Stepmom (1998 film)

Stepmom is a 1998 American drama film directed by Chris Columbus and produced by Wendy Finerman, Mark Radcliffe, and Michael Barnathan. The screenplay written by Gigi Levangie, Jessie Nelson, Steven Rogers, Karen Leigh Hopkins, and Ronald Bass is from a story by Levangie. The film stars Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, and Ed Harris, and follows a terminally ill woman dealing with her ex-husband's new lover, who will be their children's stepmother.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byChris Columbus
Screenplay by
Story byGigi Levangie
Produced by
CinematographyDonald McAlpine
Edited byNeil Travis
Music byJohn Williams
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • December 25, 1998 (1998-12-25)
Running time
125 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$50 million[1]
Box office$159.7 million[1]

Stepmom was theatrically released in the United States on December 25, 1998, by Sony Pictures Releasing. Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, the film was a box office success, grossing $159.7 million worldwide against a budget of $50 million. Among other accolades, Sarandon was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama for her performance.


Jackie (Susan Sarandon) and Luke Harrison (Ed Harris) are a divorced New York City couple struggling to co-parent their children Anna (Jena Malone) and Ben (Liam Aiken) and help them cope with the change of lifestyle. Luke, an attorney, is living with his girlfriend of one year, Isabel Kelly (Julia Roberts), a successful fashion photographer several years his junior.[2] Isabel, who has never wanted to be a mother, tries hard to make Anna and Ben feel comfortable with her. Anna repeatedly rejects her overtures while Ben, who likes Isabel, adds extra complications with his mischievousness. Isabel behaves with contempt tempered by caution around Jackie, believing Jackie overcompensates for the divorce by spoiling her children.

Jackie, a former publisher turned stay-at-home mom, treats Isabel coldly, seeing her as an immature, selfish, overly ambitious career woman. She also continues to harbor malice towards Luke, as seen in confrontations about Isabel's parenting. After a long string of arguments and hurt feelings involving Isabel, Jackie, and Anna, Luke proposes to Isabel, making her Anna and Ben's soon-to-be official stepmother. This causes even more friction. In a plot twist, Jackie is revealed to have been silently battling cancer for some time, and the disease is now proving to be terminal. She experiences a range of negative emotions, jealous of the woman who she feels is replacing her, and angry that after all of the sacrifices she made for her children, she will never see them grow up. Jackie actively sabotages Isabel's effort to bond with the children, even to the point of refusing to allow Isabel to take Anna to see Pearl Jam and then later taking her to the same concert herself.

Isabel and Anna's relationship eventually improves, and they bond over shared hobbies including painting and music. Jackie informs Luke and the children of her diagnosis, resulting in Anna emotionally storming out. That night, Jackie loosens up by singing and dancing to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" with Anna and Ben.

Jackie and Isabel continue to have disagreements, largely over Isabel's parenting. When Ben goes missing on Isabel's watch, Jackie threatens legal action and claims that she has never lost him, which she later admits to be untrue. At school, Anna is bullied by a boy she once liked and the two women give her conflicting advice, causing more tension. Jackie later invites Isabel to have dinner with her, and the two manage to establish a shaky truce as they come to terms with Jackie's impending passing and Isabel's role of stepmother. They bond when Isabel reveals her admiration of Jackie's maternal instincts, while Jackie in turn praises Isabel's hipness as a means to connect with Anna. Isabel finally lets her guard down when she tells Jackie her biggest fear is that on Anna's wedding day, all Anna will wish for is her mother's presence, while Jackie admits her own fear is that Anna will forget her. The two women come to understand that while Jackie will always have the children's past, Isabel will have their future, and that the children can love them both without choosing between them.

On Christmas morning, the family gather to celebrate together. Jackie, now largely bedridden, shares emotional moments with her children individually, telling them that she will remain with them as long as they remember her. The film concludes with Isabel taking a family portrait of Luke and Jackie with the children. Jackie demonstrates her acceptance of Isabel by inviting her to join them, stating, "Let's get a photo with the whole family." Isabel sits next to Jackie for the photo and as the closing credits begin, both women are shown side by side, holding hands and at peace with each other.



Stepmom opened at No. 2 at the North American box office behind Patch Adams making $19.1 million USD in its opening weekend.[3] It stayed at the second spot for another week. The film grossed $91,137,662 in the United States[4] and $159,710,793 worldwide[1] from a budget of $50 million.

Stepmom received mixed reviews from critics.[5] It has a 46% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 90 reviews, with an average score of 5.3/10. The site's consensus reads: "Solid work from Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon isn't enough to save Stepmom from a story whose manipulations dilute the effectiveness of a potentially affecting drama".[6]

Susan Sarandon was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama and won the San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress. Ed Harris won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor for his roles in Stepmom and The Truman Show.


The soundtrack to Stepmom was released on August 12, 1998 via Sony Classical label.

Film score by
ReleasedAugust 12, 1998 (1998-08-12)
LabelSony Classical SK 61649
ProducerJohn Williams
John Williams chronology
Saving Private Ryan
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
1."Always and Always"John Williams3:41
2."The Days Between"John Williams featuring Christopher Parkening6:27
3."Time Spins Its Web"John Williams2:19
4."The Soccer Game"John Williams4:27
5."A Christmas Quilt"John Williams3:56
6."Isabel's Horse and Buggy"John Williams1:28
7."Taking Pictures"John Williams featuring Christopher Parkening3:12
8."One Snowy Night"John Williams5:33
9."Ben's Antics"John Williams3:04
10."Isabel's Picture Gallery"John Williams3:44
11."Jackie and Isabel"John Williams featuring Christopher Parkening2:59
12."Jackie's Secret"John Williams3:32
13."Bonding"John Williams3:55
14."Ain't No Mountain High Enough"Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell2:29
15."End Credits"John Williams6:16
Total length:53:30[7]


Karan Johar decided to adapt Stepmom for the Indian audience. Although he initially intended to buy the rights to the film, he eventually opted to co-produce it with Sony Pictures.[8] The version titled We Are Family (2010) starring Kajol, Arjun Rampal, and Kareena Kapoor was released to mixed reviews and received average returns.[9][10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Stepmom (1998)". The Numbers. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "'Patch Adams' Just What Holiday Ordered". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
  4. ^ "Stepmom (1998)". Retrieved 2012-10-12.
  5. ^ "Stars Team for 'Step' Mother of All Weepies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
  6. ^ Stepmom at Rotten Tomatoes
  7. ^ Stepmom Soundtrack AllMusic. Retrieved March 2, 2014
  8. ^ Arjun Rampal & Karan Johar talk about their new film 'We Are Family' BBC Asian Network. 4 September 2010.
  9. ^ "We Are Family Review". Archived from the original on 2011-01-21.
  10. ^ "Dabangg Dominates We Are Family Drops". 18 September 2010. Retrieved 20 September 2010.

External linksEdit