Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)



  • 1986 Fantasy Comedy starring Kathleen Turner & Nicolas Cage
  • Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
  • Kathleen Turner received Academy Award nomination for Best Actress

Peggy Sue Got Married is a 1986 American fantasy comedy-drama film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Kathleen Turner as a woman on the verge of a divorce, who finds herself transported back to the days of her senior year in high school in 1960. The film was written by husband-and-wife team Jerry Leichtling and Arlene Sarner.

The film was a box office success and received positive reviews from critics. It was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Actress (Turner), Best Cinematography, and Best Costume Design. In addition, Turner was nominated for Best Foreign Actress at the Sant Jordi Awards.

Wearing her original prom dress from 1960, Peggy Sue Bodell sets off for her 25-year high school reunion in 1985 with her daughter, Beth, as company. Peggy Sue has just separated from her high school sweetheart, now husband, Charlie due to his infidelity. She is wary of attending the reunion because of everyone questioning her about Charlie’s absence – they were married right after graduation, when Peggy Sue became pregnant.

She arrives at the reunion and is happy to reconnect with her old best friends, Maddy and Carol. Charlie unexpectedly arrives at the reunion, causing an awkward scene with Peggy Sue ignoring him. The awkwardness is ended when the event MC announces the reunion’s “king and queen”. The king is Richard Norvik, the former class geek turned billionaire inventor. Peggy Sue is named the queen and walks on stage, but after they wheel out the reunion cake, she faints.

When Peggy Sue awakes, she finds herself back in the spring of 1960, her senior year of high school, after she passed out after donating blood in the school gym (where the reunion was). She finds all of her friends that she just left to be their teenage selves. Still in shock, she allows herself to be taken home while she sees her surroundings are the way they were 25 years before. After a rough first night, she decides to have fun with the experience and behave as if everything is normal. However, when given the chance to break up with Charlie, she thinks it might be best since she knows how it will end.

Peggy Sue makes friends with Richard Norvik to figure out what is going on with her. Charlie gets jealous when she ignores him at lunch, having made arrangements to meet Richard after school to discuss time travel. When she tells him her secret, at first he thinks it is a joke, but soon realizes that what she says about him and the world could come only from someone who had knowledge about the future. Peggy Sue has decided to break up with Charlie; she is the only one who wants that.

One night after a party, Peggy Sue decides to sleep with Charlie. He then flips out and reminds her that she had rebuffed him the weekend before and therefore believes she is playing games, and drives her home. Instead of going inside, she takes a walk and ends up at an all-night cafe. As she walks by, she sees Michael Fitzsimmons—the artsy loner in school she always wished she had slept with—and goes in to talk to him. After finding out they have more in common than originally thought, they ride off on his motorcycle. In a field, they smoke marijuana and find out more about one another. When he asks if she is going to marry Charlie, she responds that she already did that and will not do it again. After he recites some of his poetry for her, they have sex.

Michael reveals that he wants her to go with him and another woman to Utah (where, in the fictitious world of the film, polygamy is legal) so they can marry and support him while he writes. After his revelation, she tells him he should go to Utah and to write about their night together. In the middle of their conversation, she hears a voice she recognizes singing. When she looks at the stage, she sees that it is Charlie and realizes that she did not know everything about him. Michael is upset, thinking that she declined his offer for Charlie and is ready to leave. After they leave, Charlie auditions for a music agent and is rejected. The next day when Peggy Sue goes to talk to Charlie, he lashes out at her and she gives him a song she “wrote” for him (which ends up being “She Loves You” by The Beatles). She then goes to Richard to say goodbye, saying she wants to stop messing up her life and everyone else’s since the reason Charlie stopped singing was her becoming pregnant right before they graduated. Richard proposes, but she refuses because she does not want to marry anyone and he has to be valedictorian. Confused, she visits her grandparents for her birthday. After her grandparents tell her that her grandmother can see the future, she tells them her story. Her grandfather and his lodge friends then try a strange séance ritual to send her back to 1985.

Peggy Sue is then kidnapped by Charlie, leaving everyone at the Lodge thinking that the ritual worked. He tells her that he told his dad that he gave up singing and was given 10% of the business so he can support her. He then proposes and gives her the locket she wore at the beginning of the film. When she looks inside, she sees baby pictures of her and Charlie, which resemble their children. Peggy Sue sees how much he loves her and how much she loves him, and they kiss. They begin to make love, which would again lead to Peggy getting pregnant and marrying Charlie. In the next moment, Peggy Sue is transported back to 1985.

Peggy Sue awakes in a hospital, with Charlie at her side. He is deeply regretful of his adultery and tells Peggy Sue he wants her back. When she questions him about his girlfriend Janet, he swears it is over. It seems there is hope for a reconciliation when Peggy Sue looks at Charlie with new eyes and (citing a reference from her grandfather who claimed that her grandmother’s strudel kept the family together) says, “I’d like to invite you over to your house for dinner on Sunday with your kids. I’ll make a strudel.”


Kathleen Turner as Peggy Sue Bodell
Nicolas Cage as Charlie Bodell
Barry Miller as Richard Norvik
Catherine Hicks as Carol Heath
Joan Allen as Maddy Nagle
Kevin J. O’Connor as Michael Fitzsimmons
Jim Carrey as Walter Getz
Lisa Jane Persky as Delores Dodge
Lucinda Jenney as Rosalie Testa
Wil Shriner as Arthur Nagle
Barbara Harris as Evelyn Kelcher
Don Murray as Jack Kelcher
Sofia Coppola as Nancy Kelcher
John Carradine as Leo
Maureen O’Sullivan as Elizabeth Alvorg
Leon Ames as Barney Alvorg
Helen Hunt as Beth Bodell
Glenn Withrow as Terry
Marshall Crenshaw as Musician at the reunion

The film was originally going to star Debra Winger and be directed by Jonathan Demme. They had creative differences and Demme left the project, to be replaced by Penny Marshall, who would be making her feature directorial debut. Then Marshall had creative differences with the writers and left the project. Winger then quit out of loyalty to Marshall. Rastar, the production company, offered the film to Francis Ford Coppola hoping to entice Winger back to the project. In the end, Kathleen Turner became the star.

Kathleen Turner has spoken numerous times about the difficulty of working with co-star Nicolas Cage. In her 2008 memoir, she wrote that:

“He caused so many problems. He was arrested twice for drunk-driving and, I think, once for stealing a dog. He’d come across a chihuahua he liked and stuck it in his jacket. On the last night of filming, he came into my trailer after he’d clearly been drinking heavily. He fell on his knees and asked if I could ever forgive him. I said, “Not right now. I have a scene to shoot. Excuse me,” and just walked out. Nicolas didn’t manage to kill the film, but he didn’t add a lot to it, either. For years, whenever I saw him, he’d apologise for his behaviour. I’d say: “Look, I’m way over it.” But I haven’t pursued the idea of working with him again.”

Turner also criticized Cage for his decision to adopt a nasal fry for his character, and to wear false teeth. In response to Turner’s claims that he had driven drunk and stolen a Chihuahua, Cage sued her for defamation and won. In exchange he received a public apology from Turner, admission from her publisher that the claims were false and defamatory, and a pledge that Turner and the publisher would make a substantial donation to charity.

During an interview in 2018, Turner commented on Cage’s nasal voice that:

“It was tough to not say, ‘Cut it out”. But it wasn’t my job to say to another actor what he should or shouldn’t do. So I went to Francis [Ford Coppola]. I asked him, ‘You approved this choice?’ It was very touchy. He [Nicolas Cage] was very difficult on set. But the director allowed what Nicolas wanted to do with his role, so I wasn’t in a position to do much except play with what I’d been given. If anything, it [Cage’s portrayal] only further illustrated my character’s disillusionment with the past. The way I saw it was, yeah, he was that asshole.”

Peggy Sue Got Married gained a positive reaction from critics, as it currently holds an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 26 reviews.

The film opened with $6,942,408 and ended up grossing $41,382,841 in the U.S. It was the first box-office success for Coppola since Apocalypse Now.

Kathleen Turner won the 1986 award for Best Actress from the U.S. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. The film ranked number 17 on Entertainment Weekly‘s list of “50 Best High School Movies”.

This film appeared on Siskel and Ebert’s best of 1986 lists.

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