Reality Bites is a 1994 romantic dramedy film directed by Ben Stiller, about four disaffected twentysomething friends Coming of Age in Houston and trying to assess the direction of their aimless lives. The film is widely remembered for capturing the zeitgeist (for better or worse) of 1990s Gen-Xers.
Winona Ryder stars as Lelaina, a recent college graduate with big dreams of becoming a successful videographer. She shares an apartment with Troy (Ethan Hawke), a Grunge-rocking slacker, Vickie (Janeane Garofalo), a promiscuous Gap-managing snarker, and Sammy (Steve Zahn), a guy struggling with coming out to his parents, who are facing similar uncertain crossroads in their lives. Lelaina meets and dates Michael (Stiller), a yuppie who works for an MTV-like television station.
According to the screenwriter, the title is supposed to be a play on the term "sound bites" (as in "bites of reality"), and not "reality sucks," as is commonly interpreted.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment:Vickie: [Troy]'s weird, he's strange, he's sloppy, he's a total nightmare for women. I can't believe I haven't slept with him yet.
- Betty and Veronica: Troy and Michael, for Lelaina.
- Burger Fool: David Spade's One-Scene Wonder."Miss Pierce, do you have any idea what it means to be a cashier at Wienerschnitzel?"
- But Not Too Gay: Sammy's first boyfriend Lance is introduced to Lelaina, but his face is only shown once in his few seconds of screentime.
- The Cast Show Off: Ethan Hawke plays guitar and sings "I'm Nothin'".
- Cool People Rebel Against Authority
- Deadpan Snarker: Vickie.
- Dude, Not Ironic: Lelaina's inability to define irony cost her a job.
- Informed Attribute: Troy allegedly has a genius-level IQ, but is unable to offer a remotely accurate definition of irony.
- Lowest Common Denominator: In-Universe, Michael's edit of Lelaina's footage.
- Nice Character, Mean Actor: On stage, Grant Gubler is a Perpetual Smiler TV host of a morning show. Behind the scenes, he is a Grumpy Old Man who dislikes and complains about Lelaina for being too smart.
- The '90s: SO much.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Jeanne Tripplehorn (Stiller's then-girlfriend) plays a woman based on Cindy Crawford, the host of an Expy of MTV's House of Style.
- Pet Homosexual: Sammy.
- Product Placement: This film has a lot of product placement and product references in the dialogue, including Gap, BMW, Diet Coca-Cola, Pringles, 7-Eleven (its Big Gulp drinks are seen throughout the film), Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, Evian, Camel Straight cigarettes, Snickers, McDonald's (Troy mentions a Quarter Pounder with Cheese as one of life's pleasures), Whole Foods Market, Continental Airlines, Cocoa Puffs, Infiniti (Nissan USA luxury automobile division), Ford Motor Company, and Minute Maid. The sheer number of products seen and mentioned in this film is kinda funny considering Lelaina's anti-consumerism speech at the beginning.
- Really Gets Around: Both Troy and Vickie.
- Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Michael (rich suitor) and Troy (poor suitor).
- Romantic Runnerup: Michael's MTVization of Lelaina's documentary does not go over well.
- Shout-Out to Shakespeare: At one point Troy answers the phone with, "Hello, you've reached the winter of our discontent".
- The Slacker: Troy.
- Stylistic Suck: The Show Within a Show at the end of the film, based loosely on the events the characters experienced in the movie.
- Take That!: To MTV and The Real World.
- Throwing Out the Script: Lelaina pretends to do this — actually, she's lost her notes and is just reciting platitudes.
- Wrong Guy First
- Yuppie: Michael isn't very bright, but he's a young, successful go-getter who wears suits and has his life in order, as opposed to the dropout Troy.