Sister Act is a 1992 American comedy film released by Touchstone Pictures on May 29, 1992.
Directed by Emile Ardolino, it features musical arrangements by Marc Shaiman and stars Whoopi Goldberg as a Reno lounge singer who has been put under protective custody in a San Francisco convent of Poor Clares and has to pretend to be a nun when a mob boss puts her on his hit list.
| Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
The film opens in 1968 at St. Anne's Academy, a California Roman Catholic school, where a young girl named Deloris Wilson (Isis Carmen Jones) is scolded by Sister Immaculata (Lois de Banzie) for wisecracking and disobedience.
The setting then changes to the present day where Deloris Van Cartier (Whoopi Goldberg) is a lounge singer in a 1960s-themed act called The Ronelles (a parody of The Ronettes), who sing at The Moonlite Lounge of the Nevada Club in Reno, Nevada, run by her boyfriend, the mobster Vince LaRocca (Harvey Keitel).
After Deloris walks in on Vince having his chauffeur Ernie (Max Grodénchik) executed for betrayal, Vince orders his two henchmen Joey (Robert Miranda) and Willy (Richard Portnow) to kill her as well.
Deloris flees Vince's casino to the local police station where Lieutenant Eddie Souther (Bill Nunn) 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 Parish in a seedy, run-down neighborhood of San Francisco where Souther suggests she take refuge in the attached convent. Both Deloris and Reverend Mother (Maggie Smith) object, but are convinced by Souther and Monsignor O'Hara to go ahead with it. Deloris 'becomes' a nun (habit and all) under the hand of Reverend Mother, who gives her the religious name 'Sister Mary Clarence' to complete the disguise.
Mary Clarence objects to following the strictures and simple life of the convent, but comes to befriend several of the nuns including the forever jolly Sister Mary Patrick (Kathy Najimy), quiet and meek Sister Mary Robert (Wendy Makkena) & the elderly deadpan Sister Mary Lazarus (Mary Wickes).
After sneaking into a nearby bar, Mary Clarence is chastised by Reverend Mother and put into the choir, which she has seen to be dreadful. The choir nuns, learning that 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 Mass one Sunday, the choir sings the "Hail Holy Queen" in the traditional manner beautifully before shifting into a gospel and rock-and-roll-infused performance of the hymn.
Reverend Mother is infuriated with Mary Clarence about the performance and orders that Mary Lazarus once again become the leader the choir, but Monsignor O'Hara (Joseph Maher) is thrilled with the performance as the unorthodox music brought people, including teenagers, in off the streets.
Deloris convinces Monsignor O'Hara that the nuns should be going out to clean up the neighborhood. This they do, and the choir wows church visitors 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 (Eugene Greytak) 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 (Guy Boyd), 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 confronts Tate, gets him arrested and flies to San Francisco to try and warn Mary Clarence, but Vince's men abduct her.
The nuns (led by the Reverend Mother) risk their lives by going to Reno to save Mary Clarence.
Meanwhile, she flees 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.
Despite Reverend Mother's attempts to convince Vince that Deloris is indeed a nun he tries to shoot her when Souther bursts in and shoots him in the arm, and has the men arrested. Reverend Mother then thanks Deloris for everything she has done for them and agrees to remain at the convent.
The film ends with the choir (led by Deloris) singing "I Will Follow Him" before the Pope and a packed and refurbished St. Katherine's, earning a loud standing ovation from the audience, the Pope, Reverend Mother, Monsignor O'Hara and Lt. Souther.
The end credits reveals that Deloris' secret life as a nun was sold to the media and has become a sensation. The ending of Deloris' "career" as a choir leader is revealed through magazines and album covers and she has continued leading the choir as a famous group with published albums.
- Whoopi Goldberg as Deloris Van Cartier/Sister Mary Clarence
- Isis Carmen Jones as young Deloris Wilson
- Maggie Smith as Reverend Mother
- Kathy Najimy as Sister Mary Patrick
- Wendy Makkena as Sister Mary Robert (singing voice by Andrea Robinson)
- 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 Tina
- 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 Pope John Paul II
- Guy Boyd (uncredited) as Detective Tate
- 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.
Though the order of the nuns in the film is hinted at being a Carmelite one by Sister Mary Patrick, their religious habit is similar in appearance to that of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis. However, Members of the real-life Order have presently abandoned use of the habit.
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 the eighth-highest grossing film worldwide in 1992.