Follow TV Tropes


Film / Risky Business

Go To

"Time of your life, huh, kid?"

Risky Business is a 1983 teen dramedy directed by Paul Brickman, starring Tom Cruise (in his first leading role) and Rebecca De Mornay.

Joel Goodson (Cruise) is a suburban Chicago teenager obsessing over getting into Princeton when not thinking about sex. When his parents leave him alone for the weekend, his Casanova friend phones a call girl for Joel since Joel obviously needs to get laid. She eventually has a business proposition for him: He throws a party, introduces some of his horny teen friends to her associates, and she and Joel split a cut of the evening's proceeds (i.e., they turn his parents' house into a brothel for a night). From there, Hilarity Ensues. In the years since its release, it's best known for the scene of Cruise dancing around in nothing but his pink dress shirt to "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger which has been endlessly parodied, including by Cruise himself.

The score, dialogue, and cinematography give the film something of a sophisticated, art-house feel in places, putting it a notch above the typical teen sex comedy. Roger Ebert compared it favorably to The Graduate. Be warned, however, that in terms of narrative the genre conventions are completely played straight, so if you don't like modern teen sex comedies you probably won't like this one either.

Tropes used in Risky Business:

  • The '80s: Soundtrack by Tangerine Dream, Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight" highlighting a love scene, no cell phones in sight... yeah, definitely done on this decade.
  • Adults Are Useless: Joel's parents don't help him with his anxiety and after some time away (during which all of the furniture was stolen and Joel had to buy it back and put everything in place with minutes to spare before they arrived) Joel's mom's sole response (she barely even says "hello" before checking the egg) is to notice the microscopic crack on the glass egg (that nobody else in the family can see, even when she brights it right to their noses) and label Joel as "irresponsible" and punish him (and his dad doesn't even try to defend the kid—seriously, aside from that, the house is otherwise impeccable).
  • Affably Evil: Guido. Except for the car chase and flashing a gun at Joel, Guido is a likable guy, and (in)directly mentors Joel in the finer points of business.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Miles' idea of helping Joel is to pretty much constantly tell him "You Need to Get Laid" and drive him into doing so. Joel's dreams, even the ones that go bad, always have some erotic part.
  • Anxiety Dreams: The film begins with one. Joel is very worried over whether or not he'll get into Princeton.
  • Artistic License: The SAT scores mentioned in-movie are oddly numbered, not at all how the tests were scored (rounded up to ten) by the time the movie came out.
  • Badly Battered Housesitter: Joel's wild weekend would have probably destroyed the house, or left it bereft of stuff (take note that the damn glass egg was given back only because Guido knew Joel would pay him the rest of the money afterwards). Joel's mom is quick to label him as "irresponsible" for a virtually invisible, microscopic crack on the egg that nobody else notices (and considering that Joel caught it when Guido tossed it, it could have ended much worse).
  • Bittersweet Ending: Joel wins his way into Princeton, and it's hinted that he and Lana are going to remain a couple. But Joel has become jaded by the ordeal, and isn't entirely convinced that Lana wasn't in on Guido's scam.
  • Bookends: The movie opens on Joel wearing his sunglasses and smoking a cigarette. Towards the end, having been exiled to yardwork by his mom for getting a crack in her beloved glass egg we watch as he slides on those shades and lights up, signaling how jaded he had become during his misadventures and that this had all been told in flashback.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Sometimes you gotta say 'What the fuck'." Inverted by Joel's dad, who cleans it up when he offers that advice to Joel as "What the heck."
    • "Time of your life, huh, kid?"
  • Coming of Age: One way or another, and even if it hurt somewhat, Joel has matured as a person and is willing to take greater risks in the future.
  • The Con: Joel suspects at the end of the movie that from the moment he was given Lana's number he was the mark for an elaborate scam: of Lana stealing Mom's glass egg, the accident with the Porsche, getting nudged by Lana into turning his house into a brothel, and Guido stealing everything from the house and forcing Joel to buy it all back. Lana's hesitant response to his question hints Joel might be right. And Joel seems willing to forgive, because he knows he's learned from the experience, and it probably DID help him get into an Ivy League college. It helps that Joel also believes that Lana's genuinely in love with him.
  • Cool Car: The Porsche 928 owned by Joel's dad. There is... no substitute.
    Miles: Fuck you.
  • Cool Shades: Look at that poster.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to other teen sex comedies.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lana.
  • Desperate Object Catch: Joel must catch his mother's crystal award when it's thrown at him.
  • Erotic Dream:
    • Joel's turns into a nightmare when he dreams that a SWAT team surrounds his house, with his parents yelling "Get off the babysitter!" through a bullhorn.
    • The movie opens with Joel saying "The dream is always the same"... and we see him walking into the neighbor's house and finding a girl in the shower, who asks him to wash her back. But when he reaches her, the steam-filled bathroom leads into a classroom where Joel realizes he's missed his SATs and his life is ruined.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Lana, eventually.
  • Hope Spot: When the parking brake on the Porsche goes out, Joel tries his darnedest to keep it from rolling into the lake. The car rolls onto a pier while Joel clings to the hood, pleading with God. Then, as if to answer his prayers, the car stops just short of rolling off the pier. As Joel is thanking God, the pier collapses, dropping the car into the water anyway.
  • Humiliation Conga: Joel rarely catches a break as one disaster follows another, culminating with his mom chewing him out for a tiny crack in that glass egg of hers. Then his dad lets him know he's gotten into Princeton.
  • Idealized Sex: Joel and Lana, especially the living room scene when the windows are blown open. Lana is apparently so hot, she somehow controls the forces of nature.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "Time of your life, huh kid?"
    • Miles' advice to say "What the fuck" is bookended by Joel's dad saying "What the heck".
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Considering Joel and his friends are coming from upper-income homes, there's actually a ton of pressure to get into Ivy League schools, with Joel having nightmares about not making it...
  • Karma Houdini: Guido, who scams Joel out of all his earnings and promptly disappears out of the story with a smug grin.
  • Lecherous Stepparent: Lana implies this as the reason why she left home when she tells her past to Joel.
  • Making a Spectacle of Yourself: The poster. Possibly a reference to Lolita.
  • Meaningful Name: Joel Goodson might be a cad, but he tries to be a good son.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Guido the Killer Pimp.
  • Pimp Duds:
    • Underplayed by Guido, who dresses much like a businessman except for the open collar and gaudy necklaces.
    • Averted by Joel, who goes trolling the streets of Chicago rounding up his friends as clients for Lana's brothel idea, with only Cool Shades as his signature style and otherwise dressed very conservatively.
  • The Precious, Precious Car: When Joel takes Lana out on a date in his father's Porsche, the car accidentally ends up rolling into a nearby lake.
  • "Risky Business" Dance: Trope Namer. This iconic scene is also an example of Harpo Does Something Funny — Cruise was just told to "dance to rock music."
  • The Runaway: Lana ran away from home because her stepfather was abusing her.
  • Sex as a Rite-of-Passage: Miles believes this and makes the whole mess start rolling because he got Joel a prostitute.
  • Sex Is Good: Pretty much any character who has sex for any reason ends up better off for it.