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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 commits 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.[4]


Harold Cooper is bathing his young son when his wife, Dr. Sarah Cooper, receives a phone call at their Richmond home telling her that their friend Alex, who had been staying at their vacation home in South Carolina, has committed suicide.

At the funeral, Harold and Sarah are reunited with college friends from the University of Michigan. They include Sam, a television actor; Meg, a real estate attorney in Atlanta; Michael, a journalist for People; Nick, a Vietnam vet and former radio host; and Karen, a housewife from suburban Detroit who's unhappy in her marriage to her advertising executive husband, Richard. Also present is Chloe, Alex's young girlfriend.

After the burial, everyone goes to Harold and Sarah's vacation house, where they stay for the weekend. During the first night, a bat flies into the attic while Meg and Nick are getting reacquainted. Sam later finds Nick watching television, and they briefly talk about Karen. They go into the kitchen and find Richard making a sandwich, and the three have a discussion about responsibility and adulthood. Richard states, "Nobody said it was going to be fun. At least, nobody said it to me."

The next morning Harold and Nick go jogging. Harold tells Nick that his company is about to be bought out by a large corporation, and he's going to be rich. Harold confides in Nick that Sarah and Alex had an affair five years earlier. Nick comforts him by saying "She didn't marry Alex."

Richard returns home to look after his kids, but Karen decides to stay in South Carolina for the weekend. Nick, Harold, Michael, and Chloe go for a drive, while Sam and Karen go shopping. Meg reveals to Sarah that she wants to have a child, and that she is going to ask Sam to be the father, knowing that Nick can't. Out in the country, Harold listens to Michael's plans to buy a nightclub. Chloe takes Nick to the abandoned house that she and Alex were going to renovate. She tells him that he reminds her of Alex, to which Nick replies "I ain't him."

During dinner, Sarah becomes tearful over Alex as the group talks about him. Harold puts a record on the stereo, and everyone dances while cleaning up. While the others sit around and smoke marijuana, Meg asks Sam to father her baby, but he declines.

The next morning Nick, Sam, and Harold go jogging, and the subject of Alex's suicide comes up again. Harold's surprise arrives: sneakers for everyone to wear during the upcoming Michigan football game. The group, minus Nick, watches the game on TV, and Sarah tells Karen about her brief affair with Alex and how it affected their friendship.

During the game, Michael offers to father Meg's child, alluding to the fact that they had sex in college. At halftime, Chloe, Sam, Harold, and Michael go outside to play touch football. Nick returns, followed by a police car. The officer says that Nick ran a red light, but says that he will drop the charges if Sam would hop into Nick's Porsche 911 as his TV character, J.T. Lancer, always does. Sam is unsuccessful and hurts himself, but the officer drops the charges anyway.

Karen later tells Sam that she loves him, wants to leave Richard and live with Sam and her two sons. When they kiss, Sam pulls away and tells Karen to not leave Richard. He confesses that it was "boredom" that caused his own marriage to fail, and he doesn't want her to make the same mistake. Karen feels misled and storms into the house.

Harold is on the phone with his daughter, Molly, and lets Meg talk to her. Observing their interaction on the phone, Sarah decides to let Harold impregnate Meg, but does not tell him yet.

The group once again discusses Alex. Nick says "Alex died for most of us a long time ago", but Sam disagrees and leaves. Karen follows him, and the two have sex outside. Sarah tells Harold about Meg's situation, and Chloe and Nick go to bed together. Meg and Harold then have sex, and Michael and Sarah jokingly interview each other with a video camera.

In the morning while Karen is packing, she tells Sam that she has decided to stay with Richard. At breakfast, Harold reveals that Nick and Chloe will be staying so they can renovate the old abandoned house. Sam and Nick then make up from their argument the previous night. Nick gives Michael an old clipping of an article he had written about Alex. Michael states, tongue in cheek, "Sarah, Harold. We took a secret vote. We're not leaving. We're never leaving," and they all laugh.


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JoBeth Williams later recalled a scene flashing back to the characters in 1968 was shot. "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 in the scene her character was living with William Hurt's character and ignoring Tom Berenger. There was also the Alex character, played by Kevin Costner, "looking like a scruffy James Dean. 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

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 68% based on reviews from 38 critics, with an average rating of 6.19/10. 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]

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 argued that the film is 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, and wrote "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, with four additional songs made available on the CD. The remainder 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.

A second soundtrack album titled More Songs from the Big Chill was also released, having four out of eleven songs not present in the film's soundtrack.

In 1998, both albums were re-mastered, the first without the four additional CD tracks, which had also appeared on More Songs and were left there. In 2004, Hip-O Records released a Deluxe edition, containing not only sixteen of the eighteen songs from the film (again aside from "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Quicksilver Girl"), but three additional film instrumentals. A second "music of a generation" disc of nineteen additional tracks was included as well, some of which had appeared both on the original soundtrack and the More Songs release.

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The Big Chill
Various Artists
Released September, 1983
Recorded 1963-1971
Length 43:38
Label Motown Records
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic Rating NC-17.gif

Rating R.gif
Rating PG-13.gif
Rating PG.gif
Rating G.gif
Rating NR.gif link

No. TitleArtist Length
1. "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (extended version)Marvin Gaye (1968) 5:03
2. "My Girl"  The Temptations (1965) 2:55
3. "Good Lovin'"  The Young Rascals (1966) 2:28
4. "The Tracks of My Tears"  The Miracles (1965) 2:53
5. "Joy to the World"  Three Dog Night (1970) 3:24
6. "Ain't Too Proud to Beg"  The Temptations (1966) 2:31
7. "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman"  Aretha Franklin (1968) 2:41
8. "I Second That Emotion"  Smokey Robinson and The Miracles (1967) 2:46
9. "A Whiter Shade of Pale"  Procol Harum (1967) 4:03
10. "Tell Him"  The Exciters (1963) 2:29
Extra CD tracks
No. TitleArtist Length
11. "It's the Same Old Song"  The Four Tops (1965) 2:45
12. "Dancing in the Street"  Martha and The Vandellas (1964) 2:38
13. "What's Going On"  Marvin Gaye (1971) 3:52
14. "Too Many Fish in the Sea"  The Marvelettes (1964) 2:26
More songs from the original soundtrack
No. TitleArtist Length
1. "Bad Moon Rising"  Creedence Clearwater Revival 2:19
2. "Wouldn't It Be Nice"  The Beach Boys 2:21
3. "It's the Same Old Song"  The Four Tops* 2:44
4. "When a Man Loves a Woman"  Percy Sledge 2:55
5. "Dancing in the Street"  Martha Reeves & the Vandellas* 2:37
6. "What's Going On"  Marvin Gaye* 3:51
7. "In the Midnight Hour"  The Rascals 3:59
8. "Quicksilver Girl"  The Steve Miller Band 2:42
9. "Gimme Some Lovin'"  The Spencer Davis Group 2:55
10. "Too Many Fish in the Sea"  The Marvelettes* 2:26
11. "The Weight"  The Band 4:33
  • Selections not in the motion picture The Big Chill.

The Big Chill


Chart (1983/84) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[11] 5
United States (Billboard 200) 17
Chart (1988) Peak


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

More Songs from the Big Chill


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

See also


  1. AFI-Catalog.
  2. The Big Chill at Box Office Mojo
  3. McDermott, John. "South Carolina mansion featured in "Big Chill," "Great Santini" is sold", Post and Courier, October 29, 2017. Retrieved on October 29, 2017.  It was also filmed in Hampton County, SC.
  4. Emmanuel, Susan. "Thirtysomething", Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved on May 8, 2008. 
  5. "Thrills, chills & spills", Godfrey, Stephen, The Globe and Mail, 20 Oct 1984: E.1.
  6. The Big Chill (1983).
  7. The Big Chill.
  8. Corliss, Richard (September 12, 1983). Cinema: You Get What You Need. Time. Retrieved on May 8, 2008.
  9. Canby, Vincent (September 23, 1983). The Big Chill (1983). The New York Times. Retrieved on November 11, 2015.
  10. Ebert, Roger (September 30, 1983). The Big Chill. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved on October 29, 2017.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992, illustrated, St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "aus" defined multiple times with different content

External links

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