Clueless (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Amy Heckerling
Produced by
Written by Amy Heckerling
Based on Emma (1815 novel) 
by Jane Austen
Starring Alicia Silverstone
Stacey Dash
Brittany Murphy
Paul Rudd
Donald Faison
Breckin Meyer
Dan Hedaya
Music by David Kitay
Cinematography Bill Pope
Edited by Debra Chiate
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • July 19, 1995 (1995-07-19)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million
Box office $56,631,572

Clueless is a 1995 American comedy film loosely based on Jane Austen's 1815 novel Emma.[1][2] It stars Alicia Silverstone (in the lead role), Stacey Dash, Paul Rudd, and Brittany Murphy. The film is set in Beverly Hills and was written and directed by Amy Heckerling and produced by Scott Rudin, it was released in the United States on July 19, 1995.

The film spun off a television sitcom and a series of books.


Cherilyn "Cher" Horowitz is a good natured but superficial girl who is attractive, popular, and extremely wealthy. A few months shy of her sixteenth birthday, she has risen to the top of the high school social scene. She lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with her father Mel, a ferocious $500 an hour litigator; her mother died from a freak accident during a liposuction procedure when Cher was a baby. Cher's best friend is Dionne Davenport, who is also rich, pretty, and hip, and understands what it's like to be envied. Though Dionne has a long term relationship with popular student Murray, Cher claims that it is a pointless endeavor.

Among the few people to find much fault with Cher is Josh, her socially conscious ex-stepbrother who visits during a break from college. Josh and Cher spar continually but without malice; she mocks his scruffy idealism, while he teases her for being selfish, vain, and superficial, and says that her only direction in life is "toward the mall."

Illustrating that Cher's selfishness is usually innocent and relatively harmless, Cher plays matchmaker for two lonely, nerdy, hard grading teachers, Mr. Hall and Miss Geist. She achieves her ostensible purpose to make them relax their grading standards so she can renegotiate a bad report card but when she sees their newfound happiness, she realizes she enjoys doing good deeds. Cher decides to give back to the community by "adopting" a "tragically unhip" new girl at school, Tai Frasier. Cher and Dionne give Tai a makeover and initiate her into the mysteries of popularity. Cher also tries to extinguish the attraction between Tai and Travis Birkenstock, an amiable skateboarding slacker, and to steer her toward Elton, a rich snob.

Her second matchmaking scheme backfires when Elton rejects Tai and attempts to seduce Cher. When a handsome new student named Christian arrives at their school, Cher takes a shine to him and attempts to secure him as her boyfriend. Eventually, Murray spells it out to her and Dionne that Christian is not interested in her because he is gay.

Despite the failure of this endeavor, Cher remains on good terms with Christian, primarily due to her admiration of his taste in art and fashion. Matters get worse when Cher's "project" works too well, and Tai's popularity surpasses her own. The events afterward reach crisis stage after Cher fails her driver's test and can't "renegotiate" the result. When she returns home, crushed, Tai confides that she's taken a fancy to Josh and wants Cher to help her "get" him. Cher says she doesn't think Josh is right for Tai, and they quarrel. Feeling "totally clueless," Cher reflects on her priorities and her repeated failures to understand or appreciate the people in her life.

After much soul searching, Cher realizes she is romantically interested in Josh. She begins making awkward but sincere efforts to live a more purposeful life, captaining the school's Pismo Beach disaster relief effort. Cher and Josh eventually admit their feelings for one another, culminating in a tender kiss.

In the end, Mr. Hall and Miss Geist get married; Cher's friendships with Tai and Dionne are solidified; Tai and Travis are in love; and Cher wins a $200 bet for catching the bouquet at the wedding. She embraces Josh, and they kiss as the film closes.

Cast of characters[edit]

The film's central characters are:

  • Alicia Silverstone as Cherilyn "Cher" Horowitz: A sweet but spoiled Valley Girl type―Though she actually lives in Beverly Hills. Living in a mansion, waited on by servants, and flaunting her wealth with fashion, she's the undisputed queen of Bronson Alcott High School. She has long blonde hair and blue eyes. Cher is also tough and clever, like her father Mel. Cher convinces two of her teachers that each is a secret admirer of the other, negotiating her way from a C+ average to an A- average. Cher doesn't have a regular boyfriend and she describes finding a boyfriend in high school as "being as pointless as looking for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie." She is based on the character Emma Woodhouse.
  • Stacey Dash as Dionne Davenport: Cher's best friend. Both she and Cher are rich and beautiful, but caring. Cher uses Dionne as her number one fashion critic. Dionne and boyfriend Murray (played by Donald Faison) have an extremely tumultuous relationship and are often quarreling (an inversion of the idealized relationship between Austen's Isabella and John Knightley). They undergo spats about Murray shaving his head and Dionne finding "cheap polyester hair" in the backseat of his car, but they also bond over Dionne's first driving experience on the freeway, inspiring a wistful admiration in Cher.
Clueless marks Murphy's breakthrough role as Tai Frasier.
  • Brittany Murphy as Tai Frasier: The ugly duckling transformed into the beautiful swan. Cher and Dionne decide to give her a makeover. With a change of hair, makeup and clothing, Tai gains confidence and a sense of style. Originally Tai fell for skater Travis (Breckin Meyer), but Cher tried to set up Tai with "it boy" Elton to boost her popularity. After a "near-death experience" at the mall, Tai obtains an overly confident attitude that ultimately poses a threat to Cher's social status. She also develops a crush on Josh, and asks Cher to help her get him. By the end of the film, Tai regains Cher's respect and friendship, and begins to date Travis. This was Murphy's first major film role. She is based on the Emma character Harriet Smith.
  • Paul Rudd as Josh Lucas: Cher's ex-stepbrother, as Mel had been married to Josh's mother five years earlier. Josh has ambitions to be a lawyer (his focus is environmental law), and during a college break comes for a protracted visit with Cher and her father at their house; he claims that being around Mel is a "great learning experience." Throughout the film, Josh teases Cher, but at the same time shows his caring and concern for her. He is based on the Emma character George Knightley.
  • Dan Hedaya as Melvin "Mel" Horowitz: A gruff and successful workaholic litigator, he is constantly involved in big cases in Beverly Hills, where he lives with his teenage daughter Cher. Despite being divorced from Josh's mother, he tells his daughter "You divorce wives, not children" and is very protective of Cher, telling Christian: "If anything happens to my daughter, I've got a .45 and a shovel. I doubt anybody would miss you." He is based on the Emma character Mr. Henry Woodhouse.
  • Elisa Donovan as Amber Mariens: A popular spoiled brat who is despised by Cher and Dionne, she is in constant competition with Cher when it comes to style, popularity, and boys. Cher dubs her a "Monet" (just like the painting, "from far away it's okay, but up close it's a big old mess.") She is based on the Emma character Augusta Elton.
  • Justin Walker as Christian Stovitz: Cher's love interest. To catch Christian's attention, Cher sends herself flowers, candies, and love notes. Christian finally attends a party with Cher. Cher plans a big night to finally "do it" with Christian, but he ignores her advances. It is later revealed that that is because he is not interested in girls. He is based on the Emma character Frank Churchill.
Other characters
  • Wallace Shawn as Mr. Wendell Hall, he is based on the Emma character Mr. Weston.
  • Twink Caplan as Ms. Geist, she is based on the Emma character Miss Taylor/Mrs. Weston.
  • Julie Brown as Coach Millie Stoeger.
  • Donald Faison as Murray Duvall - Dionne's long-term boyfriend
  • Breckin Meyer as Travis Birkenstock, he is based on the Emma character Robert Martin.
  • Jeremy Sisto as Elton Tiscia, he is based on the Emma character Philip Elton.
  • Nicole Bilderback as Summer


The film had a 40-day filming schedule. Producers sat in on classes at Beverly Hills High School to get a feel for the student culture. Herb Hall, the real drama teacher at Beverly Hills High School, played the principal in the film. Scenes depicting the high school campus, including the tennis courts, the outdoor cafeteria, the quad, and various classrooms were filmed at Occidental College in Los Angeles. The mall scenes were filmed at Westfield Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks, CA.

Home media[edit]

Clueless was released on VHS and Laserdisc on 19 December 1995 by Paramount Home Video.

The film was first released to DVD on October 19, 1999; the special features only included 2 theatrical trailers.

A special "Whatever! Edition" 10th anniversary DVD was released on August 30, 2005. It included featurettes and cast interviews, including:

  • The Class of '95 – A look at the cast
  • Creative Writing – Amy Heckerling talks about the script
  • Fashion 101 – How filmmakers invented the trendsetting style of Clueless
  • Language Arts – The director and cast members give facts on the groundbreaking slang, and how Clueless revived Valspeak slang
  • Suck and Blow – How to play the game depicted in the Sun Valley party scene
  • Driver's Ed
  • We're History – Stories from cast and crew of Clueless
  • Two theatrical trailers

The film was released on Blu-ray disc for the first time on May 1, 2012. Special features were carried over from the "Whatever!" edition of 2005, and included a new trivia track.


The film became a surprise sleeper hit of 1995, grossing well over $11 million on its opening weekend #2 behind Apollo 13, and it eventually grossed $55 million during its theatrical run. It was the 32nd highest-grossing film of 1995 and brought the then-largely-unknown actress Alicia Silverstone to international attention. It also developed a strong cult following after its release.[citation needed]

Critical response[edit]

The film was also well received by critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 81% based on reviews from 51 critics and judged it "Certified Fresh", with the site's consensus stating, "A funny and clever reshaping of Emma, Clueless offers a soft satire that pokes as much fun at teen films as it does at the Beverly Hills glitterati."[3]


In 2008, Entertainment Weekly selected Clueless as one of the "New Classics," a list of 100 released between 1983 and 2008,[4] Clueless was ranked 42nd.[5]

In 2008 Entertainment Weekly named it the 19th best comedy of the past 25 years.[6]

American Film Institute recognition:


After the death of Brittany Murphy, Silverstone stated that she "always felt connected to [Murphy] as [they] shared a very special experience in [their] lives together."[9] Following Murphy's death, Silverstone reported in an interview: "I loved working with Brittany. She was so talented, so warm, and so sweet."[9]

Heckerling later described Silverstone as having "that Marilyn Monroe thing" as a "pretty, sweet blonde who, in spite of being the American ideal, people still really like."[10]

The cast reunited in 2012 for an issue of Entertainment Weekly.[11]

Amy Heckerling later reunited with both Silverstone and Shawn for the vampire comedy Vamps.

Clueless is the main inspiration for Australian rapper Iggy Azalea's music video to her U.S. number one hit single "Fancy" featuring Charli XCX, with many visuals as well as costumes inspired by the film.[12][13] The video is filled with remakes of classic Clueless scenes, and the outfits are skillfully reinvented to channel the famous stylings of the movie with a slightly modern edge.[14] "Fancy" was also shot in the same Los Angeles high school where Clueless was filmed.[15]


  1. "Kids in America" (The Muffs) – 3:18
  2. "Shake Some Action" (Cracker) – 4:25
  3. "The Ghost in You" (Counting Crows) – 3:30
  4. "Here" (Squirmel Mix) (Luscious Jackson) – 3:33
  5. "All the Young Dudes" (World Party) – 4:00
  6. "Fake Plastic Trees" (acoustic version) (Radiohead) – 4:45
  7. "Change" (Lightning Seeds) – 4:01
  8. "Need You Around" (Smoking Popes) – 3:42
  9. "Mullet Head" (Beastie Boys) – 2:53
  10. "Where'd You Go?" (The Mighty Mighty Bosstones) – 3:16
  11. "Rollin' with My Homies" (Coolio) – 4:06
  12. "Alright" (Supergrass) – 3:01
  13. "My Forgotten Favorite" (Velocity Girl) – 3:49
  14. "Supermodel" (Jill Sobule) – 3:07


TV series[edit]

Main article: Clueless (TV series)

In 1996, the producers created a spinoff television series, which followed the continuing adventures of Cher and her friends. Several cast members from the film went on to star in the TV program, with the notable exceptions of Alicia Silverstone (who went on to sign a film deal with Columbia-TriStar worth $10 million) and Paul Rudd. Silverstone was replaced in the series with actress Rachel Blanchard.

  • Stacey Dash reprised the role of Dionne.
  • Donald Faison reprised the role of Murray.
  • Elisa Donovan reprised the role of Amber.
  • Michael Lerner (1st season) and Doug Sheehan replaced Dan Hedaya as Mel.
  • David Lascher replaced Paul Rudd as Josh.
  • Heather Gottlieb replaced Brittany Murphy as Tai.
  • Teachers Mr. Hall, Ms. Geist, and Coach Stoeger (played by their respective actors) appeared in the series, but Coach Stoeger's last name was changed to "Diemer."


Main article: Clueless (novels)

A collection of books was also published after the release of the film by Simon Spotlight Entertainment publishing company from 1995-1999. These books were published as paperbacks and aimed at adolescent readers.

Music Videos[edit]

Iggy Azalea's music video for her song 'Fancy', featuring Charli XCX, had adaptations of Clueless. The music video's plot revolved around the Clueless plot, however remaking the movie more modern. It takes place in the same high school and on the same highway of the movie.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mazmanian, Melissa. "Reviving Emma" in a Clueless World: The Current Attraction to a Classic Structure. Persuasions Online: Occasional Papers No. 3. Fall 1999. Jane Austen Society of North America website. Accessed 12 November 2013.
  2. ^ Stern, Lesley. "Emma in Los Angeles" Clueless as a remake of the book and the city. Australian Humanities Review website, 1997. Accessed 12 November 2013.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "The New Classics: Movies". Entertainment Weekly. Time. 2008-06-27. Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
  5. ^ "Clueless, Alicia Silverstone, ... | 100 New Movie Classics: No. 50-26". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
  6. ^ "Clueless, Alicia Silverstone, ... | The Comedy 25: The Funniest Movies of the Past 25 Years". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
  7. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  8. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  9. ^ a b "Alicia Silverstone: I Hope Brittany Murphy Is at Peace". People Magazine. December 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-20. 
  10. ^ Haramis, Nick (09/13/12). "Alicia Silverstone & Amy Heckerling: A Reunion". Retrieved 09/18/12.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  11. ^ "'Clueless' Reunion On Entertainment Weekly Makes Us Miss Cher And Dionne". The Huffington Post. 10/05/12. Retrieved 11/4/12.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "The Stylist for Iggy Azalea's Clueless-Themed "Fancy" Music Video featuring Charli XCX Tells All". 2014-03-12. Retrieved 2014-03-15. 
  15. ^ "Iggy Azalea's New Video Copies 'Clueless'". 2014-03-04. Retrieved 2014-03-15. 

External links[edit]