Stay Classy: Sixteen Candles

Whatever Forever

sixteen candles


Year Released: 1984 (Today, May 4, marks its 30th birthday!)

How it Fared Back Then: It was an instant hit, garnering $23 million at the box office and compliments from (according to Rotten Tomatoes, anyway) more than 85 % of critics, including an especially enthusiastic Roger Ebert. In a bigger picture sense, it marked the breakthroughs of both Molly Ringwald and John Hughes in the teen movie realm, resulting in their continued partnerships in other now-classic ’80s flicks The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. 

Why It’s Lasted: It’s a timeless tale that we all know too tell, covering the universal and unisex struggle to find love in the battlefield that is high school hierarchy. Everyone can relate to at least one character, whether it’s lead, birthday girl Andie (Ringwald), and her quest for the attention of hot popular dude Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling); Farmer Ted (Anthony Michael Hall) and his ongoing efforts to get some sort of girl to look twice at him (Andie, however, would be preferable); or Jake and his struggle to accept his feelings for a girl outside of his standard circle. It helps that John Hughes, now considered the voice of every teen that has ever lived, wrote the script, which isn’t really dated except for, perhaps, the segments involving Korean exchange student Long Duck Dong. That’s likely why its referenced by countless TV shows and movies and nostalgic t-shirts (I still have my “I ❤ Jake Ryan” tee on standby!) to this day.

Classic Moments:

  • The opening credits montage, which takes you through the morning teen routine, including the getting off the bus and getting with your girlfriend/boyfriend of the moment before the bell rings, and is set to “Kajagoogoo” by–you guessed it!–“Kajagoogoo.”
  • The moment that directly proceeds the credits, with Andie huffing that her family “fucking forgot her birthday.”
  • The “sex quiz” that Andie does in class, which of course sees her naming Jake as the guy she’d “do it” and him picking up the paper after she’s done with it and finding out.
  • Farmer Ted convincing Andie to give him her panties so he can impress his geek friends, and then holding them up like a trophy in the boys’ bathroom.
  • Long Duck Dong’s introduction to the world, via the line “What’s happening, hot stuff?” The rest of schtick may borderline on offensive, but this moment remains hilarious in its silliness.
  • The first part of the ending, in which Jake Ryan appears outside Andie’s sister’s wedding, leaning on his red hot rod like the true stud that he is.
  • The second part of the ending, where Andie decides to go with Jake instead of attending the reception, leading to the perfect final scene in which the two sit cross-legged on his kitchen table. “Happy birthday, sweetheart. Make a wish,” he says softly, as he leans over the birthday cake towards her. “It already came true,” she replies, before going in for a kiss. If that wasn’t enough to give you goosebumps, the whole thing is set to the eerily beautiful “If You Were Here” by the Thompson Twins.

Does it Hold Up? Aside from some of the Long Duck Dong stuff, I’d say definitely. Sure, the costumes and music harken back to their given era, but there’s a timeless quality to this movie and its documentation of what it’s like to be a 16-year-old that’s really still 15 out of sheer social insecurity. It’s funny, sweet and awkward, as most girls and boys were at Andie’s age, and will remain that way no matter how many birthdays it sees.

Read more from Whatever Forever.


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