Grease is The Film of the Play of the same name, made in The '70s about The '50s.
Danny Zuko is back in Rydell High School for senior year. He's a bad boy who wears a leather jacket and hangs out with others who do the same. He tells his friends, the T-Birds (or the Burger Palace Boys, if you're going by the play), about the great summer vacation he had at the beach with this girl, Sandy.
As luck would have it, Sandy has just transferred to Rydell High for her senior year, and as she tries to find her place, she regales the Pink Ladies with her own account of her summer romance. The other girls realize she was with Danny Zuko and arrange a reunion — just as he's bragging to his friends about his conquest. Caught between his love and his tough-guy image, he snubs Sandy, who leaves broken-hearted.
She still loves him and he does love her, but there's no guarantee they'll be able to get past their differences before the end of senior year.
The 1978 film version, directed by Randal Kleiser, is more famous than the Broadway musical (or the earlier, off-Broadway version produced in 1971). In the film, Sandy was renamed from Sandy Dumbrowski to Sandy Olsson, and her origin was changed from somewhere else in America to Australia to account for the star cast for the role: Olivia Newton-John. The film also featured John Travolta (in the role that solidified his fame after the 1977 blockbuster Saturday Night Fever) as Danny, along with Jeff Conaway (who, ironically, had played virtually every important male character except Kenickie in the stage musical) as Kenickie, Didi Conn as Frenchy, and Stockard Channing as Betty Rizzo. Golden-Age actress Joan Blondell made her last film appearance, as a sassy waitress.
There is a sequel, which carries over almost none of the original main characters (except for some faculty members, and chemistry student Frenchie), but the plot is almost entirely the same except that now the nice foreign kid is male, with a bad-girl love interest played by a young Michelle Pfeiffer. A prequel series, Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, debuted on Paramount+ in 2023.
In December 2020, the 1978 film adaptation Grease was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry.
When a guy picks a trope over his buddies, somethin' gotta be wrong!
- Accidental Hug: Danny and Kenickie participate in one before the big race, complete with slicking back the hair to regain their cool.
- Actor Allusion: During the "Greased Lightnin'" dance Danny and the other T-Birds do a few moves straight out of the "Bar-bar-bar, Bar-bar-barino" dance.
- Adaptational Location Change: The musical took place in urban Chicago, while the film takes place in a more suburban locale. This was done by the director to reflect his own teenage years in suburban Philadelphia.
- Adaptation Distillation: The musical contains several songs and subplots cut for the movie. "Freddy My Love" (sung by Marty), "Mooning" (sung by Putzie/Roger and Jan), and an instrumental of "Alone at a Drive-In Movie" (sung by Danny) were included on the soundtrack. "Shaking at the High School Hop" (a full-cast number) was not on the soundtrack nor in the movie. The remaining songs of the original were put into the background and incorporated in other ways:
- "Alma Mater" was originally the show opener sung by Miss Lynch, Patty, Eugene, and the 1959 class of Rydell High, but is heard in the background of the movie when Miss Lynch is doing the school year's first morning announcements.
- "Alma Mater (Parody)" was originally sung by all of the greasers after "Alma Mater", but is briefly sung in the movie by just the greaser boys before their car pulls up at Frenchy's slumber party. Also, in the original, the slumber party was at Marty's house.
- "Those Magic Changes" was originally sung by Doody as he played his guitar, but is sung in the movie by Johnny Casino before "Born to Hand Jive". The subplot involving Doody's guitar-playing abilities was also cut out of the movie.
- "Rydell Fight Song" was originally sung by just Patty and Sandy, but the Rydell Marching Band plays it instrumentally in the background of the movie during the bonfire scene. Both the play and the movie have a brief instrumental rendition play when the rules of the Hand Jive dance contest are given, however.
- "It's Raining on Prom Night" was originally sung by Sandy and a Radio Singer, but movie!Sandy inserts the song to play in a jukebox when Danny tries apologizing to her at the Frosty Palace.
- "Rock 'N' Roll Party Queen" was originally sung by Putzie/Roger and Doody-on-guitar, but the movie has it play in the background when the greasers enter the dance.
- Adaptation Expansion: The film does add some good songs to the repertoire.
- "You're the One That I Want" and the re-orchestration of "We Go Together" make up for the musical's somewhat lackluster ending (which originally just used a short reprise of the latter after "All Choked Up"). Both have been added to recent stagings.
- The film also adds a good solo song for Sandy in "Hopelessly Devoted To You". Before this, her big solo number was "It's Raining on Prom Night", which is only heard on a jukebox in the film. The 1994 revival had Sandy performing an adaptation of the pop hit "Since I Don't Have You", while the '71 off-Broadway version in Chicago had her singing a raunchy song called "Kiss It" to Danny (after her makeover).
- Danny's attempts to get into sports are more elaborated on in the film, and Sandy tries to date a boy named Tom to make him jealous. The Frosty Palace and the car race are other plot elements exclusive to this version.
- Adaptation Personality Change: As Barry Pearl (the actor who plays Doody in the film) notes in this interview, the greaser boys' personalities are switched from adapting the play to the film. Specifically, film Doody acts like play Sonny, film Sonny acts like play Roger/Putzie, and film Roger/Putzie acts like play Doody.
- Afraid of Blood: Played with. At the sleepover, Sandy gets sick after seeing her blood when Frenchy pierces her ear. Although she was already feeling unwell from the cigarette (and possibly also the wine) she had choked on earlier.
- Cool Car: Kenickie's beat-up, second-hand Ford Super De Luxe. Briefly turns into a truly worthy drag racer during "Greased Lightnin" (and according to IMCDB, a different, older model), but when it's unveiled at Thunder Road, it just appears to have some fresh paint and lightning-bolt decals.
- Animated Credits Opening: The opening credits show animated versions of the characters getting ready for school and then out on the streets, and, in Kenickie's case, rummaging around inside a car hood before falling in and reappearing in the driver's seat.
- Art Shift: Part of the "Greased Lightning" number and the “Beauty School Dropout” number are both filmed like a music video instead of a movie.
- Attempted Rape: Alluded to at the drive-in, when Marty mentions that she caught Vince Fontaine putting an "aspirin" in her Coke at the school dance.
- Auto Erotica:
- About as literal as you can get. The song "Greased Lightnin'" is about fixing up a car so they can get women.
- The scene before it in the film (not in the musical) shows Kenickie and Rizzo interrupted while trying to have sex in the back of his car.
- Later, Danny makes a move on Sandy while they're at a drive-in movie theater, but she angrily leaves, calling his car a "sin wagon".
- Award-Bait Song: "Hopelessly Devoted to You" was made for the movie and indeed got nominated.
- Book Ends: As Sandy is Australian in the film, when it opens on her and Danny at the beach, she's lamenting that because she has to go back to Australia, she might never see Danny again. Danny dismisses the possibility and reassures her that it's only the beginning, right before segueing into the Animated Credits Opening. At the end, after "You're the One That I Want", the gang lament that once they graduate, they may never see each other again. Again they go on to dismiss it, and launch into the Friendship Song "We Go Together".
- Break the Haughty: Rizzo gets this with the pregnancy story line, as she is mocked and slut-shamed by the other high school girls for it. She holds her head high, though.
- Bubblegum Popping: During "Beauty School Dropout", Frenchy blows up a bubblegum bubble. Teen Angel promptly pops it. Unlike most examples of the trope, the gum doesn't go everywhere.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: The Scorpions' car at Thunder Road tears up the side of the T-Birds' car with its Spiked Wheels. It ends up losing the race.
- Composite Character: As Barry Pearl (the actor who plays Doody in the film) notes in this interview, the greaser boys' personalities are switched from adapting the play to the film. Specifically, film Doody acts like play Sonny, film Sonny acts like play Roger/Putzie, and film Roger/Putzie acts like play Doody.
- Copycat Mockery: The song "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" is all about Rizzo mocking Sandra by pretending to be her while she is out of the room.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Principal McGee's reaction after saying "If you can't be an athlete, be an athletic supporter." during her morning announcements, because she wasn't aware of the Accidental Innuendo.
- Disney Creatures of the Farce: A flock of birds, a small deer and a rabbit show up in the Animated Credits Opening as Sandy gets out of bed and walks over to her mirror.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Danny tries out for track and, while running, realises Sandy can see him from the bleachers while she is with Tom. He mistimes a jump over one of the hurdles, catches his leg on it and falls over.
- Dirty Old Man: While he wasn't "old" in terms of the accepted definition of the word, Vince Fontaine fits this trope. He talks up Marty at the school dance, and in the film, he hand jives with Sandy for so long, Danny has to tell him to get lost.
- Double Entendre:
- A surprisingly clever one in "bite the weenie, Riz!" "with relish!"
- Also when Marty is flirting with Vince Fontaine during the prom, he asks for her name and she responds, "Maraschino... Y'know, like in cherry?"
- Dumb Muscle: In the first scene in Frosty Palace, Sandy tells Danny she was glad Tom was a simple person. Danny calls Tom this, saying his brains are in his biceps.
- Ear-Piercing Plot: In the slumber party scene, the prospective but bumbling beautician Frenchy offers to pierce Sandy's ears. It doesn't go over so well.
- Electric Love: Pops up in the Final Love Duet, "You're the One That I Want":I got chills, they're multiplyingAnd I'm losing controlCause the power you're supplying,It's electrifying!
- Ending by Ascending: The final scene of the movie is Danny and Sandy riding off in the greased lightning car which magically takes flight into the clouds.
- Everyone Has Standards: When the rest of the T-Birds see Putzie/Roger lying on the bleachers to peer up girls skirts, they alert the girls to what's going on and call Putzie a 'sick man'.
- Foreign Cuss Word: At the end of "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee," Rizzo uses the Italian curse word "fangool," a corruption/regional pronunciation of "vaffanculo," (literally "go do it in the ass," but used idiomatically to mean "fuck off" or similar). However, as at least one TV print chops the offending line entirely.
- Funny Background Event: As Danny and the T-Birds are singing "Greased Lightning", the other students on the left side of the screen can be seen with rather confused looks on their faces watching the musical number start.
- Gainax Ending: When all the Rydell students bid farewells with promises that they'll stay in touch, somehow Danny and Sandy's car lifts off the ground and flies off into the sky. It's so bizarre and out of touch for a 50's musical that many fans regard it as a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment.
- Gay Moment: Danny and Kenickie accidentally hugging due to being overwhelmed with joy.
- Get Out!: When Rizzo leaves the sleepover at Frenchy's and climbs into the car with Kenickie, he tells the others to get out, leaving them standing in the middle of the street. They decide to go off and get some pizza.
- Got Me Doing It: Blanche starts making aggressive hand gestures during Coach Calhoun's speech, to McGee's consternation.
- Insult Backfire: There's this:Danny: Oh, bite the weenie, Riz.Rizzo: With relish. [flashes eyebrows]
- Magical Realism: The dream sequence in both "Greased Lightnin`" and "Beauty School Drop Out", as well as the flying car at the end.
- Masturbation Means Sexual Frustration: Rizzo suggests this when Danny leaves the T-Birds at her house after "Sandra Dee". Danny doesn't really care:Rizzo: Where you goin', to flog your log?
Danny: (to her and the other T-Birds) Much better than hangin' out with you dorks.
- Morning Routine: The movie starts with cartoons showing everyone getting ready for school.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Danny after his initial reunion with Sandy goes wrong. After she runs off in tears, he sees Rizzo grinning at him and he is promptly ashamed of himself. He attempts to apologise to her later, but she doesn't buy it until later on.
- My Hair Came Out Green: Actually, bubble-gum pink, when Frenchy flunks tint.
- Mythology Gag: In the play, Sandy did not go to the Hand Jive dance and instead sang "It's Raining on Prom Night" while alone in her bedroom. In the movie, Sandy DOES go the dance, so she does not sing this song. What is the Mythology Gag? This song plays as background music on the radio several scenes prior to the dance, foreshadowing that Sandy will not be alone in her bedroom.
- "No Rules" Racing: For the Thunder Road race: "The rules are: there ain't no rules. It's to the second bridge and back, and the one who makes it back first wins."
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Averted, they made Sandy an Australian exchange student instead of forcing Olivia Newton-John to do a painful American accent.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Sandy at the sleepover when Frenchy tells her she doesn't want to get blood on the carpet when she pierces Sandy's ears. Frenchy attempts to reassure her that it only bleeds for a second.
- Frenchy when the T-Birds pull up in Kenickie's car during her sleepover, saying they can't come inside because her parents would flip out. Thankfully for her, they don't.
- Pair the Spares:
- At the end-of-year carnival, Sonny and Marty become a couple, completing the gang pairing.
- Also, Patty Simcox, who was chasing Danny, and Tom Chisum, Sandy's Fakeout Makeout boyfriend, appear to be a couple.
- Pet the Dog:
- The first time Danny sees Sandy in Frosty Palace, he sincerely tries to apologize to her for the way he had acted towards her before at the cheerleader tryouts, calling his own behaviour unacceptable. She doesn't buy it until he tries out for track and they talk about it after he falls over.
- Rizzo thanks Sandy for her support after Rizzo skipped a period and became pregnant (or thought she had), especially as she had been quite the Jerkass to Sandy up until then.
- Pregnancy Scare: Rizzo and Kenickie's pregnancy scare is a major subplot.
- Product Displacement: Until The New '10s, the diner boasted blurred out Coca-Cola signs. This is because Pepsi sponsored the film and objected to a competitor being shown prominently. The "Sing-Along" version has the sign replaced with the same texture as the wall. The 40th anniversary re-release in 2018 adds a historic Pepsi sign to it as well as digitally changing the Coca-Cola fountains to featureless orange fountains.
- Right Behind Me: Musical version of the trope, as Sandy comes in as Rizzo finishes up "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee", a song that ribs Sandy for being pure and chaste.Sandy: You're making fun of me, Rizz?Rizzo: [removes blonde wig] Some people are so touchy!
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
- Everyone in the second diner scene does this out of frustration or anger (Kenickie in particular gets a milkshake in his face courtesy of an angry Rizzo), leaving Frenchy on her own and resulting in the "Beauty School Dropout" number.
- Sandy also has a habit of doing this, as she does it first after she meets Danny again, thinking him a phony for his bad boy persona, at the dance after Cha-Cha starts dancing with Danny, and then at the drive-in after a Yawn and Reach moment from Danny backfires.
- Seduction Lyric: After Sandy adopts Be a Whore to Get Your Man tactics to catch Danny, "You're The One That I Want" marks the point where she seals the deal.
- Sequel Hook: Coach Calhoun saying "I'll see you in summer school" was meant to be found a sequel where the gang have to go to summer school but Paramount didn't want to do it and by the time they did get around to making Grease 2, most of the original cast were busy.
- Shag Wagon: Alluded to in "Greased Lightnin,'". The lyrics of the song contain lines like "You know that ain't no shit/We'll be getting lots of tit"; "With new pistons plugs and shocks/I can get off my rocks/You know that I ain't braggin'/She's a real pussy wagon"; and of course "the chicks'll cream!" Such language was unheard of in a major movie musical; surprisingly, the film retained a PG rating.
- Something Else Also Rises: Rizzo asks Kenickie "What's up?" when she meets him outside Frenchy's house. He replies, "One guess."
- Sore Loser: Danny tries a few times to try for sports, including basketball, wrestling and baseball, resulting in fisticuffs when it goes wrong for him. Coach Calhoun gets around this by having him try out for track, because it involves no physical contact. This time, Danny turns out to be very good at it.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Out of all the songs on the film soundtrack, the title track — you know, the one that plays during the Animated Credits Opening — doesn't even try to sound fifties-ish. It's basically Frankie Valli doing disco. Director Randal Kleiser actually wanted the song removed for this very reason, plus the fact that he felt that the lyrics sounded too cynical for what was ostensibly a happy film, but producer Robert Stigwood overruled him, as the song had been written by Barry Gibb, whose group, the Bee Gees, were signed to Stigwood's record label, RSO Records, which produced both Grease and Saturday Night Fever.
- The studio quite understandably insisted that Valli sing the song instead of the Bee Gees. Here's What Could Have Been.
- Summer School Sucks: Some of the T-Birds are inclined to throw a pie at the coach (in a carnival game) for telling them they can make up their failing PE grade in summer school.
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Danny Zuko, played by a 6-foot tall, young (not to say as young as he was supposed to be, though) and lean John Travolta.
- Tempting Fate: Frenchy tells Sandy that "beauty is pain" when she attempts to pierce Sandy's ears. Immediately after she says that, we hear Sandy scream and Frenchy opens the bathroom door to ask for ice to numb Sandy's earlobes. Marty tells her to let the tap run and stick Sandy's ear under the cold water.
- "Test Your Strength" Game: There's an end-of-school-year carnival toward the end of the film. Someone rings the bell just before the final number of "We Go Together".
- Tranquil Fury: Danny spends a lot of the movie blustering, strutting, scuffling, and generally trying to look tough. Then Balmudo laughs at Kenickie's accident, and Danny gets very quiet. Balmudo's pinks were in Danny's pocket before they even got to the starting line.
- Unreliable Narrator: Played with. "Summer Nights" is sung by both Danny and Sandy telling of their summer romance. While it is clear Danny is exaggerating (and even lying) to his friends, one could argue that Sandy's version is a more idealized version as well, though hers is probably closer to the truth.
- Unusual Euphemism: Rizzo reveals to Marty she might be pregnant.Rizzo: I feel like a defective typewriter.
Rizzo: I skipped a period.
- [Verb] This!: In the second scene in Frosty Palace, Kenickie asks Rizzo "How about if I finish with you?" Rizzo snaps, "Finish this!" before throwing a milkshake in Kenickie's face and storming out.
- Virgin in a White Dress: Sandy at the sleepover and again at the dance.
- Virgin-Shaming: Female example. Rizzo does this to Sandy in the "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" number, while Sandy is in the bathroom. Sandy emerges at the end and realises Rizzo is mocking her.Look at me, I'm Sandra DeeLousy with virginityWon't go to bed 'til I'm legally wedI can't; I'm Sandra Dee.
- Visual Innuendo: In the song "Greased Lightnin,'" John Travolta's character rubs saran wrap against his crotch. This is supposedly a reference to the use of saran wrap as a condom.
- And during "Alone At a Drive In Movie", if you missed the subtlety of what he's singing because John Travolta's performance is so convincingly sad (including when he's essentially howling at the moon), there's a handy reminder in the background in the form of the commercial showing a hotdog repeatedly jumping into an open bun.
- Vomit Discretion Shot: Sandy vomits in the girl's bathroom after seeing the blood from having her ears pierced.
- Whole Costume Reference: Danny's blue windbreaker at the beginning of the movie was intended as a nod to Jim Stark's outfit in Rebel Without a Cause.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: Happens to Eugene at the carnival. He lands a Pie in the Face on Coach Calhoun, who comments that he'd make a great pitcher. Eugene himself receives a Pie in the Face from an angry Sonny.
- Yawn and Reach: Danny does this with Sandy. When he attempts to touch something more than just her shoulder it backfires.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: After Danny's behaviour sends Sandy running away in tears, he catches a glimpse of Rizzo's face. She has a pleased grin on her face, and this seems to disconcert him even more than Sandy's unhappiness.