Heathers (1988)
March 8, 2016 10:39 PM - Subscribe

In order to get out of the snobby clique that is destroying her good-girl reputation, an intelligent teen teams up with a dark sociopath in a plot to kill the cool kids.

Previously, on the blue.

NYTimes: ''Heathers,'' a first feature directed by Michael Lehmann, is as snappy and assured as it is mean-spirited. Its originality extends well beyond the limits of ordinary high school histrionics and into the realm of the genuinely perverse. And for as long as Mr. Lehmann and the screenwriter, Daniel Waters, have the temerity to sustain the film's bracingly nasty tone, ''Heathers'' is legitimately startling. As one of the film's characters puts it, ''The extreme always seems to make an impression.''

WaPo: "Heathers" is about the loss of a deeper innocence, an internal passage made without the aid of oblivious parents, idiotic faculty or babbling ministers. Veronica defines innocence and guilt in her own way, rejecting Valley Girl values for Rambo's. For all the talk of suicide, the moral of the story is one of America's best loved: All people are created equal -- even the nerds.

Roger Ebert: The underlying dynamic in "Heathers" comes out of movies like "Bonnie and Clyde," where the lovers back into crime almost absentmindedly, using it as a backdrop for the truly important things in their lives. Another movie that comes to mind is "River's Edge," based on the true story of a teenager who killed his girlfriend and then displayed her body to his friends, who did not inform authorities for three days.

How does 'Heathers' hold up?

Still very, 25 years later: the bleak genius of 'Heathers'

Girls on Film: Why no teen film compares to 'Heathers'


Full movie
posted by MoonOrb (23 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Lick it up, baby - LICK. IT. UP.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:55 PM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I really wasn't the target audience for U.S. teen movies even twenty-six years ago (the only other one I really liked was, strangely, The Sure Thing), and I think only I saw this because I spent a lot of the weekends of late 1989 in the cinema and I'd exhausted the competition. It did kind of blow me away, if only for the sheer cynicism of it.

I'm not going to be the only person who thinks the ending is only clunky bit - I don't know if they ever filmed the original ending. What we have now does have the feel of something that was hurriedly filmed after post-production and tacked on. But even that works to the advantage of the film - the feel-good ending being a really obvious sticking plaster over something darker and more in keeping with the rest of the film.

I never got round to seeing River's Edge, but another film that resonates with me in relation to Heathers is Fire Walk With Me. I remember seeing Society at around the same time (I even remember the cinemas I saw them in - Heathers at the only cinema that's still on Haymarket, which was a Cannon at the time, I think; Society at the Prince Charles), and I wonder whether they weren't all riding on a wave of post-Reagan cynicism. Burn those picket fences to the ground.
posted by Grangousier at 2:33 AM on March 9, 2016

I loved this movie then, but I've avoided seeing it now in case it turns out to be one of those sad disappointments that don't hold up with time.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:18 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by roger ackroyd at 6:51 AM on March 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

I remember being so enthralled with this movie, because it really cut through all the crap that the Breakfast Clubs and St. Elmo's Fires kept putting forth. It's funny that Heathers became a template in itself, but no other film has managed to be as cynical and as funny with the same formula. A ton of people love Mean Girls (and I think it's pretty good, as well), but when I first saw it, I thought it was just Heathers-lite, and there are a lot of those out there.

I think it's taking the clique idea to its natural, awful conclusion. Killing people because they don't like you for reasons you find repugnant sounds liberating, but then you realize that the guy promoting that idea is a psychopath and just wants to kill everyone...it strikes a nerve, and I think no other film in this genre has ever been sure enough of itself to do this (not just killing, but going that far in any direction). The next big high school movie that I remember coming out after this was Clueless, which is great for what it is, but it's basically the total flip side of the Heathers coin, and I think after it had success, that's what all high school movies just became.
posted by xingcat at 7:47 AM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

A ton of people love Mean Girls (and I think it's pretty good, as well), but when I first saw it, I thought it was just Heathers-lite, and there are a lot of those out there.

All the Heathers-lites make the mistake of trying to make a movie. Heathers isn't a movie (despite being very well-made by the moviemakers), it's a cri de couer. It's the writer's and director's and stars' scream of John Hughes is feeding you bullshit! That's why people responded to it, not because of the jokes or how pretty the actors were or how well-crafted it was. Because it was true.
posted by Etrigan at 8:08 AM on March 9, 2016 [16 favorites]

I loved this movie then, but I've avoided seeing it now in case it turns out to be one of those sad disappointments that don't hold up with time.

It holds up. Some of the stylistic choices are very much of the time, but it really does hold up.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:18 AM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Dear Diary, my teen angst bullshit has a body count.

I love this movie so, so much. Setting up the two football jocks to die in a faux-"repressed homosexual suicide pact" made me squee with joy. ("Here's the one perfecto thing I picked up." "A bottle of mineral water?" "This is Ohio, if you don't have a brewski in your hand you might as well be wearing a dress.")

Seems like most of my current friends like Mean Girls instead. Maybe it's a generational thing. I just look at them and say "did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?!"
posted by dnash at 8:20 AM on March 9, 2016

Whether to kill yourself or not is one of the most important decisions a teenager can make.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:43 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was too young when I first saw it to understand what was really going on (and way too young to have seen any of the John Hughes movies it was a reaction to). I worked on a DVD release about fifteen years ago and agreed with my then-co-worker's opinion that it's really grossly homophobic, too much for me to enjoy.

I do LOVE the scene where Veronica, in a fit of remorse and rage, purposely brands herself with the car's electronic cigarette lighter, and JD lights his cigarette with her smoldering palm, and tells her that deep down, she knew what she was doing with Kurt and Ram.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:31 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

"did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?!"

Saddest irony of Heathers: The actress who delivered that line actually died of a brain tumor
posted by The Gooch at 10:51 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Great film. But also disquieting following what happened in Columbine (and, sadly, other schools).
posted by My Dad at 11:11 AM on March 9, 2016

I was 13 when it came out. As such, this movie was the source of my undying love for Winona Ryder. I watched it again a few years ago. It mostly holds up, except for Christian Slater's smarmy Jack Nicholson impression of a performance. It sounds so put-on, so unnatural, so self-aware. Everybody else is great though. And I love the script's totally made-up version of teen-speak. I also love that Veronica wears a monocle when she writes in her diary.
posted by wabbittwax at 11:44 AM on March 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

I was mostly disappointed by it, probably because it was oversold as The Best Movie Ever by a lot of people--yeah, having an antidote to John Hughes sounds good, but the script comes off as Daniel Waters being in love with his own cleverness. It probably reads better than it sounded coming out of the mouths of actors.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:15 PM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I liked it when I was younger, but, good Lord, Daniel Waters has been responsible for some dreck. He did The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Hudson Hawk one right after the other.

I may have had bad taste when I was younger. I refuse to watch the film again to find out.
posted by maxsparber at 12:47 PM on March 9, 2016

I was 13 when it came out. As such, this movie was the source of my undying love for Winona Ryder.

I was seventeen, but otherwise the same. I had such a thing for her.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:50 PM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

The only big shock for me the first time (of many) I rewatched Heathers as an adult was remembering that as a kid, I had a huge crush on JD. *shudder*
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:44 PM on March 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

I agree with Halloween Jack that at this point the movie's reputation works against it. By the time I saw it my expectations were pretty high and I wasn't that impressed.
posted by town of cats at 7:09 PM on March 9, 2016

One of the many things I loved about this movie is how they created their own slang. It helped the movie stay timeless (granted, the fashion does date it, but whatever).

This movie absolutely holds up on a much later rewatch, although it's a fair critique that if you have huge expectations for the movie you may be let down (something true with virtually every movie).

While this movie has an R rating, it's certainly meant to be watched by teens, and should be. It's scathing critique of the adults in the movie (parents, teachers, administration), and the media (essentially profiting from the misery and death of teens) still holds up.

Now I wonder how many boys didn't have a crush on Winona Rider after this film, because I'm certainly in that camp.

If I were to introduce this movie to someone, I'd probably make it a double feature with Pump Up the Volume (which is another of my favorite teen movies).
posted by el io at 9:46 PM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

This movie came out the year that I met my ex-wife and we got married not that much later (immigration thing) and I think that quotes from it formed about 75% of our couple's language.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:43 PM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

good Lord, Daniel Waters has been responsible for some dreck... Hudson Hawk

How dare you. I love that movie unironically.
posted by phearlez at 2:26 PM on March 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

When I saw it I couldn't help but notice that I had seen it before, back when it was called Massacre at Central High and appeared unlisted on late night TV one time. I recall feeling slightly cheated that this was in no way mentioned anywhere and had totally spoiled the plot for me.

Massacre at Central High shares many of the same beats, has a similarly distinctive looking main character who undergoes a similar injury midway through the film, but isn't played for laughs at all. It does have sexy times with an actress from Eight is Enough though, in that exploitative seventies way.
posted by Sparx at 5:35 PM on March 10, 2016

Tomorrow, I'll be kissing her aerobicized ass, but tonight, let me dream of a world without Heather, a world where I am free.

Oh god how I love this movie. It began my long standing and misguided love of Christian Slater. Also, watching it as a teen in that era, it perfectly reflected how we felt about our lives. My sophomore year, three of my friends and I went as the Heathers + Veronica for Halloween. All the perky cheerleader girls LOVED that we dressed in major color themes and totally stole the idea to use for the rest of the year.

Until they saw the movie and promptly called us assholes for wanting to murder them.

However, one of them secretly came over to our nerdy lunch table and told me how much she loved the movie and how sick she was of being a Heather. We were friends all the way till graduation after that. And she was jealous as shit when the guy I took to prom looked just like JD. Sadly he was only slightly less destructive and that shit's only cool in a movie...
posted by teleri025 at 1:16 PM on March 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

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