The film was followed by a 1993 sequel, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. It also inspired the musical Sister Act that premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California in 2006, and opened at the West End's London Palladium with previews from May 7, 2009. The musical then opened on Broadway at the Broadway Theatre in April 2011, with previews beginning March 24, 2011.
Sister Act is widely regarded as one of the best and the most financially successful comedies of the 1990s, The film also is #83 on Bravo's The 100 Funniest Movies list.
The film opens at St. Anne's Academy, a California Catholic school in 1968, where a young girl named Deloris Wilson is scolded for wisecracking and disobeying rules. The setting then changes to the present day, where Deloris Van Cartier is a lounge singer working in a casino called The Moonlight Lounge, located in Reno, Nevada run by her boyfriend, Vince LaRocca, a mobster. After Deloris witnesses Vince executing a chauffeur, Vince orders his men Joey and Willy to kill her too. Deloris flees Vince's casino to the local police station where Lieutenant Eddie Souther suggests she testify against Vince if he can be arrested and tried, but for now, she should go into witness protection until the time comes.
Deloris is taken to St. Katherine's Roman Catholic Church in a seedy run down neighborhood of San Francisco, where Souther suggests she disguise herself as a nun. Both Deloris and the Reverend Mother object, but are convinced by Souther and Monsignor O'Hara to go ahead with it. Deloris becomes a nun and is given the name "Sister Mary Clarence". Mary Clarence objects to following the simple lives of the nunnery, but comes to befriend several of the nuns, including the forever jolly Sister Mary Patrick, quiet and meek Sister Mary Robert, and the elderly deadpan Sister Mary Lazarus. After sneaking into a nearby bar, Mary Clarence is punished by Reverend Mother and put into the choir, which she has seen to be dreadful. The choir nuns, having heard "Sister Mary Clarence" has a background in music, elect her to take over as choir director, which she accepts, and she rearranges them to make them better singers. At the Sunday Mass, the choir sings perfectly before going into a gospel and rock and roll-infused performance of "Hail Holy Queen".
The Reverend Mother is infuriated, but Monsignor O'Hara is thrilled as the music brought people in off the streets. The choir cleans up the neighborhood and wows church-goers with their music, with Souther eventually attending a performance of "My Guy" (appropriately rewritten as "My God"). Eventually, O'Hara announces to the choir that Pope John Paul II is to visit the church to see the choir himself. Reverend Mother decides to hand in her resignation since her authority has been unintentionally undermined, but Mary Clarence offers to leave in her stead, to which the Reverend Mother disagrees. Detective Tate, a police officer on Vince's payroll, finds out where Deloris is and contacts Vince, who sends Joey and Willy out to grab her. Souther realizes Tate's betrayal, has him arrested, and flies to San Francisco to warn Mary Clarence, but she is kidnapped by Vince's men.
The nuns, led by the Reverend Mother risk their lives by going to Reno to save Mary Clarence. Meanwhile, she escapes Vince and his men, leading to a chase around the casino until the nuns find her and try to sneak out. Vince, Joey, and Willy confront the nuns, but are unable to bring themselves to shoot Deloris while she is in a nun's habit, and Souther bursts in, shoots Vince in the arm, and has the men arrested. The film ends with the choir, led by Deloris, singing before the Pope "I Will Follow Him", earning a round of applause that is led by the Pope and Reverend Mother. The end credits reveals Deloris' secret life as a nun was sold to the media and has become a sensation.
- Whoopi Goldberg as Deloris Van Cartier/Sister Mary Clarence
- Isis Carmen Jones as young Deloris
- Maggie Smith as Reverend Mother
- Kathy Najimy as Sister Mary Patrick
- Wendy Makkena as Sister Mary Robert
- Mary Wickes as Sister Mary Lazarus
- Bill Nunn as Lt. Eddie Souther
- Harvey Keitel as Vince LaRocca
- Robert Miranda as Joey
- Richard Portnow as Willy
- Rose Parenti as Sister Alma
- Joseph Maher as Monsignor O'Hara
- Jim Beaver as Clarkson
- Jenifer Lewis as Michelle
- Charlotte Crossley as Tinas
- A.J. Johnson as Lewanda
- Lois de Banzie as Immaculata
- Max Grodénchik as Ernie
- Joseph G. Medalis as Henry Parker
- Michael Durrell as Larry Merrick
- Toni Kalem as Connie LaRocca
- Eugene Greytak as The Pope
- Guy Boyd (uncredited) as Detective Tate
- Choir nuns
- Ellen Albertini Dow
- Carmen Zapata
- Pat Crawford Brown
- Prudence Wright Holmes
- Georgia Creighton
- Susan Johnson
- Ruth Kobart
- Susan Browning
- Darlene Koldenhoven
- Sheri Izzard
- Edith Diaz
- Beth Fowler
Screenwriter Paul Rudnick pitched Sister Act to producer Scott Rudin in 1987, and it was agreed that Bette Midler would be best for the lead role. The script was then brought to Disney. However, Midler later turned down the role, fearing that her fans would not want to see her play a nun. Eventually, Whoopi Goldberg signed on to play the lead. As production commenced, the script was rewritten by a half dozen screenwriters, including Carrie Fisher, Robert Harling, and Nancy Meyers. With the movie no longer resembling his original script, Rudnick asked to be credited with a pseudonym in the film, deciding on "Joseph Howard."
The church in which Deloris takes refuge is St. Paul's Catholic Church, located at Valley and Church Streets in Noe Valley, an upper-middle-class neighborhood of San Francisco. The storefronts on the opposite side of the street were converted to give the area a ghetto look.
While one line suggests that they are Carmelite, the order of nuns depicted in the film is probably the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of Saint Francis, based on the habit. Members of the order, however, do not currently wear this habit.
The film's soundtrack was released in conjunction with the film, and contained the musical numbers performed by actors in the film itself, pre-recorded songs that were used as part of the background music, and instrumental music composed by Marc Shaiman for the film. The soundtrack album debuted at #74 and eventually reached #40 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart where it charted for 54 weeks. The album received a Gold certification from the RIAA for shipment of 500,000 copies on January 13, 1993.
- "The Lounge Medley" ("(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave"/"My Guy"/"I Will Follow Him") — Deloris & The Ronelles
- "The Murder" (instrumental)
- "Getting Into the Habit" (instrumental)
- "Rescue Me" — Fontella Bass
- "Hail Holy Queen" — Deloris & The Sisters
- "Roll With Me Henry" — Etta James
- "Gravy For My Mashed Potatoes" — Dee Dee Sharp
- "My Guy (My God)" — Deloris & The Sisters
- "Just a Touch Of Love (Everyday)" — C+C Music Factory
- "Deloris Is Kidnapped" (instrumental)
- "Nuns to the Rescue" (instrumental)
- "I Will Follow Him ('Chariot')" — Deloris & The Sisters
- "Shout" — Deloris & The Sisters & The Ronelles
- "If My Sister's in Trouble" — Lady Soul
- The musical solos of "Mary Robert" were sung by vocalist Andrea Robinson.
The film received a generally positive reception from critics, holding a 71% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 21 reviews.
American Film Institute recognition:
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs—Nominated
The film was a box office success, grossing $139,605,150 domestically and $92,000,000 in foreign countries, effectively grossing $231,605,150 worldwide, becoming one of the top 8 highest grossing films worldwide in 1992.
Later in the year of the film's release, Whoopi Goldberg and the film "nuns" performed at a Democratic fundraiser for Bill Clinton.
On June 10, 1993, actress Donna Douglas and her partner Curt Wilson in Associated Artists Entertainment,INC., filed a $200 million lawsuit against Disney, Whoopi Goldberg, Bette Midler, their production companies, and Creative Artists Agency claiming the film was plagiarized from a book A Nun in the Closet owned by the partners. Douglas and Wilson claimed that in 1985 they had developed a screenplay for the book. The lawsuit claimed that there were over 100 similarities and plagiarisms between the movie and the book/screenplay owned by Douglas and Wilson. The lawsuit further claimed that the developed screenplay had been submitted to Disney, Goldberg, and Midler three times during 1987 and 1988.
In 1994, Douglas and Wilson declined a $1 million offer in an attempt to win the case. The judge found in favor of Disney and the other defendants. Wilson stated at the time, “They would have had to copy our stuff verbatim for us to prevail.”
In November 2011, a nun named Deloris Blakely filed a lawsuit against The Walt Disney Company and Sony Pictures claiming that "The Harlem Street Nun," an autobiography she wrote in 1987, was the basis for the 1992 film. She alleged that a movie executive expressed an interest in the rights to the movie after she wrote a three page synopsis. She is suing for "breach of contract, misappropriation of likeness, and unjust enrichment." Blakely dropped the original lawsuit in January 2012 to serve a more robust lawsuit in late August 2012 with the California Sherif's Department, asking for $1 billion in damages from Disney.
The Region 1 DVD was released on November 6, 2001; however, the disc has no anamorphic enhancement, similar to early DVDs from Buena Vista. Special Features include the film's theatrical trailer; music videos for "I Will Follow Him" by Deloris and the Sisters, and "If My Sister's in Trouble" by Lady Soul, both of which contain clips from the film; and a featurette titled "Inside Sister Act: The Making Of".
The all-region Blu-ray including both films was released on June 19, 2012 with both films presented in 1080p. The 3-disc set also includes both films on DVD with the same bonus features as previous releases.
- Main article: Sister Act (musical)
The musical Sister Act, directed by Peter Schneider and choreographed by Marguerite Derricks, premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California on October 24, 2006 and closed on December 23, 2006. It broke records, grossing $1,085,929 to become the highest grossing show ever at the venue. The production then moved to the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, where it ran from January 17 to February 25, 2007.
The musical then opened in the West End at the London Palladium on June 2, 2009, following previews from May 7. The production was directed by Peter Schneider, produced by Whoopi Goldberg together with the Dutch company Stage Entertainment, and choreographed by Anthony Van Laast, with set design by Klara Zieglerova, costume design by Lez Brotherston, and lighting design by Natasha Katz. Following a year-long search, 24-year-old actress Patina Miller was cast as Deloris, alongside Sheila Hancock as the Mother Superior, Ian Lavender as Monsignor Howard, Chris Jarman as Shank, Ako Mitchell as Eddie, Katie Rowley Jones as Sister Mary Robert, Claire Greenway as Sister Mary Patrick, and Julia Sutton as Sister Mary Lazarus. The musical received four Laurence Olivier Awards nominations including Best Musical. On October 30, 2010, the show played its final performance at the London Palladium and transferred to Broadway.
The musical opened at the Broadway Theatre on April 20, 2011, with previews beginning March 24, 2011. Jerry Zaks serves as director for the Broadway production with Douglas Carter Beane rewriting the book. Patina Miller, who originated the role of Deloris in the West End production, reprises the role on Broadway, making her Broadway debut. The Original Broadway cast also features Victoria Clark (Mother Superior), Fred Applegate (Monsignor), Sarah Bolt (Sister Mary Patrick), Chester Gregory (Eddie), Kingsley Leggs (Curtis), Marla Mindelle (Sister Mary Robert), and Audrie Neenan (Sister Mary Lazarus). The musical received five Tony Award nominations including Best Musical.
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