To Sleep with Anger

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To Sleep with Anger
To Sleep with Anger FilmPoster.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Charles Burnett
Written byCharles Burnett
Produced by
CinematographyWalt Lloyd
Edited byNancy Richardson
Music by Stephen James Taylor
Distributed by The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Release date
  • October 12, 1990 (1990-10-12)(United States)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,161,135

To Sleep with Anger is a 1990 American black comedy film written and directed by Charles Burnett. [1] [2]


In 2017, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". [3] It had a remastered home media release from the Criterion Collection on February 26, 2019. [4]


Gideon (Paul Butler) and his wife, Suzie (Mary Alice), live in South Central Los Angeles. Harry (Danny Glover), a longstanding friend from the South whom they have not seen for many years, makes a surprise visit. [5] The couple are delighted to see him and insist that he stay with them for as long as he wishes. Harry has a charming, down-home manner, but his enigmatic and somewhat amoral presence brings to a crisis trouble simmering in the family—especially as regards the younger son, Samuel or "Babe Brother" (Richard Brooks), and his relationships with his parents, wife, and older brother, Junior (Carl Lumbly).

Harry's presence threatens to break up Samuel's marriage and seems to be related to an illness Gideon develops. It proves ultimately purgative, though Harry's precise role remains ambiguous.



The film has received critical acclaim. [6] As of August 2020, To Sleep with Anger holds a rating of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes from 32 reviews with an average score of 7.30/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "To Sleep with Anger examines cultural tensions with a deft hand and a potent blend of comedy and drama, stirred skillfully to life by a strong cast led by Danny Glover." [7]

Chuck Bowen of Slant Magazine called it a "neglected masterpiece of African-American cinema." [8] IndieWire's Brandon Wilson has called it Burnett's "other masterpiece," as well as numerous other favorable comparisons to Killer of Sheep , saying "Like all great art, To Sleep With Anger triumphs because it works both on a personal level... and it is provocative enough thematically to fuel hours of discussion about tradition versus modernity and how it has affected African-Americans, for better or worse... [Burnett]'s asking us to think about the generation gap, Christian faith versus backwoods mysticism, the grip of the past versus the pull of the present, African-American yearning for financial prosperity versus our sense of altruism & duty and complications within both sides of each coin." [9]

Roger Ebert, however, called it "too long" in a mixed review (2.5/4). [10] Entertainment Weekly's Owen Glieberman called it "too ambitious" and said it "never finds a mood". [11]


1991 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Film To Sleep with AngerNominated
1991 [12] Independent Spirit Awards Best Feature Caldecot Chubb, Thomas S. Byrnes and Darin Scott Nominated
Best Director Charles Burnett [13] Won
Best Screenplay Won
Best Male Lead Danny Glover Won
Best Female Lead Mary Alice Nominated
Best Supporting Female Ethel Ayler Nominated
Sheryl Lee Ralph Won
1992 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Motion Picture To Sleep with Anger [14] Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Danny Glover Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Mary Alice Nominated
1990 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Screenplay Charles Burnett Nominated
1991 National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actor Danny Glover Nominated
Best Screenplay Charles Burnett Won
1990 New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actor Danny Glover Nominated
Best Screenplay Charles Burnett Nominated
1990 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize Charles Burnett Nominated
Special Jury RecognitionWon

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  2. Video Detective
  3. "2017 National Film Registry Is More Than a 'Field of Dreams'". Library of Congress . Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  4. "To Sleep with Anger". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  5. The Criterion Channel
  6. The Front Row: “To Sleep with Anger”|The New Yorker
  7. "To Sleep With Anger (1990)" via
  8. "To Sleep with Anger | Film Review". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  9. Wilson, Brandon (13 August 2014). "Charles Burnett's Other Masterpiece 'To Sleep With Anger'". IndieWire . Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  10. Ebert, Roger. "To Sleep With Anger Movie Review (1990) | Roger Ebert". . Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  11. "To Sleep With Anger". Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  12. 6th Spirit Awards ceremony hosted by Buck Henry - full show (1986) | Film Independent on YouTube
  13. CHARLES BURNETT||Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  14. New Restoration of Charles Burnett's 'To Sleep with Anger'