Sixteen Candles

This article is about the film. For the song, see 16 Candles (song).
Sixteen Candles

Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Hughes
Produced by
Written by John Hughes
Music by Ira Newborn
Cinematography Bobby Byrne
Edited by Edward Warschillka
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • May 4, 1984 (1984-05-04)
Running time
93 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6.5 million
Box office $23.7 million[2]

Sixteen Candles is a 1984 American coming of age comedy film starring Molly Ringwald, Michael Schoeffling, and Anthony Michael Hall. It was written and directed by John Hughes.


High school sophomore Samantha "Sam" Baker (Molly Ringwald) struggles to get through the day on her 16th birthday, which her entire family has forgotten about because her older sister, Ginny (Blanche Baker), is getting married the next day. She is also plagued by infatuation with a popular and attractive senior, Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling). At school she fares no better when she finds out that a completed "sex quiz", which she tried to surreptitiously slip to her friend Randy (Liane Curtis), never reached her friend Randy and, unbeknownst to either of them, was picked up by Jake. Sam panics because the quiz contains sensitive information, such as she is a virgin and is saving herself for Jake.

She has a whole new set of problems when she arrives home to discover all four of her grandparents are staying at the Baker home during the wedding. One set of grandparents has brought along a bizarre foreign exchange student, Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe). The grandparents force Sam to take him along to her school's senior dance that night and, to Sam's amazement, it takes "The Donger" only five minutes to find an unlikely girlfriendthe tall, large-breasted jock, Marlene (Deborah Pollack), nicknamed "Lumberjack". They are found slow dancing in the gym.

A subplot involves a geeky freshman (Anthony Michael Hall) who tries to win a bet with his friends by continually (and unsuccessfully) trying to bed his love interest, Sam. The character is referred to on several occasions in the film as either "Ted" or "Farmer Ted", but is credited simply as "the Geek". On the way home on the school bus, Sam blows him off by saying, "Go to hell."

In the school auto shop during the dance, Sam and Ted begin talking and Sam confesses her love for Jake. Upon hearing this, Ted tells her that Jake had been asking about her at the dance, and they agree that Sam should just go and talk to him. As she's leaving, Ted reveals the wager to Sam, who agrees to loan him her panties to help him win.

Later (after a $1 admission peepshow of Sam's panties, which Sam finds out about the next day), Ted and his equally unwelcome geeky friends, Cliff (Darren Harris) and Bryce (John Cusack), go to the senior dance after-party, hosted at Jake's house. When they knock on the door, Long Duk Dong, who has come to the party with Marlene, greets them. Ted and his gang get in but they make a big mistake by knocking over the jocks' beer can pyramid. Ted and Bryce leave it up to Cliff to deal with the jocks.

Meanwhile, upstairs in Jake's bedroom, Jake takes the opportunity to look through the yearbook and finds Sam's photo. He jots down her phone-number on a scrap of paper and calls her, only to be disappointed when her grandparents pick up the phone.

Jake's entire house is completely trashed. At night's end, Jake finds Ted trapped under a table and they begin to talk. Jake inquires further about Sam, and Ted explains the situation. Jake makes a deal with Ted: If Ted lets Jake keep Sam's panties, Jake will allow Ted to drive home his drunk popular girlfriend, Caroline Mulford (Haviland Morris), in Jake's father's Rolls Royce. Jake later uses the excuse of finding them together to break up with Caroline (who had surprisingly fallen for Ted and doesn't mind the break-up very much). Ted's friends filmed Ted and Caroline making out. Afterward, Jake drives to the church just in time to meet an incredulous Sam after her sister's wedding.

The film concludes with Sam and Jake sharing a kiss over a birthday cake with 16 candles.



John Hughes had asked his agent for headshots of young actresses, and among those he received were those of Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy. Sheedy had auditioned for the role of Sam, but was dropped because of Hughes thinking Ringwald was more fitting for the role, but he called her a year later to give her a role in The Breakfast Club.[3] Inspired by Ringwald's appearance, he put it up over his desk and wrote the film just over a weekend with her in mind for the lead role.[4][5] For the male lead in the film, it had come down to Schoeffling and Viggo Mortensen.[6] For the part of Ted, Hughes saw a number of actors for the role: "Every single kid who came in to read for the part... did the whole, stereotyped high school nerd thing. You know - thick glasses, ball point pens in the pocket, white socks. But when Michael came in he played it straight, like a real human being. I knew right at that moment that I'd found my geek."[7]

Sixteen Candles was filmed primarily in and around the Chicago North Shore suburban communities of Evanston, Skokie, and Highland Park, Illinois during the summer of 1983, when leads Ringwald and Hall were 15 years old.[8] Most of the exterior scenes and some of the interior scenes were filmed at Niles East High School,[9] close to downtown Skokie, the setting for Hall's driving the Rolls Royce.[10] A cafeteria scene and a gym scene, were filmed at Niles North High School. The auto shop scene was filmed at Niles East High School in the auto shop. The Baker house is located at 3022 Payne Street in Evanston. The church (Glencoe Union Church - 263 Park Avenue) and parking lot where the final scenes take place are in Glencoe.[11]

Soundtrack and songs

Sixteen Candles
Soundtrack album by various artists
Released 1984
Genre Rock, new wave
Length 17:28
Label MCA Records
Producer Jimmy Iovine (16 Candles & Hang Up the Phone), Ira Newborn (Geek Boogie), John Cale (Gloria), & Alex Sadkin (If You Were Here)
Music sample
"Thompson Twins - If You Were Here"
Side 1
No.TitlePerformed ByLength
1."16 Candles"  Stray Cats2:52
2."Hang Up the Phone"  Annie Golden2:59
3."Geek Boogie"  Ira Newborn & the Geeks2:48
Side 2
No.TitlePerformed ByLength
1."Gloria"  Patti Smith5:54
2."If You Were Here"  Thompson Twins2:55

The original soundtrack was released as a specially priced mini album containing only 5 songs. However, the movie actually featured an extensive selection of over 30 songs. Songs from the movie that were not included on the soundtrack EP are as follows:


Box office

In its opening weekend the film grossed $4,461,520 in 1,240 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking second. By the end of its run, Sixteen Candles grossed $23,686,027 against a budget of $6.5 million.[2]

Critical response

Sixteen Candles was well received by critics and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1984.[12][13] Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 86% of critics gave it a positive rating, based on 30 reviews.[14] Ringwald's performance was especially praised; Variety called her "engaging and credible"[15] while Roger Ebert wrote that she "provides a perfect center for the story".[16]


The character of Long Duk Dong was criticized for being racially insensitive and offensive to Asians and others.[17] Alison MacAdam of NPR reports, "To some viewers, he represents one of the most offensive Asian stereotypes Hollywood ever gave America."[18] Asian Americans have complained that they were taunted with quotes of his stilted-English lines.[19] Roger Ebert defended him, writing that Gedde Watanabe "elevates his role from a potentially offensive stereotype to high comedy".[16]

In an article published in Salon, Amy Benfer considers whether the film directly condones date rape.[20] After the party scene, Jake tells Ted that his girlfriend Caroline is 'in the bedroom right now, passed out cold. I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to.'[21] He encourages Ted to drive her home saying 'she's so blitzed she won't know the difference'.[21] When Caroline and Ted wake up next to each other in the car, Caroline says she's fairly certain they had sex though neither of them remember it. Amy Benfer writes that "The scene only works because people were stupid about date rape at the time. Even in a randy teen comedy, you would never see two sympathetic male characters conspiring to take advantage of a drunk chick these days."[20]


In December 1984, Ringwald and Hall both won Young Artist Awards as "Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture" and "Best Young Actor in a Motion Picture" for their roles in the film, respectively becoming the first and only juvenile performers in the history of the Young Artist Awards to win the Best Leading Actress and Best Leading Actor awards for the same film (a distinction the film still retains as of 2014).[22] In July 2008, the movie was ranked number 49 on Entertainment Weekly's list of "The 50 Best High School Movies".[23]

Cancelled sequel

In 2005, Ringwald was reported to be producing a sequel to the film.[24] As of March 2010, Ringwald stated that she thought it was not a good idea to do remakes of great classic films.[25]


  1. "SIXTEEN CANDLES (15)". British Board of Film Classification. August 29, 1984. Retrieved April 18, 2015.
  2. 1 2 "Sixteen Candles". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-06-27.
  3. Wetpaint Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. Rocca, Mo (2011-04-17). "Molly Ringwald on life after teen angst - CBS News". CBS News. New York: CBS. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  5. Cook, Bruce (1985-09-11). "Molly Ringwald teen fans' favorite". The Day. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  6. "Ringwald visits John Hughes class". 2011-04-30. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  7. Lyman, Rick (1984-05-21). "The long search for a perfect geek". The Day. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  8. Susannah Gora (2010). You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation. Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-307-40843-3.
  9. William A. Gordon (1995). Shot On This Site: A Traveler's Guide to the Places and Locations Used to Film Famous Movies and TV Shows. Citadel. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-8065-1647-9.
  10. "Wilmette/Kenilworth Reference Rolodex - Movies filmed on the North Shore". Wilmette Public Library. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  11. Alex Thomas; Dave Wiemer (2002). "Hughes Hunt". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved 2008-09-10.
  12. "Best Films of 1984". Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  13. "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1984". Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  14. "Sixteen Candles (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  15. Staff (1984-01-01). "Sixteen Candles". Variety. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  16. 1 2 Ebert, Roger (1984-01-01). "Review: Sixteen Candles". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-06-27.
  17. Maslin, Janet (1984-05-04). "Review: Sixteen Candles". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  18. Alison MacAdam (2008). "Long Duk Dong: Last of the Hollywood Stereotypes?". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2010-02-21.
  19. Michael Joseph Gross (2004-05-09). "When the Losers Ruled in Teenage Movies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-12.
  20. 1 2 Amy Benfer. "The "Sixteen Candles" date rape scene?". Salon.
  21. 1 2
  22. "35th Annual Awards". Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  23. "50 Best High School Movies". Entertainment Weekly. 2008-07-31.
  24. William Keck (June 5, 2005). "MTV awards honor actors". USA Today. Retrieved November 15, 2007.
  25. Miles Bradford (2010). "Molly Ringwald not a fan of remaking one of her classic 80's movies". KABC-TV. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
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