Terms of Endearment Movie Poster Image

Terms of Endearment



Glossy, funny, and packs a real emotional wallop.
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1983
  • Running Time: 132 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Stuck in a drifting relationship, both husband and wife have affairs.

Not applicable

There's quite a lot of sexual activity in this movie, although nothing is shown. Characters talk about sex often; one frank exchange concerns the noises people make during love-making.


Infrequent mild profanity and two uses of an extreme expletive.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Two twenty-something girls smoke pot. Jack Nicholson's character drinks heavily.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie delivers quite an emotional wallop. Also, there's quite a lot of sexual activity in this movie, although nothing is shown. Characters talk about sex often; one frank exchange concerns the noises people make during love-making. The movie also features a strong, if contentious, mother-daughter relationship.

Parents say

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What's the story?

In order to escape her overbearing mother Aurora (Shirley MacLaine), Emma (Debra Winger) marries a man of questionable merit. But Mamma cannot let go, even when Emma's family relocates for work. Things are tough personally and financially for Emma in her new community, and three kids later, she ends up having an affair with a dowdy local bank manager. Left alone at home, lonely Aurora eventually agrees to date next-door- neighbor Joe (Jack Nicholson), an obnoxious ex-astronaut who seemingly has all the wrong stuff. Mother and daughter continue to share every detail of their lives, including Emma's marital troubles and Aurora's newly awakened interest in sex. Things take a drastic turn for the worse when Emma is diagnosed with cancer. The end is slow and painful for Emma and her family.

Is it any good?


This engaging movie cleaned up at the Academy Awards, winning Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for James L. Brooks, and a Best Actress nod for Shirley MacLaine. And it's easy to see why. This is the kind of well-made movie that Hollywood used to make on a regular basis. It's glossy, funny, and packs a real emotional wallop in its tragic conclusion.


Skilled performances make an absorbing story even more appealing. MacLaine and Deborah Winger provide most of the sparks, but they're well-supported by an exuberant Jack Nicholson and a superb cast of extras. The movie is populated with rich and genuinely funny supporting characters, including Jeff Daniels. Aurora is an embarrassment of neurotic riches, and MacLaine plays moments of embarrassment to the hilt. While a bit risqué for preteens, the rest of the family will laugh and weep through this charming movie.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about other sad movies. What is a tear-jerker? When is a movie considered to be one and when is it a moving story?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 20, 1983
DVD/Streaming release date:April 10, 2001
Cast:Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson, Shirley MacLaine
Director:James L. Brooks
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:132 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008
Teen, 14 years old Written bySpielberg00 November 5, 2011

Very mature for a PG rating. Why did it win Best Picture?

My rating: PG-13 for brief sexual references, some drug use and strong language.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written byBestPicture1996 August 2, 2009

Chick flick to the max

Normally I wouldn't associate myself with a chick-flick, plus I heard this was a real tearjerker, and I'm not one to cry at movies (except "I Am Sam") but it won Best Picture so I had to see it. I was pleasently surprised, the acting was absolutely fantastic, and all together it was fairly good...and I filled up.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Great role models


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