Side Effects
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteven Soderbergh
Written byScott Z. Burns
Produced by
CinematographySteven Soderbergh
(as Peter Andrews)
Edited bySteven Soderbergh
(as Mary Ann Bernard)
Music byThomas Newman
Distributed byOpen Road Films
Release date
  • February 8, 2013 (2013-02-08) (United States)
Running time
106 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[2]
Box office$66.7 million[3]

Side Effects is a 2013 American psychological thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Scott Z. Burns. It stars Rooney Mara as a woman who is prescribed experimental drugs by psychiatrists (Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones) after her husband (Channing Tatum) is released from prison. Side Effects was released in the United States on February 8, 2013, by Open Road Films.[4]


After her husband Martin completes a four-year prison sentence for insider trading, Bedford, New York socialite Emily Taylor drives into a wall in an apparent suicide attempt. Jonathan Banks, her assigned psychiatrist, prescribes a series of antidepressants, but none work. Jonathan contacts Emily's previous psychiatrist, Victoria Siebert, who suggests an experimental new drug, Ablixa. The drug seems to help Emily but gives her sleepwalking episodes as a side effect.

One night, Emily stabs Martin to death while sleepwalking. Jonathan fights for Emily's acquittal in court. She pleads not guilty by reason of insanity and is declared innocent on the condition that she stays in a psychiatric hospital until cleared by Jonathan. The publicity destroys Jonathan's reputation; his colleagues assume negligence on his part, and expel him from their practice, leaving him broke.

Jonathan discovers evidence that Emily is lying; she was not depressed and faked her suicide attempts. He also discovers that someone may have profited from Ablixa's fall in stock value. He interviews Emily after administering what he claims is a truth serum that will make her drowsy. Though the serum is actually saline water, she feigns drowsiness, confirming Jonathan's suspicion that she is deceiving him. When he confronts Victoria with his findings, she mails photographs to his wife Deirdre implying that he had an affair with Emily. Deirdre leaves him, taking her son with her.

Jonathan calls Victoria's bluff by telling her that Emily told him about their plot. He threatens Emily with electric shock treatment and tells her that Victoria is paying him to keep her incarcerated so that she can keep a bigger cut. Emily explains that she hated Martin for losing their opulent lifestyle and began plotting to kill him. She began seeing Victoria for counseling, and the women became lovers. Emily taught Victoria about the financial world, while Victoria taught Emily how to fake psychiatric disorders. They plotted to kill Martin and to use the negative Ablixa publicity to manipulate stock prices. Jonathan accepts Emily's offer to give him a cut of her money if he releases her from the ward.

Emily meets Victoria while wearing a wire. After Victoria mentions details of the plot, she is arrested for conspiracy to commit murder and securities fraud. Emily, due to double jeopardy, cannot be charged as criminally responsible for her part in Martin's murder.

As retaliation for Emily's part in the plot, Jonathan, who still oversees her case, prescribes her Thorazine and Depakote and describes their unpleasant side effects. She is sent back to the mental ward for refusing treatment, and Jonathan regains his family and reputation.



Side Effects, previously titled The Bitter Pill, was directed by Steven Soderbergh, produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Gregory Jacobs, and Scott Z. Burns, who also worked on the screenplay.[5] In January 2012, the film was reported to be produced by Annapurna Pictures.[6] A few weeks later, Annapurna Pictures pulled out from the project, and Endgame Entertainment provided financing for the project instead.[7] Originally, Blake Lively was cast for the lead role.[8] However, it was later reported Rooney Mara would replace her.[9] In March 2012, it was reported that Vinessa Shaw was in talks to join the film as the wife of Law's character.[10]


Principal photography started on April 5, 2012, in New York City.[11] The first pictures from the set were publicized on April 10, 2012.[12][13]


The Side Effects score was composed and produced by Thomas Newman. The soundtrack was released on March 3, 2013, by Varèse Sarabande.[14]


In January 2012, it was reported that The Bitter Pill would be released by Open Road Films.[6] The title was later changed to Side Effects. In November 2012, the first trailer was released. The film was screened in competition at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival.[15]

Side Effects opened nationwide on February 8, 2013. It finished number three at the box office with $9.3 million, behind fellow newcomer Identity Thief ($34.6 million) and Warm Bodies ($11.4 million). The film grossed $32.2 million in America and $31.2 million in other territories, for a total gross of $63.4 million.[16]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 83%, based on 197 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's consensus reads: "A smart, clever thriller with plenty of disquieting twists, Side Effects is yet another assured effort from director Steven Soderbergh."[17] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 75 out of 100, based on reviews from 39 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[18] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[19]

Peter Sobczynski gave the film two-and-a-half out of four stars.[20] Kirk Honeycutt of Honey Cutts Hollywood called the film a "post-modern Hitchcock-thriller" and praised the story matter, which he dubbed "incredible".[21] Richard Corliss of Time gave the film a positive review, complimenting the director and screenwriter and noting its similarity to Spellbound, The Wrong Man, Vertigo, Marnie — as well as Brian De Palma's films Obsession, Dressed to Kill, Raising Cain, and Passion, stating "More efficient than inspired, Soderbergh rarely succeeds on style alone, but when given a sharp script, like the one for Side Effects, he can make an excellent film. If this is his swan song, it's got a haunting melody".[22]

In the UK, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian awarded the film a maximum five stars, calling it "a gripping psychological thriller about big pharma and mental health that cruelly leaves you craving one last fix". He praised the lead performance from Rooney Mara as "compelling" who "lays down the law with her presence. She demonstrates a potent Hitchcockian combination: an ability to be scared and scary at the same time, and Soderbergh's film manages to introduce its effects in some insidious, almost intravenous way".[23] The A.V. Club's Scott Tobias called Mara "superb as the glue that binds this fractured psychological puzzle," and commended Soderbergh's sophisticated direction: "Side Effects screws around in its own thriller architecture, toying with feints of structure and clever bits of misdirection, and otherwise playing the audience like a fiddle. At this point in his career, Soderbergh pulls it off with the unpracticed ease of a maestro."[24] Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph awarded Side Effects a maximum five stars and also acknowledged its debt to earlier psychological thrillers. He wrote: "There's a lot of Alfred Hitchcock in what follows, but even more Henri-Georges Clouzot, with whose classic spine-tingler Les Diaboliques (1954) Soderbergh's film shares a poisonous tang".[25] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone praised the film's performances, the script and direction, writing "Soderbergh delivers ticking-bomb suspense laced with psychological acuity about a world where mood-altering meds are as disturbingly prevalent as social media".[26]


Award Category Subject Result
Berlin International Film Festival Golden Berlin Bear Steven Soderbergh Nominated
International Online Cinema Awards Best Original Screenplay Scott Z. Burns Nominated
Best Actress Rooney Mara Nominated
World Soundtrack Academy Award Film Composer of the Year Thomas Newman Nominated


  1. ^ "SIDE EFFECTS (15)". British Board of Film Classification. February 5, 2013. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  2. ^ Amy Kaufman (February 7, 2013). "'Identity Thief' will easily steal No. 1 from 'Side Effects'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  3. ^ "Side Effects(2013)". The Numbers. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
  4. ^ "Open Road Sets Steven Soderbergh's 'Bitter Pill' For February 8, 2013 Release". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 14, 2012.
  5. ^ Kit, Borys (November 29, 2011). "Steven Soderbergh's New Project Is Thriller 'The Bitter Pill' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  6. ^ a b Lang, Brent (January 18, 2011). "Soderbergh Not Ready to Retire Yet; Open Road and Annapurna Releasing 'Side Effects'". Reuters. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  7. ^ Kit, Borys (January 31, 2012). "Endgame to Finance Steven Soderbergh's 'Bitter Pill'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  8. ^ Lyttelton, Oliver (January 9, 2012). "Exclusive: Blake Lively, Jude Law & Channing Tatum Will Lead Steven Soderbergh's 'The Side Effects'". indieWire. Archived from the original on February 17, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  9. ^ Fleming, Mike (January 30, 2012). "Rooney Mara Takes Lead In Steven Soderbergh's 'Side Effects'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  10. ^ "Vinessa Shaw In Talks To Join Steven Soderbergh's 'Bitter Pill'". Deadline Hollywood. March 27, 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  11. ^ "'Bitter Pill', starring Channing Tatum and Jude Law, filming underway in NYC!". On Location Vacations. April 5, 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  12. ^ Raup, Jordan (April 10, 2012). "[First Look] Rooney Mara Goes Piercing Free On Steven Soderbergh's 'Bitter Pill' Set". The Film Stage. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  13. ^ Reynolds, Simon (April 11, 2012). "Rooney Mara, Jude Law in 'The Bitter Pill' – First Look Pictures". Digital Spy. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  14. ^ "Side Effects". Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  15. ^ "Berlinale Competition 2013: Another Nine Films Confirmed". Berlinale. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  16. ^ "Side Effects". Box Office Mojo.
  17. ^ "Side Effects". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  18. ^ "Side Effects" – via
  19. ^ "Melissa McCarthy leads 'Identity Thief' to biggest opening of 2013". Los Angeles Times. February 10, 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  20. ^ Sobczynski, Peter (February 6, 2013). "Side Effects Movie Review & Film Summary (2013)". Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  21. ^ Kirk Honeycutt (January 29, 2013). "Side Effects is Steven Soderbergh's post-modern Hitchcock thriller". Honeycutt's Hollywood. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  22. ^ Richard Corliss (February 8, 2013). "Side Effects: One Pill Makes You Murder". Time. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  23. ^ Peter Bradshaw (March 7, 2013). "Side Effects – review". The Guardian. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  24. ^ "Side Effects". Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  25. ^ Robbie Collin (March 7, 2013). "Side Effects, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  26. ^ Peter Travers (February 6, 2013). "Side Effects". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 1, 2013.