Not Without My Daughter (film)

Not Without My Daughter is a 1991 American drama film based on the book of the same name, depicting the escape of American citizen Betty Mahmoody and her daughter from her abusive husband in Iran. The film was shot in the United States, Turkey and Israel, and the main characters Betty Mahmoody and Sayyed Bozorg "Moody" Mahmoody are played by Sally Field and Alfred Molina, respectively. Sheila Rosenthal and Roshan Seth star as Mahtob Mahmoody and Houssein the smuggler, respectively.

Not Without My Daughter
Not without my daughter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBrian Gilbert
Produced byHarry J. Ufland
Mary Jane Ufland
Screenplay byDavid W. Rintels
Based onNot Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody and William Hoffer
Music byJerry Goldsmith
CinematographyPeter Hannan
Edited byTerry Rawlings
Pathe Entertainment
Ufland Productions
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
January 11, 1991
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$22 million
Box office$14,789,113


In 1984, an Iranian physician, Sayyed Bozorg "Moody" Mahmoody lives in the United States with his wife Betty (Sally Field) and daughter Mahtob. Due to his Iranian ethnicity, he is often mocked and ridiculed by American physicians at the hospital where he works. Unhappy with his life in America, he wants to visit his home Iran. He claims that his Iranian family wants to meet Betty and 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 Moody's family. Though Mahtob is embraced, Betty has trouble adapting to the Iranian culture and inadvertently offends some members of Moody’s family. The night before their flight back to the United States, Moody’s brother Mammal tells Moody and Betty that in order for them to go back home, their passports would’ve had to been taken to the airport three days prior to travel. Betty questions this, but Moody seems to brush this off, suggesting that they’ll take a later flight. After Betty insists that they go to the airport anyway, Moody 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 Moody took an oath that they would return to the United States, swearing on the sacred Quran. When she protests, Moody strikes her. Betty tries to earn sympathy from Moody’s family and has Mammal translate. Instead, she is shamed and ridiculed, and nobody in Moody's family sympathizes with her much, to her and Mahtob's dismay.

Moody becomes more hostile and abusive, preventing her from leaving the house or using the telephone. One day Betty answers a phone call from her mother. Her mother tells her of the American Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy, which she manages to secretly visit, 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. Moody, alarmed by Betty's absence from the house, 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 Moody's trust. Watched by Moody’s sister, Betty convinces him that they should move out of her home and into Mammal's home. By chance, during a trip to the marketplace, she meets a sympathetic storekeeper who allows her to use his telephone and overhears her conversations with the Swiss Embassy. He puts her in contact with a pair of humanitarian Iranians, Hossein and his sister, who offer to help Betty and Mahtob return to the United States. Betty accepts Hossein's assistance, especially after he warns her that Mahtob, who is nine, could be at risk of being forced into marriage or drafted into the military as a child soldier. Mahtob does not adjust to her new Iranian school and has to be accompanied to school by Betty. The women at the school tell Betty that they sympathize with her, and though they won’t allow her to use the telephone, they allow her to bring Mahtob to school hours after she would normally arrive. Betty uses this time to meet with Hossein, and they discuss an escape route. Afterwards, When she and Mahtob arrive at school, Moody is there waiting for them and attacks her in front of Mahtob. She leaves with Moody, but flees when he is distracted. She finds a telephone booth and calls a woman from the Swiss embassy whom she had spoken with previously. They return to the school but the women from the school forbid her from taking Mahtob. With no other options, Betty and Mahtob return home with Moody.

The plan becomes complicated when Betty receives news from the U. S. that her father is seriously ill and may be dying. Moody tells Betty he will allow her to return to see her dying father, but will not let Mahtob go with her. He tells Betty while she is in the United States, she is to liquidate their assets and return to Iran. Hossein warns Betty that if she visits her father, she may never see Mahtob again. Betty decides to wait to return to the United States with Mahtob. Moody unknowingly foils her plans 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 Moody 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 supply Betty and Mahtob with fake identity documents, and they make their way past checkpoint with Iranian smugglers

Despite the difficult and very dangerous journey, Betty and Mahtob are eventually dropped off in a street in Ankara, where they see the flag of the American Embassy in the distance. The film's end title cards reveal that Betty and Mahtob eventually made it back home to the United States, and Betty became a successful author and dedicates herself to helping those in need.



The movie was based on a book with the same title, written by Betty Mahmoody and William Hoffer and based on Betty's version of events. The screenplay was written by David W. Rintels. The film was directed by Brian Gilbert and filmed in Israel, at GG Studios, Neve Ilan, and in Atlanta.[1]


Box officeEdit

The movie debuted poorly and grossed less than $15 million in ticket sales.[2] The movie plummeted in its second week.[3]

Critical responseEdit

As of December 2018, the film holds an approval rating of 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 16 reviews.[4] Roger Ebert wrote "Here is a perplexing and frustrating film, which works with great skill to involve our emotions, while at the same time making moral and racial assertions that are deeply troubling." He stated 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. Yet I recommend that the film be seen, for two reasons. One reason is because of the undeniable dramatic strength of its structure and performances; it is impossible not to identify with this mother and her daughter, and Field is very effective as a brave, resourceful woman who is determined to free herself and her daughter from involuntary captivity. The second reason is harder to explain. I think the movie should be seen because it is an invitation to thought."[5]

While Iranians are not shown in a completely negative light, as the film depicts generous and brave Iranians who contact Betty Mahmoody and arrange for the escape of her and her daughter, these "good" Iranians are high-born opponents of the Islamic Republic regime, shown listening to European classical music.[6]

The score by Jerry Goldsmith was also not well received. Jay Boyar of the Orlando Sentinel called it "TV-movie manipulative",[7] while Jason Ankeny of AllMusic wrote, "Jerry Goldsmith's score does little to refute its opponents' charges of racism."[8]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Sheila Rosenthal won the Young Artist Award for Best Actress.

Sally Field was nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress of 1991, where she lost to Sean Young for A Kiss Before Dying.


In response to Not Without My Daughter, a Finnish documentary, titled Without My Daughter was made by director Alexis Kouros. It is composed of interviews with Dr. Mahmoody regarding his life in Iran and attempts to contact his daughter Mahtob. Kouros said that the intention of the 90-minute documentary was to "show the lies in the American film and present the real story".[9]

Alfred Molina confirmed in an interview with Time Out that he was punched by a man who apparently hated his brutal portrayal of Dr. Mahmoody in the film.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Not Without My Daughter on IMDb
  2. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (January 14, 1991). "Home Alone in 9th Week as No. 1 Film : Movies'Godfather Part III' takes dramatic slide from second to sixth place in its third week out. 'Awakenings' is in second". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  3. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (January 22, 1991). "'Home Alone' Fends Off Yet Another 'Intruder' : Box Office: Vietnam War film opens to mediocre business as comedy remains on top for 10th week. After four weeks of release, 'Godfather Part III' drops to 12th". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 11, 1991). "Not Without My Daughter (review)". Retrieved 2014-07-08.
  6. ^ Yale, Pat, Anthony Ham, and Paul Greenway. Iran. Lonely Planet Publications, 2001, p.86
  7. ^ Boyar, Jay (11 January 1991). "'Not Without My Daughter'-Good Comes With The Bad". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  8. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  9. ^ "Finnish documentary counters anti-Iran propaganda in US film". NetNative. Islamic Republic News Agency. November 22, 2002.
  10. ^ Snook, Raven (14 March 2010). "The Hot Seat: Alfred Molina". Time Out. Retrieved 23 May 2016.

External linksEdit