The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

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The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJane Anderson
Produced byJack Rapke
Steve Starkey
Robert Zemeckis
Screenplay byJane Anderson
Based onThe Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less
by Terry Ryan
StarringJulianne Moore
Woody Harrelson
Laura Dern
Music byJohn Frizzell
CinematographyJonathan Freeman
Edited byRobert Dalva
Distributed byDreamWorks Pictures
Release date
  • October 14, 2005 (2005-10-14)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12 million[1]
Box office$689,028[1]

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is a 2005 American biographical film written and directed by Jane Anderson. It is based on the book by Terry Ryan, and stars Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, and Laura Dern. The film received a limited release on October 14, 2005.


The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is based on the true story of housewife Evelyn Ryan, who helped support her husband, Kelly, and their 10 children by winning jingle-writing contests. Kelly failed to support his family, in part due to apparent alcoholism. He dreamed of being a singer, but lost his singing voice in a car accident, and was often cruel and abusive.

Evelyn wins a large freezer, ice buckets, a washer, and dryer set, a trip to New York City, sleds, boots, a pony, a palm tree, a window, a sports car, a shopping spree in her local grocery store, ice crushers, a camera, dance shoes, a boat motor, pogo sticks, a case of dog food, and a lifetime supply of bird seed. Kelly, who feels like his role as provider for the family is being threatened, criticizes Evelyn, and damages the prizes she wins. Their children side with her. Kelly gets angry at Evelyn, and accidentally knocks her over while she is carrying 12 full glass bottles of milk, causing her to nearly sever a ligament. Evelyn is able to talk him down after each incident, and, temporarily at least, he treats her better.

Evelyn is largely isolated because of the hours she has to spend caring for the children, and the lack of local intellectual equals. However, she is contacted by a group of other contest-entering mid-western housewives, and befriends them. Ultimately, Evelyn discovers that Kelly had secretly taken out a second mortgage on their house and never made payments on it, leaving the family subject to an almost-certain foreclosure. The children pray for their mother's miraculous victory in a contest sponsored by Dr Pepper. She wins, and pays the mortgage on the house.

Years later, it is revealed that after Kelly died, Evelyn finds out that he has placed his pension checks in a bank account especially for her. The actual Ryan children are then shown as adults.


Critical reception[edit]

The film received mixed reviews, garnering 59% on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 6.06/10, based on 83 reviews. The site's consensus states: "Noteworthy for Julianne Moore's performance, Prize Winner is nonetheless a largely indistinct and tentative film that fails to convey the true power of its bittersweet tale."[2] Metacritic reported a score of 58/100 (citing "mixed or average reviews"), based on reviews from 28 critics.[3] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3​12 out of 4 stars, remarking that the movie "avoids obvious sentiment and predictable emotion, and shows this woman somehow holding it together year after year, entering goofy contests that, for her family, mean life and death".[4]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD on March 14, 2006, with DreamWorks taking distribution, instead of their independent banner, Go Fish Pictures, which had theatrical rights to this film.


  1. ^ a b "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  2. ^ "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
  3. ^ "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio". Metacritic. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  4. ^ The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (movie review), Chicago Sun-Times, September 30, 2005. Retrieved 2008-01-13.

External links[edit]