Sleeper (1973 film)


Theatrical release poster by Robert McGinnis
Directed by Woody Allen
Produced by Jack Grossberg
Written by Woody Allen
Marshall Brickman
Starring Woody Allen
Diane Keaton
John Beck
Marya Small
Susan Miller
Music by Woody Allen
Cinematography David M. Walsh
Edited by O. Nicholas Brown
Ron Kalish
Ralph Rosenblum
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • December 17, 1973 (1973-12-17)
Running time
88 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2 million[1]
Box office $18,344,729[1]

Sleeper is a 1973 American futuristic science fiction comedy film, directed by Woody Allen and written by Allen and Marshall Brickman. The plot involves the adventures of the owner of a health food store who is cryogenically frozen in 1973 and defrosted 200 years later in an ineptly led police state. The film contains many elements which parody notable works of science fiction and was made as a tribute to comedians Groucho Marx and Bob Hope.


Miles Monroe (Woody Allen), a jazz musician and owner of the "Happy Carrot" health-food store in 1973, is subjected to cryopreservation without his consent, and not revived for 200 years.[2] The scientists who revive him are members of a rebellion: 22nd-century America seems to be a police state, ruled by a dictator about to implement a secret plan known as the "Aries Project". The rebels hope to use Miles as a spy to infiltrate the Aries Project, because he is the only member of this society without a known biometric identity.

The authorities discover the scientists' project, and arrest them. Miles escapes by disguising himself as a robot, and goes to work as a butler in the house of socialite Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton). When Luna decides to have his head replaced with something more "aesthetically pleasing," Miles reveals his true identity to her, whereupon Luna threatens to give Miles to the authorities. In response, he kidnaps her and goes on the run, searching for the Aries Project.

Miles and Luna fall in love, but Miles is captured and brainwashed into becoming a complacent member of the society, while Luna joins the rebellion. The rebels kidnap Miles and perform reverse-brainwashing, whereupon he remembers his past and joins their efforts. Miles becomes jealous when he catches Luna kissing the rebel leader, Erno Windt (John Beck), and she tells him that she believes in free love.

Miles and Luna infiltrate the Aries Project, wherein they quickly learn that the national leader had been killed by a rebel bomb ten months previously. All that survives is his nose. Other members of the Aries Project, mistaking Miles and Luna for doctors, expect them to clone the leader from this single remaining part. Miles steals the nose and "assassinates" it by dropping it in the path of a road roller.

After escaping, Miles and Luna debate their future together. He tells her that Erno will inevitably become as corrupt as the Leader. Miles and Luna confess their love for one another, but she claims that science has proven men and women cannot have meaningful relationships due to chemical incompatibilities. Miles dismisses this, saying that he does not believe in science, and Luna points out that he does not believe in God or political systems either. Luna asks Miles if there is anything he does believe in, and he responds with the line, "Sex and death—two things that come once in a lifetime—but at least after death you're not nauseous."[3] The film ends as the two embrace.


Bartlett Robinson appears as Doctor Orva, the supervising scientist at Miles's revival. Spencer Milligan and Stanley Ross appear as gay couple Jeb Hrmthmg and Sears Swiggles, respectively. Marya Small appears as Doctor Nero, the physician who oversees Miles's reprogramming into 22nd-century life. Peter Hobbs appears as Doctor Dean, the leading physician come to witness Our Leader's cloning. Douglas Rain voices Bio Central Computer 2100, Series G, the computer aiding in Our Leader's cloning.[3] Whitney Rydbeck voices Janus, Tryon and Melik's robot butler. John Cannon voices Rags, Miles's robot dog. Jackie Mason voices Cohen, one of the two robot tailors of Ginsberg & Cohen.[4] Lou Picetti appears as the Miss America M.C. Chris Forbes appears as Rainer Krebs, a brief romantic interest of Miles's. Read Morgan appears as the representative at Domesticon. Brian Avery appears as Herald Cohen, one of Luna's party guests and lovers, and Susan Miller, Regis Cordic, and George Furth appear as other party guests. John McLiam and Jerry Hardin portray scientists at Miles's revival. Jeff Maxwell and Seamon Glass portray security guards. Albert Popwell portrays a reprogramming technician. Jessica Rains appears as the woman in the Gyro-Mirror. The image of Timothy Leary is used for Our Leader.


The film was shot in and around Denver, Colorado. The outdoor shots of the hospital were filmed at the Table Mesa Laboratory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. There is also a brief sight of the main building of the Denver Botanic Gardens and of the concrete lamp posts. The Sculptured House, designed by architect Charles Deaton, is a private home known locally since the film was shot as the "Sleeper House" located on Genesee Mountain near Genesee Park, west of Denver. The Mile Hi Church of Religious Science[5] in Lakewood, Colorado was turned into a futuristic McDonald's, featuring a sign counting the number sold: 795 followed by 51 zeroes.[6]


Sleeper received positive reviews, and currently holds a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 29 reviews, with an average rating of 8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "In Sleeper, Woody Allen's madcap futurist comedy, practically each joke and one-liner hits its target."[7]

Vincent Canby, in The New York Times, called the film "terrific", saying it "confidently advances the Allen art into slapstick territory that I associate with the best of Laurel and Hardy. It's the kind of film comedy that no one in Hollywood has done with style in many years, certainly not since Jerry Lewis began to take himself seriously. Sleeper is a comic epic that recalls the breathless pace and dizzy logic of the old two-reelers."[8] Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ out of four stars, saying Allen "gives us moments in Sleeper that are as good as anything since the silent films of Buster Keaton."[2]


In 1973, the film was awarded the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II, the 32nd World Science Fiction Convention, in Washington, D.C.[9]

In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted Sleeper the 30th Greatest Comedy Film of All Time.

In 2000, American Film Institute included the film in its list AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs (#80).[10]

In October 2013, the film was voted by readers of the UK's The Guardian as the tenth best film directed by Allen.[11]

Film as tribute

Douglas Rain, who provided the voice of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, voiced the medical computer in Sleeper.[3]

In a 2007 interview, Allen stated that Sleeper was made as a tribute to the comedians whom he deeply admired: Groucho Marx and Bob Hope.[12]

See also


  1. 1 2 "Box Office Information for Sleeper". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  2. 1 2 Roger Ebert (December 17, 1973). "Sleeper". Retrieved August 22, 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 Dirks, Tim. "Sleeper (1973)". Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  4. "Ginsberg and Cohen: Computerized Fittings, since 2073"
  5. Mile Hi Church of Religious Science, Lakewood, Colorado
  6. Mike Flanigan, "Out West" Denver Post Magazine, May 2, 1984, p.26
  7. Sleeper at Rotten Tomatoes
  8. Vincent Canby (December 18, 1973). "Sleeper (1973)". The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
  9. "Briefs On The Arts". The New York Times. September 11, 1974. Retrieved March 30, 2010. 'Sleeper' Comedy Gets Hugo Award Woody Allen's "Sleeper," a comedy set 200 years in the future, has won the Hugo Award as the best film presentation of 1973.
  10. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. 2002. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  11. "The 10 best Woody Allen films". The Guardian. October 4, 2013. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
  12. Eric Lax (2007). Conversations with Woody Allen. New York City: Knopf. ISBN 0375415335.
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