Purple Rain (film)

Purple Rain is a 1984 American rock musical drama film directed by Albert Magnoli, written by Magnoli and William Blinn, and produced by Robert Cavallo, Joseph Ruffalo and Steven Fargnoli. The film stars Prince in his acting debut playing The Kid, a character based in part on Prince himself. Purple Rain was developed to showcase Prince's talents, and the film contains several concert sequences.

Purple Rain
Purple Rain (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlbert Magnoli
Produced byRobert Cavallo
Joseph Ruffalo
Steven Fargnoli
Written byAlbert Magnoli
William Blinn
Music byMichel Colombier
CinematographyDonald E. Thorin
Edited byAlbert Magnoli
Purple Films
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • July 27, 1984 (1984-07-27)
Running time
111 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$7.2 million[2]
Box office$70.3 million[3]

Principal photography took place almost entirely in Minneapolis: the film features many local landmarks, including the Crystal Court of the IDS Center and the legendary First Avenue nightclub. First Avenue was paid $100,000 for use of the club in filming; it was closed for 25 days.[4]

Purple Rain grossed over $72 million worldwide, against its $7.2 million budget.[2] The film won an Oscar for Best Original Song Score. In 2019, the film was added by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[5] Purple Rain has been regarded by publications and critics as one of the greatest musical films.[6]

Purple Rain was supported with its soundtrack album of the same name, which featured two US chart-topping singles, "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy", as well as the number-two hit "Purple Rain". The soundtrack is certified 13x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and has sold over 25 million copies worldwide.[7]


The Kid is the talented but troubled frontman of his Minneapolis-based band, The Revolution. To escape his difficult home life—his father is verbally and physically abusive, and his mother is emotionally abusive—he spends his days rehearsing and his nights performing at the First Avenue nightclub. First Avenue's three house band slots are held by The Revolution, the flashy Morris Day and his group The Time, and Dez Dickerson and his group The Modernaires. Morris, aware that The Revolution's guitarist Wendy and keyboardist Lisa are frustrated by The Kid's unwillingness to play their compositions, lobbies Billy Sparks, the nightclub's owner, to replace The Revolution with a girl group which Morris is already forming. He targets the Kid's girlfriend Apollonia—an aspiring singer and new arrival in Minneapolis—to lead his group, and tries to persuade her that The Kid won't help her because he's too focused on himself. She eventually joins Morris's group, which Morris names Apollonia 6. When she reveals her newfound partnership to the Kid, he becomes furious and slaps her, as his father had struck him earlier.

At the club, The Kid responds to the internal band strife, the pressure to draw more crowds, and his strained private life with the uncomfortably personal "Darling Nikki". His performance publicly humiliates Apollonia, who runs off in tears, and angers both Morris and Billy, worsening his situation. Billy confronts the Kid, castigating him for bringing his personal life onto the stage and warning him that he's wasting his musical talent as his father did. The debut of Apollonia 6 is a success, and Billy warns the Kid that his First Avenue slot is at risk. The Kid seizes Apollonia from a drunken Morris and the two argue and fight; Apollonia then abandons him. Returning home, he finds the house in tatters, with his mother nowhere to be found. When he turns on the basement light, his father—who had been lurking in the basement with a loaded handgun—shoots himself in the head. In a frenzy after a night of torment, the Kid tears apart the basement to release his frustration, only to find a large box of his father's musical compositions. The next morning, the Kid picks up a cassette tape of one of Wendy and Lisa's compositions, a rhythm track named "Slow Groove", and begins to compose.

That night at First Avenue, all is quiet in The Revolution's dressing room until The Time stops by to taunt the Kid about his family life. Once on stage, the Kid announces that he will be playing "a song the girls in the band wrote", dedicated to his father—revealed to be "Purple Rain". As the emotional song ends, the Kid rushes from the stage and out the back door of the club, intending to ride away on his motorcycle. However, before he can mount his motorcycle, he realizes that the crowd is thrilled by his new song. The Kid returns to the club, to be greeted by the approval of his fellow musicians and the embrace of a teary-eyed Apollonia. The Kid returns to the stage for two encores with The Revolution, to the wild approval of the crowd (even Morris); overlaid scenes show the Kid visiting his father and mother in the hospital and sorting his father's compositions in the basement, accompanied by Apollonia. A montage of all the songs plays as the credits roll.




After the success of his album 1999, Prince confronted his manager Robert Cavallo and told him he would not renew his contract with him unless he got to star in a studio film. Every studio they had met with rejected the premise of a musician-led film, leading Cavallo to produce the film himself. Prince spent months writing down the basic plot points of the film. William Blinn was commissioned by Cavallo to write script. Blinn's original script, titled Dreams[8], was much darker. Reckless director James Foley was offered to direct the film, but was not interested and instead passed it on to his editor Albert Magnoli.[9] Magnoli disliked Blinn's script for lacking "truth".[10] Magnoli was then hired as director and editor after delivering a pitch on the spot to Cavallo.[11]

Prince intended to cast Vanity, leader of the girl group Vanity 6, but she left the group before filming began. Her role was initially offered to Jennifer Beals (who turned it down because she wanted to concentrate on college) before going to Apollonia Kotero, a virtual unknown at the time. Prince had seen her appearance on the February 1983 episode of Tales of the Gold Monkey, in which she played a saucy island girl (inspired by Jamie Muller, the only person who Prince trusted to cut the grass of his Minnesota home at the time of filming) who was sleeping with a German man of the cloth.[12] Excluding Prince and his onscreen parents, almost every character in the movie is named after the actor who plays him or her.

After the character change from Vanity to Apollonia, the script was drastically revised, and many dark scenes were cut. Some of these scenes include Prince and Apollonia having sex in a barn (a concept which was the story behind the 1985 song "Raspberry Beret"); Prince going to Apollonia 6's rehearsal and engaging in a physical fight with the members of The Time; and a scene which featured Prince's mother talking to him about her shaky relationship with his father. In addition, many scenes such as the "Lake Minnetonka" scene, Apollonia first meeting Morris, and the railyard scene were cut down because of time constraints. Many clips from these scenes were featured, however, in the trailer for the movie as well as the "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy" montage.

Although Warner Bros. considered the film "outrageous" at the time, it was accepted for distribution after an internal debate. Music industry PR man Howard Bloom advocated for it.[13]


Principal photography took place almost entirely in Minneapolis: the film features many local landmarks, including the Crystal Court of the IDS Center (also shown in segments of the opening credits to The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and the legendary First Avenue nightclub. First Avenue was paid $100,000 for use of the club in filming; it was closed for 25 days.[4]

The Huntington Hotel, where Apollonia stayed, is located on Main Street in downtown Los Angeles. In the film, it is supposed to be across the street from First Avenue. The motorcycle Prince rides in the film is a customized Hondamatic Honda CM400A.[14]

During production, Magnoli asked Prince to write one more song that touched on the themes of the film. The following day, Prince already had the song, "When Doves Cry", fully produced.[15]


The film is tied into the album of the same name, which spawned two chart-topping singles, "When Doves Cry" and the opening number "Let's Go Crazy", as well as "Purple Rain", which reached number two. The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. The soundtrack sold over 15 million copies in America alone, and 25 million worldwide.[7] The film also coincided with spin-off albums by The Time (Ice Cream Castle) and Apollonia 6 (their self-titled album).


Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a 70% rating based on 56 reviews, with an average rating of 6.39/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Purple Rain makes for undeniably uneven cinema, but it's held together by its star's singular charisma – not to mention a slew of classic songs."[16] On Metacritic it has a score of 55 out of 100 based on 14 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[17]

Box officeEdit

The film was a box office success, grossing $68,392,977 in the United States.[3]

Home mediaEdit

Purple Rain was first released on video by Warner Home Video in 1984 while the film was still in theaters and was the first major new release to be sold at the lower listed price of $29.95 in the United States.[18] It shipped 435,000 units.[18] It was released on DVD in 1999.[19] The film was first released on Blu-ray on July 24, 2007[20] and was released on Blu-ray again with a new remaster on October 4, 2016 as part of the Prince Movie Collection.[21]


The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, currently the last to receive the award. It was nominated for two Razzie Awards: Worst New Star for Apollonia Kotero and Worst Original Song for "Sex Shooter".[22]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


Purple Rain is the only feature film that Prince starred in but did not direct. A standalone sequel, Graffiti Bridge, was released in 1990.

After Prince's death on April 21, 2016, MTV aired the film following a music video marathon.[25][26] VH1 also showed the movie the same night, as well as throughout the next couple of days.[27] Theater chains AMC and Carmike held tribute screenings of the film at a limited number of theaters the following week, from April 27 to May 1, 2016.[28]

A Tuareg-language homage to the film, entitled Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai, which translates as "Rain the Color of Blue with a Little Red In It", was released in 2015 and stars the Nigerien guitarist Mdou Moctar.

Eight months prior to his death, Prince purchased the house of “The Kid” in Minneapolis. Located on Snelling Avenue in the Longfellow community, it was used for exterior scenes in the movie.[29] The house, owned by the Prince estate, is a popular tourist destination for fans of the movie.


  1. ^ "PURPLE RAIN (15)". British Board of Film Classification. July 5, 1984. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Prince". Rockhall. Archived from the original on August 3, 2009.
  3. ^ a b "Purple Rain (1984)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Purple Rain/First Avenue Agreement". Discussions.mnhs.org.
  5. ^ Chow, Andrew R. (December 11, 2019). "See the 25 New Additions to the National Film Registry, From Purple Rain to Clerks". Time. New York, NY. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  6. ^ "Prince's movie legacy: Will there ever be another like 'Purple Rain'?". Los Angeles Times. April 21, 2016. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Those chart busters". Hindustantimes.com. Archived from the original on May 21, 2009.
  8. ^ Gilchrist, Todd (July 26, 2019). "Purple Rain Director Gets Deep About Working With Prince: 'How Is It You Just Told My Life Story?'". Variety. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  9. ^ Gilchrist, Todd (July 26, 2019). "Purple Rain Director Gets Deep About Working With Prince: 'How Is It You Just Told My Life Story?'". Variety. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  10. ^ New Visions (April 20, 2017). "Prince Was the Only Person Who Thought Purple Rain Would Be a Box-Office Hit". Timeline. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  11. ^ Cain, Cody (May 7, 2017). "The Director of Purple Rain, Albert Magnoli, Honors Prince With Memories". HuffPost. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  12. ^ Hahn 2004, p. 118.
  13. ^ Jacob Kleinman. "The Park Slope man who saved 'Purple Rain'!". The Brooklyn Paper.
  14. ^ "Vehicle 137249 Honda CB 400 A 1981". Imcdb.org.
  15. ^ Cataldo, Jennie (May 16, 2019). "'When Doves Cry' at 35". The World. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  16. ^ Purple Rain at Rotten Tomatoes
  17. ^ Purple Rain at Metacritic
  18. ^ a b "Par Home Vid Cutting Prices on 'Trek' Tapes". Daily Variety. December 21, 1984. p. 1.
  19. ^ "Purple Rain [DVD]". Amazon.com. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  20. ^ "Purple Rain [Blu-ray]". Amazon.com. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  21. ^ "Purple Rain / Graffiti Bridge / Under the Cherry Moon (BD) (3pk) [Blu-ray]". Amazon.com. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  22. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0.
  23. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  24. ^ "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  25. ^ Schwindt, Oriana. "'Purple Rain' Is Not On Netflix, But It Will Air On MTV Thursday Night As Part Of Its Prince Takeover". Retrieved April 21, 2016.
  26. ^ Vejnoska, Jill (April 21, 2016). "MTV showing Prince videos nonstop, to air "Purple Rain" Thursday night". Retrieved April 21, 2016.
  27. ^ "VH1 to Air "Purple Rain" Throughout Weekend to Honor Prince". KWBE.com. ABC News Radio. Archived from the original on April 23, 2016. Retrieved April 24, 2016.
  28. ^ Solis, Steph. "Where to watch 'Purple Rain' this weekend". USA Today. Retrieved April 24, 2016.
  29. ^ Riemenschneider, Chris (July 20, 2016). "Nothing to Kid about: Prince bought the 'Purple Rain' house last summer". Star Tribune.

External linksEdit