Sleeper (1973)

Sleeper (1973)

“I wanna go back to sleep! If I don’t get at least 600 years, I’m grouchy all day.”

A cryogenically frozen health food store owner named Miles Monroe (Woody Allen) wakes up 200 years later (in the year 2173) in a police state, and enlists the help of a spoiled hedonist (Diane Keaton) in contacting the underground movement.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Character Arc
  • Comedy
  • Diane Keaton Films
  • Revolutionaries
  • Robots
  • Science Fiction
  • Time Travel
  • Woody Allen Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary seems only mildly enthusiastic about this “silly but enjoyable” early satirical comedy by Woody Allen; he argues that while there’s “much hilarity”, many of the “gags and slapstick don’t work”. However, I’m hard-pressed to figure out exactly what ‘clunkers’ he’s referring to, given that Sleeper is an all-around anarchic delight, full of diverse humor ranging from inspired slapstick (in a garden of giant produce, Allen — naturally — slips on an enormous banana peel):

… to timely satire (when shown a photo of Norman Mailer by an inquisitive archaeologist, Allen informs him that Mailer “donated his ego to Harvard Medical School”):

… to mind-blowing lunacy (Allen wins a Miss America award [!]:

… and later — oh, so randomly — channels Blanche DuBois in a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire).

For such a silly story, Sleeper is surprisingly full of memorable moments: few will be able to forget the botched “nose cloning” sequence near the end of the film, for instance:

… or the movie’s coterie of futuristic “gadgets” — including the efficient Orgasmatron box:

… the drug-providing “Orb” (which provokes Allen into a rare fit of laughter on-screen):

… and some instant chocolate pudding powder which quickly grows out of Allen’s control.

Though most of the supporting actors are unknowns, Keaton — in her second film with Allen, after Play it Again Sam (1972) — is charmingly nutty as Allen’s foil and love interest, who undergoes a dramatic transformation from squealing hedonist to committed revolutionary:

Meanwhile, Allen himself has loopy fun channeling Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Bob Hope (among others). Like the best must-see films, Sleeper — which, mercifully, never takes itself too seriously — can easily be revisited by film fanatics from time to time, and is the perfect introductory Allen movie to show to one’s non-ff friends.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Countless randomly hilarious sequences
  • Plenty of classic Allen one-liners:

    “My brain! It’s my second favorite organ!”

Must See?
Yes, as a comedic classic.


  • Genuine Classic

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Sleeper (1973)

  1. A joyous occasion of a must, indeed!

    Though not my favorite Allen comedy – that distinction remains with ‘Love and Death’ – ‘Sleeper’ is certainly up there with the best of his just-plain-silly-and-ain’t-it-swell? classics.

    Actually, most of the highlights I’d’ve mentioned are already stated in the assessment. To single out one of those, however, it is a particular treat to see Woody as Miss Montana on ‘her’ way to being crowned Miss America. The facial expressions alone are priceless.

    Dialogue-wise, the comic possibilities reach a fever pitch as Allen and Keaton are about to impersonate surgeons. Jealous of another man at this point, Allen snaps at Keaton with such maniacal gibberish (eventually) that her composure becomes a marvel.

    One of the major gems of this semi-parody of ‘1984’ (plus a pinch of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’) is the endlessly inventive use of robots. Disguised as one himself, Allen is hilarious when he gets his first ‘taste’ of the Orb (notice his attitude toward the party guest who reaches to take it from him). But there’s also the robot dog (“Woof, woof! I’m Rags!”), the gay butler robot and, most memorable of all, the ‘dueling’ Jewish clothing salesmen robots.

    This is definitely one to be re-visited from time to time – it holds up that well. I hadn’t seen it myself in a number of years until now. It was like meeting up with a dear, old friend.

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