Sleeping with the Enemy

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Sleeping with the Enemy
Sleeping With The Enemy.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoseph Ruben[1]
Produced byLeonard Goldberg
Screenplay byRonald Bass
Bruce Joel Rubin (uncredited)
Based onSleeping with the Enemy
by Nancy Price [2]
Music byJerry Goldsmith
CinematographyJohn Lindley
Edited byGeorge Bowers
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • February 8, 1991 (1991-02-08)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$19 million[3]
Box office$175 million[3]

Sleeping with the Enemy is a 1991 American romantic psychological thriller film directed by Joseph Ruben and starring Julia Roberts, Patrick Bergin and Kevin Anderson. The film is based on Nancy Price's [2] 1987 novel of the same name. Roberts plays a woman who escapes from her abusive husband, from Cape Cod to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where she captures the attention of a kindly college drama teacher.

Sleeping with the Enemy was released theatrically on February 8, 1991. The film upon its release received negative reviews from the critics but was a box office success grossing $175 million on a production budget of $19 million. The film also broke the record at the time for the highest domestic opening for a female-centric film, grossing $13 million on its opening weekend surpassing the previous record held by Alien, which grossed $10 million in its first weekend.


Laura Burney is spending an idyllic summer at the beachfront home she shares with her husband, Martin, a charming, handsome and wealthy investment counselor, on Cape Cod. Beneath his seemingly perfect exterior, however, Martin has extreme, obsessive control issues and has also been physically, emotionally and sexually abusing Laura throughout their three years of marriage. He makes her keep everything in immaculate order in the house, tells her what she should wear, picks out what music she listens to, and limits her social activities.

One day, after meeting their new neighbor, a handsome doctor from Boston, Martin accuses Laura of flirting with the man, as well as inviting him into their house when Martin was away in town, and he physically assaults her in a jealous rage. What follows is Martin completing the cycle of abuse: showering Laura with flowers, a gift, and gaslighting her. Then, over dinner, he demands she accompany him and the neighbor for an evening sail along the coast, and after a brief argument, she agrees. Everything is going according to plan until a storm rolls in, rain bucketing down, and during a brief struggle to get the sails tied down, Martin is knocked overboard and has to be pulled out of the water. When he is safely back on board, Martin discovers Laura is missing, and he admits that Laura can't swim. The Coast Guard is called in, and Martin insists they continue the search until her life jacket is retrieved from the water and the search is called off. Martin returns home and throws the statue Laura loved, given to her by Martin on their honeymoon, through one of the glass walls, devastated. A funeral follows and Martin is left inconsolable.

As a child, Laura almost drowned and it resulted in a lifelong fear of the water, but as her home life became more untenable, it drove her to seek any means that could lead to escape, so she secretly began swim lessons at the local YWCA under the guise of a part-time job at the library. During her day following Martin's brutal attack on her, she knocks a light out right in front of their house. That night as they get caught in the unexpected rainstorm, she uses a distraction - Martin getting knocked overboard - to slip into the water and to a nearby buoy. The missing light points the way to the house, and she is able to quickly slip inside, change, cut her hair, slip on a wig, and gather supplies - clothes, money - and escape to the bus station. Before leaving, she removes her wedding band and "flushes" it.

Laura moves to Cedar Falls, Iowa. Previously, Laura had told Martin that her blind mother, Chloe Williams, died and used the two days she was away at the funeral to move her from a nursing home in Minneapolis to Iowa. She rents a modest house and adopts the name Sara Waters. She settles into her new life and eventually meets her neighbor, Ben Woodward, who teaches drama at University of Northern Iowa. He is very obviously interested in her, and she is charmed by him, but tentative steps towards a relationship are waylaid when Ben realizes Sara is not her real name. They argue, and Laura uses this opportunity to run from the intimacy Ben is looking for with her. Later, they run into each other at the town 4th of July Parade and make amends. After a cute date where Ben lets Laura loose in the costume department at the university, a kiss turns physical, and Laura panics, demanding Ben leave. Ben is confused and desperate to understand but acquiesces. The next morning, Laura confesses that she is on the run from her abusive husband and thus their relationship truly begins.

Meanwhile, Martin receives a chance phone call from a friend of Laura's from the YWCA and learns of Laura's swimming lessons. His suspicions aroused, Martin heads to their summer house and finds Laura's wedding ring in the toilet bowl where it failed to flush. He next visits the nursing home they had placed Chloe in, hoping to find someone Laura had contact with there, and discovers that Chloe is alive and well. With the timeline of her absence for the "funeral," Martin hires a private investigator and is eventually able to find Chloe. It is during one such visit that Laura herself, with Ben's help to disguise herself as a man, has finally felt safe enough to make contact with her mother, and the front desk receptionist calls Martin's attention to Chloe Williams' "nephew." Laura unknowingly escapes a run-in with Martin, but it gives Martin the push he needs to confront Chloe for information about her daughter. He pretends to be a detective looking for Laura, telling her that Laura has left Martin, but that he is looking for her. During the ruse, he does manage to find out about Ben and Ben's position with the university. Just as he is about to smother Chloe, a nurse comes into her room and Martin leaves.

After assaulting another drama professor, Martin tracks Ben down. He follows Ben to a local fair, which is where Laura is waiting for another date with Ben. Martin continues to follow them, breaking into Laura's home, and leaving small clues that he is there. He waits to confront her until she returns from her late night picnic in Ben's backyard, and Laura discovers her kitchen cabinets have been re-arranged to Martin's exacting standards. She tries to run, but Martin has set up her small boom box to play the music he always liked to play when they were intimate, and as she starts to break down sobbing, Martin comes up behind her. They are interrupted by Ben, who is flirty and referencing an inside joke from earlier, seemingly unaware that Martin is there, and Martin, brandishing a gun, threatens to kill Ben if Laura doesn't make him leave. Laura begs off with Ben, saying she's tired, and he appears to head back to his house, but then breaks down the door and struggles with Martin, who knocks him unconscious. As Martin points the gun at Ben, Laura distracts Martin and when he comes close to her, she knees him. He drops the gun and Laura manages to take control of it; she fires at Martin but misses.

Laura holds Martin at gunpoint while she calls the police. She tells the police that she just killed an intruder, hangs up the phone and shoots Martin three times.

When Martin falls to the ground, she drops the pistol and collapses, sobbing. Martin, not yet dead, picks up the gun and attempts to shoot her, but the gun only clicks empty and he dies. Ben is revived by Laura. They embrace as Martin's dead body lies on the ground with Laura's wedding ring inches from his hand.



Critical reception[edit]

As of January 2019, the film held a 21% 'Rotten' rating based on 33 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.[4]

Roger Ebert gave the film 1.5 stars upon its release, calling it "a slasher movie in disguise, an up-market version of the old exploitation formula where the victim can run, but she can't hide."[5]

Box office[edit]

The film's opening ended Home Alone's twelve week run atop the box office.[6] By the end of its run, the film had grossed $101,599,005 in the domestic box office; with an international total of $73,400,000, the film's worldwide gross was $174,999,005; based on a $19 million budget, the film was a box office success.[7] The film was released in the United Kingdom on April 12, 1991, and opened on #2, behind Highlander II: The Quickening.[8] The next week, the film remained in the same position.[9]


The original music for the film was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. Columbia Records released an album concurrently with the film containing just over 38 minutes of score plus the Van Morrison song "Brown Eyed Girl." In 2011, La-La Land Records issued a limited edition album of 3500 copies expanding Goldsmith's score (but omitting the song).

Home media releases[edit]

The film reached #1 in the rental charts.[10] It was released on LaserDisc in Australia, the United States, United Kingdom and Japan by Fox Video in 1991.[11] It also received various releases on VHS, was released on DVD on 2 September 2003[12] and subsequently entered the Blu ray market on in June 2011.[13]


The score by Jerry Goldsmith won the BMI Film Music Award, 1992, and the film was nominated for the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Award for 1992 in four categories: Best Actress (Roberts), Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor (Bergin), Best Horror Film and Best Music (Goldsmith).


Year Film Language Cast Director
1995 Yaraana Hindi (India) Rishi Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Raj Babbar David Dhawan
1996 Agni Sakshi Hindi (India) Jackie Shroff, Nana Patekar, Manisha Koirala Partho Ghosh
1996 Daraar Hindi (India) Rishi Kapoor, Juhi Chawla, Arbaaz Khan Abbas-Mustan
1997 Pelli Telugu (India) Naveen, Maheswari, Prudhvi Raj Kodi Ramakrishna
1997 Maduve Kannada (India) Ramesh Aravind, Charulatha, Kumar Govind V. Umakanth
1997 Khilona Urdu Meera, Saud Sangeeta
1997 Sagorika Bangla (Bangladesh/India) Amin Khan, Helal Khan & Rituparna Badol Khandakar
Ranga Bou Bangla (Bangladesh/India) Amin Khan, Humayan Faridi & Rituparna Delowar
1998 Aval Varuvala Tamil (India) Ajith Kumar, Simran Raj Kapoor
2002 Koi Mere Dil Se Poochhe Hindi (India) Aftab Shivdasani, Esha Deol, Sanjay Kapoor Vinay Shukla
2008 Mu Sapanara Soudagar Odiya (India) Arindam Roy, Archita Sahu, Sabyasachi Mishra Sanjay Nayak
2012 Luchakali Odiya (India) Babushan, Samaresh Routray & Shreya Susant Mani
Korean Im Sang-soo
2013 "Loobat Al Mawt"(series) ar:لعبة الموت Lebanese, Syrian & Egyptian Cyrine Abdelnour, ar:عابد فهد, ar:ماجد المصري Laith Hajo, Samer Barqawi
2017 Til Death Do Us Part English Annie Ilonzeh, Stephen Bishop, Taye Diggs Chris Stokes


  1. ^ Granville, Kari (1991-02-08). "Joseph Ruben Finally Gets His Crane : Movies: A veteran director of low-budget fare makes it to majors with 'Sleeping With the Enemy.'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  2. ^ a b Nancy Price. "Nancy Price - Biography". Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  3. ^ a b Sleeping with the Enemy at Box Office Mojo Archived 2011-07-08 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^, "[rotten-tomatoes|sleeping_with_the_enemy Sleeping with the Enemy (1991)]", accessed November 30, 2017.
  5. ^ "Sleeping With The Enemy ::". Ebert, Roger. 1991-02-08.
  6. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1991-02-12). "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE : 'Sleeping,' 'L.A.' Knock 'Home' Out". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  7. ^ Sleeping with the Enemy at Box Office Mojo
  8. ^ "Weekend box office 12th April 1991 - 14th April 1991". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  9. ^ "Weekend box office 19th April 1991 - 21st April 1991". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  10. ^ Hunt, Dennis (1991-09-05). "Video Rental Chart : Sales Reduce 'Home' Rentals". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-04-21.
  11. ^ "Laser Disc Laserdisc Movie Sleeping With The Enemy Julia-Roberts". Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  12. ^ "Sleeping with the Enemy". DVD Release Dates. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  13. ^ "Sleeping with the Enemy Blu-ray". Retrieved November 6, 2015.

External links[edit]