It won Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Shirley MacLaine), Best Director, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. It was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (John Lithgow), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Debra Winger), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Original Score and Best Sound.
Nicholson's character, astronaut Garrett Breedlove, was not in the original novel. The part was created for Burt Reynolds, but he was already committed to make another movie, so the part went to Nicholson. Jennifer Jones and Sissy Spacek were the original choices for the mother and daughter roles.