Silkwood is a 1983 American biographical drama film directed by Mike Nichols starring Meryl Streep, Cher and Kurt Russell. The screenplay by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen was inspired by the life of Karen Silkwood. Silkwood was a nuclear whistleblower and a labor union activist who died in a suspicious car accident while investigating alleged wrongdoing at the Kerr-McGee plutonium plant where she worked. In real life, her death was vindicated in a victorious 1979 lawsuit, Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee, led by attorney Daniel Sheehan and other founding members of the Christic Institute. The jury rendered its verdict of $10 million in damages to be paid to the Silkwood estate (her children), the largest amount in damages ever awarded for that kind of case at the time. The Silkwood estate eventually settled for $1.3 million.
Silkwood was shot largely in both New Mexico and Texas on a budget of $10 million. Factual accuracy was maintained throughout the script, with some incidents exactly parallel to the real-life experiences of Karen Silkwood. One scene in particular involved the activation of a radiation alarm at the plant. Silkwood herself had forty times the legal limit of radiation in her system. Streep had just finished filming Sophie's Choice (1982) when production began. The film also marked a departure for some of its stars: it is noted for being one of the first "serious" works of Cher, who had been previously known mostly for her singing, and for Kurt Russell, who was at the time widely known for his work in the action genre.
The film received critical acclaim and was a box office success, with particular attention focused on the performances by the three leading actors. At the 56th Academy Awards, Silkwood received five nominations in total. Streep was nominated for a Best Actress award, while Cher received a nomination for Supporting Actress. Director Mike Nichols received a nomination in the Best Director category. As of 2016, the film has not yet received a Blu-ray Disc release and is currently out of print on DVD in the United States.