"It's the time of your life that may last a lifetime"
During the early 1980s, the teen movie was regarded somewhat suspiciously. For every well-written drama there was a Porky's sequel capitalising on the sheer crowd-pulling power of cheap laughs and T&A. In 1984, John Hughes, as both writer and director, sought something greater. He created the eponymous 80's teen film.
Sixteen Candles follows Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald), a nerdy yet likable teen who finds herself in the midst of twin existential crises: Her family has forgotten her sixteenth birthday due to her sister's imminent wedding, and she's pining hopelessly for school hunk Jake (Michael Schoeffling). Jake however, is already accounted for by the school's hottest senior femme, Caroline (Haviland Morris, who later starred in Gremlins 2: Electric Boogaloo). To complicate proceedings, Samantha is pursued by both the nerdier-than-thou Farmer Ted (Anthony Michael Hall at his very best), and waterfowl penile joke/foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe, now in ER). Bit parts were also packed full of soon-to-be-familiar faces: John Cusack, Joan Cusack, and Jami Gertz among them.
And of course, like most 80s teen films, it is the night of the high school dance. As the evening wears on, Sam finds herself getting closer to Jake; Ted furthers his plan to get Sam's panties; and Long Duk Dong learns to party, American-style.
Rather than relying (solely) on cheap laughs, Hughes manages to squeeze out the odd poignant moment from the teen genre. When Sam and Ted discuss his status as the king of the geeks, the movie manages to be both humorous and trenchant all at once. Hughes also shows a talent for recreating the dysfunctional rhythms of family life - the trading of insults between Sam and her brother, and the uncomfortable dinner between Sam's parents and their future in-laws.
Sixteen Candles wasn't particularly successful at the box office but found its largest audience on video. Its relative success also led Hughes to write, produce and/or direct his string of teen movies including The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.