Night Shift (1982 film)

Night Shift is a 1982 American comedy film, directed by Ron Howard, concerning a timid night shift morgue employee whose life is turned upside down by a new co-worker who fancies himself a free-spirited entrepreneur. It stars Howard's Happy Days co-star Henry Winkler along with Michael Keaton, in his first starring role, and Shelley Long. Also appearing are Richard Belzer and Clint Howard; and there are brief scenes with a young Kevin Costner as "Frat Boy #1," Shannen Doherty as a Bluebell scout, Vincent Schiavelli as a man who delivers a sandwich, and Charles Fleischer as one of the jail prisoners.

Night Shift
Night Shift movie poster
Directed byRon Howard
Produced byBrian Grazer
Written byLowell Ganz
Babaloo Mandel
Music byBurt Bacharach
CinematographyJames Crabe
Edited byRobert James Kern
Mike Hill
Daniel P. Hanley
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • July 30, 1982 (1982-07-30)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$21,095,638

Winkler was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, while Keaton won the Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor.[1]


Charles “Chuck” Lumley (Winkler), formerly a successful stockbroker, has found a refuge from the ulcer-inducing Wall Street rat race in his job as an attendant at the New York City morgue. His displeasure at being "promoted" to Night Shift Supervisor to make room for his boss' nephew Leonard (Di Cicco) is exacerbated by the irrational exuberance of Bill "Blaze" Blazejowski (Keaton), his new co-worker. They are inspired by the plight of Chuck's prostitute neighbor, Belinda, to apply Chuck's financial acumen and Bill's entrepreneurial spirit to open a prostitution service headquartered at the morgue.

Chuck falls in love with Belinda (Long), but their relationship becomes complicated when Belinda refuses to quit prostitution. Chuck's passiveness keeps him from telling Belinda he loves her. Meanwhile, Chuck and Bill's foray into the prostitution business draws the ire of dangerous pimps who come to the morgue and threaten to kill Chuck. Bill inadvertently leads undercover cops to the morgue where Chuck is being assaulted by the pimps. A shootout ensues. Chuck and Bill are rescued, but are arrested for promoting prostitution. Because their arrest would be a political embarrassment, the guys are offered their old jobs back and a dismissal of all charges. Chuck accepts this, but Bill sees it as an opportunity to bargain with the mayor's office. Chuck and Bill fight and part ways. Chuck's fiancée Charlotte (Gina Hecht) ends their engagement.

Chuck sees Belinda in the hall of their apartment complex, but again fails to express his true feelings for her. Belinda leaves, and Chuck becomes angry with himself for being afraid. With renewed determination, Chuck finds Belinda working in an adult club and professes his love for her. He also finds Bill is employed there. The three leave the club together and go out on the town.



The movie's opening theme song is "Night Shift" by Quarterflash. The closing theme song, "That's What Friends Are For," performed by Rod Stewart, was written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager.

The official soundtrack was released in 1982 on the Ladd Company label and was distributed by Warner Bros. It included ten selected tracks from the film, six of which were written just for the film:

  1. "Night Shift" by Quarterflash
  2. "Street Talk" by Burt Bacharach
  3. "Girls Know How" by Al Jarreau
  4. "The Love Too Good to Last" by The Pointer Sisters
  5. "That's What Friends Are For" by Rod Stewart
  6. "Someday, Someway" by Marshall Crenshaw
  7. "Penthouse and Pavement" by Heaven 17
  8. "Talk Talk" by Talk Talk
  9. "Everlasting Love" by Rufus and Chaka Khan
  10. "That's What Friends Are For (Night Shift Love Theme) (instrumental)" by Burt Bacharach

The soundtrack was a vinyl and cassette-only release. The versions of "Talk Talk" and "Penthouse and Pavement" that are on the soundtrack are different from any other releases of the songs as they were specially mixed for the soundtrack.

Other songs heard in the film include "You Really Got Me" by Van Halen[2] and a live version of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" by The Rolling Stones, taken from the 1977 live album Love You Live; a section of "Cutting Branches for a Temporary Shelter" by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra is also heard.


Box office

Night Shift earned approximately $21.1 million at the domestic box office.[3]

Critical reception

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 92% of 24 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.46/10.[4] Many reviewers praised the performances of the two male leads, particularly Michael Keaton.

TV Guide′s Movie Guide wrote that "Winkler turns in the best performance of his career, and Keaton is wonderful."[5] The Chicago Reader Jonathan Rosenbaum compared Night Shift to the subsequent comedy film Risky Business (which also dealt with the theme of prostitution), noting that Night Shift isn't "as snappily directed or as caustically conceived, ... but it's arguably just as sexy and almost as funny."[6] The New York Times′ Janet Maslin, however, deemed Night Shift "a halfway funny movie, one that's got loads of good gags in its first half and nothing but trouble in its second."[7] Gene Siskel, writing in the Chicago Tribune, gave the film two stars out of four but hailed Keaton's "superb comic performance", writing that "based on this one role, I would now pay to see Keaton in just about anything. Anything except Night Shift."[8]


  1. "KCFCC Award Winners – 1980-89". KCFCC. December 14, 2013. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  2. Debra Filcman. "Everything You Need To Know About Van Halen's 'You Really Got Me'". Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  3. Night Shift Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  4. "Night Shift (1982)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  5. "Night Shift: Review," TV Guide's Movie Guide. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  6. Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "Night Shift," Chicago Reader.
  7. Janet Maslin. "'Night Shift' Vice Ring Humor at Morgue The New York Times (July 30, 1982).
  8. Gene Siskel (July 30, 1982). "Comedy given short shrift with 'Night Shift'". Chicago Tribune. p. c1.
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