Follow TV Tropes


Film / Can't Buy Me Love

Go To

Ronald Miller: I want to rent you.
Cindy Mancini: You want to rent me?
Ronald Miller: Yeah. You pretend you like me and we go out for a few weeks... and that will make me popular.
Cindy Mancini: Just going out with me is not gonna make you popular.
Ronald Miller: Well I have a thousand dollars that says it will.

Can't Buy Me Love is a 1987 teen comedy movie starring Patrick Dempsey as Ronald Miller, a high school nerd who spends a month as the fake boyfriend of the school's top cheerleader (and his long-time crush) Cindy Mancini by paying her $1000 to replace her mother's dress. Ron quickly becomes one of the popular kids and ends up leaving his old friends and Cindy behind, but rapidly drops in status once the ruse is revealed.

Can't Buy Me Love was remade in 2003 as Love Don't Cost a Thing (NOT the other way around), this time with a black cast.


Provides examples of:

  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: No apparent sex, but lots of kids in rooms making out.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Pretty much the entire premise of the movie.
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Nearly every male teenage character shows interest on one or more cheerleaders.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Cindy's friends seem to be even more interested in Ron after he rather brutally "dumps" Cindy.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking
    Patty: Oh, yeah. The best leathers come from Rome, Paris, and Des Moines!
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Cindy dates one for awhile after Ron dumps her
  • Be Yourself: Ron's speech on the movie's climax has this message.
  • Chekhov's Gun: An emotional example. Ron calls out to some kids to stop playing in a dangerous tree house. Later on, he teaches one of the jocks a lesson using a childhood moment that happened at that tree house.
    Ronald Miller: You broke your arm once before, remember? You fell out of our tree house. Kenneth picked you up and we carried you 12 blocks to the hospital.
    Kenneth Wurman: Yeah, you cried all the way.
    Ronald Miller: We were all friends then, remember?
  • Advertisement:
  • Doomed New Clothes - The reason the whole plot even kicks off.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: Justified since Ron's paying for Cindy's company
  • He Cleans Up Nicely - Ron has this effect on Cindy's friends.
  • Heel Realization: After Cindy and Ron's arragement becomes public knowledge and he becomes a social paraiah, Ron realizes just how much of a jerk he's been towards Cindy and his old nerd friends.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Ron. He's an obviously good-looking guy from the start, but every girl acts like he's invisible until he becomes popular.
  • Jerk Jock: There's a whole pack of them, but they do vary in jerkiness.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others:
    Ron: Every time I call you're either taking a bath, washing your hair or you're out of the country. That was a good one, by the way.
  • Oblivious to Love: During the final date as part of their arrangement, Ronald is completely oblivious to the fact that Cindy is developing actual feelings for him.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: She's talking about making love, he's talking about their impending fake breakup...
    Ron: Um, there's something really important we need to discuss.
    Cindy : I was wondering when you'd bring this up!
    Ron: I'm new at all this. I'm going to have to rely on your experience.
    Cindy : Well, let's just do it naturally, you know, with no planning.
  • Pac Man Fever - Averted during a few scenes in an arcade. (It helps that it was the 80's.)
  • Product Placement: Students throughout the movie drink Coke and Sprite.
  • Riding into the Sunset: On a riding lawnmower!
  • Rip Tailoring: When Cindy makes Ron cool, she starts by ripping off the sleeves of his shirt.
  • Romantic Fake–Real Turn: Ron and Cindy
  • Slave to PR: Cindy warns Ron not to become this, but it happens anyway.
    Cindy Mancini: Whatever happens to your popularity, stay yourself, don't change to please others.
    Ronald Miller: Me change? Never.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Cindy rips off Ron's sleeves to make him appear "cooler."
  • Slow Clap: After Ron's big speech.
  • Sucks at Dancing: Ron nearly falls victim to this when he copies an African ritual dance he saw on PBS (mistaking it for American Bandstand) at a school dance, but because he's popular at the time, it catches on with everyone else.
  • Titled After the Song: "Can't Buy Me Love" by The Beatles.
  • Urban Legend Love Life - Ron has this due to his fake relationship with Cindy. In fact, the fake relationship is the only thing holding it together.
  • We Used to Be Friends:
    • After Ron becomes more and more popular, he abandons his former friend Kenneth.
    • At the climax of the film, when nobody likes Ron, he reminds the jocks and nerds that they all were friends together back in grade school.
      You broke your arm once before, remember? You fell out of our tree house. Kenneth picked you up and we carried you 12 blocks to the hospital...We were all friends then, remember?