The Big Chill (film)

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The Big Chill
Big chill ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLawrence Kasdan
Written by
Produced byMichael Shamberg
CinematographyJohn Bailey
Edited byCarol Littleton
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • September 28, 1983 (1983-09-28)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$8 million[1]
Box office$56.4 million[2]

The Big Chill is a 1983 American comedy-drama film directed by Lawrence Kasdan, starring Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, and JoBeth Williams. The plot focuses on a group of baby boomers who attended the University of Michigan, reuniting after 15 years when their friend Alex dies by suicide. Kevin Costner was cast as Alex, but all scenes showing his face were cut. It was filmed in Beaufort, South Carolina.[3]

The soundtrack features soul, R&B, and pop-rock music from the 1960s and 1970s, including tracks by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, the Rolling Stones, and Three Dog Night.

The Big Chill was adapted for television as the short-lived series Hometown. Later, it influenced the TV series thirtysomething and A Million Little Things.[4]


After Alex Marshall commits suicide at the home of Sarah (Glenn Close) and Harold Cooper (Kevin Kline), their fellow University of Michigan alumni friends attend the funeral and stay with the Coopers. They are Sam Weber (Tom Berenger), a television actor; Meg Jones (Mary Kay Place), once a public defender and now a real estate attorney; Michael Gold (Jeff Goldblum), a journalist for People magazine; former talk-radio psychologist Nick Carlton (William Hurt), an impotent Vietnam vet who is perpetually either stoned or high on drugs; and Karen Bowen (JoBeth Williams), an unfulfilled writer unhappily married to Richard (Don Galloway), a stuffy advertising executive. Also present is Chloe (Meg Tilly), Alex's young girlfriend of four months.

While out jogging early the next morning, Harold, violating SEC rules, tells Nick that a large corporation is about to buy his small company, which will make him rich and triple the value of the stock. He told Alex, making it possible for him to buy property in the area. Harold suggests that Nick use the tip to get into a new line of work. During their conversation, it is revealed that Sarah and Alex had a brief affair five years earlier, which all the friends knew about. Harold, Sarah, and Alex moved past it, but Sarah later tells Karen that her friendship with Alex was harmed by their affair.

Richard goes home the next day, but Karen stays. Harold, Nick, Michael, and Chloe drive out to see the old house that Chloe and Alex were renovating. Meanwhile, Meg tells Sarah she is fed up with failed relationships and intends to have a child on her own. Believing she is ovulating, she plans to ask Sam to be the father of her child. (She approaches Nick first, thus becoming the last to know about his war wound.) Michael, who continually flirts with Chloe, needs investors for a New York nightclub. At dinner, Sarah becomes tearful and wonders if their fervent '60s idealism was "just fashion.” Later that night, Meg approaches Sam, but he feels fatherhood is too great a responsibility; he has a child whom he is estranged from. Nick shares his drugs, with varying effects.

The next day, Harold buys running shoes for everyone. Nick goes to the old house and sits on the porch for hours, missing the Michigan football game. Michael offers to sire Meg's child, alluding to their single sexual encounter in college.

During a half-time game of touch football, a local police officer escorts a sullen Nick back to the house after he runs a red light and becomes belligerent when stopped. Recognizing Sam, the officer offers to drop charges if Sam will hop into Nick's Porsche 911 the way his J.T. Lancer character does on TV. Sam tries and fails, injuring himself slightly. Nick angers Harold by accusing him of being friendly with cops. Harold chastises Nick, telling him that this is his home and Nick's recklessness could put his reputation in danger.

Karen tells a surprised Sam that she is in love with him and wants to leave Richard. He tells her his first marriage failed because of boredom and he doesn't want her to make the same mistake. Feeling led on, Karen angrily stomps off.

Meg tells Sarah that Michael is the wrong choice. Sarah observes the warm phone conversation between her young daughter and Meg. Later, the group, confused over Alex's death, regrets losing touch with him. To everyone but Sam, it seems that Alex withdrew deliberately. Nick is particularly cynical and bitter about life, love, and friendship. Karen follows Sam outside to mollify him, and they have sex. Sarah pulls Harold aside and embraces him, telling him she has a favor to ask: “It's about Meg...” Meg goes to Harold; they make love, tenderly. Chloe asks Nick to spend the night with her in the room she shared with Alex.

The next morning, Harold announces that Nick and Chloe will stay on and renovate the old house. Karen packs to return home to Richard. Michael ditches his nightclub plans. Nick shows everyone what he found in Alex's papers: An old column that Michael wrote about Alex declining a prestigious fellowship. As the friends prepare to depart, Michael jokingly tells the Coopers that they have taken a secret vote: They are never leaving.



JoBeth Williams later recalled filming a scene flashing back to the characters in 1968. "It was just wonderful to shoot", she said. "They rented this big house in Atlanta and installed bead curtains, rock posters, incense, 1968 Life magazines—it was a real time warp." Williams says that, in the scene, her character was living with William Hurt's character and ignoring Tom Berenger's. The Alex character, played by Kevin Costner "looking like a scruffy James Dean” was also in the scene. “That turned out to be the problem... Nobody could live up to that role after the build-up through the film, and audiences said they didn't want to see anybody try. So the last 10 minutes of the film were just cut out."[5]


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 69% based on reviews from 39 critics, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads "The Big Chill captures a generation's growing ennui with a terrific cast, a handful of perceptive insights, and one of the decade's best film soundtracks".[6] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 61 out of 100 based on reviews from 12 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[7]

At the time, Richard Corliss of Time described The Big Chill as a "funny and ferociously smart movie", stating:

These Americans are in their 30s today, but back then they were the Now Generation. Right Now: give me peace, give me justice, gimme good lovin'. For them, in the voluptuous bloom of youth, the '60s was a banner you could carry aloft or wrap yourself inside. A verdant anarchy of politics, sex, drugs, and style carpeted the landscape. And each impulse was scored to the rollick of the new music: folk, rock, pop, R&B. The armies of the night marched to Washington, but they boogied to Liverpool and Motown. Now, in 1983, Harold & Sarah & Sam & Karen & Michael & Meg & Nick–classmates all from the University of Michigan at the end of our last interesting decade–have come to the funeral of a friend who has slashed his wrists. Alex was a charismatic prodigy of science and friendship and progressive hell raising who opted out of academe to try social work, then manual labor, then suicide. He is presented as a victim of terminal decompression from the orbital flight of his college years: a worst-case scenario his friends must ponder, probing themselves for symptoms of the disease.[8]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that the film was a "very accomplished, serious comedy" and an "unusually good choice to open this year's [New York Film Festival] in that it represents the best of mainstream American film making."[9]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two and a half stars out of four, observing "The Big Chill is a splendid technical exercise. It has all the right moves. It knows all the right words. Its characters have all the right clothes, expressions, fears, lusts, and ambitions. But there's no payoff and it doesn't lead anywhere. I thought at first that was a weakness of the movie. There also is the possibility that it's the movie's message."[10]


The Big Chill won two major awards:

It was nominated for three Oscars:

Other nominations include:

In 2004, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" finished #94 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs poll.


Ten of the songs from the film were released on the soundtrack album; four additional songs were made available on the CD. The rest of the film's songs (aside from the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Quicksilver Girl", by the Steve Miller Band) were released in 1984 on a second soundtrack album, titled More Songs from the Big Chill . Both albums were re-mastered in 1998. In 2004, Hip-O Records released a Deluxe edition, containing sixteen of the eighteen songs from the film (again excluding "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Quicksilver Girl") and three additional film instrumentals. A second "music of a generation" disc of nineteen additional tracks was included as well. Some of those tracks had appeared on the original soundtrack and the More Songs release.

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack[edit]

The Big Chill
Soundtrack album from the film The Big Chill by
Various Artists
ReleasedSeptember 1983
LabelMotown Records
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic5/5 stars link
1."I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (extended version)Norman Whitfield, Barrett StrongMarvin Gaye (1968)5:03
2."My Girl"Smokey Robinson, Ronald WhiteThe Temptations (1965)2:55
3."Good Lovin'"Rudy Clark, Arthur ResnickThe Young Rascals (1966)2:28
4."The Tracks of My Tears"Robinson, Warren Moore, Marvin TarplinThe Miracles (1965)2:53
5."Joy to the World"Hoyt AxtonThree Dog Night (1970)3:24
6."Ain't Too Proud to Beg"Whitfield, Edward Holland, Jr.The Temptations (1966)2:31
7."(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman"Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Jerry WexlerAretha Franklin (1968)2:41
8."I Second That Emotion"Robinson, Al ClevelandSmokey Robinson and The Miracles (1967)2:46
9."A Whiter Shade of Pale"Keith Reid, Gary Brooker, Matthew FisherProcol Harum (1967)4:03
10."Tell Him"Bert BernsThe Exciters (1963)2:29
Extra CD tracks
11."It's the Same Old Song"E. Holland, Lamont Dozier, Brian HollandThe Four Tops (1965)2:45
12."Dancing in the Street"Marvin Gaye, William "Mickey" StevensonMartha and The Vandellas (1964)2:38
13."What's Going On"Gaye, Cleveland, Renaldo "Obie" BensonMarvin Gaye (1971)3:52
14."Too Many Fish in the Sea"Whitfield, E. HollandThe Marvelettes (1964)2:26


Chart (1983/84) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[11]: 283  5
United States (Billboard 200) 17
Chart (1988) Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA)[12] 34


Organization Level Date
RIAA – USA Gold December 12, 1983
RIAA – USA Platinum March 29, 1984
RIAA – USA Double Platinum September 27, 1985
RIAA – USA 4× Platinum July 20, 1998
RIAA – USA 6× Platinum October 15, 1998

More Songs from the Big Chill[edit]

More songs from the original soundtrack
1."Bad Moon Rising"John FogertyCreedence Clearwater Revival2:19
2."Wouldn't It Be Nice"Brian Wilson, Tony AsherThe Beach Boys2:21
3."It's the Same Old Song"Edward Holland, Jr, Lamont Dozier, Brian HollandThe Four Tops*2:44
4."When a Man Loves a Woman"Andrew Wright, Calvin LewisPercy Sledge2:55
5."Dancing in the Street"Marvin Gaye, William "Mickey" Stevenson, Ivy Jo HunterMartha Reeves & the Vandellas*2:37
6."What's Going On"Marvin Gaye, Al Cleveland, Renaldo BensonMarvin Gaye*3:51
7."In the Midnight Hour"Wilson Pickett, Steve CropperThe Rascals3:59
8."Quicksilver Girl"Steve MillerThe Steve Miller Band2:42
9."Gimme Some Lovin'"Steve Winwood, Muff Winwood, Spencer DavisThe Spencer Davis Group2:55
10."Too Many Fish in the Sea"Norman Whitfield, Edward Holland, Jr.The Marvelettes*2:26
11."The Weight"Robbie RobertsonThe Band4:33

*Selections not in the motion picture The Big Chill.


Chart (1987) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[11]: 284  25

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "AFI-Catalog".
  2. ^ The Big Chill at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ McDermott, John (October 29, 2017). "South Carolina mansion featured in "Big Chill," "Great Santini" is sold". Post and Courier. Retrieved October 29, 2017. It was also filmed in Hampton County, SC.
  4. ^ Emmanuel, Susan. "Thirtysomething". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved May 8, 2008.
  5. ^ "Thrills, chills & spills", Godfrey, Stephen, The Globe and Mail, October 20, 1984: E.1.
  6. ^ "The Big Chill (1983)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 7, 2021.
  7. ^ "The Big Chill". Metacritic. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  8. ^ Corliss, Richard (September 12, 1983). "Cinema: You Get What You Need". Time. Archived from the original on February 4, 2013. Retrieved May 8, 2008.
  9. ^ Canby, Vincent (September 23, 1983). "The Big Chill (1983)". The New York Times. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (September 30, 1983). "The Big Chill". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  12. ^ " – soundtrack – The Big Chill". Hung Medien. Retrieved October 8, 2020.

External links[edit]