->''"The whole strip is shrinkin'. Ah, you know, I remember about five years ago, it'd take you a couple of hours and a tank full of gas just to make one circuit. It was really somethin'."''
-->-- '''John Milner''', being nostalgic in an already nostalgic movie

Think ''Film/DazedAndConfused'' set in TheFifties (or pre-hippie-era [[TheSixties Sixties]] if you want to be technical about it).

'''''American Graffiti''''' is a 1973 {{Coming Of Age|Story}} film based on director Creator/GeorgeLucas's memories of growing up in the 1950s and early '60s, and he thus manages to cram in as much PopularHistory as possible. Of course, [[SeinfeldIsUnfunny he was one of the first to do this]]. The film was produced by Lucas's friend and fellow filmmaker Creator/FrancisFordCoppola, who was just coming off his success with directing ''Film/TheGodfather''.

Set in small-town California in 1962, it follows a bunch of HighSchool kids (and a couple of college-bound recent graduates) as they spend the last night of summer vacation goofing around, getting into trouble and contemplating their futures while listening to NothingButHits. No, [[RandomEventsPlot there really is no plot]]. Get over it.

A huge (and unexpected) hit for Creator/{{Universal}}, ''American Graffiti'' established Lucas's box-office bona fides, kicked the already-existing '50s nostalgia boom of TheSeventies into high gear, and provided the template for countless teen comedies to follow. The film is also notable for its EnsembleCast of soon-to-be famous young actors including Creator/RichardDreyfuss, Creator/RonHoward, Cindy Williams, Suzanne Somers, Mackenzie Phillips and Creator/HarrisonFord. Also featured is famous radio disc jockey Wolfman Jack playing a version of himself.

The movie has a lesser-known sequel, 1979's ''More American Graffiti'', which was set in TheSixties and supposedly "made all of ten cents".

!!This film provides examples of:

* AmericanTitle: Graffiti, of the American variety.
* AnachronicOrder: Extreme aversion, as Lucas actually filmed all of the scenes in chronological order. Ron Howard took this as a slur on their professionalism until Lucas explained that he wanted the characters to look increasingly tired as the night went on.
* AsHimself: Wolfman Jack.
* AuthorAvatar: Curt Henderson basically stands in for the teenaged Creator/GeorgeLucas.
%%* AutoErotica
* BasedOnATrueStory / WriteWhatYouKnow: Creator/GeorgeLucas ' life as a teenage gearhead in Modesto.
* BerserkButton: When Laurie rebuffs Steve's advances in the car, he irritatedly tells her, "Don't be so damn self-righteous with me, after all that stuff you told me about [[BigBrotherAttraction watching your brother]]." She doesn't react well.
* BetweenMyLegs: At one point we get a shot of this with Toad and Debbie.
* BittersweetEnding: Possibly leans to DownerEnding when the WhereAreTheyNowEpilogue tells us what happened to the four main characters.
* CantHoldHisLiquor: Toad, who at one point gets violently sick in an alley behind a bar.
-->'''Man:''' He must not have been used to drinking.
-->'''Debbie:''' No, likes to drink. He told me.
-->'''Old Woman:''' On his hands and knees like thatÖ He looks like a dog, doesn't he? Looks like old Ginger.
-->'''Old Man:''' Sicker'n a dog, that's for sure.
* CoolBigSis: Horribly averted (or at least subverted) with Carol's big sister Judy. Seriously, even granting that it was a more "innocent" era, who lets their younger pre-teen sister ride off with some strange older guy?
* CoolCar: Pretty much all of them. Even Curt's CitroŽn, which is sort of presented as TheAllegedCar in the context of the film, looks impossibly boss at this late date.
** Toad's Vespa might be seen as a CoolBike.
* CoolOldGuy: The omnipresent DJ Wolfman Jack, who gives Curt some advice towards the end.
* CultSoundtrack: This film helped to spark a big interest in "oldies" music, and the accompanying soundtrack album reached the Top 10 on the ''Billboard'' chart and eventually went triple-platinum.
* DateRapeAverted: Variation. John Milner wasn't interested in Carol. But in order to get her address so he could bring her home, he faked coming on to her.
* DontDoAnythingIWouldntDo: Terry jokingly tells Curt this when seeing him off at the airport at the end.
* EmbarrassingNickname: Terry "Toad" Fields.
* EndOfAnEra: The film is happening just as TheSixties are rolling into view and TheFifties, with their cruising early rock-'n'-roll culture, are fading in the rearview mirror.
** John's tour of the junkyard with Carol pointing out the wrecks of previous fast cars that dominated the nightlife.
* ExtremelyShortTimespan: The whole film takes place over the course of a single night.
* [[spoiler:FakingTheDead]]: Toad, in ''More American Graffiti''.
* TheFifties: Set in 1962, but the fashions, music, etc. reflect the 1950s, since real-life aesthetics and attitudes of course don't follow actual decades.
* FreudianSlipperySlope:
-->'''Debbie:''' That's bitchin' tuck-and-roll! You know, I really love the feel of tuck-and-roll upholstery.
-->'''Terry:''' Yeah? Well, get in and I'll let you feel it...I mean, you know, you can touch it...uh...I'll let you feel the upholstery.
* GloryDays: Milner is already beginning to verge on this.
* HassleFreeHotwire: Toad attempts one of these to retrieve Steve's stolen car, but it backfires when the thieves catch him in the act. He eventually gets the keys back after after John beats the thieves up.
* TheHerosJourney: Seriously, if you follow Curt's storyline -- spending the entire night trying to find a beautiful mystery woman -- you'd be amazed at how closely it hews to Campbellian tropes. Up to and including the meeting with Wolfman Jack as a [[TheObiWan magus figure]] presiding over the teenage nightlife and who grants Curt the chance to meet that mystery woman.
* HighSchoolDance: Choreographed by Toni Basil, of later "Mickey" fame.
* IfWeGetThroughThis: In ''More American Graffiti'', Joe tells Toad he's going to make him a Pharaoh when they get back home from Vietnam. [[spoiler:Then Joe is killed by a sniper's bullet.]]
* IronicEchoCut: Curt distracts an arcade owner with small talk while the Pharaohs take the money from his pinball machines. After they leave:
-->'''Joe:''' You just might make it as a Pharaoh yet, boy!
-->'''Owner:''' Someday he'll make a fine [[BrotherhoodOfFunnyHats Moose]].
* ITakeOffenseToThatLastOne:
-->'''Milner:''' You grungy little twerp.
-->'''Carol:''' Grungy?!?
** Not only that, but when the police pull him over, she threatens to tell them Milner raped her unless he apologizes for calling her grungy.
* LeaveTheCameraRunning: Legend has it Lucas fell asleep during some of the night shoots and the cameraman kept filming not knowing when to stop.
* LifeWillKillYou: [[spoiler:John Milner and Joe Young]], in ''More American Graffiti''.
* MakeOutPoint: The spot by the canal where the kids go to, as Wolfman Jack puts it, "[[UnusualEuphemism watch the submarine races]]".
* MaltShop: Mel's Drive-In
* {{Mooning}}: A young woman flashes her bare ass at Toad while out on the strip.
* MyGirlIsNotASlut: Curt refuses to believe it when Joe tells him the Blonde in the T-Bird is a prostitute.
* NerdGlasses: Worn by Toad.
* NewYearHasCome: ''More American Graffiti'' intersperses events from New Year's Eve 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967.
* NiceHat: Bob Falfa's white cowboy hat.
* NoCommunitiesWereHarmed: While the name of the town is never given, it's meant to be a stand-in for George Lucas' own hometown of Modesto, California. (The film's WorkingTitle was ''Another Slow Night in Modesto''.) However, most of the shooting was done in Petaluma and other Bay Area locations.
* NoNameGiven: The official, credited name of Suzanne Somers' character is "Blonde in T-Bird".
* NothingButHits: The whole movie is scored from end to end with late-'50s and early-'60s pop hits. Notably absent is [[ElvisPresley Elvis]], whose licensing proved too expensive. (As it was, a large chunk of Lucas' budget for the film went toward acquiring music rights for the soundtrack.) Later Lucas would finally afford the rights to use an Elvis song, "Hound Dog" in the fourth IndianaJones movie, set in 1957.
** One notable featured act is Music/TheBeachBoys, whose "Surfin' Safari" is heard on the radio and even discussed by John and Carol. Showing the changing culture of the era, the jaded and older John hates their surf music and bemoans what has happened to rock and roll since the 1959 death of Music/BuddyHolly, while the younger Carol thinks they are "boss".
*** Ironically enough, many people nowadays tend to think of surf music (and by extension, all rock music from before UsefulNotes/TheBritishInvasion) as just another type of "'50s music" (when in reality there were only three surf songs released prior to 1960, and they were more like doo-wop anyway).
** {{Justified}}, as these songs were still only a few years old in 1962 and received occasional airplay on the radio (the "golden oldies" phenomenon) and ''Series/AmericanBandstand''.
%%* PopularHistory
* RandomEventsPlot / TwoLinesNoWaiting: After introducing the main characters, the movie follows them through their various individual experiences during the night, none of which have much to do with one another.
%%* SeeminglyWholesomeFiftiesGirl
* ShoutOut: Milner's license plate number: "[[Film/THX1138 THX 138]]".
** At one point a movie theater can be seen with the marquee advertising Coppola's ''Dementia 13''. (Technically an anachronism, since that film didn't come out until 1963.)
** Curt watches ''The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet'' on a TV in a store window.
** During his radio show, Wolfman Jack crank-calls a guy named Floyd and recites a few lines from George Herbert's 17th-century poem "Love (III)" to him.
* TheSixties: When the movie really takes place. It's just the style of the New Frontier has yet to replace the cruising culture in that part of the country and it's too early for [[Music/TheBeatles Beatlemania]].
* SmallTownBoredom: Why Steve is so keen for he and Curt to leave for college.
* SourceMusic: All of the music in the film is presented diagetically, save for Music/TheBeachBoys' "All Summer Long", which plays over the closing credits. (Just as well, since that song actually wasn't released until ''1964''.)
* SuspiciouslySimilarSubstitute: With Dreyfuss opting out of ''More American Graffiti'', we're introduced in that film to Curt and Laurie's previously-unmentioned younger brother Andy.
* TeacherStudentRomance: It is implied at the school's dance that one of these is occurring between a male teacher and a female student, but since the characters aren't really important, it's never delved into.
%%* NostalgiaFilter
* ThatCameOutWrong: When Milner and Falfa are engaging in SnarkToSnarkCombat about their respective cars, Carol yells out to Falfa, "Your car is uglier than I am!", before realizing, "That didn't come out right."
* ThatNostalgiaShow: To the late '50s and early '60s, when George Lucas was a teenager.
* TheUnintelligible: The intercom speaker at Mel's, when Toad tries to make an order.
* TheUnreveal: We [[spoiler:never find out who the blonde in the T-Bird is, and we never learn why she said "I love you" to Curt at that stoplight.]]
* WhatADrag: The greaser gang known as the Pharoahs talk about tying Curt to the bumper of their car and dragging him around for the crime of sitting on the hood.
* WhereAreTheyNowEpilogue: Given some of the characters' fates, it's a DownerEnding as well. All these events are shown, in detail, in the sequel:
** John Milner [[spoiler:ends up having a car crash on New Year's Eve ([[RetCon originally June]]) 1964.]]
** Terry "Toad" Fields [[spoiler:joins the Army and is reported missing-in-action in December 1965.]]
** Steve Bolander [[spoiler:is still living in Modesto, and is an insurance agent.]]
** Curt Henderson [[spoiler:is now a writer living in Canada.]]
* WhiteGangbangers: The Pharaohs appear to be a mixture of white and Latino kids.