Laura Burney (Julia Roberts) lives in a beautiful home by the beach on Cape Cod with her husband, Martin (Patrick Bergin), a charming, handsome and wealthy investment counselor. Beneath his charm, however, Martin is an obsessive-compulsive control freak with Borderline Personality Disorder who has been physically and emotionally abusing Laura throughout their marriage. He makes her keep everything in order in the kitchen and bathroom, tells her what she should wear, picks out what music she listens to, and limits her social activities. One day, Martin believes Laura has been flirting with an attractive neighbor, and he physically assaults her in a jealous rage. In an effort to escape Martin, Laura fakes her own death at sea in a storm while the couple are boating. Because Laura had deliberately led Martin to believe that she could not swim, he believed she had died once she was lost overboard. However, Laura was able to swim safely to shore, because she had recently taken swimming lessons at the YWCA. Laura secretly returns home, retrieves some clothing and cash she had hidden away in preparation, disguises herself, and leaves home after "flushing" her wedding ring down the toilet.
Laura moves to Cedar Falls, Iowa. In preparation, she has told Martin that her blind mother, Chloe Williams (Elizabeth Lawrence), died, and pretends to attend the funeral, but secretly moves her to a nursing home in Iowa. She rents a modest house and adopts the name Sara Waters. In Cedar Falls, she meets Ben Woodward (Kevin Anderson), who teaches drama at University of Northern Iowa. A relationship develops, but suffers a setback when Ben discovers that her real name is not Sara. After a date, Laura is unable to be physically intimate with Ben, and the next day, she confesses that she is on the run from her abusive husband.
Meanwhile, Martin receives a chance phone call from a friend of Laura's from the YWCA and learns of Laura's swimming lessons. His suspicions aroused, Martin heads home and finds Laura's wedding ring in the toilet bowl where it failed to flush. From the Cape Cod nursing home, he learns that Laura's mother is alive, and has a private investigator trace her to the nursing home in Iowa. He visits Laura's mother and tells her he is a police officer needing information about Laura. He learns from her that Laura is seeing a college drama teacher in Cedar Falls.
Martin finds Laura and Ben at a local fair, then follows her home. After leaving idiosyncratic clues of his presence around the house for Laura to find (such as the cans lined up in the cabinet), Martin confronts Laura. Ben appears at the front door and Martin, brandishing a gun, threatens to kill Ben if she doesn't make him leave. Laura talks to Ben and he appears to leave, but then he breaks down the door and struggles with Martin, who knocks him unconscious. As Martin points the gun at Ben, Laura distracts Martin then attacks him. He drops the gun and Laura manages to take control of it; she fires at Martin but misses.
Laura holds Martin at gunpoint while she calls the police. She tells the police that she just killed an intruder, hangs up the phone and shoots Martin three times.
When Martin falls to the ground, she drops the pistol and collapses, sobbing. Martin, not yet dead, picks up the gun and attempts to shoot her, but the gun only clicks empty and he dies. Ben is revived by Laura. They embrace as Martin's dead body lies on the ground with Laura's wedding ring inches from his hand.Julia Roberts as Laura Williams Burney/Sara Waters
Patrick Bergin as Martin Burney
Kevin Anderson as Ben Woodward
Elizabeth Lawrence as Chloe Williams
Harley Venton as Garber
Sandi Shackelford as Edna
Bonnie Johnson as Mrs. Neppert
Sleeping with the Enemy received negative reviews; the film currently holds a 22% 'Rotten' rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Roger Ebert gave the film 1.5 stars upon its release, calling it "a slasher movie in disguise, an up-market version of the old exploitation formula where the victim can run, but she can't hide."
The film's opening ended Home Alone's eleven-week #1 run at the box office. By the end of its run, the film had grossed $101,599,005 in the domestic box office; with an international total of $73,400,000, the film's worldwide gross was $174,999,005; based on a $19 million budget, the film was a box office success. The film was released in the United Kingdom on April 12, 1991, and opened on #2, behind Highlander II: The Quickening. The next week, the film remained in the same position.
The original music for the film was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. Columbia Records released an album concurrently with the film containing just over 38 minutes of score plus the Van Morrison song "Brown Eyed Girl." In 2011, La-La Land Records issued a limited edition album of 3500 copies expanding Goldsmith's score (but omitting the song).
The film reached #1 in the rental charts. It was released on LaserDisc in Australia, the United States, United Kingdom and Japan by Fox Video in 1991. It also received various releases on VHS, was released on DVD on 2 September 2003 and subsequently entered the Blu ray market on in June 2011.
The score by Jerry Goldsmith won the BMI Film Music Award, 1992, and the film was nominated for the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Award for 1992 in four categories: Best Actress (Roberts), Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor (Bergin), Best Horror Film and Best Music (Goldsmith).