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Ordinary People (1980)

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The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son.



(novel), (screenplay)
3,954 ( 177)
Won 4 Oscars. Another 15 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Swim Coach
Ray (as James B. Sikking)
Quinn K. Redeker ...
Ward (as Quinn Redeker)
Meg Mundy ...
Elizabeth Hubbard ...


Beth, Calvin, and their son Conrad are living in the aftermath of the death of the other son. Conrad is overcome by grief and misplaced guilt to the extent of a suicide attempt. He is in therapy. Beth had always preferred his brother and is having difficulty being supportive to Conrad. Calvin is trapped between the two trying to hold the family together. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Everything is in its proper place... Except the past. See more »




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

27 February 1981 (Australia)  »

Also Known As:

Gente como uno  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$6,000,000 (estimated)


$54,800,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


There is a line that was in the book where Beth explicitly blames Conrad for Buck's death that was dropped from the movie. It occurs during the Christmas tree-confrontation scene when Beth questions Conrad about quitting the swim team. Conrad says "I bet you would have come if Buck were in the hospital." And then Beth says "Buck would have never been in the hospital." She follows up with "If you had done your job and protected your brother you wouldn't have been there." This line, which implicates Conrad in Buck's drowning, was dropped from the movie. As a result of this it's not completely clear if Beth blames Conrad for Buck's death or not in the movie, whereas in the book it's clear. This omission alters the meaning and the direction of the whole story. See more »


When Karen and Conrad at the restaurant, the straw in Karen hands starts unwrapped, then becomes wrapped, and then suddenly jumps into the Coke. See more »


Calvin "Cal" Jarrett: No don't do that to yourself! Somethings things happen in this world people don't always have the answers for them you know! I don't know what I'm yelling at you for.
Conrad "Con" Jarrett: No that's good! Hall my ass sometimes! You know, the way you used to for him!
Calvin "Cal" Jarrett: Oh needed it! You were always so hard on yourself I never had the heart.
Conrad "Con" Jarrett: Oh Dad, don't.
Calvin "Cal" Jarrett: No it's the truth!
See more »


(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden
(1969) (uncredited)
Written by Joe South
Sung a cappella a bit by Judd Hirsch
See more »

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User Reviews

The epitome of the broken family genre.
26 May 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Ordinary People is an extraordinary motion picture for five reasons. The outstanding direction of Robert Redford, and the brilliant acting of Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland, Timothy Hutton and Judd Hirsch.

This movie is set in suburban Chicago. The family is an upper-middle class foursome, the parents and their two sons. The eldest son, Buck, is killed in a boating accident. The other son, Conrad, survives but is riddled with guilt. His mother, Beth, who idolized her deceased first born, is cold with her surviving son. She looks at him and is reminded of the pain. Instead of nurturing her surviving child she distances herself from him. Conrad attempts suicide and spends time in a mental hospital. Calvin, the understanding father, is torn between his wife and son.

Dr. Berger, a psychiatrist, is hired by the family to help the troubled young man. The scenes between Hutton and Hirsch are amongst the best in the movie. He helps Conrad understand his mother's pain and shortcomings and to stand on his own. Conrad tries to keep his family together and realizes, almost with relief, that the family's problems are caused by Beth's "burying all her love with Buck".

This is a fascinating motion picture. The direction and the performances are superb. It is an intelligent, moving and honest examination about a family torn by grief and pain. Don't miss it!

29 of 35 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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