Driving Miss Daisy

Driving Miss Daisy is a 1989 American comedy-drama film directed by Bruce Beresford and written by Alfred Uhry, based on Uhry's 1987 play of the same name. The film stars Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, and Dan Aykroyd. Freeman reprised his role from the original Off-Broadway production.

Driving Miss Daisy
Driving Miss Daisy .jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBruce Beresford
Produced by
Screenplay byAlfred Uhry
Based onDriving Miss Daisy
by Alfred Uhry
Music byHans Zimmer
CinematographyPeter James
Edited byMark Warner
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures[1]
Release date
  • December 15, 1989 (1989-12-15)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$7.5 million[1]
Box office$145.8 million[2]

The story defines Daisy and her point of view through a network of relationships and emotions by focusing on her home life, synagogue, friends, family, fears, and concerns over a twenty-five year period.

Driving Miss Daisy was a critical and commercial success upon its release and at the 62nd Academy Awards received nine nominations, and won four: Best Picture, Best Actress (for Tandy), Best Makeup, and Best Adapted Screenplay.[3] It was the last PG-rated movie to win Best Picture.


In 1948, Daisy Werthan, or Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy), a 72-year-old wealthy, Jewish, widowed, retired schoolteacher, lives alone in Atlanta, Georgia, except for a black housekeeper, Idella (Esther Rolle). When Miss Daisy drives her 1946 Chrysler Windsor into her neighbor's yard, her 40-year-old son Boolie (Dan Aykroyd) buys her a 1949 Hudson Commodore and hires Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman), a black chauffeur. Miss Daisy at first refuses to let anyone else drive her, but gradually accedes to the arrangement.

As Miss Daisy and Hoke spend time together, she gains appreciation for his many skills. After Idella dies in the spring of 1963, rather than hire a new housekeeper, Miss Daisy decides to care for her own house and have Hoke do the cooking and the driving.

The film explores racism against black people, which affects Hoke personally. The film also touches on anti-semitism in the South. After her synagogue is bombed, Miss Daisy realizes that she is also a victim of prejudice. But American society is undergoing radical changes, and Miss Daisy attends a dinner at which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gives a speech.

She initially invites Boolie to the dinner, but he declines, and suggests that Miss Daisy invite Hoke. However, Miss Daisy only asks him to be her guest during the car ride to the event and ends up attending the dinner alone, with Hoke, insulted by the manner of the invitation, listening to the speech on the car radio outside.

Hoke arrives at the house one morning in 1971 to find Miss Daisy agitated and showing signs of dementia, believing she is a young teacher again. Hoke calms her down with a conversation in which Daisy calls Hoke her "best friend." Boolie arranges for Miss Daisy to enter a retirement home. In 1973, Hoke, now 85 and rapidly losing his eyesight, retires. Boolie, now 65, drives Hoke to the retirement home to visit Miss Daisy, now 97.[4] He then feeds her pie. The final scene is an image of him driving her for the first time in the red Hudson.



Box officeEdit

Driving Miss Daisy was given a limited release on December 15, 1989, earning $73,745 in three theaters. The film was given a wide release on January 26, 1990, earning $5,705,721 over its opening weekend in 895 theaters, becoming the number one film in the United States. It remained at number 1 the following week but was knocked off the top spot in its third weekend of wide release by Hard to Kill. It returned to number one the next weekend and remained there for a fourth week. The film ultimately grossed $106,593,296 in North America, and $39,200,000 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $145,793,296.[2] The film was released in the United Kingdom on February 23, 1990.[5]

Critical reactionEdit

Driving Miss Daisy was well received by critics, with particular emphasis on the screenplay and Morgan Freeman's and Jessica Tandy's performances. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a "Certified Fresh" 82% rating based on reviews from 65 critics, with an average score of 7.30/10. The website's critical consensus states: "While it's fueled in part by outdated stereotypes, Driving Miss Daisy takes audiences on a heartwarming journey with a pair of outstanding actors."[6] On Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 based on reviews from mainstream critics, the film has a score of 81 based on 17 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[7] CinemaScore similarly reported that audiences gave the film a rare "A+" grade.[8]

Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune declared Driving Miss Daisy one of the best films of 1989.[9] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it "a film of great love and patience" and wrote, "It is an immensely subtle film, in which hardly any of the most important information is carried in the dialogue and in which body language, tone of voice or the look in an eye can be the most important thing in a scene. After so many movies in which shallow and violent people deny their humanity and ours, what a lesson to see a film that looks into the heart."[10]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also gave the film a positive review, calling Tandy's performance "glorious" and opining, "This is Tandy's finest two hours onscreen in a film career that goes back to 1932."[11] The performances of Tandy and Freeman were also praised by Vincent Canby of The New York Times, who observed, "The two actors manage to be highly theatrical without breaking out of the realistic frame of the film."[12]

On the other hand, the film has been criticized for its handling of the issue of racism. Candice Russell of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel described Freeman's character as having a "toadying manner" which was "painful to see", and said that the film was ultimately "one scene after another of a pompous old lady issuing orders and a servant trying to comply by saying 'yassum.'"[13] The film's nomination for Best Picture at the Academy Awards over Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing was controversial. Lee later reflected on the controversial decision by saying that Driving Miss Daisy was "not being taught in film schools all across the world like Do the Right Thing is."[14][15]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Driving Miss Daisy received 9 Academy Award nominations and also achieved the following distinctions in Oscar history:

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[19] Best Picture Richard D. Zanuck and Lili Fini Zanuck Won
Best Actor Morgan Freeman Nominated
Best Actress Jessica Tandy Won
Best Supporting Actor Dan Aykroyd Nominated
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Alfred Uhry Won
Best Art Direction Bruno Rubeo and Crispian Sallis Nominated
Best Costume Design Elizabeth McBride Nominated
Best Film Editing Mark Warner Nominated
Best Makeup Manlio Rocchetti, Lynn Barber and Kevin Haney Won
American Comedy Awards Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) Morgan Freeman Nominated
Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) Jessica Tandy Nominated
Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Dan Aykroyd Nominated
Berlin International Film Festival[20] Golden Bear Bruce Beresford Nominated
Best Joint Performance Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman Won
BMI Film & TV Awards Film Music Award Hans Zimmer Won
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actress Jessica Tandy Won
British Academy Film Awards Best Film Richard D. Zanuck, Lili Fini Zanuck and Bruce Beresford Nominated
Best Direction Bruce Beresford Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Jessica Tandy Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Alfred Uhry Nominated
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actress Jessica Tandy Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Driving Miss Daisy Won
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Morgan Freeman Won
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Jessica Tandy Won
Grammy Awards Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television Hans Zimmer – Driving Miss Daisy Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actor Morgan Freeman Won
Best Actress Jessica Tandy Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Actor Morgan Freeman Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Won
Nastro d'Argento Best Female Dubbing Micaela Giustiniani (for dubbing Jessica Tandy) Won
National Board of Review Awards Best Film Driving Miss Daisy Won
Top Ten Films Won
Best Actor Morgan Freeman Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actor Nominated
Best Actress Jessica Tandy Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actor Morgan Freeman Won
Best Actress Jessica Tandy Nominated
Best Director Bruce Beresford Nominated
Political Film Society Awards Human Rights Driving Miss Daisy Nominated
Producers Guild of America Awards Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures Richard D. Zanuck and Lili Fini Zanuck Won
Retirement Research Foundation, USA Wise Owl Award – Television and Theatrical Film Fiction David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck and Lili Fini Zanuck Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium Alfred Uhry Won
20/20 Awards Best Actress Jessica Tandy Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Alfred Uhry Nominated
Best Costume Design Elizabeth McBride Nominated

Oscar controversyEdit

In 2015, The Hollywood Reporter polled hundreds of Academy members, asking them to re-vote on past controversial decisions. Academy members indicated that, given a second chance, they would award the 1990 Oscar for Best Picture to My Left Foot instead.[21]


The film's score was composed by Hans Zimmer, who won a BMI Film Music Award and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television for his work. The score was performed entirely by Zimmer, done electronically using samplers and synthesizers, and did not feature a single live instrument. There is a scene, however, in which the "Song to the Moon" from the opera Rusalka by Antonín Dvořák is heard on a radio as sung by Gabriela Beňačková.

Similarities have been noted between the main theme and the "plantation" folk song "Shortnin' Bread".[22] The soundtrack was issued on Varèse Sarabande.

Home mediaEdit

The film was also successful on home video.[23] It was released on DVD in the United States on April 30, 1997, and the special edition was released on February 4, 2003. The movie was first released on Blu-ray disc in Germany, and was finally released on Blu-ray in the United States in a special edition digibook in January 2013 by Warner Bros.


  1. ^ a b Fabrikant, Geraldine (March 6, 1990). "How Major Studios Missed a Hit". The New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Driving Miss Daisy". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  3. ^ "The 62nd Academy Awards (1990) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved August 1, 2011.
  4. ^ Uhry, Alfred (January 1, 1998). Driving Miss Daisy. Dramatists Play Service, Inc. ISBN 0822203359.
  5. ^ "Weekend box office 23 February 1990 - 25 February 1990". www.25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  6. ^ "Driving Miss Daisy (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  7. ^ "Driving Miss Daisy Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  8. ^ "18 of the Most Loved or Hated Movies: Films That Got A+ or F CinemaScores (Photos)". TheWrap. June 16, 2015. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  9. ^ Siskel, Gene (January 12, 1990). "'Roger & Me' Makes Point About The Common Man". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 12, 1990). "Driving Miss Daisy". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  11. ^ Travers, Peter. "Driving Miss Daisy". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 29, 2014.
  12. ^ Canby, Vincent (December 13, 1989). "Review/Film; 'Miss Daisy,' Chamber Piece From the Stage". The New York Times. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  13. ^ Russell, Candice (January 12, 1990). "'Daisy' Mostly One-Note Film", South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale.
  14. ^ Stern, Marlow (January 15, 2015). "Spike Lee Blasts ‘Selma’ Oscar Snubs: ‘You Know What? F*ck ’Em’", The Daily Beast.
  15. ^ Collins, K. Austin (January 22, 2019). "When the Oscars Chose Driving Miss Daisy Over Do the Right Thing". Vanity Fair.
  16. ^ a b "Academy's Diamond Anniversary Screening Series to Feature "Driving Miss Daisy"" (Press release). Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. September 2, 2003. Archived from the original on February 20, 2008. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  17. ^ "Academy Awards Best Director". filmsite.org. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  18. ^ "Academy Awards: Best Picture Milestones; 1980s". Film Site.org. New York, NY: AMC Network Entertainment LLC. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  19. ^ Kehr, Dave (March 27, 1990). "'Miss Daisy,' Jessica Tandy Win Top Oscars". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  20. ^ "Berlinale: 1990 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved March 17, 2011.[dead link]
  21. ^ "Recount! Oscar Voters Today Would Make 'Brokeback Mountain' Best Picture Over 'Crash'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  22. ^ Bettencourt, Scott. "THE YEAR IN FILM MUSIC: 1989". Film Score Monthly. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  23. ^ Hunt, Dennis (September 27, 1990). "VIDEO RENTALS: 'Born' Can't Pass High-Revving 'Daisy'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 10, 2012.

External linksEdit