American Graffiti (1973)

PG   |    |  Comedy, Drama


American Graffiti (1973) Poster

A couple of high school grads spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college.


7.4/10
83,274

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1 June 2004 | jantoniou
The great, seminal '60s nostalgia flick
I was born at the beginning of the next decade--1970--yet "American Graffiti" was a chord that rippled throughout my life.

My father, who, like George Lucas, grew up in California's Central Valley, said this movie perfectly captured what it was like to grow up there--street cruising, hot rodding, picking up chicks, pulling pranks. Though this movie necessarily sidesteps the boredom inherent in growing up in the pesticide-choked San Joaquin Valley, the place itself is not as important the time it explores. It was a time just before the 1960s descended into the beginning of the end of American culture--the prototypical middle America that existed in almost all its small towns and now has substantively disappeared thanks to the urbanization and suburbanization of much of this country.

The ensemble cast, including so many that went on to become hugely successful in Hollywood--Ron Howard, Cindy Williams (well, with Laverne & Shirley at least), Richard Dreyfuss, and of course Harrison Ford (not to mention Lucas himself)--is handled with great skill from such a young director and reinforces the mystery why Lucas has so horribly mishandled Star Wars Eps. I and II. Lucas simply has been at the Ranch too long and his brilliant career has arrived parked in the garage at a large, entirely perfunctory business and media empire.

Anyway, regardless of Lucas' drift far away from the cutting edge, "American Graffiti" still stands as a kind of monument to his precocity. It is the kind of movie that hits every note with effortless precision, which I think is less the effort of great editing as it is a combination of youthful exuberance and actors and a director at essentially the beginning of their ascent as some of the best in the business.

This movie also withstands the test of time simply because it works magically both for those who have no particular emotional connection to the '60s and for those who were there on nearly equal levels. There is tremendous humor and naturalistic character play and dialog that few can help but be drawn into. Anyone with any sense of history will acknowledge that all the characters are standing at the edge of the deflowering and self-destruction of America in the '60s. It is a time of tremendous innocence, change, and harrowing decisions. The Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam haven't happened yet.

With Iraq and terrorism chewing at our consciousness every day, it's pretty easy for modern youth to identify and yearn for the nostalgia of such innocence.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Producer Francis Ford Coppola would later cast both Cindy Williams and Harrison Ford in The Conversation (1974) (produced, written and directed by Coppola) the following year.


Quotes

Terry Fields: Hey, what do you say, Curt? Last night in town... you guys gonna have a little bash before you leave?
Steve Bolander: The Moose have been looking for you all day.
Steve Bolander: They got worried... thought you were trying to avoid them or something.
Terry Fields: What is it? What do ya got?
Curt Henderson: Oh, ...


Goofs

When Carol runs from the Studebaker to Milner's coupe, she reaches through his passenger window to open the door with the inside latch handle, without trying the exterior handle (which isn't working, as Toad does the same thing); however, Carol would not yet have known that.


Crazy Credits

Worded epilogues prior to the credits shows what happen to the characters following the movie. While this has since become commonplace in films, it was considered innovative at the time.


Alternate Versions

One minor digital effect has been added, at the request of director George Lucas, and can be found on the 1998 Collector's Edition DVD and VHS. In the original theatrical release, when the movie title credit appears on screen in front of Mel's Drive-In, all that is seen behind the diner are buildings and a cloudy/grey sky. On the Collector's Edition DVD and VHS, a sunset with clouds has been digitally added in where the cloudy/grey sky originally was. The original shot used in the film can be seen at the opening of the American Graffiti documentary, which is on the same DVD/VHS.


Soundtracks

Runaway
Written by
Del Shannon and Max Crook (uncredited)
Del Shannon
Courtesy of Embee Productions:

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Comedy | Drama

Box Office

Budget:

$777,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$115,000,000

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$115,000,324

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