Most romantic film #32: Sixteen Candles (1984)

Admit it: if you’re a woman between the ages of 35 and 50 this might be one of the films that could be called “iconic” in your life. Not saying you like it, but we all know the impact of John Hughes and his teen-pics of the 1980s.

The story is simple: Sam’s family, caught up in the wedding of her older sister Ginny, forgets Sam’s 16th birthday.

But that is just the start.

  • Her awkward relatives descend on the house, complete with exchange student Long Duk Dong.
  • Her “sex quiz” gets picked up by the object of her crush, Jake, a popular senior.
  • A freshman “Geek” who has a crush on her constantly makes moves on her.
  • Her sister’s husband and his family are dreadful, dreadful people.
  • the Geek borrows her panties and shows them to all the other Geeks for $1 a view

Somehow, despite all this, Jake turns out to be a good guy and kind of aware of Sam. He finally celebrates her birthday with her–one day late–having provided a beautiful cake with candles.

It’s Cinderella, isn’t it? But in high school and your sister’s wedding thrown in.

The comedy is smart, broad, and funny, the high school is without vampires (the only threat is total humiliation, and who didn’t experience that?), and Hughes lampoons everyone from grandparents to geeks to cheerleaders. The cruelest humor (in my opinion) is reserved for the popular rich girl, and I do think it is pretty mean-spirited. Coupled with one of the other mid-80s Hughes films, like Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful or St. Elmo’s Fire (Not Hughes-directed, but same actors/style), you’d have a nostalgic date night at home, with popcorn and fondue. Or couple it with Grosse Point Blank for a counterpoint.


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