Sixteen Candles

Sixteen Candles

Synopsis of Movie

In the early 1980’s, the teen movie was not a respected genre. It seemed that for every respectable effort like My Bodyguard, there were five crass crowd-pleasers like Porky’s to outnumber it. Thus, people weren’t inclined to think of teen movies as anything more than a source of crude laughs. This all changed in 1983 when John Hughes made one of the all-time teen movie classics, Sixteen Candles. This comedy based its humor on observation instead of cheap gags, and in the process firmly established John Hughes as the new king of teen movies.

Sixteen Candles focuses on Samantha Baker, a smart, likable teen who finds herself dealing with one crisis after another on her sixteenth birthday. To start with, her family has forgotten her birthday in the rush created by her sister Ginny’s impending wedding. But that’s not her only problem: she also happens to be head over heels in love with the school’s resident dreamboat, Jake Ryan. However, Jake is already spoken for by the school’s hottest senior femme, Caroline. To make matters worse, Samantha is also being pursued by the school’s king geek, and by Long Duk Dong, a hormonal exchange student who is staying with her grandparents.

Things only get crazier as the night approaches, since it happens to be the night of the big school dance. Samantha finds herself getting closer and closer to Jake, who might actually be interested in Sam. Meanwhile, Ted steps up his plans to win Samantha over, and Long Duk Dong discovers the wonders of partying American-style. The events of the evening lead to a wild party at Jake’s house, with interesting consequences for everyone involved by the night’s end.

Sixteen Candles was much more than your average teen comedy. It sounded and felt very real, thanks to John Hughes’ ability to create believable teen talk and behavior patterns. When Samantha and Ted discuss his status as the king of the geeks, the movie manages to be funny and poignant all at once. Hughes was equally at home recreating the often dysfunctional rhythms of family life (the insult-fights between Sam and her brother, a memorably uncomfortable dinner between Sam’s parents and their future in-laws, etc.). In all these scenes, Hughes showed a special ability to get the maximum humor out of his scenes without ever letting it become mean-spirited or too outrageous for its own good.

These witty and well-observed scenes come to life thanks to memorable performances from a combination of old pros and gifted newcomers. Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall won long-lived teen stardom thanks to their witty but heartfelt turns as Sam and Ted, and Gedde Watanabe managed to steal every scene he was in as the irrepressible Long Duk Dong. The film’s bit parts were also full of soon-to-be-familiar faces: John Cusack, Jami Gertz and Joan Cusack among them.

Sixteen Candles did fairly well at the box office but found its biggest audience on cable and home video. It quickly became a small-screen favorite, thanks to its durable combination of fall-down-funny gags and endlessly quotable dialogue. Its success also led Hughes to write, produce and/or direct a string of unforgettable teen movies like The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. And even today, Sixteen Candles holds up as one of the most perceptive teen movies in film history because of its unique combination of wit and heart.

Movie Release History

1983 - Sixteen Candles

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Samantha Baker Molly Ringwald
Mike Baker Justin Henry Jake Ryan Michael Schoeffling
Caroline Haviland Morris Long Duk Dong Gedde Watanabe
Ted Anthony Michael Hall Jim Baker Paul Dooley
Brenda Baker Carlin Glynn Ginny Baker Rizcheck Blanche Baker
Howard Baker Edward Andrews Dorothy Baker Billie Bird
Helen Carole Cook Fred Max Showalter
Randy Liane Alexandra Curtis Bryce John Cusack
Cliff Weiz Darren Harris Lumberjack Deborah Pollack
Ray Gun Geek #1 Ross Berkson Jimmy Montrose Jonathan Chapin
Girl In Scoliosis Brace Joan Cusack Reverend Brian Doyle-Murray
Female DJ Bekka Eaton Shower Double Pamela Elser
Ray Gun Geek #2 Steven Farber Robin Jami Gertz
Freshman Frank Howard Sara Baker Cinnamon Idles
Rudy Rizcheck John Kapelos Irene Marge Kotlisky
Bock Tony Longo Jock Steve Monarque
Bruno Bill Orsi Patty Baker Beth Ringwald
Organist Zelda Rubinstein Bus Driver Dennis Vero
Tracy Elaine Wilkes

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