Based on Larry McMurty’s 1975 novel of the same name, Terms of Endearment follows the complex relationship between Houston-based widow Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter, Emma (Debra Winger). Fiercely protected by Aurora throughout her childhood, Emma runs into resistance from her mother when she gets married immediately after graduating high school to college teacher Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels). Aurora disapproves of him as a man that she considers so ambitionless, that she skips the wedding entirely. Aurora is even more put out at the prospect of being a grandmother, though she grows a lot fonder of her three grandchildren than she does of her son-in-law. Flap proves that Aurora's instincts were right on target when he enters into an affair with a student (Kate Charleson). Meanwhile, Emma finds romantic consolation with Sam Burns (John Lithgow), a smalltown banker who is unhappily married. As for Aurora, she is passionately pursued by her next-door neighbor, Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson), a retired astronaut who also appears to be an alcoholic.
After having premiered in select cities over two weeks earlier, Terms of Endearment was released nationwide on December 9th, 1983, where it proved to be a huge commercial success. On a budget of $8,000,000, the film grossed over $108,400,000 worldwide. Writer/producer James L. Brooks, who started out in television as the creator of sitcoms such as Room 222, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Taxi, ended up making a very successful directorial debut. On April 9th, 1984, Terms of Endearment won 5 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director (James L. Brooks), Best Actress (Shirley MacLaine), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson), and Best Adapted Screenplay (James L. Brooks).