Terms of Endearment

7.42 h 11 min1983X-RayPG
This touching comedic drama explores the complicated relationship between a mother and daughter as they deal with life, love and tragedy.
James L. Brooks
Shirley MacLaineDebra WingerJack Nicholson
English [CC]
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Supporting actors
Jeff DanielsDanny DeVitoJohn LithgowBetty KingLisa Hart CarrollHuckleberry FoxTroy Bishop
James A. BrooksPenney FinkelmanMartin Jurow
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PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
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4.8 out of 5 stars

2980 global ratings

  1. 87% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 8% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 3% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 1% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

JJReviewed in the United States on February 11, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Excellent and nothing like the book
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The person who wrote the script for this movie is a genius and should have won for original screen play because this movie bears so little resemblance to the book that if it didn't have the same title nobody would connect the two at all. The book is boring senseless trash and this movie is one of the best ever made of it's genre. Shirley McClain plays herself as usual but this is an excellent role for her. I've never seen Debra Winger so lovely and believable. In his usual type of jackass role Jack Nicholson walks such a fine line between good and bad that it is amazing to watch. I don't know how he does it but you love him, hate him and feel sorry for him all at the same time. Whoever designed Ms. McClain's wardrobe was inspired. In all of the earlier scenes of this movie she looks like her dresses were designed by someone who makes doll clothes. Not even a preteen would ever wear all those flimsy, ruffly sheer dresses and her hair done up in all those fluffy curls. So funny when she climbs out of that open top car. Inspired writing. It's the script that stands out here. That brilliant script.
16 people found this helpful
ChrisSherrillReviewed in the United States on November 6, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Four and a half
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Family advisory: the F bomb is dropped a couple of times.
I watched “Terms of Endearment” some years ago and was moved by it. I watched it again tonight and was moved again. Everything about it was outstanding. Well, it did move slowly in places, but its pace was generally good. The production values were quite high, characteristic of a high dollar production. Whereas all the other elements that go into a successful motion picture were outstanding, the acting was fantastic. Ms. MacLaine and Ms. Winger played off each other with great success. The same applies to the interactions between Ms. MacLaine and Mr. Nicholson. With the caveat that there are a couple of F bombs, it is highly recommended.
7 people found this helpful
KGReviewed in the United States on April 19, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
Tremendously moving, often very funny, and bursting at the seams with life
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Tremendously moving, often very funny, and bursting at the seams with life, both good and bad. No one is a hero or a villain, every character is just a screwed up human being trying their best, often failing, but picking themselves back up and trying again.

At the core this is the study of a very prickly mother daughter relationship, but it branches out to cover the men in their lives, friendships with other women, etc. The performances are just about universally superb. Some splashy and fun (Jack Nicholson, Shirley MacLaine), others just slightly lower key but still just slightly bigger than life in that good, movie way (Debra Winger), and still others are so simple and quiet they routinely get overlooked, but are little gems as well (Jeff Daniels, John Lithgow).

The film has a wonderful way of never going quite where you expect it, as it traces 30 years of life. Serious scenes turn funny, funny scenes end up making you cry, and no one ends up where they, or we, would have guessed. Especially in more recent, revisionist reviews, the film is often attacked for being sappy or melodramatic, but the older I get the more I see that life itself can be sappy and melodramatic, and if those elements are dealt with honestly they can translate real emotions, and can be part of a terrific film.

The only nit-pick I have is a few of the very small roles are clichés (e.g. the upper-class ‘young ladies’ Winger’s character meets in New York). But when that’s the worst you can find to say about a 130 minute film, you’re in a pretty great place. One hell of a feature debut for James L. Brooks.
25 people found this helpful
Francis Booth LynchReviewed in the United States on December 23, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Although predictable still very good
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Movie 3 of 1983 and 103 overall in my journey through films of my lifetime.

Ever meet someone that although they did nothing to you, had nothing outstanding that was wrong with them, even had likeable traits for some unknown reason you just didn't like them? Maybe you can't put your finger on it, you just didn't like them? I feel that way about Debra Winger. I don't like her in anything I have ever seen her in, even "Shadowlands." Interviews with her yielded further distain from some place inside of me. Hurtles present themselves in all kinds of projects and this was the first "Terms of Endearment" had to clear for me to enjoy it. This will make me sound hateful but I promise you that this is only true for a couple of actors and actresses but the way I feel about Debra Winger is multiplied by a factor of two for Danny DeVito. With him I actually know my reasons for disliking his presence: he's slotted for comedic roles and I don't find him funny in any sense of the term. In fact I liked "Always Sunny in Philadelphia" until he came on board so I stopped watching the series. Hurdle number two loomed large. One name, however, sweetened the deal. One name gave me hope as it touched my 4K screen. One name, the most important name, in the most important role, perked me up: director James L Brooks! Never had I succumbed to a project of his that I was not at least entertained by. Could he overcome these significant obstacles?
There is an old saying, "They don't make them like that anymore." In the case of "Terms of Endearment" my response would be, "Maybe that's not so bad." Now I'm not saying I don't think it's a good movie. Rather I just think these films have run their course. Occasionally they should still be made but because they usually end in similar ways it should be rare. I would describe these kinds of movies as, "hey check out what happens to this character we made up!" (Spoilers ahead!!!) It also seems that females tend to die in these biopics: "Steel Magnolias," "The World According to Garp," "Forrest Gump," and others I'm sure. That's a selective list so there may be other movies one could point out where the male protagonist dies, speaking respectively of fictional biopics.
What of the problematic actors? They were great. This is definitely a recommend!

-great acting
-great writing
-well paced

-unfortunately a predictable ending through no fault of its own. The story simply demanded it. One must ask why a story is being told and I appreciate the effort given to accomplish that end. Despite this being labeled a "con" it was still touching.
One person found this helpful
Karen TyrellReviewed in the United States on February 22, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Still An Excellent Film!
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Even though I have seen this film many times since its initial release in 1983, it’s still a favourite of mine. Everything about this film is utterly believable from start to finish. Everyone is so genuine here, it’s easy to forget they’re acting.

I remember watching Shirley MacLaine in an interview and she said that she and the director James L. Brooks were the only ones who considered this to be more of a comedic than a dramatic film. There is a nicely balanced amount of both here. This film is still a tear-jerker that will make you laugh. Sometimes both at the same time or concurrently. It does with me anyway.

I relate to the at times prickly relationship between Aurora and Emma. I had a similar one with the aunt who raised me. But, at least Aurora has endearing qualities. Watching her helped me understand my aunt better.
One person found this helpful
Mitch PeraReviewed in the United States on November 18, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Terms of Endearment - Awesome!
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Interestingly, I remember when I first saw Terms of Endearment in 1983, I didn't "get" it because there'd been so much advance ballyhoo about the film, I just couldn't respond to it. Years went by, and then, in the days of still "renting" films, I rented it. I was blown away and couldn't believe I'd missed how awesome this brilliant, extremely successful film had been. I encourage all younger generations to give it a whirl. It's a marvelous representation of the talents of artists you largely don't know, stars Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, and Jack Nicholson!
Yiannis PReviewed in the United States on November 6, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Movie of This Quality is Created no More Than Once in a Decade
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Movies don't get better than this. When a film makes you go through the gamut of emotions--and intensely so, you know you have had an experience to cherish. I don't know how many times scenes in Terms of Endearment made me laugh out loud, and how many others brought me to tears. A magnificent script, inspired casting and direction, coupled with amazing performances by Debra Winger, Shirley MacLaine, and Jack Nicholson helped turn this movie into a masterpiece. 5+ stars.
10 people found this helpful
Ben AdamReviewed in the United States on April 15, 2005
5.0 out of 5 stars
Endearing film; not to be missed
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Larry McMurty's novel has been adapted to the screen amazingly well; the film won five Academy Awards, including the Best Adapted Screenplay Award, as well as Best Picture, Best Actress (Shirley MacLaine), Best Director (James Brooks), and Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson). The cast includes a wealth of Hollywood celebrities -- Debra Winger, John Lithgow, Jeff Daniels, Danny DeVito -- and the performances are outstanding throughout the film.

The story is one of a mother, Aurora Greenway, (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter, Emma (Debra Winger), and how their relationship develops over the years, from the day that their husband/father dies. Aurora is a woman with more than her share of admirers, whom she takes great delight in keeping at a distance, and who has a rather contentious relationship with her daughter, whose marriage to Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels) she opposes to the point that she boycotts the wedding. As it turns out, Mother is right. The marriage between Emma and Flap is less than rosy, with both having their extramarital affairs (although the extramarital affair that Emma has with Sam Burns, played by John Lithgow, comes across as endearing in the film). Almost parallel to the philandering of the daughter comes the pie-eyed former astronaut next door, Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson), who makes no pretenses about his intentions toward Aurora, and this time Aurora gives in. For the time that the affair lasts, Aurora is very happy. It has its run, then stops, but then starts again. Garrett, as it seems, has a problem with commitment, but he also has a problem with walking out on a good thing, too.

Flap comes home one day to break the bad news that the family is moving, thereby ending Emma's affair with Sam but continuing an affair that Flap was having. Emma discovers the affair and is indignant, but by now, Emma is also a mother and dying of a terminal illness. It becomes clear that Flap is not a candidate to care for the children after Emma dies, and Aurora re-enters the picture as the grand matriarch who will take over. When the moment of Emma's death arrives, the shock is still as painful as if nobody had expected it to happen. Garrett resurfaces to comfort the grieving Aurora and her family in a gesture that surprises Aurora greatly.

What really makes this film succeed is the vividness of the performances of the actors and actresses. Debra Winger's performance as the daughter who grows through a bad marriage and ultimately dies from cancer is unforgettable. Jack Nicholson's performance, as much as he has played the lecherous male before, takes on a new dimension in this film. Shirley MacLaine's performance earned her an Academy Award; she gives a superb touch in the most unforgettable scene in the film in which she approaches the nurses' station in the hospital at 10pm to tell the nurses to give her daughter her pain shot. As is very typical in all too many medical institutions, the nurses are preoccupied with their internal bureaucracy and not with relieving the suffering of the patients. That is enough to make her go ballistic; she starts to run around the station, screaming at the top of her lungs. The histrionics add both an intensely personal and yet somewhat comical touch to a poignant part of the film in a way that is amazingly effective.

This is a film that is definitely not to be missed.
8 people found this helpful
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