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Film / Sixteen Candles

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"I don't believe it: They fucking forgot my birthday."
Samantha Baker

Sixteen Candles is a 1984 film written and directed by John Hughes, the first of his six teen comedies.

Molly Ringwald stars as Samantha "Sam" Baker, a girl facing numerous emotional challenges on her sixteenth birthday. Her family, focused on the wedding of her older sister, Ginny, forgets her birthday; she's in love with senior Jake Ryan, who she thinks doesn't know she exists; and she's pursued by a geeky freshman, Ted (Anthony Michael Hall).

Not to be confused with 16 Wishes — even though that movie does, indeed, have sixteen candles.

Sixteen Candles provides examples of:

  • A-Cup Angst: Sam. Her brother, Mike remarks that she's eating carrots to "increase the size of her breasts." Sam throws her pen at him. Later, she says about her bridesmaid dress: "I don't have one tenth of the bod to fill the stupid bust up." It doesn't help that her grandparents shamelessly mock her lack of development.
    Helen: Look, Fred, she's gotten her boobies!
    Fred: I better go get my magnifying glass.
    Helen: Oh, and they are so perky! *grope*
  • Amusing Injuries: Joan Cusack wears a neck brace. Her attempts to drink from a water fountain and a can of beer are Played for Laughs. Sam's sister's period pain, for which she has to take muscle relaxants, is also presented as funny.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Sam's brother, Mike, who cheerfully mocks her and everyone else and is more worldly than their parents are comfortable with.
    Sam: Mike thinks I'm a dork.
    Sam's dad: Mike is a dork.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Dong, when we first see him. Subverted when he becomes the Life of the Party later.
  • Asian Drivers: Dong crashes Sam's grandfather's car.note 
  • Betty and Veronica: Jake Ryan is dating Caroline (Veronica) but spends most of the movie trying to hook up with sweet Sam (Betty). On the other hand, we only see Caroline for two days, in which she has to cope with her boyfriend completely ignoring her. Whereas Sam spends that time pining for someone who's already taken, and gives her underwear to a mean boy she's only just met... so it's really up to the viewer to decide who's the Betty and who's the Veronica.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Ted, in the car, after Caroline (drunk to the point of passing out) puts her head in his lap.
  • Bringing Back Proof: Ted bets his friends that he can make it with Sam. They insist that he bring back proof that he succeeded. They first suggest video, but he rejects it on the grounds that it could damage his reputation. They then suggest underpants and he accepts. As he's walking away, his friends clarify girls' underpants.
  • Butt-Monkey: The movie doesn't pull any punches in showing teens in humiliating situations.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Ted is doggedly persistent in his pursuit of Sam, to the degree that he seems like a badly trained puppy who won't leave her alone.
  • Dude, She's Like in a Coma: If they did have sex, Ted was apparently blackout drunk and Caroline was far beyond the point of consent and possibly not even sure who she was with.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Bakers mean well, but they all (including grandparents and possibly other family attending the wedding) forget their sixteen year old daughter's birthday until well into the night. Also, did you notice that there is a youngest daughter? In the bonus features for the flashback edition DVD, Diablo Cody (Writer of Juno) observes of Sara Baker that, "She is gonna have some therapy bills."
  • Expy: Long Duk Dong is suspiciously similar to another character in John Hughes' short story "Christmas '59", which formed the basis for National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The story has Grandma and Grandpa Swenson visiting for Christmas with exchange student Xgung Wo along for the ride. He even mispronounces English phrases to comic effect.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The movie takes place over less than two days.
  • Fake Food: The cake that Jake Ryan and Samantha kiss over was made out of cardboard. When they tried shooting the scene with a real cake, it would melt over the long takes.
  • Fake Shemp: That isn't Haviland Morris in the gym shower scene, as her breasts weren't big enough. They used a body double instead.
  • Forgotten Birthday: While the film is framed around Sam's forgotten birthday, it ends up being symbolic of her troubles rather than the cause of them.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the cafeteria scene, the menu, complete with some Squick:
    CORNAROOS - .55
    ICED TEA - .15
    WARM MILK - .10
  • From the Mouths of Babes: Mike about his sister, Ginny, who's getting married:
    Mike: She got her period. Should make for an interesting honeymoon, huh?
    His father: Where are you learning that stuff?
    Mike: School.
    His father: Good. Gettin' my money's worth.
  • Funny Background Event: Several, perhaps the most memorable being the wrestling match behind the conversation between Jake and his friend in the gym.
  • Funny Foreigner: Long Duk Dong uses broken English and malapropisms common for someone learning a language. He also bows to people sometimes. He's also accompanied by a gong sound wherever he goes.
  • High School: Besides the obvious fact of being set in and around Sam's high school, the fact that she's a sophomore crushing on a senior is given significant weight.
  • High-School Dance: The second act of the film is set at the school dance, where Sam confronts her crush on Jake in a big way, Long Duk Dong finds love, and the "underwear incident" occurs.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Farmer Ted thought he was given a mint, but Caroline announces that they're both on the birth control pill, he promptly spits it out.
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Sam is convinced that Jake would never want anything to do with her and is flabbergasted when he finally shows up at the church.
  • I'm Not Pretty: Sam describes herself as "utterly forgettable."
  • Improbably Cool Car: Jake's Porsche 944. Granted, his family's rich — they have a mansion and his dad has a Rolls-Royce convertible with a car phone!
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: The church organist, of all people, after Ginny's wedding dissolves into chaos.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: Long Duk Dong is referred to as "Chinese", while he has a Vietnamese name, and he's played by a Japanese-American actor. He also yells "Banzai!" at Jake, which is Japanese.
  • It's All About Me: Ginny accuses Sam of being this (who is understandably upset she can't confide in matters concerning boys to her and that the family forgot her birthday); ironically Ginny spends the film being rather self-absorbed and thinks Sam is jealous that she's getting married.
  • Kazoos Mean Silliness: A kazoo rendition of "Hungarian Dance# 5" plays on the soundtrack while Sam is going home on the school bus.
  • Kiss Diss: During the school dance, when Farmer Ted and Sam are in the shop car, Farmer Ted goes in for a kiss - or maybe a little more than that - but Sam turns him down.
  • Life of the Party: Dong, later in the film, having subverted Asian and Nerdy.note 
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Caroline is a downplayed example. She's friendly enough but she does throw a huge, destructive party at her boyfriend's house and doesn't take his objections too seriously. However, they make up and break up the next morning by which time she's moved on with an unpopular kid.
  • Ms. Fanservice: An unexpected form: one second you're watching Jake Ryan having a conversation while at the gym, the next minute, it cuts to a shot of Caroline's dripping wet breasts in the shower.
  • No Antagonist: The conflicts from the movie stem from misunderstandings. The characters are all flawed: Sam's parents forget her birthday, Ted sexually harasses people, and Jake ignores his girlfriend Caroline in favour of Sam and dumps her with Ted while she's blind drunk, but nobody is entirely unsympathetic. Even Caroline, the Romantic False Lead, isn't malicious, just angry at Jake for ignoring her.
  • No Endor Holocaust: After the Wild Teen Party Jake's house is a mess, trees toilet papered, there's been a car accident (Long Duk Dong's) on the front lawn, a weight lifting weight crashed through two floors and ended up destroying wine racks in the basement... However Jake manages to get a decent sleep, goes out looking for and finds Ted and Caroline, drops by Sam's and picks her up at the church, and the bit of his house that we see is nice and clean for the private birthday party at the end.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted with Ginny, who gets her period before her honeymoon and takes four muscle relaxers to deal with the cramps.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: A weird example in the credits. Despite Ted Farmer's full name and his nickname "Farmer Ted" being clearly stated, he's only credited as The Geek.
  • Open-Minded Parent: In the end, Sam's dad lets her skip out on her sister's reception to go out... somewhere... with an older teen he has never met before. As a Real Life parent this raises flags, but in the movie's world her dad feels he probably owes her some slack, especially since this is the boy he knows she's been pining for.
  • Over-the-Shoulder Carry: Ted carries the passed out Caroline to Jake's car like this.
  • Parents as People: Sam's parents do care about her, as they both give sincere apologies when they realize they forgot her birthday. It's just they are preoccupied with their older daughter Ginny's wedding and all of their relatives visiting with them.
  • Precision F-Strike: The only time the word is used is when Sam realizes that her family forgot her birthday.
  • Rite of Passage: For Samantha, in the course of two days, her family forgets about her birthday, her sister gets married, she confronts her crush on Jake and Ted's crush on her, she reconciles with her mom and dad, and then finally gets Jake and has a fairy-tale first date, complete with birthday cake.
  • Sealed with a Kiss: The film ends with Samantha and Jake kissing.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Getting laid is Ted's primary motivation throughout the film. He is finally convinced to leave Sam alone after he realizes that she's pining for Jake, and then encourages the two of them to get together. His "reward" for hooking the two of them up is (probably) having sex with Caroline (it's unclear exactly what happened as both of them were apparently very drunk, but she thinks they had sex and that she enjoyed it, and she's happy with the situation the next day).
  • Shout-Out: One of the cars owned by the Baker relatives has the license plate "V 58", a reference to Hughes' short story Vacation '58, the basis of what would become National Lampoon's Vacation.
  • Shotgun Wedding: It's never explicitly stated that this is happening, but when Ginny has missed a period and the two families are rushing her and her beau to the altar, the conclusion is obvious, as is the chagrin when they realize that her period has come after all.
  • Shower Scene: Sam and her friend spy on Caroline in the shower. Despite showing her topless, the film managed to get a PG rating.
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Jake is a senior, the son of rich parents, apparently a jock or at least very athletic, and is dating the prom queen. Sam is a nobody sophomore with a crush.
  • Stalking Is Love: Ted genuinely believes this.
  • Tagline: It's the time of your life that may last a lifetime.
  • Titled After the Song: "16 Candles", by The Crests. A cover was recorded by Stray Cats for the film.
  • Token Minority: Long Duk Dong is the only non-white character with any significant screen time.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?:
    • While not drunk at all, Sam seems to have forgotten that she gave out her panties to a geek the previous night until reminded by her friend.
    • And Ted doesn't seem to remember much of anything that happened between him and Caroline, despite the fact that she was the drunk one last we saw, not him. She says she thinks they had sex and that she enjoyed it, but neither Ted nor the audience have any idea how or even IF that actually happened.
      • Ted WAS having martinis with Jake just before he drove off in the Rolls with a passed out Caroline.
  • Wild Teen Party: There's one at Jake Ryan's house, complete with drinking, implied sex, and the place getting trashed.