Can't Buy Me Love (film)

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Can't Buy Me Love
Can't Buy Me Love Movie Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteve Rash
Produced byThom Mount
Written byMichael Swerdlick
Music byRobert Folk
CinematographyPeter Lyons Collister
Edited byJeff Gourson
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • August 14, 1987 (1987-08-14) (United States)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$31.6 million

Can't Buy Me Love is a 1987 American teen romantic comedy film directed by Steve Rash,[1] starring Patrick Dempsey and Amanda Peterson in a story about a nerd at a high school in Tucson, Arizona who gives a cheerleader $1,000 to pretend to be his girlfriend for a month. The film takes its title from a Beatles song of the same name.


Ronald Miller is a typical high school nerd living in suburban Tucson, Arizona. He has spent all summer mowing lawns to save up for a telescope. At an opportune moment, he makes a deal with next-door neighbor and popular cheerleader Cindy Mancini. Cindy had borrowed her mother's expensive suede outfit without permission, to wear to a party, only to have Quint accidentally spill red wine on it. Cindy reluctantly agrees to help Ronald look "cool" by pretending to be his girlfriend for a month for $1000, even though she already has a boyfriend named Bobby who is attending the University of Iowa.

Ronald then trades his nerdy, yet loyal, friends for the popular, but shallow students, and undergoes a complete clothing and hair makeover under Cindy's direction. Over time, a bond develops between the two. She lets him read a poem she wrote that means a great deal to her. He reveals his interests in astronomy and space travel. On their last date which Ronald has "paid" for, Cindy hints that she would like to kiss him, but he misunderstands. The next day at school, they dramatically "break up" in front of a crowd, but Ronald takes things too far and says some hurtful things about Cindy in front of her friends. She becomes cool and distant, and warns him that popularity is hard work and he needs to make sure that he "stays [him]self". The next day, she sees him behaving arrogantly at school, and becomes jealous when she sees him flirting with her best friends Barbara and Patty.

He takes Patty to a dance at school, where he performs a dance he learned from an African cultural show on public television. At first, the other kids are mystified, but they soon join in, and Ronald's new "trendy" dancing further increases his popularity. On Halloween night, he and some other boys drive to the house of Kenneth, Ronald's best friend, where the jocks test his loyalty by coercing him to hurl dog feces at Kenneth's house. Kenneth is lying in wait and catches Ronald, but lets him go before his dad can call the police. Kenneth ignores Ronald the next day at school.

At a New Year's Eve party at Big John's house, Ronald starts drinking and has a romantic tryst with his date Iris in the bathroom. Cindy walks by and hears Ronald reciting to Iris her special poem. Devastated, she starts drinking even more. Later, as a surprise, Cindy's boyfriend, Bobby, shows up at the party. After he learns about her "relationship" with Ronald, he breaks up with her. She tries to explain the situation, but he still walks out on her. In anger and frustration, she tells the party-goers the truth. Rejected and dejected, Ronald leaves and spends the night in his garage crying himself to sleep. When school resumes, he finds himself ostracized by both the "jocks" and the nerds. His attempts to reconcile with both Cindy and Kenneth are rebuffed.

Ronald gets an opportunity to redeem himself. Kenneth, helping Patty with her math homework, is ordered by Quint to go back to his side of the cafeteria or receive a beating. Ronald intervenes, threatening to break Quint's pitching arm if he does not leave Kenneth alone. Ronald points out that the three were all friends at one time: when they were nine, Quint fell out of their tree house and broke his arm. Kenneth and Ronald carried him twelve blocks to the hospital. Ronald confesses he was desperate to run with the popular crowd, but had messed up by trying to buy his way in. Ronald goes on to say that the cool/nerd dynamic is "all bullshit, it's tough enough just being yourself", and walks away. Quint apologizes to Kenneth and the two shake hands as the whole school applauds.

Following the incident, Cindy recognizes Ronald's worth and hops on the back of his riding lawn mower. He asks her to prom, and the two kiss as the Beatles title song plays. The two of them ride off into the sunset on the lawn mower.


Production notes[edit]

The film was shot on location in Tucson, Arizona, at Tucson High Magnet School (then known as Tucson High School).[2] The choreography is by Paula Abdul, who makes an uncredited appearance as a dancer.[3]

On a date where the main characters begin to bond, they jump the perimeter wall and explore the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group Aircraft Bone Yard on Davis–Monthan Air Force Base that contains 4,400 aircraft. Although the characters say they jump the fence at 309 AMARG (The Boneyard) the actual scene looks more like it was shot at Bob's Air Park, an aircraft recycler just outside the Boneyard, which has since been sold.

Critical reception[edit]

Can't Buy Me Love received mixed reviews from critics. Caryn James, in The New York Times, wrote that the film missed its mark and traded its potential originality for a bid at popularity:

Roger Ebert gave the film a half star out of a possible 4:

Rotten Tomatoes has a rating of 50% based on 22 critics.[5] In 2006, it ranked number 41 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.[6][7]


Young Artist Award

  • Won: Best Young Actor in a Motion Picture—Comedy, Patrick Dempsey
  • Nominated: Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture—Comedy, Amanda Peterson
  • Nominated: Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture—Comedy, Tina Caspary
  • Nominated: Best Family Motion Picture—Comedy


In 2013 Intrada Records released Robert Folk's complete score for the film on a limited edition CD paired with David Newman's work for Paradise.[8]


In 2003, Can't Buy Me Love was remade as Love Don't Cost a Thing starring Nick Cannon and Christina Milian.[9] Though the triggering event differs between the two films, many of the aspects/scenes from the original film are reinterpreted in this remake, such as the eating of raw egg in the Home Economics classroom, as well as the cheerleader telling the bully that he is sitting in the wrong section in the cafeteria that he needs to sit in the "asshole section" of the cafeteria.


  1. ^ a b Roger Ebert (August 14, 1987). "Can't Buy Me Love". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2016-09-16.
  2. ^ Huestis, Lucy. "THMS History". Tucson Unified School District. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 12 Feb 2014.
  3. ^ "Can't Buy Me Love (1987) - Full Cast & Crew". IMDb. Retrieved 12 Feb 2014.
  4. ^ James, Caryn. "Film: 'Can't Buy Me Love'". Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  5. ^ "Can't Buy Me Love". Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  6. ^ "Entertainment Weekly's 50 Best High School Movies". Retrieved November 17, 2010.
  7. ^ (2006). "Entertainment Weekly Ranks Top 50 High School Flicks". Retrieved November 11, 2007.
  8. ^ "PARADISE / CAN'T BUY ME LOVE". Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  9. ^ Scott Brown (December 10, 2003). "Love Don't Cost a Thing". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2007-11-11.

External links[edit]