Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors is a 1998 romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Peter Howitt and starring Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah, while also featuring John Lynch, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Virginia McKenna. The film alternates between two storylines, showing two paths the central character's life could take depending on whether or not she catches a train.

Sliding Doors
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPeter Howitt
Produced by
Written byPeter Howitt
Music byDavid Hirschfelder
CinematographyRemi Adefarasin
Edited byJohn Smith
Distributed by
Release date
  • 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$58 million[2]


Helen Quilley (Gwyneth Paltrow) 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 just misses it as the train doors close; but the film then rewinds and the scene is replayed, except that now she just manages to board the train. The film continues, alternating between the two storylines in which different events ensue (but with occasional intersections of the two).

In the storyline in which she boards the train, Helen sits alongside James (John Hannah) (the man in the lift) on the Underground and they strike up a conversation. She gets home to catch her boyfriend, Gerry (John Lynch), in bed with his American ex-girlfriend, Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn). Helen leaves him and moves in with her friend Anna (Zara Turner), and, at Anna's suggestion, she changes her hairstyle to make a fresh start. James continues to serendipitously pop into Helen's life, cheering her up and encouraging her to start her own public relations firm. She and James 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. Believing it is James' child, she goes to see him at his office. She is stunned to learn from James' secretary that he is married. James finds her on a bridge and explains that he WAS married but is now separated and planning a divorce, but he and his wife maintain the appearance of a happy marriage for the sake of his sick mother. After she and James declare their love, Helen walks out into the road and is hit by a van.

In the storyline in which Helen misses the train, subsequent services are delayed, so she exits the station and hails a taxi. A man tries to snatch her handbag and injures her, so she goes to the hospital. She arrives home after Lydia has left and she remains oblivious to Gerry's infidelity. Unable to find another PR job, she takes two part-time jobs to pay the bills. Gerry continues to juggle the two women in his life. Lydia, wanting Gerry for herself, resorts to dropping clues to Helen of their affair. Helen suspects Gerry of infidelity but later discovers that she is pregnant. She receives a phone call, allegedly for a job interview with an international PR firm. She tells Gerry that news but does not manage to tell him of her pregnancy. Lydia calls Gerry to her apartment, apparently to break up. Thinking Helen is at her interview, Gerry goes to see Lydia. While at Lydia's, Gerry answers the doorbell and sees Helen standing at the door. Helen is stunned to see Gerry, and Lydia drops the news of her own pregnancy to both. Distraught, Helen runs off and falls down Lydia's staircase.

In both storylines, Helen is taken to hospital and loses her baby. Where she originally boarded the train and met her new-found love, James, she dies in his arms, right after he says he will make her very happy.

Where Helen missed the train, she recovers and tells Gerry to leave for good. Lydia also decides to break off her affair with Gerry and decides to move back to New York City. Then, as Helen enters the lift to leave the hospital after recovering, she drops an earring. As in their brief encounter at the beginning of the film, James picks up the earring and gives it to her, and then he begins the same cheer-up joke as when they first met in the other storyline. But this time Helen correctly quotes the punch line, and they turn and look at each other.



The scenes on the London Underground were filmed at Waterloo tube station on the Waterloo & City line and at Fulham Broadway tube station on the District line. Helen's flat is in Leinster Square. The American Diner is Fatboy's Diner at Trinity Buoy Wharf. 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. The explicit dual timelines in this film are similar to a less emphasised split storyline in the 1949 film dealing with a train crash, The Interrupted Journey.


  1. Aimee Mann – "Amateur"
  2. Elton John – "Bennie and the Jets"
  3. Dido – "Thank You"
  4. Aqua – "Turn Back Time"
  5. Jamiroquai – "Use the Force"
  6. Abra Moore – "Don't Feel Like Cryin'"
  7. Peach Union – "On My Own"
  8. Olive – "Miracle"
  9. Dodgy – "Good Enough"
  10. Blair – "Have Fun, Go Mad"
  11. Andre Barreau – "Got a Thing About You"
  12. Andre Barreau – "Call Me a Fool"

British singer Dido's song "Thank You" made its appearance on the soundtrack, becoming a hit three years later. It was a commercial for this film featuring "Thank You" as background music that inspired rapper Eminem to use Dido's voice for his song, "Stan".[3] The song eventually hit no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

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 movie and featured scenes from it.

This soundtrack is notable as the last from a Paramount film to be released by MCA Records, which, as successor to Paramount's former record division, continued to release soundtracks for some Paramount films starting in 1979. In 2003, when Geffen Records absorbed MCA and became another successor to the former record division of Paramount, it began to share the duty of issuing Paramount film soundtracks with sister labels Interscope and A&M.

An important omission from the soundtrack is the Patty Larkin cover of "Tenderness on the Block" that plays during the final scene. Due to copyright and recording issues, this track was never released and is only available in the movie.


Box office

The film opened at number 17 at the 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.[4] It also saw success in the United Kingdom with a total box office gross in excess of £12 million. The film's total world takings totaled over $58 million.[2]

Critical response

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 62% based on 50 reviews, with the consensus reading "Despite the gimmicky feel of the split narratives, the movie is watchable due to the winning performances by the cast".[5] Metacritic gives the film a score of 59 out of 100 based on 23 reviews, indicating the reaction as "mixed or average".[6]

Time Out described the film as "essentially a romantic comedy with a nifty gimmick".[7] Angie Errigo of Empire magazine gives the film 3/5 stars.[8] Roger Ebert gives the film 2/4 stars, and was critical of the screenplay.[9]

See also

Further reading

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


  1. "Sliding Doors (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-06-16.
  2. "Sliding Doors – Box Office Data, DVD Sales, Movie News, Cast Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 2013-09-20.
  3. Sorcinelli, Gino (October 18, 2016). "The 45 King Recorded Dido's "Thank You" For Eminem's "Stan" Off Of His TV". Medium. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  4. Sliding Doors at Box Office Mojo
  5. Sliding Doors at Rotten Tomatoes
  6. Sliding Doors at Metacritic
  7. quoted in Time Out Film Guide: 17, 2008, p981
  8. "Angie Errigo". Retrieved 2013-09-20.
  9. Roger Ebert (April 24, 1998). "Sliding Doors".
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