The Big Chill



College-reunion film with mature themes may bore teens.
  • Review Date: August 29, 2014
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1983
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Maintaining a friendship over time takes effort, but it's well worth it.

Positive role models

Each member of the group has his or her own problems, and Nick in particular wrestles with some serious demons, but they all model loyalty to the group. Harold and Sarah model a strong, loving marriage, and Sam models thoughtfully arriving at the right decision.


Suicide is discussed, and the sewn-up injuries on the victim's corpse are briefly glimpsed.


The intertwining sexual history of the group, and how it affected their lives afterward, is a prominent theme, and frank discussions include mention of herpes, masturbation, and impotence. There are a couple instances of passionate kissing and two brief sex scenes: One is clothed, in shadow, and off-screen gratification with hands is implied. The other is well lit and in bed but under covers and only shows a man's bare back and a woman's bare shoulders. A woman is shown naked in the shower and one breast is visible. Condoms and a birth control pill holder are shown. A past abortion is implied. One character wants to have a baby, talks about which friend to have sex with to get pregnant, and is honest about what she wants with the men she does approach.


Strong language includes, most frequently, "s--t" and variations; "f--k" and variations about a half dozen times; and once or twice each "crap," "a--hole," "bitch," and "jerk off."


Specific products shown in passing are Hellmann's mayonnaise, Coke, Quaalude, and Dreyer's. Nick mentions a past job at radio station KSFO. Harold gives everyone Nike running shoes, and Nick says they're very comfortable.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The adults drink wine and beer at dinner and afterward, and Sam is shown asking for another mini bottle on an airplane. One character is a smoker and is shown smoking several times, and other characters join her once or twice. Past drug use is mentioned frequently. Snorting cocaine is shown. Smoking marijuana is shown two or three times, and a character is shown rolling joints. While driving, a character pours miscellaneous pills onto the passenger seat and takes some. Another character takes a Quaalude with wine.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Big Chill includes a lot of frank discussion of sex. There are two sex scenes that clearly imply what’s going on but aren’t graphic, and one character is seen naked in the shower with one breast shown. There's quite a bit of profanity, including "s--t" and "f--k." Suicide is discussed, and the sewn-up injuries on the victim's corpse are briefly glimpsed. Snorting cocaine, smoking marijuana, and taking Quaaludes are shown along with drinking wine and beer, mostly with dinner and afterward. The story of college friends who reunite after 15 years is unlikely to hold much interest for teens as the characters relive old times and talk about how it influenced where they find themselves now.

What's the story?

A group of college friends (Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, and JoBeth Williams) are reunited for a funeral when one of them commits suicide. They decide to spend the weekend together revisiting past loves, discovering new ones, and coming to grips with all the ways their lives have taken unexpected turns.

Is it any good?


THE BIG CHILL is a loving, bittersweet look at how lives change during the transition from young adulthood to middle age. As such, it's unlikely to hold the interest of teens more focused on great expectations. The cast is outstanding, all quietly bringing tremendous depth to the subtlest moments. Adults will relate, but teens will find little in common with the characters in a movie that almost entirely consists of watching them talk to each other over the course of a weekend reunion. Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote and directed, deftly balances and weaves the intertwining stories and gives us a loving, but not rose-colored, look at how surprising it is to realize you're a grown-up.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how attitudes toward drinking, smoking, and taking drugs have changed, both since the time the characters would have been in college together in the late '60s and since the movie was made in the early '80s.

  • Do you have a group of close friends? Can you imagine getting together with them 15 years from now? What do you think that would be like?

  • Do you know anyone, or have you yourself, thought about suicide? Do you know where to go for help

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 28, 1983
DVD release date:January 26, 1999
Cast:Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline
Director:Lawrence Kasdan
Studios:Columbia Pictures, Carson Productions
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:R

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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