Sleeping with the Enemy

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
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 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 has a seemingly idyllic life and perfect marriage to Martin, a successful Boston financial counselor. Beneath Martin's charming, handsome exterior, however, is an obsessive and controlling personality who has physically, emotionally, and sexually abused Laura throughout their nearly four-year marriage.

Martin jealously claims Laura flirted with their new Cape Cod neighbor, an attractive doctor she has only glimpsed distantly. Martin physically assaults Laura, then later, in a recurring pattern, apologetically showers her with flowers and gifts.

Martin insists on accepting the doctor's invitation for an evening sail, despite knowing Laura fears water. As a severe storm unexpectedly rolls in, Martin and the doctor struggle to control the vessel. Laura, unable to swim, is apparently swept overboard. After an extensive Coast Guard search, Laura is presumed drowned. A memorial service follows, and Martin is left inconsolable.

It is shown that Laura is alive. After secretly learning to swim, she planned her fake death to escape Martin's abuse. She waited for a boat outing that Martin always forced her to go on at least once each year. During the storm, Laura jumped overboard, swam ashore, and returned to their house. She quickly changed clothes, donned a wig, and gathered some stashed belongings and money before heading to the bus station. Before leaving, she flushed her wedding band down the toilet.

Laura moves to Cedar Falls, Iowa. Previously, Laura told Martin that her blind, stroke-impaired mother, Chloe, died, but she actually moved Chloe to an Iowa nursing home. Laura rents a house, finds a job, and settles into a new life as "Sara Waters". She meets a friendly neighbor, Ben Woodward, a young drama teacher. Ben, attracted to Laura, gradually suspects she is concealing a troubled past. Laura likes Ben but resists starting a relationship. They eventually have a fun date, but when a kiss turns more physical, Laura resists and demands Ben leave. He acquiesces, but is left confused. The next morning, Laura confides she escaped an abusive marriage.

Meanwhile, Martin receives information indicating Laura may be alive and that her mother never died. This is confirmed when Martin finds Laura's wedding ring in the toilet where it failed to flush. After a private investigator locates Chloe, Martin travels to the nursing home, posing as a detective investigating Laura's husband. He learns that Chloe's "nephew" has just visited. Laura, disguised as a man, is also at the nursing home, and, unknowingly, barely misses encountering Martin. Martin discovers Laura's whereabouts and learns about Ben and where he teaches.

Martin tracks down Ben at the college, and later trails the couple to Laura's house. He breaks in while she and Ben are picnicking outside. Laura later notices the small clues Martin deliberately left inside the house to reveal his presence, including straightened towels and the kitchen cabinets re-arranged to Martin's exacting standards. Martin confronts Laura before she can escape. Ben comes to the front door. To protect him, Laura begs off, claiming fatigue. Ben appears to leave, but breaks down the door and struggles with Martin, who knocks him unconscious. As he aims a gun at Ben, Laura distracts Martin, then knees his groin. Laura grabs Martin's dropped gun and holds him at gunpoint. She calls the police and informs them she just killed an intruder. Hanging up, she fatally shoots Martin. As Martin collapses in front of her, Laura breaks down in tears of relief, but the moment in short-lived as Martin seizes her by the hair and grabs the gun she had dropped. He aims for Laura's head and pulls the trigger, but the gun is thankfully empty. Martin stares in astonishment, then dies of his injuries. Laura hurries to Ben's side as he wakes up and the two embrace as they wait for the police.



Critical reception

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

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

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. Price, Nancy. "Nancy Price - Biography". Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  3. 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.
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