Not Without My Daughter is a 1991 drama film directed by Brian Gilbert, starring Sally Field and Alfred Molina.


Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

An Iranian physician, Sayed Bozorg "Moody" Mahmoody wants to visit Iran with his American family. He claims that his Iranian family wants to meet his wife Betty and daughter Mahtob and asks them to come with him for a two-week visit. Despite her deep fears about visiting Iran, particularly due to the Iranian Hostage Crisis of several years earlier, Betty reluctantly agrees.

Upon their arrival, they are all greeted warmly by Mahmoody's family, but shortly before their flight back to the United States, Mahmoody announces to his wife that he wishes for them to stay in Iran. Betty realizes that she has been deceived by her husband, even though Mahmoody took an oath that they would return to the United States, "swearing" on the sacred Quran. When she protests, Mahmoody strikes her, and nobody in Mahmoody's family sympathises with her.

Mahmoody becomes more hostile and abusive, preventing her from leaving the house or using the telephone. Betty briefly manages to visit the American Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy, but is told that she is now an Iranian citizen since she is married to an Iranian and as long as she lives in Iran, she cannot leave the country without her husband's written consent and has no parental rights over her daughter.

Mahmoody learns of Betty's meeting and threatens to kill her if she tries anything again. Knowing that her chances of escape are minuscule, Betty conforms to her husband's wishes in order to gain the trust of Mahmoody and his family.

By chance, during a trip to the marketplace, she meets a sympathetic shopkeeper who overhears her telephone conversations with the Swiss Embassy and puts her in contact with a humanitarian Iranian, Hossein, who offers to help Betty and Mahtob in their passage back to the United States.

The plan becomes complicated when Betty receives news from U.S that her father is seriously ill and may be dying. Mahmoody approves of Betty returning to see her dying father, but will not let Mahtob go with her. Betty decides to wait to return to the United States with Mahtob, but Mahmoody unknowingly foils her by having her booked on a flight several days early thanks to his relatives' contacts in the airport.

Betty eventually gets what seems to be her last chance to escape when Mahmoody is suddenly called to the clinic for an emergency. On the pretense of going to buy presents for her father, Betty takes Mahtob and they contact Hossein, who manages to send Betty and Mahtob off with some Iranian smugglers and using fake identity documents, they make their way past the checkpoints.

Despite the difficult and very dangerous journey, Betty and Mahtob are dropped off in a street in Turkey where they see the American Embassy in the distance. "We're home," says Betty.


  • Sally Field as Betty Mahmoody
  • Alfred Molina as Sayed Bozorg "Moody" Mahmoody
  • Sheila Rosenthal as Mahtob Mahmoody
  • Roshan Seth as Houssein the Smuggler
  • Sarah Badel as Nicole
  • Mony Rey as Ameh Bozorg
  • Georges Corraface as Mohsen


Box OfficeEdit

"Not Without My Daughter" debuted at #7 at the box office, grossing only $3,804,055 in its opening weekend. By the second week, the film fared poorly.

Critical ReceptionEdit

"Not Without My Daughter" has been criticized for its alleged misrepresentation of Muslim Iranians and their culture.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 47% rating based on 15 reviews.

In a review of the film, Caryn James of the New York Times states that the movie "exploits the stereotype of the demonic is an utter artistic failure, and its reliance on cultural stereotype is a major cause."

A review in the Los Angeles Times described the movie as "unbalanced and distorted" which "fails to distinguish between the (Iranian) state and the people."

In his review, film critic Roger Ebert noted the film made "moral and racial assertions that are deeply troubling" and that it "does not play fair with its Muslim characters. If a movie of such a vitriolic and spiteful nature were to be made in America about any other ethnic group, it would be denounced as racist and prejudiced."


1992 Razzie Awards

  • Sally Field: Worst Actress (nominated)

1991 Young Artist Awards

  • Sheila Rosenthal: Best Young Actress Co-Starring in a Motion Picture (won)

Theatrical TrailerEdit

Not Without My Daughter (1991) trailer

Not Without My Daughter (1991) trailer

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