The story of Karen Silkwood, a metallurgy worker at a plutonium processing plant who was purposefully contaminated, psychologically tortured and possibly murdered to prevent her from exposing blatant worker safety violations at the plant.


Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Stone
Earl Lapin
Max Richter
Sudie Bond ...
Thelma Rice
Henderson Forsythe ...
Quincy Bissell
Gilda Schultz
Mace Hurley
J.C. Quinn ...
Curtis Schultz


Fairly accurate recounting of the story of Karen Silkwood, the Oklahoma nuclear-plant worker who blew the whistle on dangerous practices at the Kerr-McGee plant and who died under circumstances which are still under debate. Written by Susan C. Mitchell <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


On November 13, 1974, Karen Silkwood, an employee of a nuclear facility, left to meet with a reporter from the New York Times. She never got there.


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:



Release Date:

27 January 1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El caso Silkwood - Escándalo nuclear  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$10,000,000 (estimated)


$35,600,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


One of the first major tasks that Cher had to tackle when she arrived on location was to find the right look for her character Dolly. In the beginning, according to Cher, Dolly was written as a "glamorous barrel rider." They tried a screen test of Cher with that look, but Mike Nichols didn't like it. Nichols told Cher to wash her face, then wash her hair and let it dry flat to her head without doing anything to it. Then he and costume designer Ann Roth began to dress her in dowdy clothes, working hard to strip every trace of glamour from the usually picture perfect star. "They were just merciless with me, until I had on some horrible men's bowling shirt and awful chino pants, with two pairs of jockey shorts underneath to make me look heavier," said Cher. "When I stepped out in my new costume, Kurt Russell said, 'What the f*ck are you supposed to be?' I ran in tears to the back bathroom, which had the only mirror in the house. And I cried my eyes out." See more »


In a scene set in Washington, D.C. in 1974, a marching band can be heard in the background performing Kool and the Gang's "Celebration". The song was released in 1980. See more »


[first lines]
Man on the intercom: Name?
Karen Silkwood: Karen Silkwood.
Drew Stephens: Drew Stephens.
Dolly Pelliker: Dolly Pelliker.
See more »


Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #22.76 (2005) See more »


Karen Has A Car Accident
Written and Performed by Georges Delerue Et Son Orchestre
See more »

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User Reviews

A Woman With A Plan
20 October 2003 | by (North Wales, U.K) – See all my reviews

When I first saw this film a year ago, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I couldn't believe how brave one woman could be, with disastrous consequences. Someone who fought not for herself, but for other people as much as herself. To protect others from terminal illness and maybe death.

Karen Silkwood is a normal woman, dating a normal man, living with her boyfriend and friend in a normal house in a normal town. She works in the power plant, which seems to be pretty normal, but when the truth is unfolded, it puts everyone who works there lives in danger.

Meryl Streep --- Karen Silkwood

Cher --- Dolly

Kurt Russell --- Drew

Written by --- Nora Ephon

Directed by --- Mike Nichols

Running Time --- 126 mins

Certificate --- 15


Most of the people in Karen's town work in the local power plant down the road from where they live. It's an easy life. They go in and work, even though they have to wear special masks, they're pretty safe. But, all goes downhill when Karen realises that the plant are cheating all the employees and putting people's lives in risk and in danger.

Karen was stuck in a marriage she was unhappy in, and moved from Texas to a little town miles away. Although she was happy she'd got out of an awful marriage, she had to leave her kids behind with their father and move alone to a new town.

Luckily she did find work in the local power plant, but she only managed to go and see her children every couple of months.

One night whilst Karen is going home, she sees her boss burying a massive lorry full of radioactive plutonium into the ground outside the plant. Karen thinks nothing of it, until more and more unfortunate things begin to happen.

In the plant there's a scanner. Every person who walks into the room must pass his or her hands through the scanner, to make sure no radioactive plutonium has affected them. But, when one of Karen's friends gets `cooked' and has to be cleaned with a brush she becomes suspicious.

Soon, Karen fights against her plant to safe herself and her friends around her, whilst trying to cope with a loving boyfriend, and a lesbian best friend, who's fallen in love with her.

Karen fights and fights for others thorough the film, and her strength really makes you sad but overjoyed that there were some people like this in the world at one time, fighting for others.


I don't remember seeing Meryl Streep in anything before this. She plays Karen Silkwood excellently, and although she doesn't resemble any likeness to the real Karen Silkwood, she still manages to fool us that she is actually the strong woman herself.

All three main actors have won Oscars, and I think all deserved one for this. Streep managed to show us the witty side of Karen, but also managed to show us her strong and kind side as well.

Karen finds it heart-breaking having to live away from her kids, and Streep really shows us not just how difficult that part of her life was, but how difficult her entire life was.

I was shocked to find out Cher played Dolly the anything but lesbian who cares more about the kitchen table than her appearance! Cher steps down from her glamorous roles, and plays the loyal best friend.

Cher's acting skills really come out in the film, because Dolly seems to be the complete opposite to Cher's character. Dolly doesn't wear make-up, doesn't care about hat people think about her, and basically is very laid-back. Nothing like the real star!

It's nice to see Cher play this sort of role, and prove to us that she can really act. She gave Streep a run for her money, and I'm sure she shocked a lot of people at the time of the release, showing that she really can act.

The third main-character is Kurt Russell, who plays Karen's badly done to boyfriend. Karen deeply loves him, but Drew cant seem to understand why she's fighting against the plant, and is more worried what will happen to her than anything else.

I don't think they cast the best person for Drew, I feel someone shyer would have been a bit more believable. But, nonetheless, he played his part wonderfully as Drew.

All three characters were very strong in one-way or another, and we really needed a strong actor/actress to play them. Someone like Susan Sarandon would have been too stereotypical, for Karen we needed someone who didn't always play the same part.

Obviously, all three actors did a lot of research, because all three main characters were alive at one time, as the film is based on true events. The research pulled off, and they managed to make us believe Kurt, Meryl and Cher are also Drew, Karen and Dolly.


This is my favourite film of all time. Not just because I'm blown away but the story, and the fact it is true, but the characters blow me away. All are so odd, but you can see and understand why they do something.

When I first saw the film, I was very upset but also intrigued. I have learnt a lot about Karen Silkwood and her life since the film, and along with Princess Diana, she is one of my heroines.

Every little thing in the film makes it a must-see for everyone. Everyone will enjoy this film, but maybe enjoy isn't the right word. It's a strong story that you don't enjoy it, but you won't believe what you see.

The film was screen played excellently and thoroughly by Nora Ephron (You've Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle) and you can tell she looked at every detail.


A brilliant film with fantastic performances, a fantastic story that will blow you away. A really touching film. A MUST see!

Written By: Matt Roberts.

22 of 37 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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