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Practical Magic is a 1998 family fantasy film directed by Griffin Dunne and starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as witches who carry on a family legacy of witchcraft and tragedy. The film is based on a book of the same name by Alice Hoffman. The original music score was composed by Alan Silvestri. The rejected score by Michael Nyman also enjoys popularity .


The Craft has been passed down through generations to the Owens women. The story concerns sisters Frances (Stockard Channing) and Jet (Dianne Wiest), and their orphaned nieces Gillian (Nicole Kidman) and Sally (Sandra Bullock). The Owens family is cursed: if an Owens woman finds true love with a man, he will die tragically, as was the case with the father of Gillian and Sally, whose death also brought on their mother's death "from a broken heart." The girls move in with the Frances and Jet and the townspeople treat the family as outsiders, for they fear the women are witches. As a child, Sally casts a true love spell to protect her. She dreams up a series of odd traits for the man of her dreams, confident no real man could ever be like the man in her spell, preventing her from ever falling in love.

The sisters grow up, and Gillian runs away as she is impatient with small town life. Packing her bags and leaving at night, they cast a binding oath to each other using blood from both of their hands and then mixing the bloods by clasping hands. Sally becomes lonely without Gillian. Her aunts cast a spell that helps Sally fall in love with a man named Michael. Sally marries him and has two daughters, Kylie (Evan Rachel Wood) and Antonia (Alexandra Artrip). When Michael falls victim to the curse and dies, Sally and her daughters return to the Owens home to live with the aunts. Sally swears off magic because the magical curses have ruined her life, and she tells the aunts that her daughters will not do magic.

When Gillian's latest boyfriend Jimmy (Goran Višnjić) turns abusive, she calls Sally for help. Sally goes to collect Gillian, but Jimmy kidnaps both of them. Sally puts belladonna into Jimmy's tequila to knock him out, but she uses too much and accidentally kills him. The panicked sisters attempt to resurrect him using a forbidden spell from their aunts' book of spells. The spell works but Sally must kill him again when he attempts to kill Gillian. The sisters bury his body in the Owens home garden, where they hope nobody will notice, but his spirit begins to haunt them. The aunts leave town because they realize Sally and Gillian have done something terrible.

A State Investigator named Gary Hallett (Aidan Quinn) arrives in town looking for Jimmy. Sally's daughters notice that Gary fulfills a number of Sally's true love spell conditions. Sally confesses that she killed Jimmy, and that she cast a spell to summon Gary to her. Gary has an encounter with Jimmy's ghost, and decides to leave town without arresting Sally.

Jimmy possesses Gillian and the aunts return; they decide that in order to dispel Jimmy, a coven needs to be formed. Sally realizes she must embrace magic to save her sister. She is also forced to ask the aid of townswomen who had feared and excluded her. The women come out of curiosity and a desire to help. The exorcism is a success due to the strong bond between the two sisters. Jimmy's spirit is dispelled and the 300-year-old curse of the Owens women is ended when Sally repeats the spell that was mentioned as Gillian first left while clasping their hands to mix each other's blood once more. The spell is lifted and Gillian returns.

Sally receives a letter from Gary that she and her sister are cleared of any suspicion of wrongdoing in Jimmy's case. Gary eventually returns to the town to be with Sally. The Owens women, daughters and all celebrate All Hallows Eve dressed up in stereotypical witch costumes, but they are embraced and welcomed by the townsfolk.


  • Sandra Bullock as Sally Owens, a witch who becomes widowed after the Owens’ curse kills her husband
  • Nicole Kidman as Gillian Owens, sister of Sally Owens who grows bored with small-town life and becomes the victim of an abusive relationship
  • Stockard Channing as Aunt Frances Owens, aunt of Sally and Gillian, tends to be more tenderhearted and quiet
  • Dianne Wiest as Aunt Bridget 'Jet' Owens, aunt of Sally and Gillian, tends to be more aloof and fun-loving
  • Goran Visnjic as James 'Jimmy' Angelov, boyfriend of Gillian that becomes abusive and kidnaps the sisters
  • Aidan Quinn as Officer Gary Hallet, officer who investigates Sally and Gillian in the murder
  • Evan Rachel Wood as Kylie Owens
  • Alexandra Artrip as Antonia Owens
  • Mark Feuerstein as Michael
  • Lora Anne Criswell as young Gillian Owens
  • Camilla Belle as young Sally Owens


Some of the movie was filmed on an artificial set in California. Producers said the house was a big part of the depiction of Owen's culture, so they knew they had to build a house to accurately depict this. They built it on Whidbey Islandmarker. Coupeville, Washingtonmarker, San Juan Island, WAmarker. They brought much of the set from California and placed it inside the house, but it still took almost a year to perfect the image of the house and the interior. Since the house was built only for this filming, it was torn down after the movie was released.

According to Sandra Bullock in the film commentary, in the scene where the Owens women are drunk and slinging insults, the actresses actually got drunk on very bad tequila brought by Nicole Kidman. The cast also believes that the supernatural elements of the house started to affect them; the cast and crew claim to have heard ghost noises while filming the coven scene at the end of the movie.

For the final scene with all of the townspeople at the Owen's home, the entire town where filming took place was invited to show up in costume and be in the movie as townsfolk.


Composer Michael Nyman's score to the movie was abruptly replaced with music by Alan Silvestri for the theatrical release. This last minute change resulted in the release of two soundtracks, although as primarily a compilation album, only the two tracks of newly-created material were changed. A 50-track demo (the last two tracks being "Convening the Coven" and "Maria Owens") of Nyman's score has been circulating among fans as a bootleg. The complete Nyman score runs 62:30 and contains music that would later appear, in altered form, in Ravenous and The Actors, as well as a bit of his stepwise chord progression theme from Out of the Ruins/String Quartet No. 3/Carrington/The End of the Affair/The Claim. "Convening the Coven," though not "Maria Owens," was subsequently reissued on The Very Best of Michael Nyman: Film Music 1980-2001, and music that uses material related to this piece has not been used elsewhere.

Singer Stevie Nicks headlined the soundtrack's published advertisements, promoting her singles "If You Ever Did Believe" and her remake of her song "Crystal" from the 1975 Fleetwood Mac white album on which she first appeared with the band. (Which originally appeared on the album "Buckingham-Nicks", the first album ever recorded by Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham shortly before their joining Fleetwood Mac.) Both original recordings of "Crystal" before the Practical Magic soundtrack were recorded with Buckingham performing the vocals, although the song was written by Nicks.

Track listing

  1. If You Ever Did Believe - Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow
  2. This Kiss - Faith Hill
  3. Got To Give It Up - Marvin Gaye
  4. Is This Real? - Lisa Hall
  5. Black Eyed Dog - Nick Drake
  6. A Case Of You - Joni Mitchell
  7. Nowhere And Everywhere - Michelle Lewis
  8. Always On My Mind - Elvis Presley
  9. Everywhere - Bran Van 3000
  10. Coconut - Harry Nilsson
  11. Crystal - Stevie Nicks
  12. Practical Magic - Alan Silvestri / Convening the Coven - The Michael Nyman Orchestra
  13. Amas Veritas - Alan Silvestri / Maria Owens - The Michael Nyman Orchestra


Box Office

Total US Gross $46,850,558

International Gross $21,486,439

Worldwide Gross $68,336,997

Critic Reviews

The movie received mixed reviews but most reviews claimed unsatisfactory results. Some critics enjoyed the depiction of romance and magic in the movie while others believed the magic was so severely downplayed that it was seemingly nonexistent. Most agree that it had some comedic scenes. Most also agree that the movie was nothing like the book and lost a lot of the book's magic. Top critics claim there was nothing memorable about the movie and that it was disappointing; only one in fourteen top critics enjoyed the movie at all.


In 1999 the movie was nominated for the American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actress. That same year it was also nominated twice for the Blockbuster Entertainment Award and won one of the awards for Favorite Supporting Actress (Stockard Channing). It was lastly nominated for the Young Artist Award for Camilla Belle and Evan Wood.

Depiction of witches

The film's witchcraft is tied closely to biological lineage. Other modern depictions of witches have also depicted magic as hereditary, including Bewitched, Charmed and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. The film also states that "there's no devil in the craft."

At the end of the film, once all the Owens women have "come out" to the village as witches, they dress up in black robes and red-and-white striped stockings, similar to those worn by the Wicked Witch of the East in The Wizard of Oz.


The film differs from the original novel in several ways, including the flowers growing over Jimmy's grave (lilacs), the birth order of Sally's daughters (Antonia is the older daughter and in the book they are also teenagers by the end), and the fact that Sally actually rejected magic very early on in life due to a humiliation in school; Michael's death cemented this, rather than caused it. Other differences include:
  • Jimmy is also not foreign at all, although the cowboy obsession was still a factor. His personality in the movie was actually changed to allow Goran Visnjic to take the role.
  • The fate of the lovesick woman the Aunts help is also recurrent in the novel, a reminder to "be careful what you wish for".
  • The Aunts, while not neglectful, are not as warm and loving as they are in the movie and delight in using their talents for the village women, although the caution of watching what you wish for is always there.
  • Jimmy's death is attributed, not to the belladonna poisoning, but to possible alcohol poisoning and he died at a rest stop. Although him striking Gillian is not a direct factor in his death, he is depicted as being something of a sadist to begin with. His ring is also not a skull, but a cactus and a snake.

Television spin-off

A television pilot based on the film, titled Sudbury was filmed for CBS in 2003. It starred Kim Delaney, Jeri Ryan, Kat Dennings, Gage Golightly, Dixie Carter, Shirley Knight and Esai Morales. Sandra Bullock served as executive producer. The pilot was not picked up.


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