In its opening weekend, the film was at #1 at the box office, grossing $11,280,591 and averaging $8,513 per theater. Despite it dropping to number two in its second weekend, it grossed more in its second weekend, $12,471,670. It was number one at the box office for four non-consecutive weeks and in the top ten for sixteen weeks. It has grossed $178,406,268 in the United States and $285,000,000 in other countries for a total worldwide gross of $463,406,268. It was also the fourth highest-grossing film of the year in the United States and the third highest-grossing worldwide.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 62% of 55 film critics have given it a positive review, with a rating average of 5.7 out of 10. Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives it a score of 51 based on 17 reviews.
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D, stating that the film "starts out as a neo-Pygmalion comedy" and with "its tough-hooker heroine, it can work as a feminist version of an upscale princess fantasy." Gleiberman also said that it "pretends to be about how love transcends money" and that it "is really obsessed with status symbols." On its twentieth anniversary, Gleiberman wrote another article explaining his review, ultimately saying that although he felt he was right, he would have given it a B today. Carina Chocano of The New York Times said that the movie "wasn't a love story, it was a money story. Its logic depended on a disconnect between character and narrative, between image and meaning, between money and value, and that made it not cluelessly traditional but thoroughly postmodern." Phil of StraightDope.com stated, "Here comes rich guy and he just decides he wants a prostitute and he gets her and her respect through his power and money. Doesn't hurt that he looks like Richard Gere."
- Cesar Awards 1991
- Best Foreign Film
- 63rd Academy Awards
- Best Actress - Julia Roberts
- 48th Golden Globe Awards
- Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical)
- Best Actor - Richard Gere
- Best Actress - Julia Roberts (won)
- Best Supporting Actor - Hector Elizondo
- Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay - J. F. Lawton