The Big Chill (film)

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 Big Chill
Big chill ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLawrence Kasdan
Produced byMichael Shamberg
Written by
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 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]


After Alex Marshall commits suicide at Sarah & Harold Cooper's summer house, their fellow University of Michigan alumni friends arrive to attend the funeral. They are Sam Weber, a television actor; Meg Jones, a former public defender and now a real estate attorney; Michael Gold, a journalist for People magazine; Nick Carlton, a perpetually-stoned Vietnam vet and former talk-radio psychologist; and Karen Bowen, an unrealized writer who is unhappily married to Richard, a stuffy advertising executive. Also present is Chloe, Alex's rather immature young girlfriend who lived with him in Sarah and Harold's basement living quarters.

The entire group stay over with Harold and Sarah, whose children are away for the weekend. The first night they reminisce about Alex and their activist college years. While out jogging the next morning, Harold, violating SEC rules, tells Nick that a large corporation is buying his small company, making him rich and will triple the stock value. He has told Sam and subtly hints that Nick should consider buying the stock before the sale. Harold also confides that Sarah and Alex had a brief affair five years earlier, which they all had moved past.

Richard returns home the next day after Karen decides to stay the entire weekend. While Karen and Sam go grocery shopping, Harold, Nick, Michael, and Chloe drive out to see the abandoned 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 act as sperm donor after learning that Nick was left impotent from a war injury. Michael, who continually flirts with Chloe, has nebulous plans to open a New York nightclub and is seeking investors. At dinner, Sarah becomes tearful as the group discuss Alex and lament how their fervent '60s idealism diminished into upper middle-class affluence. Later that night, Meg asks Sam to father her baby, though he gently declines.

While the group is watching the Michigan football game the next day, Michael offers to sire Meg's child, alluding to their one-time sexual encounter in college. Meg feels their history makes him the wrong choice. Sarah tells Karen how her affair with Alex affected their friendship and her and Harold's marriage. Meanwhile, a local police officer escorts a sullen Nick back to the house after he ran a red light and became belligerent when stopped. Recognizing Sam, the officer offers to drop charges if Sam will hop into Nick's Porsche 911 like his J.T. Lancer character does on TV. Sam tries and fails, slightly injuring himself. Nick then criticizes Harold for being friendly with cops, angering Harold who says the officer twice protected his home from being robbed.

Karen tells Sam she is in love with him and wants to leave Richard. Sam suggests she and her boys could move to California, then immediately backtracks, warning her off by saying his marriage failed due to the boredom. Feeling led on, Karen angrily stomps off.

Sarah observes the warm interaction between her young daughter and Meg as they chat on the phone while Harold looks on. Later, the group, confused over Alex's death, regret losing touch with him, though Nick believes Alex deliberately pulled away years before. Harold concurs, saying Alex was unhappy and became emotionally reclusive, though Sam strongly disagrees with Nick and leaves the room. Karen follows Sam outside to mollify him, but they instead have sex. Sarah pulls Harold aside to ask a favor: she wants him to impregnate Meg. Harold goes to Meg, while Chloe asks Nick to spend the night with her, despite knowing he is impotent.

The next morning, Harold announces that Nick and Chloe will be staying in their basement apartment while renovating the abandoned house together. Karen packs to return home to Richard, and Sam and Nick reconcile after their previous night's disagreement. Michael ditches his nightclub plans, and Meg hopes to be pregnant. When Nick sifts through Alex's papers, he finds an old news clipping that Michael wrote about Alex, a brilliant scientist, declining a prestigious research appointment. Michael recalls how angry Alex was that he wrote the article. As the friends prepare to depart, Michael jokingly tells Sarah and Harold that everyone has taken a secret vote and they are staying permanently.



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 responseEdit

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]

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 SoundtrackEdit

The Big Chill
Soundtrack album from the film The Big Chill by
Various Artists
ReleasedSeptember 1983
LabelMotown Records
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic      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 ChillEdit

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 alsoEdit


  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. 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 linksEdit