Misery (film)
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Misery Film
Misery (1990 film poster).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRob Reiner
Produced by
Screenplay byWilliam Goldman
Based onMisery
by Stephen King
Music byMarc Shaiman
CinematographyBarry Sonnenfeld
Edited byRobert Leighton
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • November 30, 1990 (1990-11-30)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[2]
Box office$61.3 million

Misery is a 1990 American thriller film directed by Rob Reiner based on Stephen King's 1987 novel of the same name, starring James Caan, Kathy Bates, Lauren Bacall, Richard Farnsworth, and Frances Sternhagen about a psychotic fan who holds an author captive and forces him to write her stories.

It was released on November 30, 1990 in the United States. The film received critical acclaim and Bates's performance as the psychopathic Annie Wilkes won the 1990 Academy Award for Best Actress.[3] As of 2018, Misery is the only Stephen King adaptation to be an Oscar-winning film.[4] The "hobbling" scene in the film was ranked #12 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.[5]


Famed novelist Paul Sheldon is the author of a successful series of Victorian romance novels featuring a character named Misery Chastain. Wanting to focus on more serious stories, he writes a manuscript for a new novel that he hopes will launch his post-Misery career. While traveling from Silver Creek, Colorado to his home in New York City, Paul is caught in a blizzard and his car goes off the road, rendering him unconscious. A nurse named Annie Wilkes finds Paul and brings him to her remote home.

Paul regains consciousness and finds himself bedridden with broken legs and a dislocated shoulder. Annie claims to be his "number one fan" and talks a lot about him and his novels. Out of gratitude, Paul lets Annie read his new manuscript. While feeding him, she is angered by the profanity in his new work and spills soup on him, but apologizes. Soon after, Annie reads the latest Misery novel, discovers that Misery dies at the end of the book, and flies into a rage. She reveals to Paul that nobody knows where he is and locks him in his room.

The next morning, Annie forces Paul to burn his new manuscript. When he is well enough to get out of bed, she insists he write a new novel titled Misery's Return, in which he brings the character back to life. Paul complies, believing Annie might kill him. One day, when Annie is away, Paul begins stockpiling his painkillers. He tries poisoning Annie during dinner, but fails. Paul later finds a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about Annie's past. He discovers that she was tried for the deaths of several infants, but the trial collapsed due to lack of evidence. Annie had quoted lines from his Misery novels during her trial. Annie later drugs Paul and straps him to the bed. When he wakes, she tells him that she knows he has been out of his room and breaks his ankles with a sledgehammer to prevent him from escaping again.

The local sheriff, Buster, is investigating Paul's disappearance. When a shopkeeper informs the sheriff he has sold Annie considerable quantities of typing paper, Buster pays Annie a visit. When he finds Paul drugged in the basement, Annie shoots Buster with a shotgun, killing him; she tells Paul that they must die together. He agrees, on the condition that he must finish the novel in order to "give Misery back to the world". He conceals a can of lighter fluid in his pocket.

When the manuscript is done, Paul asks for a single cigarette and a glass of champagne, as is his usual ritual when completing a book, to which Annie complies. Using the match Annie gives him, Paul sets the manuscript on fire, and as Annie rushes to save it, he hits her over the head with the typewriter. They fight and Annie is killed when Paul smashes her in the face with the base of a heavy statue.

Eighteen months later, Paul, now walking with a cane, meets his agent, Marcia, in a restaurant in New York City. The two discuss his first non-Misery novel, and Marcia tells him about the positive early buzz. Paul replies that he does not care, and that he wrote the novel for himself. Marcia asks if he would consider a non-fiction book about his captivity, but Paul declines. Seeing a waitress, he imagines her as Annie. The waitress says she is his "number one fan", to which Paul responds, "That's very sweet of you".



Producer Andrew Scheinman read Stephen King's novel Misery on an airplane, and later recommended it to his director partner at Castle Rock Entertainment, Rob Reiner. Reiner eventually invited writer William Goldman to write the film's screenplay.[6]

In the original novel, Annie Wilkes severs one of Paul Sheldon's feet with an axe. Goldman loved the scene and argued for it to be included, but Reiner insisted that it be changed so that she only breaks his ankles. Goldman subsequently wrote that this was the correct decision as amputation would have been too severe.[7]

The part of Paul Sheldon was originally offered to William Hurt (twice), then Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, and Robert Redford, but they all turned it down.[8]Warren Beatty was interested in the role, wanting to turn him into a less passive character,[9] but eventually had to drop out as post-production of Dick Tracy extended. Eventually someone suggested James Caan, who agreed to play the part. Caan commented that he was attracted by how Sheldon was a role unlike any other of his, and that "being a totally reactionary character is really much tougher."[10] According to Reiner, it was Goldman who suggested that Kathy Bates, then unknown, should portray Annie Wilkes.[11]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an 89% rating; the consensus reads, "Elevated by standout performances from James Caan and Kathy Bates, this taut and frightening film is one of the best Stephen King adaptations to date."[12]

Roger Ebert liked the film, stating, "It is a good story, a natural, and it grabs us."[13]

The genre magazine Bloody Disgusting ranked Misery fourth place in its list of "10 Claustrophobic Horror Films".[14]

King himself has stated that Misery is one of his top ten favorite film adaptations, in his collection Stephen King Goes to the Movies.[15] In his memoir called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King references the movie adaptation of the book, saying:

In the early 1980s, my wife and I went to London on a combined business/pleasure trip. I fell asleep on the plane and had a dream about a popular writer (it may or may not have been me, but it sure to God wasn't James Caan)...[16]

Misery grossed $10,076,834 on its opening weekend, finishing at second at the box office behind Home Alone.[17] It eventually finished with $61 million domestically.[2]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.[18]

Annie Wilkes was ranked #17 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains list.[19]


Film score by
Marc Shaiman
ReleasedJuly 1, 1999 (1999-07-01)
LabelDead Line

The film's score was composed by Marc Shaiman.

Awards and nominations

1990 film

2015 Broadway production

Year Award ceremony Category Nominee Result
2016 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play Laurie Metcalf Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Set Design David Korins Nominated


  1. ^ "MISERY (18)". British Board of Film Classification. January 7, 1991. Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ a b Box Office Information for Misery. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  3. ^ "Awards for Kathy Bates". IMDb. Retrieved .
  4. ^ "The Best and Worst of Stephen King's Movies - MSN Movies News". Movies.msn.com. 2012-10-20. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved .
  5. ^ "Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments". listology.com. Retrieved 2015.
  6. ^ Goldman, William. Which Lie Did I Tell?, p. 37
  7. ^ Goldman p 40
  8. ^ Goldman p 42-44
  9. ^ Goldstein, Patrick (1990-04-29). "Rob Reiner Takes On 'Misery' : The director follows his hit comedy 'When Harry Met Sally . . . ' with a chiller, his second film taken from a Stephen King novel - Page 2 - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved .
  10. ^ Finke, Nikki (1990-11-29). "James Caan Enjoying His 'Misery' : Hollywood's Reputed Bad Boy Resurfaces in the Rob Reiner-Directed Psychological Thriller - Page 2 - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved .
  11. ^ "YouTube". www.youtube.com.
  12. ^ Misery at Rotten Tomatoes
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (1990-11-30). "Misery :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved .
  14. ^ "A Look at the Top 10 Claustrophobic Horror Movies!". bloody-disgusting.com. Retrieved 2015.
  15. ^ Stephen King, Stephen King Goes To The Movies, page 579 (Hodder & Stoughton, 2009). ISBN 978-0-340-98030-9
  16. ^ Stephen King, On Writing, page 165 (Simon & Schuster, 2000). ISBN 978-1-4391-5681-0
  17. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for November 30 - December 2, 1990". Box Office Mojo. 1990-12-02. Retrieved .
  18. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  19. ^ http://www.afi.com/100years/handv.aspx

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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