American Graffiti (1973)

american graffiti poster 1973 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking, great acting

So-so story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  American Graffiti

Studio:  American Zoetrope

Genre(s):  Comedy/Drama

Release Date(s):  August 11, 1973

MPAA Rating:  PG


So I was thinking you two should star is period piece television shows…how’s that sound?

It is Steve Bolander (Ron Howard) and Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss) last night in town before headed off to college in the East. They’re out to make the most of it. Steve must deal with his girlfriend (and Curt’s sister) Laurie Henderson (Cindy Williams) and decide where their relationship is going while Curt is having second thought…especially when he sees a mysterious beauty (Suzanne Somers) who seems to be interested in him. Curt and Steve’s friend Terry “The Toad” Fields (Charles Martin Smith) is trying to woo a new girlfriend named Debbie Dunham (Candy Clark) with Steve’s car, and Curt and Steve’s friend John Milner (Paul Le Mat) is stuck cruising around with a young teen girl Carol Morrison (Mackenzie Phillips) while trying to avoid a racing challenge from Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford). It is one last night but the decisions they make could change their lives.

Directed by George Lucas and produced by Francis Ford Coppola, American Graffiti is a 1950s period piece.  The film became a box office success and was widely emulated.  Lauded by critics, American Graffiti was nominated for Best Picture (losing to The Sting), Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Candy Clark), and Best Editing.


I really like fast cars

The movie and its path to release release was kind of a messy one. Lucas’ THX 1138 was liked but not a financial success. Lucas wanted to do Apocalypse Now (but failed to get it green lit), and Coppola helped him get American Graffiti made. The movie was such a success that it allowed Lucas to have the money to back Star Wars, and he even cast some of the people from American Graffiti including Harrison Ford (Mark Hamill had tried out for American Graffiti and Cindy Williams was considered for Princess Leia).

The movie deals heavily in nostalgia and was based on events form George Lucas’ life. It is full of classic music and events from any stereotypical late ’50s, early ’60s background (dances, milkshakes at the diner, and drag races in muscle cars). Wolfman Jack was sought out by Lucas because he used to listen to him and his cameo and scene with Dreyfuss is one of the fun parts of the movie.


Laughin’ my way to the bank, buddies!

American Graffiti also looks great. It is shot in a way that you can’t help be be jealous of the lives that these characters live. They seem very carefree and happy…even the danger in American Graffiti seems safe and non-threatening (the fact Bob and Laurie walk away from the horrific crash is a sign of that). The movie does a great job capturing the fun of the time. It is because of this that the movie’s odd “what happened to the characters” portion is such a downer. This was a pretty new thing to do and it has been copied many times. It can all be fun and games like the updates in Animal House, but American Graffiti’s “where are they now” moment is such a downer for a happy movie.

American Graffiti is a classic. It is one of those movies that needs to be seen to understand films that came after it. It wasn’t the gross-out type movie but movies like the teen comedies of the 1980s all borrowed from the ideas set up in the film. American Graffiti can also be credited with the rise of one of television’s great’s Happy Days which had American Graffiti star Ron Howard in a very similar role (and of course thrust him back in high school where he was obviously too old). Happy Days pilot (under a different name) had been shot and the success of American Graffiti helped make it finally happen. American Graffiti was followed by a much malign sequel More American Graffiti in 1979.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

One Comment on "American Graffiti (1973)"

  1. Joseph Alsarraf May 20, 2012 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    Lol! I just saw this movie. I didn’t really understand the story but, I loved all the cars that were in it. Great movie, a definite classic!

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