Sliding Doors

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Sliding Doors
A vertical mirror image of a woman, above she has short blonde hair, below she has longer brown hair.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPeter Howitt
Written byPeter Howitt
Produced by
CinematographyRemi Adefarasin
Edited byJohn Smith
Music byDavid Hirschfelder
Distributed by
Release dates
  • January 26, 1998 (1998-01-26) (Sundance Film Festival)
  • April 24, 1998 (1998-04-24) (United States)
  • May 1, 1998 (1998-05-01) (United Kingdom)
Running time
99 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Budget$6 million[1]
Box office$67 million[2]

Sliding Doors is a 1998 romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Peter Howitt and starring Gwyneth Paltrow while also featuring John Hannah, John Lynch, and Jeanne Tripplehorn. The film alternates between two storylines, showing two paths the central character's life could take depending on whether she catches a train. It has drawn numerous comparisons to Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski's 1987 film Blind Chance, the outcome of which also hinges on whether the protagonist catches a train.[3][4][5]


Helen Quilley gets fired from her public relations job. As she leaves the office building, she drops an earring in the lift, and a man picks it up for her. She rushes for her train on the London Underground but misses it as the train doors are closed, but the film then rewinds, and the scene is replayed except that now she manages to board the train. The film continues, alternating between the two storylines in which different events ensue.

In the storyline in which she boards the train, Helen sits alongside James, who had picked up her earring in the lift, on the Underground, and they strike up a conversation that cheers her up. She gets home to catch her boyfriend, Gerry, in bed with his American ex-girlfriend, Lydia. Helen leaves him and moves in with her friend Anna. At Anna's suggestion, Helen changes her hairstyle to make a fresh start.

James befriends Helen and she begins to move on from Gerry as he cheers her up and encourages her to start her own small PR firm. They fall in love, despite her reservations about beginning another relationship so soon after her ugly breakup with Gerry. Eventually, Helen discovers that she is pregnant by James. She goes to see him at his office and is stunned to learn from James's secretary that he is married.

James, having discovered that Helen learned he's married, searches frantically for her before finding her on a bridge and explains that while he is married, he's separated and will soon be divorced, and that he and his wife maintain the appearance of a happy marriage for the sake of his sick mother. After she and James reconcile and declare their love, Helen walks into the road and is hit by a van.

In the storyline in which Helen misses the train, she is further delayed by an attempted mugging, which leads to a hospital visit. She arrives home after Lydia has left, and she remains oblivious to Gerry's infidelity. Unable to find another public relations job, she takes two part-time jobs to pay the bills. Gerry continues to juggle the two women in his life and Helen gradually becomes suspicious. She discovers she's pregnant but does not tell Gerry.

Lydia soon realizes Gerry will never leave Helen for her and angrily breaks things off with him, to Gerry's relief. Lydia also realizes she's pregnant by Gerry and summons Helen under the guise of a job interview, but instead reveals the affair and her pregnancy to Helen. Distraught, Helen flees and falls down the stairs.

In both timelines, Helen is taken to the hospital and loses her baby.

In the timeline in which Helen originally boarded the train and met James, Helen's injuries are too severe and she dies with James at her bedside.

In the timeline in which Helen missed the train, she recovers and tells Gerry to leave for good. Helen encounters James, who is visiting his mother, in the hospital elevator. He utters the same cheer-up joke he told Helen in the other timeline. However, this time, Helen correctly quotes the punch line, and they turn and look at each other.



Principal photography commenced on April 1, 1997, and concluded on May 28, 1997.[6]

The scenes on the London Underground were filmed at Waterloo tube station and Bank station on the Waterloo & City line and at Fulham Broadway tube station on the District line.[7][8] Helen's flat is in Leinster Square.[7] The American Diner is Fatboy's Diner situated at Old Spitalfields Market. The scenes by the Thames were filmed next to Hammersmith Bridge and in the Blue Anchor pub in Hammersmith. The bridge featured is the Albert Bridge between Battersea and Chelsea. The late-night scene when Paltrow and Hannah walk down the street was filmed in Primrose Gardens (formerly Stanley Gardens) in Belsize Park. The final hospital scene where Helen and James meet in the lift was filmed at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on Fulham Road.[9]


  1. Blair – "Have Fun, Go Mad"
  2. Space Monkeys – "Drug Soup"
  3. Aqua – "Turn Back Time"
  4. Dodgy – "Good Enough"
  5. Dido – "Thank You"
  6. Jamiroquai – "Use the Force"
  7. Olive – "Miracle"
  8. Peach Union – "On My Own"
  9. Aimee Mann – "Amateur"
  10. Elton John – "Honky Cat"
  11. Abra Moore – "Don't Feel Like Cryin'"
  12. Those Magnificent Men – "Call Me a Fool."
  13. The Brand New Heavies – "More Love"

British singer Dido's song "Thank You", which appeared on the soundtrack, became a hit two years later, hitting No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[10] Record producer The 45 King heard the song in the film and looped the opening lines and added a bassline; he sent the result to Interscope Records, where it was used on the Eminem song "Stan", as Eminem interpreted the lines as being about stalking.[11]

Aqua's song "Turn Back Time" was released as a single in 1998 and topped the UK Singles Chart. The music video is heavily based on the film and featured scenes from it.[12]

The Patty Larkin cover of "Tenderness on the Block" that plays during the final scene was never released due to copyright and recording issues.[citation needed]


Box office[edit]

The film opened at number 17 at the US box office with $834,817 during its first weekend but increased by 96.5% to $1,640,438 on its second weekend. It ended up with a total gross of $11,841,544 in the United States and Canada.[13] It also saw success in the United Kingdom and was the highest-grossing local production for the year with a total box office gross in excess of £12 million.[14] The film's total worldwide takings totaled over $67 million.[2]

Critical response[edit]

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 65% approval rating based on 54 reviews, with an average rating of 6.3/10. The critics consensus reads, "Despite the gimmicky feel of the split narratives, the movie is watchable due to the winning performances by the cast."[15] Metacritic gives the film a score of 59 out of 100 based on 23 reviews, indicating the reaction as "mixed or average."[16]

Time Out described the film as "essentially a romantic comedy with a nifty gimmick".[17] Angie Errigo of Empire gave the film 3/5 stars.[18] Roger Ebert gave it 2/4 stars, and was critical of the screenplay.[19]

In popular culture[edit]

The thirteenth episode of season eight of Frasier, "Sliding Frasiers", is inspired by the film. In it, Frasier struggles deciding whether to wear a suit or a sweater to an upcoming Valentine's Day speed-dating event. The aftereffects of either decision are explored, although the episode ends identically with both timelines intersecting as Frasier, having failed to get a date, drives to a caller's workplace to woo her.[20]

The Broad City season 4 episode "Sliding Doors" shows the origin story of Abbi and Ilana's friendship cut between two timelines.[21] In both scenarios, they meet at a New York subway station. From there, one story involves them boarding a subway train and going through the day separately. In the other, they miss their train and they spend the day together.[22]

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 4 episode "Sliding Van Doors" centers on the film, showing an alternate timeline where Kimmy Schmidt does not get in her kidnapper's van in 1998 because she does not want to miss a screening of Sliding Doors.[23]

Other shows to use a premise similar to Sliding Doors, but without directly referencing the film, include Malcolm in the Middle and Community.[24]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Howitt, Peter (21 May 1998). Sliding Doors. ScreenPress Books. p. 112. ISBN 978-1901680133. (screenplay)


  1. ^ "Sliding Doors (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 16 June 2010.
  2. ^ a b Klady, Leonard (25 January 1999). "The Top 125 Worldwide". Variety. p. 36.
  3. ^ D'Angelo, Mike (6 September 2015). "It's like Sliding Doors, only political and made by the director of Three Colors". The A.V. Club.
  4. ^ Lim, Dennis (21 September 2015). "Blind Chance: The Conditional Mood". The Criterion Collection.
  5. ^ Ng, Yvonne (Fall 2005). "Fate and Choice in Kieślowski's Blind Chance". University of Waterloo. doi:10.15353/ S2CID 203253869.
  6. ^ "Sliding Doors - Miscellaneous Notes". Turner Classic Movie Database. Retrieved 13 October 2022.
  7. ^ a b "Sliding Doors Filming Locations". Retrieved 13 October 2022.
  8. ^ "10 iconic London film locations…8. The Tube and Sliding Doors' defining moment…". Exploring London. 20 April 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2022.
  9. ^ "Reelstreets | Sliding Doors". Retrieved 13 October 2022.
  10. ^ "Dido | Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved 13 October 2022.
  11. ^ Power, Ed (22 May 2000). "The Stan effect: did Eminem's song about a crazed fan just make fans crazier?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 October 2023.
  12. ^ "Aqua – Turn Back Time". Can’t Stop the Pop. 29 April 2019. Retrieved 13 October 2022.
  13. ^ Sliding Doors at Box Office Mojo
  14. ^ Peter Cowie, ed. (1999). The Variety Almanac 1999. Boxtree Ltd. p. 51. ISBN 0-7522-2454-9.
  15. ^ Sliding Doors at Rotten Tomatoes
  16. ^ Sliding Doors at Metacritic Edit this at Wikidata
  17. ^ quoted in Time Out Film Guide: 17, 2008, p981
  18. ^ Errigo, Angie (1 January 2000). "Sliding Doors reviews". Empire. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  19. ^ Ebert, Roger (24 April 1998). "Sliding Doors". The Chicago Sun-Times.
  20. ^ Shales, Tom (13 February 2001). "'Fraiser': Slip Sliding Away". The Washington Post.
  21. ^ Mlotek, Haley (24 April 2018). "The Almosts and What-ifs of 'Sliding Doors'". The Ringer. Retrieved 13 October 2022.
  22. ^ Bondar, Daniella (14 September 2017). "Broad City Season 4 Episode 1 Review: Sliding Doors". Den of Geek.
  23. ^ Upadhyaya, Kayla Kumari (26 January 2019). "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt imagines life without the bunker". The A.V. Club.
  24. ^ VanDerWerff, Emily (10 June 2011). "Dan Harmon walks us through Community's second season". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 12 January 2020.

External links[edit]