Driving Miss Daisy

Driving Miss Daisy is a 1989 American comedy-drama film directed by Bruce Beresford and written by Alfred Uhry, based on Uhry's play of the same name. The film stars Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, and Dan Aykroyd. Freeman reprised his role from the original Off-Broadway production.

Driving Miss Daisy
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBruce Beresford
Produced by
Screenplay byAlfred Uhry
Based onDriving Miss Daisy
by Alfred Uhry
Music byHans Zimmer
CinematographyPeter James
Edited byMark Warner
Distributed byWarner Bros.[1]
Release date
  • December 15, 1989 (1989-12-15)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$7.5 million[1]
Box office$145.8 million[2]

The story defines Daisy and her point of view through a network of relationships and emotions by focusing on her home life, synagogue, friends, family, fears, and concerns over a twenty five year period.

Driving Miss Daisy was a critical and commercial success upon its release and at the 62nd Academy Awards received nine nominations, and won four; Best Picture, Best Actress (for Tandy), Best Makeup, and Best Adapted Screenplay.[3]


In 1948, Daisy Werthan, or Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy), a 72-year-old wealthy, Jewish, widowed, retired schoolteacher, lives alone in Atlanta, Georgia, except for an African American housekeeper, Idella (Esther Rolle). When Miss Daisy drives her 1946 Chrysler Windsor into her neighbor's yard, her 40-year-old son Boolie (Dan Aykroyd) buys her a 1949 Hudson Commodore and hires Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman), an African American chauffeur. Miss Daisy at first refuses to let anyone else drive her, but gradually accedes to the arrangement.

As Miss Daisy and Hoke spend time together, she gains appreciation for his many skills. After Idella dies in 1962, rather than hire a new housekeeper, Miss Daisy decides to care for her own house and have Hoke do the cooking and the driving.

The film explores racism against African American people, which affects Hoke at the time. The film also touches on anti-semitism in the South. After her synagogue is bombed, Miss Daisy realizes that she is also a victim of prejudice. But American society is undergoing radical changes, and Miss Daisy attends a dinner at which Dr. Martin Luther King gives a speech.

She initially invites Boolie to the dinner, but he declines, and suggests that Miss Daisy invite Hoke. However, Miss Daisy only asks him to be her guest during the car ride to the event and ends up attending the dinner alone, with Hoke, insulted by the manner of the invitation, listening to the speech on the car radio outside.

Hoke arrives at the house one morning in 1971 to find Miss Daisy agitated and showing signs of dementia, believing she is a young teacher again. Hoke calms her down with a conversation in which Daisy calls Hoke her "best friend." Boolie arranges for Miss Daisy to enter a retirement home. In 1973, Hoke, now 85 and rapidly losing his eyesight, retires. Boolie, now 65, drives Hoke to the retirement home to visit Miss Daisy, now 97.[4]



Box office

Driving Miss Daisy was given a limited release on December 15, 1989, earning $73,745 in three theaters. The film was given a wide release on January 26, 1990, earning $5,705,721 over its opening weekend in 895 theaters, becoming the number one film in the United States. It remained at number 1 the following week but was knocked off the top spot in its third weekend of wide release by Hard to Kill. It returned to number one the next weekend and remained there for a fourth week. The film ultimately grossed $106,593,296 in North America, and $39,200,000 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $145,793,296.[2] The film was released in the United Kingdom on February 23, 1990.[5]

Critical reaction

Driving Miss Daisy was well received by critics, with particular emphasis on Morgan Freeman's and Jessica Tandy's performances. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 81% based on reviews from 62 critics, with an average score of 7.28/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Warm and smartly paced, and boasting impeccable performances from Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy."[6] On Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 based on reviews from mainstream critics, the film has a score of 81 based on 17 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[7] CinemaScore similarly reported that audiences gave the film a rare "A+" grade.[8]

Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune declared Driving Miss Daisy one of the best films of 1989.[9] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it "a film of great love and patience" and wrote, "It is an immensely subtle film, in which hardly any of the most important information is carried in the dialogue and in which body language, tone of voice or the look in an eye can be the most important thing in a scene. After so many movies in which shallow and violent people deny their humanity and ours, what a lesson to see a film that looks into the heart."[10]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also gave the film a positive review, calling Tandy's performance "glorious" and opining, "This is Tandy's finest two hours onscreen in a film career that goes back to 1932."[11] The performances of Tandy and Freeman were also praised by Vincent Canby of The New York Times, who observed, "The two actors manage to be highly theatrical without breaking out of the realistic frame of the film."[12]

Awards and nominations

List of accolades
Award / film festival Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Picture Richard D. Zanuck
Lili Fini Zanuck
Best Actress Jessica Tandy Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Alfred Uhry Won
Best Makeup Manlio Rocchetti
Lynn Barber
Kevin Haney
Best Actor Morgan Freeman Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Dan Aykroyd Nominated
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Bruno Rubeo
Crispian Sallis
Best Costume Design Elizabeth McBride Nominated
Best Film Editing Mark Warner Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Driving Miss Daisy Won
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Morgan Freeman Won
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Jessica Tandy Won

Driving Miss Daisy also achieved the following distinctions at the 62nd Academy Awards:

  • It is the only film based on an off-Broadway production ever to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.[13]
  • Jessica Tandy, at age 81, became the oldest winner in the history of the Best Actress category.[13]
  • It was the first Best Picture winner since 1932's Grand Hotel to not also receive a Best Director nomination.[14] (This has only occurred twice since, for Argo in 2012 and Green Book in 2018. Wings, the film of 1927 that was the first to win Best Picture, did not have a nomination for director William Wellman). In his opening monologue at the 62nd Academy Awards, Billy Crystal made fun of this irony by calling it "the film that apparently directed itself".
  • It would also be the last Best Picture winner to be rated PG. All the winners since have been mostly rated PG-13 and R.

Driving Miss Daisy also won three Golden Globe Awards (Best Picture, Best Actor Morgan Freeman, and Best Actress Jessica Tandy) in the Comedy/Musical categories.[15] At the 1989 Writers Guild of America Awards, the film won in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. Rounding out its United States awards, the film won both Best Picture and Best Actor from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. Driving Miss Daisy was the first ever film to received the Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture.

In the United Kingdom, Driving Miss Daisy was nominated for four British Academy Film Awards, with Tandy winning in the Best Actress category. Tandy and Freeman won the Silver Bear for the Best Joint Performance at the 40th Berlin International Film Festival.[16]


The film's score was composed by Hans Zimmer, who won a BMI Film Music Award and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television for his work. The score was performed entirely by Zimmer, done electronically using samplers and synthesizers, and did not feature a single live instrument. There is a scene, however, in which the "Song to the Moon" from the opera Rusalka by Antonín Dvořák is heard on a radio as sung by Gabriela Beňačková.

Similarities have been noted between the main theme and the "plantation" folk song "Shortnin' Bread".[17] The soundtrack was issued on Varèse Sarabande.

Home release

The film was also successful on home video.[18] It was released on DVD in the United States on April 30, 1997, and the special edition was released on February 4, 2003. The movie was first released on Blu-ray disc in Germany, and was finally released on Blu-ray in the United States in a special edition digibook in January 2013 by Warner Bros.


  1. Fabrikant, Geraldine (March 6, 1990). "How Major Studios Missed a Hit". The New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 2011.
  2. "Driving Miss Daisy". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  3. "The 62nd Academy Awards (1990) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved August 1, 2011.
  4. Uhry, Alfred (January 1, 1998). "Driving Miss Daisy". Dramatists Play Service, Inc. Retrieved June 15, 2017 via Amazon.
  5. "Weekend box office 23 February 1990 - 25 February 1990". www.25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  6. "Driving Miss Daisy (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  7. "Driving Miss Daisy Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  8. "18 of the Most Loved or Hated Movies: Films That Got A+ or F CinemaScores (Photos)". thewrap.com. June 16, 2015. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  9. Siskel, Gene (January 12, 1990). "'Roger & Me' Makes Point About The Common Man". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  10. Ebert, Roger (January 12, 1990). "Driving Miss Daisy". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  11. Travers, Peter. "Driving Miss Daisy". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 29, 2014.
  12. Canby, Vincent (December 13, 1989). "Review/Film; 'Miss Daisy,' Chamber Piece From the Stage". The New York Times. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  13. "Academy's Diamond Anniversary Screening Series to Feature "Driving Miss Daisy"" (Press release). Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. September 2, 2003. Archived from the original on February 20, 2008. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  14. "Academy Awards Best Director". filmsite.org. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  15. Kehr, Dave (March 27, 1990). "'Miss Daisy,' Jessica Tandy Win Top Oscars". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  16. "Berlinale: 1990 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
  17. Bettencourt, Scott. "THE YEAR IN FILM MUSIC: 1989". Film Score Monthly. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  18. Hunt, Dennis (September 27, 1990). "VIDEO RENTALS : 'Born' Can't Pass High-Revving 'Daisy'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
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