The Magdalene Sisters (2002)

R  |   |  Drama  |  29 August 2003 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.8/10 from 21,186 users   Metascore: 83/100
Reviews: 189 user | 128 critic | 38 from

Three young Irish women struggle to maintain their spirits while they endure dehumanizing abuse as inmates of a Magdalene Sisters Asylum.



Watch Trailer
0Check in

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Video

Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 18 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Based on the best selling autobiography by Irish expat Frank McCourt, Angela's Ashes follows the experiences of young Frankie and his family as they try against all odds to escape the ... See full summary »

Director: Alan Parker
Stars: Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle, Joe Breen
Orphans (1998)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Four siblings gathered together for their mother's funeral in Glasgow face individual torments over night during a tumultuous storm that rips the roof off the church.

Director: Peter Mullan
Stars: Douglas Henshall, Gary Lewis, Rosemarie Stevenson
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

"Song for a Raggy Boy" is based on the true story of a single teacher's courage to stand up against an untouchable prefect's sadistic disciplinary regime and other abuse in a Catholic Reformatory and Industrial School in 1939 Ireland.

Director: Aisling Walsh
Stars: Aidan Quinn, Iain Glen, Marc Warren
Neds (2010)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Encompassed by violent street gangs, neglectful parents, bullying teachers and a dearth of positive role models, a studious but emotionally abandoned kid turns thug.

Director: Peter Mullan
Stars: Conor McCarron, Greg Forrest, Joe Szula
Vera Drake (2004)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Abortionist Vera Drake finds her beliefs and practices clash with the mores of 1950s Britain--a conflict that leads to tragedy for her family.

Director: Mike Leigh
Stars: Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent, Heather Craney
Bloody Sunday (2002)
Drama | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A dramatization of the Irish civil rights protest march and subsequent massacre by British troops on January 30, 1972.

Director: Paul Greengrass
Stars: James Nesbitt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Nicholas Farrell
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Francie and Joe live the usual playful, fantasy filled childhoods of normal boys. However, with a violent, alcoholic father and a manic depressive, suicidal mother the pressure on Francie ... See full summary »

Director: Neil Jordan
Stars: Stephen Rea, Fiona Shaw, Eamonn Owens
Biography | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Neil Jordan's historical biopic of Irish revolutionary Michael Collins, the man who led a guerrilla war against the UK and who helped negotiate the creation of the Irish Free State.

Director: Neil Jordan
Stars: Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Julia Roberts
Sweet Sixteen I (2002)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Determined to have a normal family life once his mother gets out of prison, a Scottish teenager from a tough background sets out to raise the money for a home.

Director: Ken Loach
Stars: Martin Compston, Michelle Coulter, Annmarie Fulton
Philomena (2013)
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman's search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.

Director: Stephen Frears
Stars: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark
Biography | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Female born, Teena Brandon adopts his male identity of Brandon Teena and attempts to find himself and love in Nebraska.

Director: Kimberly Peirce
Stars: Hilary Swank, Chloë Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard
Sex in a Cold Climate (TV Movie 1998)
Documentary | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Interlocking interviews of 4 women interred in various Magdalene asylums and/or orphanages because of out-of-wedlock pregancies, being sexually assaulted, or just being "too pretty" (believe it or not).

Director: Steve Humphries
Stars: Dervla Kirwan, Martha Cooney, Christina Mulcahy


Cast overview, first billed only:
Rose / Patricia
Britta Smith ...
Sister Jude
Eithne McGuinness ...
Sister Clementine
Phyllis MacMahon ...
Sister Augusta (as Phyllis McMahon)
Rebecca Walsh ...
Brendan (as Chris Simpson)
Sean Colgan ...
Daniel Costello ...
Father Fitzroy


A thoroughly mind-provoking film about 3 young women who, under tragic circumstances, see themselves cast away to a Magdalene Asylum for young women in 1964. One of many like institutions, the asylums are run like prisons and young girls are forced to do workhouse laundry and hard labor. The asylum, one of many that existed in theocratic Catholic Ireland, is for supposedly 'fallen' women. Here, young girls are imprisoned indefinitely and endure agonizing punishments and a long, harsh working system which leaves them physically drained and mentally damaged. As the girls bond together, it soon becomes clear that the only way out of the Magdalene convent is to escape, but with twisted Sister Bridget running the wing, any chances seem limited... Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


In a place that defied belief their only hope was each other. See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence/cruelty, nudity, sexual content and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

29 August 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die unbarmherzigen Schwestern  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

£88,315 (UK) (1 November 2002)


$4,890,878 (USA) (21 November 2003)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film was "inspired by the documentary Sex in a Cold Climate (1998) produced and directed by Steve Humphries." See more »


When Margaret's brother shows up to take his sister home, he not only knows his way around the facility, but knows exactly which room everyone is in, despite having never set foot in the place in some six years. See more »


[first lines]
Margaret: Well, what is it you're wanting to show me? Come on, Kevin, what's the secret?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Thanks to ... Andy and Marco at Edit-Hire Post Production Services ... all at the Glasgow Film Theatre ... Lee at Lynx ... all the gardeners ... the people of Dumfries ... and all at VFG. See more »


Features The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) See more »


God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Traditional Christmas carol
Sung off-screen by an unidentified man (possibly Ford Kiernan) with chorus
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

A Horrific and Gripping Recounting of True Evil

"The Magdalene Sisters" is not, as some have claimed, a one-dimensional anti-Catholic film exploiting what are arguably especially gruesome atrocities. It is a fact-based drama about three teenage girls who found themselves in 1964 sentenced to work in a laundry run by an Irish religious order for an indefinite term and under conditions that made most audience members shudder.

In three brief vignettes before the main title, the girls are introduced. One is brutally raped by a cousin at a wedding while priests perform traditional Irish songs. Immediately telling a woman, instead of support she becomes the subject of a hasty conspiracy to spirit the rapist from the wedding and to place her in the Magdalene asylum.

A second girl gives birth to a baby - in the not long ago past, illegitimacy was the label. She is pressured by a priest to surrender the baby boy and then she, too, is hustled off to the asylum.

The third victim is in an orphanage where she gets under the director's skin for no other offense than she is pretty and boys from the neighborhood crowd a fence to call down to her. Transfer to the asylum follows.

The Magdalene laundries made money for the order running them and the asylum to which the three girls were committed is, in this film, a moral charnel house. Sister Bridget, the head nun, interviews the girls while fingering, with almost erotic delight, rolls of money. Her desk sports a photo of President Kennedy but a picture of Ilse Koch would have been a more suitable iconographic representation of her character. She is a sadist, first class.

What follows is almost unrelieved tedium for the girls interspersed with brutal physical chastisement and agonizing sexual humiliation inflicted by perverted nuns. Sexual orientation isn't my issue, it's the awful victimization of helpless young girls.

Through the fine acting of the cast the complexity of relationships and the nature of choices become engrossing. To accommodate or to resist. To comply or to engage in sabotage, even in small ways as a declaration of non-surrender. Sabotage is possible but can an inexperienced and angry teen foresee the consequences of a minor act of resistance? An anticipated humorous defiance may well have tragic results.

The film centers on the three girls as well as several other asylum inmates ranging from a young woman descending slowly into irreversible madness and an elderly crone who believes her lifetime of servitude guarantees entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven. This tortured soul is the nuns' "capo," the inmate without whose help the asylum's strictures can't be enforced. Comparison to the Gulag camps and the Nazi concentration camps is apropos.

"The Magdalene Sisters" doesn't portray all the girls as angels but it does show the nuns and the occasional male clergy as evil exploiters and sadistic hypocrites. Is that fair? The end credits report that some 30,000 women were involuntarily placed in Magdalene asylums until the last one closed in 1996. Were all inmates so tortured and beaten? I don't know but these three girls certainly have had THEIR experience recorded for a population that appears to have turned a blind eye to what should have been a national scandal decades earlier. Their life after the asylum is reported in the end credits. All paid a price for a stolen adolescence.

The asylum in this film is pure evil, religious doctrine run amuck in the quest for money through cheap labor and in the riotous unleashing of perversity. English judges for centuries have often used a word rarely found in American case law to describe persons and events: the word is wicked. This film projects an unending parade of wicked people performing wicked acts. It doesn't condemn Catholicism, it indicts the operation by the church in Ireland of one type of soul and body destroying evil. The Church can no more defend the Magdalene asylums than it can the predatory pedophiles in the priesthood. That's the simple reality.

Audience members loudly gasped and a number cried during the showing. This isn't a film for the fainthearted or those who want their illusions about a bucolic and verdant Ireland filled with dancing and music unaffected by the reality of a genuine tragedy now coming to light.


182 of 191 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Who was the prettiest of the three? redban02
"You're not a man of God!" redban02
The Magdalene Sisters + The Catholic Church cohoman
Life was way worse then shown in this hell on earth prklinect
Who knew when it was happening? UniqueChic
nude scene peoplescommunistfront
Discuss The Magdalene Sisters (2002) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: