Jawbreaker (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Darren Stein
Produced by Adam Silverman
Written by Darren Stein
Starring Rose McGowan
Rebecca Gayheart
Julie Benz
Judy Greer
Ethan Erickson
Carol Kane
Pam Grier
Music by Stephen Endelman
Cinematography Amy Vincent
Edited by Troy T. Takaki
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release date(s)
Running time 87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3.5 million
Box office $3,117,085[1]

Jawbreaker is a 1999 American black comedy film written and directed by Darren Stein. The film stars Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, Julie Benz, and Judy Greer as girls in an exclusive clique in their high school. Charlotte Ayanna has a non-speaking cameo role as a murdered prom queen. The film was inspired by the infamous movie Heathers, and is often compared to it, particularly the plot involving a popular female clique, and the accidental murder of one of its members. It also holds similarities to Carrie. Of his concept for the film, Stein has stated The jawbreaker just came to represent the duality of the poppy sweetness of the girls, of high school and of youth, versus the whole idea that this thing could break your jaw.[2] The film was released on February 19, 1999 and was a critical and financial failure.


Blessed with beauty and charisma, the "Flawless Four" are the most popular girls in Reagan High School. The clique consists of Courtney Shayne (Rose McGowan); Marcie Fox (Julie Benz); Julie Freeman (Rebecca Gayheart); and Elizabeth Purr (Charlotte Ayanna), the "Princess Di of Reagan High." Of the four, Elizabeth Purr was the only one who was genuinely kind-hearted and loved by the entire school. Julie was "doomed to be popular because of 'that face' and because she was best friends with Elizabeth Purr". Cold-blooded queen bee Courtney and her airheaded friend, Marcie, demand respect through terror.

Courtney, Marcie and Julie decide to play a mindless prank on Liz the morning of her seventeenth birthday, by performing a fake kidnapping: They surprise Liz in bed, bind her with ropes (with Courtney ramming a jawbreaker into her mouth to gag her) and seal her mouth with duct tape. The girls trap Liz, dressed only in a shirt and panties, in the trunk of a car and drive off. They plan to take the bound, gagged, and helpless girl to a restaurant and "stuff her face with pancakes". However, upon opening the trunk, they are greeted with the grisly sight of Liz dead, having choked to death by aspirating the jawbreaker into her larynx.

Horrified, Julie wants to go to the police but Courtney forbids her. Instead, Courtney calls the school pretending to be Liz's mother and tells them Liz is ill and cannot attend school. To keep up appearances, Courtney, Marcie and Julie then go to school as though nothing had happened. When Principal Sherwood (Carol Kane) sends school outcast Fern Mayo (Judy Greer) to deliver Liz's homework at the end of the day, she stumbles upon the three girls and Liz's mangled body. Out of jealousy, Courtney fabricates a story that Liz died at the hands of a rapist, and plots to tarnish Liz's good reputation by spreading false rumors that she was actually a rebellious, promiscuous girl, and not the perfect angel she made herself out to be.

Fern, who had admired Liz to the point of hero worship, screams in horror and attempts to flee the house, but the girls easily catch her. To buy Fern's silence, Courtney accepts Fern into the clique and encourages her to take Liz's place. Courtney and Marcie then give her a makeover, transforming her from plain and awkward to elegant and beautiful. Later in the school cafeteria, Courtney introduces Fern as the beautiful exchange student "Vylette."

Julie, overwhelmed by guilt at her part in Liz's death, distances herself from the clique, only to be tormented by her former friends and become a new target for abuse throughout the school. Her only real friend during this time is her boyfriend and drama student, Zack. As Vylette's popularity soars, Julie watches in mute horror as Courtney spins a relentless web of lies, trickery and manipulation to cover up the murder and maintain her popularity. She then discovers, to her disgust, that after they'd returned Liz's corpse to her house, Courtney went out and seduced a stranger (Marilyn Manson) at a sleazy bar and had sex with him in Liz's bed, making it seem as though he had raped Liz.

In time, Vylette becomes intoxicated with her new-found popularity, which has eclipsed Courtney's own. Realizing she has created a monster, Courtney threatens to reveal the truth about Vylette, but Vylette vows she will reveal the whole truth about Liz's death if Courtney attempts to expose her. Infuriated, Courtney and Marcie post enlarged yearbook photos of Fern Mayo all over the school with the message "Who is Vylette" written on them, revealing Vylette's true identity to the entire school and leaving her broken and humiliated. Feeling no remorse for the lives she has destroyed, Courtney casually attends the senior prom with jock Dane Sanders (Ethan Erickson).

Julie takes pity on Fern and forgives her for falling under Courtney's influence. Later that night as she sulks in her room, going through a bag of Liz's belongings that were given to her, Julie finds the recording card she was fiddling with when Courtney was faking Liz's death and discovers it has incidentally recorded Courtney's admission to the murder. Struck with an idea, Julie, Fern and Zack all hurry to the prom.

As Dane and Courtney are announced as Prom King and Queen, Zack sneaks backstage and broadcasts the card's message over the sound system while Courtney is making her acceptance speech. Seized with shock and disgust over the revelation, Dane quickly abandons Courtney while Marcie hides under the table. Horrified that her scheme has suddenly become unraveled, Courtney races for the exit as the rest of the students pelt her with corsages, swear at her and call her a murderer. Awaiting Courtney at the very end of the mob is Julie, who gleefully snaps a picture of her former friend's anguished face to immortalize the occasion. As Courtney's picture ends up in the yearbook, the film closes with one of Fern Mayo's quotes to Detective Vera Cruz: "This is high school, Detective Cruz. What is a friend, anyway?"



Critical response was overwhelmingly negative. It currently holds a 7% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 57 reviews (4 positive, 53 negative), leading to its inclusion on several of the websites lists ranking the worst films, earning the distinction of being the single worst film of 1999 as well as ranking among the top ten worst films of the 1990s.[3] Roger Ebert gave the film 1 and a half out of 4, stating "The movie is a slick production of a lame script ... If anyone in the plot had the slightest intelligence, the story would implode".[4] Francesca Dinglasan from Boxoffice magazine gave the film 1 and a half out of 5, criticizing the film's humor and similarities to Heathers.[5] James Berardinelli gave the film a more favorable 2 and a half out of 4, calling it "palatable, and occasionally even clever", however concluding that "while the film offers more than a Heathers rehash, it never fully develops its own identity.[6]

Nevertheless, despite the harsh reviews, the film is considered a cult classic.

Rose McGowan was nominated for the MTV Movie Award for Best Villain, but lost against Matt Dillon and Stephen Dorff for their roles as Pat Healy and Deacon Frost in There's Something About Mary and Blade.


Track # Song title Artist Length
Yoo Hoo Imperial Teen 3:31
I See Letters To Cleo 3:56
Next To You Edna Swap 2:35
Don't Call Me Babe Shampoo 2:58
Bad Word For A Good Thing Friggs 2:53
Stay In Bed Grand Mal 4:49
Flow Transister 5:59
She Bop Howie Beno 3:06
Water Boy Imperial Teen 1:36
Rock You Like a Hurricane Scorpions 4:14
Rock 'n' Roll Machine The Donnas 2:54
Beat You Up The Prissteens 2:36
Trouble Shampoo 3:21

Songs not included on the soundtrack[edit]


  1. ^ "Jawbreaker". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 5, 2010. 
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (February 19, 1999), "FILM REVIEW; Eye Candy: Teen Queens of Mean", New York Times (New York, NY) 
  3. ^ "Jawbreaker". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 5, 2010. 
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 19, 1999). "Jawbreaker". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 5, 2010. 
  5. ^ Dinglasan, Francesca (August 1, 2008). "Jawbreaker". Boxoffice magazine. Retrieved February 5, 2010. 
  6. ^ Berardinelli, James. "Jawbreaker". Reelviews.net. Retrieved February 5, 2010. 

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