Crisp, who is eager to close the school so he can be rewarded with early retirement. In her first class, Deloris finds that the students don’t take the class seriously and expect an easy “A” grade. She soon declares it to be “a brand new day” and orders them to be more disciplined. One student, Rita Watson, walks out of class, but her fellow students refuse to join her, determined to earn their grades. When Deloris discovers the students are actually talented singers, she organizes them into a choir.

Mary Robert discovers Rita is an especially talented singer and encourages Deloris to get her back in class. She succeeds by giving her Letters to a Young Poet and advising her to follow her passion for singing. The students and staff renovate the school’s old music room and begin practicing in earnest. They gain confidence by performing a rousing rendition of Oh Happy Day at a school assembly. While cleaning the music room one day, Mary Robert, Mary Patrick, and Mary Lazarus discover old trophies that indicate the school was once renowned for its choir.. They guess that the archdiocese might keep the school open if the choir wins this year’s competition. Father Maurice initially objects to the plan, but changes his mind after Deloris agrees to raise the money herself and get parental permission for each student to go. The nuns successfully raise the money needed.

When Rita’s mother Florence finds she is in the choir, she forces her to quit because Rita’s deceased father failed to make it as a singer. Rita unhappily complies, but, on the eve of the competition, forges her mother’s signature on her consent form so she can go. Meanwhile, Mr. Crisp discovers Deloris’ true identity and travels with the Brothers to pull the choir from the competition.

At the competition, the students are intimidated by larger choirs and contemplate quitting. After Deloris lectures them about letting fear run their lives, they agree to stay. The Brothers arrive at the competition, but Brother Maurice decides to let them sing when he sees their excitement. The other Brothers lock Mr. Crisp in a metal cabinet. Just as the choir is set to perform, Florence arrives and takes a seat in the audience. After a brief bout of stage fright at seeing her, Rita performs an impressive solo. The rest of the choir performs an urban contemporary gospel rendition of Joyful, Joyful with hip hop choreography.

The students win the competition and the archdiocese agrees to keep the school open. When Mr. Crisp finds them, Reverend Mother stops him from outing Deloris by saying that entering the competition was his idea. The archdiocese officials agree to keep him working much to his displeasure.

The students ask Deloris to confirm the rumor that she is a Las Vegas showgirl. Deloris sets the record straight, saying she is not a showgirl, but a headliner.

The end credits feature the film's cast performing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough".



Box office[edit]

The film was not as successful as Sister Act. It grossed $57.3 million in the United States and Canada[10] and $67.3 million internationally for a worldwide total of $124.6 million, against a $38 million budget.[3][11]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 18% approval rating based on 38 reviews, with an average rating of 3.6/10. The consensus states: "Sister Act is off-key in this reprise, fatally shifting the spotlight from Whoopi Goldberg to a less compelling ensemble of pupils and trading its predecessor's sharp comedy for unconvincing sentiment."[12] On Metacritic it has a score of 38% based on reviews from 23 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[13] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[14]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated it 2 out of 4 and wrote "What's strange about Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit is that it abandons most of what people liked about the first movie and replaces it with a formula as old as the hills."[15] Brian Lowry of Variety wrote that it "Lacks the charm and buoyancy that made the first "Act" a mass-appeal hit."[16] Rita Kempley of The Washington Post called it "Shamelessly contrived pap."[17]

Ty Burr of Entertainment Weekly criticized the lack of originality but says "The recycling’s so cheerily blatant it almost short- circuits criticism" and "What saves the movie is a young cast with astonishing talent and energy: You respond to their high spirits more than to the hackneyed characters they play." He gave the film a B− grade.[18]

The film gained a strong following since its release and became a cult classic among fans. Director Bill Duke said about the reception: "The reviewers at that time could not really be linked to our communities or the message. As you know, the faces of the reviewers were very different than the viewers. So I was surprised, but not shocked, because they didn't get us at the time. They didn't get the message and did not relate on an emotional level."[19] Later he said: “I think a Black director doing something of this magnitude was not necessarily acceptable in those days... In those days, I was never going to get the same respect the original got.”[20]

Awards and honors[edit]

In a reader's poll conducted in 2014, the film ranked amongst the 25 Greatest Movie Sequels by Rolling Stone.[21] In 2023, the movie was named one of best musical movies of all time by Marie Claire.[22]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
American Comedy Awards[23] Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Kathy Najimy Nominated
Kids' Choice Awards[24] Favorite Movie Actress Whoopi Goldberg Won
MTV Movie Awards[25] Best Comedic Performance Whoopi Goldberg Nominated
Young Artist Awards[26] Best Family Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical Nominated


At the time of its release, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit was panned by film critics. However, the film began to resurface in syndication, as its stars Lauryn Hill and Jennifer Love Hewitt became cultural phenomenons in the 1990s, ultimately leading the film to become a cult classic. Ryan Toby alluded to the film's cult status, stating "Contrary to popular belief, Sister Act II was considered a box office flop compared to the first one. The difference is, Sister Act II gained a cult following as it started playing on TV."[27] It has since been reassessed over the years by modern journalists and is considered a standard in black cinema.[28] David Dennis Jr. of Andscape, proclaimed "the cultural impact of Sister Act 2 is felt across movies, music and even your Sunday church services."[29]

Rotten Tomatoes referred to the film as a landmark release for diversity in cinema, and a showcase of "representation in mainstream American film".[30] Furthermore, the film has received praise by Vice as "a work of art whose ambition and execution redefined what sequels could do".[31]

Lauryn Hill's performance has received acclaim from fans, critics and musicians alike. According to music executive Jerry L. Greenberg, Hill's role led her to receive a solo record deal offer from Michael Jackson, which she turned down due to being a member of The Fugees.[32] Over the years, countless musicians have cited Hill's performance as an inspiration for them to pursue music careers, including Lianne La Havas,[33] Colbie Caillat,[34] August Alsina,[35] Hillary Scott of Lady A,[36] and Lecrae. Singer-Actress Janelle Monáe cited Hill's performance as a source of inspiration for her acting career.[37] Pop star Katy Perry stated that the only secular music she was allowed to listen to growing up was the film's accompanying soundtrack.[38] Perry also told Rolling Stone that she was raised on Hill and Tanya Trotter's version of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow".[39] Billboard ranked Hill's performance at number 38 on their list of 'The 100 Best Acting Performances by Musicians in Movies' in 2018.[40]

Additionally, English singer Harry Styles has cited Ryan Toby's singing in the film as the primary source of inspiration for him to pursue a music career.[41] EGOT-winner Jennifer Hudson dressed up as Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopi Goldberg) during a Halloween episode of her daytime talk show The Jennifer Hudson Show. Hudson also name the film along with Goldberg as inspirations for her to pursue a career in music.[42]

Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit along with gospel musician Kirk Franklin, has been credited with helping to usher in a new era of gospel music that made the genre more palatable to a wider audience by incorporating elements of hip-hop and modern rhythm and blues. Singer Syleena Johnson stated that "Sister Act 2 was part of the movement to bring all of that mainstream".[29] The film's popularity seemingly led to a spike in interest for "glee clubs and choirs"; becoming a precursor to similar productions such as Glee (2009–2015),[43] Joyful Noise (2012),[44] and Praise This (2023).[45] In Japan, the film inspired the creation of nearly thirty choirs in the country. Entertainer Ken Taylor stated "what happened was the businesses in Japan, who are quick to adopt these fads, started offering Gospel choir lessons. It was not the churches, but the community centers that had these choirs"; further adding "So here were non-Christians in Japan saying that they wanted to sing just like the nuns in the movie."[46][47]

The music video for "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift references the film during the end credits.[48] Lizzo paid tribute to the film during her performance of "Juice" at the 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards.[49] The film's "Joyful, Joyful" scene was reenacted in the 'Game Over' episode, during season 3 of the American comedy series Broad City by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, and featured Goldberg reprising her role.[50][51]

Cast and crew’s response[edit]

Whoopi Goldberg was not particularly happy making the first movie and only made this sequel after Disney agreed to finance her dream project, "Sarafina": "For me, I thought the first movie was just stupid and this one wasn't much better. When they asked me to do this one, I laughed. But when they agreed to fund Sarafina, I thought 'what the hell, I'll make some more money off 'em'. But I think it's fun, I think people like one and two, because they're kind of the same film but very different.“[52] Same with Jennifer Love Hewitt: “We all had a blast doing SISTER ACT. I have a lot of fun memories.“[53]


The soundtrack album was released on November 23, 1993, by Hollywood Records, it reached #74 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart[54] and #40 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[55] charts and received a Gold certification from the RIAA for shipment of 500,000 copies on March 26, 1996.[56]

  1. Greatest Medley Ever Told – Whoopi Goldberg & The Ronelles
  2. Never Should've Let You GoHi-Five
  3. Get Up Offa That Thing/Dancing in the Street – Whoopi Goldberg
  4. Oh Happy Day – St. Francis Choir featuring Ryan Toby
  5. Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today) – Whoopi Goldberg & the Sisters
  6. His Eye Is on the Sparrow – Tanya Blount & Lauryn Hill
  7. A Deeper LoveAretha Franklin & Lisa Fischer
  8. Wandering Eyes – Nuttin' Nyce
  9. Pay Attention – Valeria Andrews & Ryan Toby
  10. Ode to Joy – Chapman College Choir
  11. Joyful, Joyful – St. Francis Choir featuring Lauryn Hill
  12. Ain't No Mountain High Enough – Whoopi Goldberg & Cast

The finale performance of "Joyful Joyful" was produced and arranged by Mervyn Warren, noted jazz and gospel musician who is best known as an original member of a cappella vocal group Take 6. The arrangement also includes rap lyrics written by Ryan Toby, and a bridge adapted from the chorus of Janet Jackson's 1986 single, What Have You Done for Me Lately.


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Germany 250,000[57]
United States (RIAA)[58] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Home media[edit]

The all-region Blu-ray, including both Sister Act and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, was released on June 19, 2012, with both films presented in 1080p. The 3-disc set also includes both films on DVD with the same bonus features as previous releases.[59]


When asked in 2013 about acting in a sequel, Whoopi Goldberg initially refused,[60] but by 2015 changed her stance to a maybe.[61] After a Broad City cameo, in 2016 Goldberg expressed doubts about a sequel based on missing cast members, but said she thought it would be fun and likeable.[62] In May 2017, she affirmed her desire for the third film to happen,[63] adding in July that she would like to direct it and had confidence it would be made.[64] On December 7, 2018, it was confirmed that Regina Y. Hicks and Karin Gist were hired to write the script to Sister Act 3 for a release on Disney+.[65] In December 2020, it was announced that Goldberg would be reprising the role of Deloris and serve as a producer alongside Tyler Perry.[66]


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External links[edit]