Japanese theaters featured a 15-minute short recap episode before the film titled Make Up! Sailor Soldier (メイクアップ!セーラー戦士, Meikuappu! Sērā senshi).
The film debuted in Japanese theaters on December 5, 1993 and Pioneer Entertainment released it in the United States on February 8, 2000 as Sailor Moon R: The Movie: The Promise of the Rose. On January 13, 2017, Viz Media re-released the movie re-dubbed and uncut for the first time in American theaters. The Sailor Moon R: The Movie redub also included the English dubbed 15-minute short Make Up! Sailor Guardians.
Usagi and Chibiusa overhear two girls talking about the Sailor Guardians after they see a poster. As the girls debate over the smartest, most elegant, strongest, and the leader of the Sailor Guardians, Usagi grandly claims those titles for herself. Chibiusa shakes her head at Usagi's delusion. Clips appear from the debut of each Sailor Guardian, and that girl's image song plays in the background. When even Tuxedo Mask has been mentioned, and the girls are about to leave, Usagi butts in on their conversation and asks them directly about Sailor Moon. The girls give a series of glowing compliments about Sailor Moon, but unlike their analysis of the other Sailor Guardians, they also list her faults. After the girls leave, Usagi sarcastically apologizes for being a clumsy cry-baby and then bursts into exaggerated tears.
A young Mamoru Chiba hands a mysterious boy a rose before he disappears, vowing to bring Mamoru a flower. In the present, Mamoru meets up with Usagi Tsukino and the Sailor Guardians at the Jindai Botanical Garden. Usagi attempts to kiss Mamoru, but when he suspects the other girls of spying on him, he walks off outside alone.
The stranger appears from the garden's fountain and takes Mamoru's hands into his own, which makes Usagi uncomfortable. Usagi tries to break the man's grasp from Mamoru, but is knocked down. The man vows that no one will prevent him from keeping his promise before disappearing again. Mamoru tells Usagi that the stranger's name is Fiore (フィオレ, Fiore). At Rei Hino's temple, the Sailor Guardians discuss an asteroid which has started to approach Earth and on which Luna and Artemis have discovered traces of vegetal life. The talk turns into rumors about Mamoru's and Fiore's possible relationship, while Usagi thinks about how Mamoru had told her that he had no family and was alone, and how she had promised him she would be his family from now on.
Fiore sends his flower-monster henchwoman, Glycina (グリシナ), to Tokyo to drain the population's life-energy, but the Sailor Guardians free them and destroy the monster. Fiore appears, revealing his responsibility for the attack, and uses a flower called a Xenian (キセニアン, Kisenian) before severely injuring the Sailor Guardians. Mamoru attempts to talk Fiore out of fighting but the Xenian controls Fiore's mind. After Mamoru saves Usagi from certain death by intercepting his attack, Fiore takes Mamoru to an asteroid rapidly approaching Earth and begins to revive him in a crystal filled with liquid. While in the crystal, Mamoru remembers meeting Fiore after his parents died in a car accident. Mamoru had previously assumed that he had made up the boy as an imaginary friend. Fiore explains that he had to leave Mamoru because of the Earth's unsuitable atmosphere; Mamoru gave Fiore a rose before disappearing. Fiore searched the galaxy to find a flower for Mamoru, finding the Xenian in the process. Seeking revenge on the humans for his loneliness, Fiore returns to Earth.
Meanwhile, Luna and Artemis tell the Sailor Guardians that the Xenian can destroy planets using weak-hearted people. Ami Mizuno realizes that the energy from the asteroid matches the flower-monster's evil energy, deducing that Fiore has hidden there. The Sailor Guardians decide to rescue Mamoru. Despite her initial reluctance, the Sailors and Chibiusa convince Usagi to save Mamoru and confront Fiore.
After the Sailor Guardians fly to the asteroid, Fiore reveals his plans to scatter flower-seeds to drain humanity's energy on Earth. The Sailors Guardians then fight hundreds of flower-monsters, but they end up captured. When Fiore orders Usagi to surrender, she is unable to feel his loneliness; Fiore begins to drain her life-force. Mamoru escapes and saves Sailor Moon by throwing a rose at Fiore. The rose embedded in Fiore's chest blossoms, freeing him from the Xenian's control. The flowers on the asteroid disappear, but it continues to hurtle towards Earth. Usagi uses the Silver Crystal to transform into Princess Serenity to change the course of the asteroid. In an attempt to stop Usagi, Fiore soon realizes that when Usagi and Mamoru were children, she gave Mamoru the rose that was once given to him after Fiore had left. With Fiore and the Xenian destroyed by the Silver Crystal, Usagi, Mamoru and the Sailor Guardians combine their powers to divert the asteroid away from the Earth. The Silver Crystal is shattered and Usagi dies of exhaustion. Back on Earth, despite Luna and Artemis' concern over why the Sailor Guardians are taking too long, Chibiusa assures them that the girls are all right.
In the aftermath, the Guardians and Mamoru are devastated by Usagi's death, but Fiore reappears and thanks Mamoru. Using a nectar-filled flower with Fiore's life-energy, Mamoru wets his lips with the nectar and kisses Usagi, reviving her and repowering the Silver Crystal. Fiore, reduced to the form of a child again, ascends to the afterlife to live in peace.
The film was first released in North America on VHS by Pioneer Entertainment on August 31, 1999 in Japanese with English subtitles. Pioneer later released the film to uncut bilingual DVD on February 8, 2000 alongside another VHS release containing an edited version of the English dub. Pioneer re-released their DVD on January 6, 2004 under their "Geneon Signature Series" line. The DVDs later fell out of print when Pioneer/Geneon lost the license to the film. The edited version was also shown on TV in Canada on YTV and in the US on Cartoon Network's Toonami block.
The English dub was produced in association with Optimum Productions in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and featured most of the original DiC English cast reprising their roles. The edited version of the dub was censored for content and replaced the music with cues from the DiC version of the first two seasons of the anime; the vocal song "Moon Revenge" was also replaced with "The Power of Love." The uncut version of the dub was only seen on the bilingual DVD, featured no censorship, and all of the original Japanese music was left intact, with the exception of the DiC theme song being used. However, no DVD or VHS release contained the "Make-up! Sailor Soldier" short.
In 2014, the film (including the "Make-Up! Sailor Guardian" short) was re-licensed for an updated English-language release in North America by Viz Media, who produced a new English dub of the film in association with Studiopolis in Los Angeles, California and re-released it to DVD and Blu-ray on April 18, 2017. It has also been licensed in Australia and New Zealand by Madman Entertainment. In addition, Viz gave the film a limited theatrical release in the United States, beginning January 17, 2017. The redub premiered in the United Artists Theater at the Ace Hotel, where it retained just the original title of Sailor Moon R: The Movie, rather than the subtitle The Promise of the Rose. The theatrical release included the "Make-Up! Sailor Guardian" short, and was available in both dubbed and subtitled screenings.
Rebecca Silverman of Anime News Network gave the film's Viz Media dub an "A-". She praised the animation, stating that it was "several cuts above what we typically see in the TV series". She also praised the film for distilling the franchise's themes effectivelly, its soundtrack and use of imagery relating to flowers. Charles Solomon of the Los Angeles Times also reacted positively to the film's portrayl of the main characters' "sisterly friendship" and praised Viz Media's dub for not censorsing Fiore's implied feelings for Mamoru, unlike previous English translations.