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.[1]

The soundtrack features soul, R&B, and pop-rock music from the 1960s and '70s, 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 1985 CBS series Hometown. Later, it influenced the TV series thirtysomething.[2]


Harold Cooper is bathing his young son when his wife, Sarah, receives a phone call at their Richmond home telling her that their friend, Alex, 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 War veteran and former radio host; Karen, a housewife from suburban Detroit who's unhappy in her marriage to her advertising executive husband, Richard. Also present is Chloe, Alex's younger 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 starts tearing up 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, while 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 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 not to 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, while Chloe and Nick go to bed together. Meg and Harold then have sex, while 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 for a while so they can renovate the old abandoned house. Sam and Nick then make up from their argument the night before. 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.



Critical response

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

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."[4]

Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half stars out of four and said, "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."[5]


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.

In popular culture

The film was parodied by T. Coraghessan Boyle in his short story The Little Chill. The story begins, "Hal had known Rob and Irene, Jill, Harvey, Tottle, and Pesky since elementary school, and they were all 40 going on 60."[6]


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") were released in 1984 on a second soundtrack album.

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 ("Quicksilver Girl," by The Steve Miller Band, was unavailable), 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
Soundtrack album from the film The Big Chill by Various Artists
Released September, 1983
Recorded 1963-1971
Genre R&B/Soul
Length 43:38
Label Motown Records
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars link
Side One
  1. Marvin Gaye (1968): "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (extended version) (Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong) – 5:03
  2. The Temptations (1965): "My Girl" (Smokey Robinson, Ronald White) – 2:55
  3. The Young Rascals (1966): "Good Lovin'" (Rudy Clark, Arthur Resnick) – 2:28
  4. The Miracles (1965): "The Tracks of My Tears" (Robinson, Warren Moore, Marvin Tarplin) – 2:53
  5. Three Dog Night (1970): "Joy to the World" (Hoyt Axton) – 3:24
Side Two
  1. The Temptations (1966): "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" (Whitfield, Edward Holland, Jr.) – 2:31
  2. Aretha Franklin (1968): "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" (Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Jerry Wexler) – 2:41
  3. Smokey Robinson and The Miracles (1967): "I Second That Emotion" (Robinson, Al Cleveland) – 2:46
  4. Procol Harum (1967): "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (Keith Reid, Gary Brooker, Matthew Fisher) – 4:03
  5. The Exciters (1963): "Tell Him" (Bert Berns) – 2:29
Extra CD tracks
  1. The Four Tops (1965): "It's the Same Old Song" (E. Holland, Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland) – 2:45
  2. Martha and The Vandellas (1964): "Dancing in the Street" (Marvin Gaye, William "Mickey" Stevenson) – 2:38
  3. Marvin Gaye (1971): "What's Going On" (Gaye, Cleveland, Renaldo "Obie" Benson) – 3:52
  4. The Marvelettes (1964): "Too Many Fish in the Sea" (Whitfield, E. Holland) – 2:26
Year Chart Position
1983 Billboard Black Albums 40
1983 The Billboard 200 17
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

See also


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Emmanuel, Susan. "Thirtysomething". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved May 8, 2008. 
  3. ^ Corliss, Richard (September 12, 1983). "Cinema: You Get What You Need". Time. Retrieved May 8, 2008. 
  4. ^ Canby, Vincent (September 23, 1983). "The Big Chill (1983)". The New York Times. Retrieved November 11, 2015. 
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (September 30, 1983). "The Big Chill". Rogerebert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved October 29, 2017. 
  6. ^ Boyle, T. Coraghessan (1989) "The Little Chill," in If the River Was Whiskey. New York: Viking.

External links