Violet Sanford leaves her hometown of South Amboy, New Jersey, her father Bill, and her best friend Gloria, in order to pursue her dreams of becoming a songwriter in nearby New York City. She lands a job at a pizza shop which has a wall covered with autographs of employees that left, hoping to make it big, and Violet adds hers.
Violet tries multiple times to get her demo tape noticed by the recording studios but is unsuccessful. One night, she tries to get herself noticed by a music industry scout. The bartender jokingly points out Kevin O'Donnell, making her believe that he is the bar owner. When she discovers the joke, Violet feels hurt because she thinks Kevin was trying to make her look foolish. With only a few dollars left in her pocket after her apartment is robbed, she goes to an all-night diner and notices three girls, Cammie, Rachel, and Zoe, flaunting the hundreds of dollars in tips they earned. After inquiring, she finds out that they work at a trendy bar named Coyote Ugly.
She finds her way to the bar and convinces the bar owner Lil to give her an audition. Violet's first audition does not go well; but after Violet breaks up a fight between two customers, Lil gives her a second audition. At her second audition, Violet douses the fire warden in water which costs Lil $250. However, Lil decides she can work at the bar if she can make up $250 in one night. Kevin turns up at the bar, and Violet auctions him off to another woman at the bar to earn the money. Kevin tells Violet that he owes her, so she Violet agrees to go on four dates with him. The two begin a relationship.
Kevin commits himself to helping Violet overcome her stage fright so that she can sell her music. Violet inherited her stage fright from her now deceased mother, who also moved to New York in her youth to pursue her dreams of singing. Violet's stage fright mostly extends to singing her original pieces, as she sings in the bar to help Cammie and Rachel, who are trying to break up a fight between customers.
One night, a patron takes a picture of Violet in the middle of a raunchy move with water pouring on her. When the picture appears in the paper, her dad Bill sees it and gets angry at her. She keeps the job despite her dad's wishes, but shortly thereafter gets fired when Kevin gets into a fight at the bar. With her dreams not working and her job at the bar terminated, Violet goes to New Jersey for Gloria's wedding. She returns to New York when Bill gets into a car accident.
Later, she performs at an open mic night at the Bowery Ballroom with the Coyotes from the Coyote Ugly saloon, Bill, Gloria, and Kevin all there for moral support. The performance leads to a deal with a record label. The film concludes back at Coyote Ugly with LeAnn Rimes, having recorded Violet's song, singing on the bar as Violet joins in.
Kevin Smith, who did an uncredited rewrite of the script, stated that a total of eight writers worked on the script while the Writers Guild of America only gave credit to Gina Wendkos, who wrote the first draft of the script, which, according to Smith, scarcely resembles the final film. (See WGA screenwriting credit system.)
Early on, before the producers decided to cast mostly unknown actors, the lead role of Violet Sanford was offered to pop singer Jessica Simpson, who turned it down.
Principal photography took place in Manhattan and small towns in New Jersey including South Amboy and Sea Bright for a month. Production then moved to California and shooting took place in Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Pasadena, and San Pedro.
The film was based on an article, "The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon", in GQ by Elizabeth Gilbert, who worked as a bartender in the East Village. The bar, which opened in 1993, quickly became a favorite of the Lower East Side hipsters.
As mentioned in the film, the slang term "coyote ugly" refers to the feeling of waking up after a one-night stand, and discovering that your arm is underneath someone who is so physically repulsive that you would gladly chew it off without waking the person just so you can get away without being discovered. Coyotes are known to gnaw off limbs if they are stuck in a trap in order to facilitate escape.
Coyote Ugly opened fourth at the North American box office making US$17,319,282 in its opening weekend. It went on to gross $60,786,269 domestically and $53,130,205 around the world to a total of $113,916,474 worldwide, becoming a box office success.
The film received mostly negative reviews from critics. Criticisms and praise centered around the belief that it was little more than an excuse to portray "hot, sexy women dancing on a bar in a wet T-shirt contest."
It currently holds a 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 96 reviews, with an average rating of 3.9/10. The site's consensus states: "Well, the women in this film are incredibly attractive and flaunt that fact quite a lot. Unfortunately, that's all there is to the film. The script is almost as big a joke as the characters, and everything else follows the same path. If you're looking for a tease then see this flick, otherwise stay as far away as possible." Metacritic reports a 27 out of 100 rating, based on 29 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
VH1 made a statement about Rimes' appearance in the film stating, "Rimes [herself], who is only 17 years old, was sporting leather pants and a skimpy top and in all likelihood, even with a fake ID, would never have been allowed inside any NYC bar."
In the summer of 2005, an unrated special edition (the original release was rated PG-13 and the director's cut rated R) was released on DVD. It was also released in the UK and rated 15 by the BBFC. (By contrast, the theatrical cut was rated 12 in the UK.)
The extended cut adds approximately six minutes to the film's runtime, most of which consists of additional shots of the "coyotes" dancing on the bar and of Violet and Cammie trying on different outfits while shopping. Arguably, the most notable additions are the extension of the sex scene between Violet and Kevin (Perabo used a body double for most of the scene), and the inclusion of an additional scene which shows the "Coyotes" winning a softball game because Cammie distracts the pitcher by stripping.
The special features of the extended cut DVD are identical with those of the previous DVD release.
The film's soundtrack features Violet's four songs from the film, performed by LeAnn Rimes and written by Diane Warren, as well as several other songs not exclusive to the film. It achieved gold status within one month of its release on August 1, 2000 and platinum status on November 7, 2000. On April 18, 2001 the soundtrack was certified 2x Platinum and on January 9, 2002 it was certified 3x Platinum. The soundtrack was certified 4x Platinum on July 22, 2008, was certified 5x Platinum (500,000 units) in Canada and gold (100,000 units) in Japan in 2002.
Three singles were released from the soundtrack, all three by LeAnn Rimes, "Can't Fight the Moonlight" which achieved gold status, became a nearly instant hit on the radio charts and peaked at #11 on The Billboard Hot 100, "But I Do Love You" and "The Right Kind of Wrong".
A second soundtrack, More Music from Coyote Ugly, with more songs that appeared in the film and remixes of two of Rimes' songs, followed on January 28, 2003.
Although Perabo was able to sing for her character, it was decided that Rimes would provide Violet's singing voice, due to her soprano type voice, far better for the role. This means that during Rimes' cameo, she is effectively duetting with herself.Chart performance
The following songs appear in the film, but are on neither of the two released soundtracks.