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Terms of Endearment (1983)



Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 41
Fresh: 36 | Rotten: 5

A classic tearjerker, Terms of Endearment isn't shy about reaching for the heartstrings -- but is so well-acted and smartly scripted that it's almost impossible to resist.


Average Rating: 7.6/10
Critic Reviews: 7
Fresh: 6 | Rotten: 1

A classic tearjerker, Terms of Endearment isn't shy about reaching for the heartstrings -- but is so well-acted and smartly scripted that it's almost impossible to resist.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 35,223

My Rating

Movie Info

Terms of Endearment covers three decades in the lives of widow Aurora Greenaway (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter Emma (Debra Winger). Fiercely protected by Aurora throughout childhood, Emma runs into resistance from her mother when she marries wishy-washy college teacher Flap (Jeff Daniels). Aurora is even more put out at the prospect of being a grandmother, though she grows a lot fonder of her three grandkids than she does of her son-in-law. Flap proves that Aurora's instincts were on target


Drama, Romance, Comedy

Apr 10, 2001

Paramount Home Video

Watch It Now



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All Critics (41) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (36) | Rotten (5) | DVD (8)

Terms of Endearment is about three relationships and students of screenwriting would do well to study the way in which these three stories are told completely and effortlessly in a movie of average length.

January 18, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Its quirky rhythms and veering emotional tones are very much its own, and they owe less to movie tradition than they do to a sense of how the law of unintended consequences pushes us ceaselessly through the years, permitting no pause for perspective.

February 20, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Brooks' dialog is wonderful throughout and all the characters carry off their assignments beautifully, even down to Danny De Vito and Norman Bennett as MacLaine's other suffering suitors.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[Writer-director James L. Brooks] has television in his soul: his people are incredibly tiny (most are defined by a single stroke of obsessive behavior), and he chokes out his narrative in ten-minute chunks, separated by aching lacunae.

December 17, 2006 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (3)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Then The Illness strikes, and the film changes gear completely, pulling out all the stops.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The most remarkable achievement of Terms of Endearment, which is filled with great achievements, is its ability to find the balance between the funny and the sad, between moments of deep truth and other moments of high ridiculousness.

October 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

In his directorial debut, Brooks proves himself a master with actors.

January 10, 2014 Full Review Source: People Magazine
People Magazine

Its soppy story is freed from cheap tear-jerking by Brooks' confident direction, Larry McMurtry's poignant script and a flawless ensemble.

January 10, 2014 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

There's not enough substance to support the sentiment of this longish comedy-drama.

February 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor

This is American mainstream movie-making at its best.

February 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

Glossy, funny, and packs a real emotional wallop.

January 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

The tragi-comedy never made me reach for my hankie, never tickled my funny bone and it never found a way into my heart.

March 16, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews | Comments (6)
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

This hugely successful tear-jerker boasts some magnificent on-screen chemistry between Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

No-wonder Jack was so keen to land this role. It was simply perfect for him.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger are fantastic as a mother and daughter who individually face life's challenges and end up stronger because of it.

December 22, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

Something for everyone, indeed.

December 17, 2006 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Blending comedy and melodrama, this is basically a TV sitcom, marked by a sentimental tone and traditional view of women.

July 27, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Sad themes, but wonderful ensemble acting.

October 16, 2004

A heartfelt, sobby, strongly-acted character-driven story, the film is small in scope, but deep in meaning and emotion.

August 3, 2003 Full Review Source:

Audience Reviews for Terms of Endearment

Heart-warming, this classic chronicle about family problems and platonic love. Together with finest actings and an intelligent script, Terms of Endearment gonna make the most strong people cry.
July 29, 2012
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

Soap opera saga of a feature film is like baking honey into a pie: it's deliciously sweet, but it's not what we're at all used to.

When I turned on TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, I was full-out ready to hate it. But by the end, my decision was that I had enjoyed it well enough, but it did NOT deserve a Best Picture Oscar. Lots of this was funny, and some of it, tear-sucking. (There are many better romance/comedy/drama hybrids out there, to say the least.)

Jack Nicholson's role stands high above those of all other cast members in this film. When he is first introduced, we are reminded of his "...bash your brains in!" scene from THE SHINING; but then we figure out he is playing Jekyll & Hyde on us: he is a lovable human being, and just as much as everyone else in the film.

In my humble opinion, this winning the Best Picture Oscar was up there on the disappointments lists, somewhere around when THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and THE COLOR PURPLE did not win Best Picture. Sure, it's decent, but it's certainly not the expected material. Don't be deceived by how overrated TERMS OF ENDEARMENT is.
November 2, 2011

Super Reviewer

Spanning several years, this is the story of a mother and daughter, their sometimes intense love/hate relationship, and the quest each one goes through to find love, happiness, and acceptance. It was based on a work by Larry McMurty (which I fins surprising),and marked the directorial debit of James L. Brooks. It also won several Oscars, even though it only deserved a couple of them.

This is a rather odd film tonally. It is listed as beign a romantic comedy-drama, and, while there are some moments of humor, it mostly comes off as a drama filled with pain and heartbreak, especially towards the end. It's a classic tearjerker. It's a good movie, and I did find it enjoyable, but I do think it's overrated and not a masterpiece or anything.

The acting holds it together though, and that's the real reason to watch it. Shirley MacLaine is wonderful as the overbearing and out of touch mother Aurora. Debra Winger started off as a big annoying, but got better in her role as Aurora's daughter Emma. Jeff Daniels appears in one of his earliest role's as Emma's philandering professor husband, but it is Jack Nicholson who is the most fun to watch as the boozy, womanizing former astronaut who is neighbors with Aurora and tries to have a more meaningful relationship with her.

Like all of Brooks's films, this drags on a bit too long, but it's got some decent writing, and sometimes we all need a good cry. Give it a watch.
September 28, 2011
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

    1. Garrett Breedlove: Stick it between your knees!
    – Submitted by Jesse K (7 months ago)
    1. Aurora Greenaway: Would you like to come in?
    2. Garrett Breedlove: I'd rather stick needles in my eyes.
    – Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)
View all quotes (2)

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Well-admired character actor Jeff Daniels will star in a thriller entitled "The Lookout"...

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