Sixteen Candles

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Sixteen Candles
Sixteen Candles.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Hughes
Written byJohn Hughes
Produced by
CinematographyBobby Byrne
Edited byEdward Warschillka
Music byIra Newborn
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 4, 1984 (1984-05-04)
Running time
93 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$6.5 million[2]
Box office$23.6 million[3]

Sixteen Candles is a 1984 American coming-of-age comedy film starring Molly Ringwald, Michael Schoeffling, and Anthony Michael Hall. Written and directed by John Hughes in his directorial debut, it was the first in a string of films Hughes would direct centering on teenage life. The film was a box office success, earning $23.6 million against a $6.5 million budget, and launched Ringwald to fame.


In suburban Chicago in 1984, high school sophomore Samantha "Sam" Baker is hopeful her 16th birthday is the beginning of a great new year, but is shocked when her family forgets the occasion because her older, beautiful, self-absorbed sister Ginny is getting married the next day.

At school, Sam fills out a friend's sex quiz where she reveals her crush on senior Jake Ryan. Meanwhile, Jake, having noticed Sam's looks at him, asks his friend Rock about her. Rock dismisses her as an immature child, but Jake says he is frustrated by his girlfriend Caroline's partying ways. On the bus ride home, Sam fends off repeated flirtations from geeky freshman Ted.

At home, Sam's day gets worse when she discovers she must sleep on the sofa because her grandparents and a foreign exchange student named Long Duk Dong are all staying at the house for the wedding. She is further upset when her grandparents also do not remember her birthday and have Dong go with her to a dance at school that night.

At the dance, Sam pines for Jake while Dong has attracted the powerful and strong jock, Marlene. Ted, in an effort to impress his friends Bryce and Wease, dances with Sam, who runs off in tears. In an effort to salvage his reputation with all the geeks, Ted bets Bryce and Wease a dozen floppy disks that he will get physical with Sam before the dance ends. As proof, Bryce and Wease demand Sam's underwear. Jake asks Ted about Sam, having seen them dancing.

Ted apologizes to Sam, who opens up about her family forgetting her birthday and her crush on Jake. Ted tells her that Jake asked about her and Sam is shocked and asks what Ted thinks she should do. Despite his genuine interest in Sam, Ted encourages her to talk to Jake, and she agrees. Before she leaves, he gets her underwear to win his bet and he, Bryce, and Wease charge the other freshmen boys a dollar to see it. Meanwhile, Sam tries to approach Jake, but loses her nerve and runs off. Jake and Caroline leave the dance, leaving Sam thinking Jake does not like her.

At Jake's house, Caroline and her friends have started a wild party. Jake, angry with Caroline, retreats to his bedroom and tries calling Sam, but instead is yelled at by her grandparents for waking them up, and tell him that Sam isn't interested. After the party, Jake is furious at the damage left behind. He finds Ted trapped under a glass coffee table after having knocked over the beer can pyramid the night before. Ted tells him Sam is interested in him and Jake confesses that he has lost interest in Caroline. He takes Sam's underwear from Ted and, in exchange, lets Ted take a drunken Caroline home in his father's Rolls Royce. To further impress the geeks, Ted stops at Bryce and Wease's house to get Wease to take a picture of him with Caroline in the expensive car, but the finished picture only reveals the top of Ted's head.

Sam's father apologizes for forgetting her birthday, and tells her that if Jake does not see what a wonderful person she is, then he is not worth Sam's time. She lies on the couch thinking of Jake, not knowing that he is also thinking of her.

The next morning, Sam's mother apologizes to her for forgetting her birthday, and everyone heads to the church for the wedding. Jake arrives at Sam's house, where a hungover Dong miscommunicates that Sam is at church getting married. Jake finds Caroline and Ted making out in the back of his dad's banged-up car, and they break up. Jake then surprises Sam at the church after the wedding and invites her back to his house.

That night, Jake gives Sam her underwear, and a birthday cake with 16 candles on it. He tells her to make a wish and she tells him her wish already came true. They kiss as the film fades to black.



John Hughes had asked his agent for headshots of young actresses, and among those he received were those of Robin Wright, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy. Sheedy had auditioned for the role of Sam, but was dropped because Hughes thought Ringwald was more fitting for the role. He called her a year later to give her a role in The Breakfast Club. Inspired by Ringwald's appearance, he put it up over his desk and wrote the film just over a weekend with her in mind for the lead role.[4][5][6] For the male lead in the film, it had come down to Schoeffling and Viggo Mortensen.[7] For the part of Ted, Hughes saw a number of actors for the role including Jim Carrey and Keith Coogan.[8][9] "Every single kid who came in to read for the part... did the whole, stereotyped high school nerd thing. You know - thick glasses, ball point pens in the pocket, white socks. But when Michael came in he played it straight, like a real human being. I knew right at that moment that I'd found my geek."[10]

Sixteen Candles was filmed primarily in and around the Chicago North Shore suburban communities of Evanston, Skokie, and Highland Park, Illinois during the summer of 1983, when leads Ringwald and Hall were 15 years old.[11] Most of the exterior scenes and some of the interior scenes were filmed at Niles East High School,[12] close to downtown Skokie, the setting for Hall's driving the Rolls Royce.[13] A cafeteria scene and a gym scene were filmed at Niles North High School. The auto shop scene was filmed at Niles East High School in the auto shop. The Baker house is located at 3022 Payne Street in Evanston. The church (Glencoe Union Church - 263 Park Avenue) and parking lot where the final scenes take place are in Glencoe.[14]

Soundtrack and songs[edit]

Sixteen Candles
Soundtrack album by
various artists
Side 1
No.TitlePerformed ByLength
1."16 Candles"Stray Cats2:52
2."Hang Up the Phone"Annie Golden2:59
3."Geek Boogie"Ira Newborn & the Geeks2:48
Side 2
No.TitlePerformed ByLength
1."Gloria"Patti Smith5:54
2."If You Were Here"Thompson Twins2:55

The original soundtrack was released as a specially priced mini album containing only 5 songs. However, the movie actually featured an extensive selection of over 30 songs. Songs from the movie that were not included on the soundtrack EP are as follows:

Home media[edit]

Pre-2003 releases of the film featured a re-scored soundtrack due to rights issues. This wasn't until 2003 when the film was released on DVD with the original theatrical mix intact albeit in 5.1.[15] In 2008, the film was again released on DVD as a "Flashback Edition" with a new featurette titled "Celebrating Sixteen Candles".[16] In 2012, the film was released on Blu-ray for the first time as part of Universal's 100th Anniversary with the 2008 featurette carried over, along with two new features highlighting the impact of Universal Studios: "The 80s" and "Unforgettable Characters".[17] In 2019, Universal re-released the film on Blu-ray in a digipak highlighting its 35th anniversary.[18] The disc was the same 2012 release with nothing new added. In that same year, Arrow Video announced their release with a new 4K restoration.[19]


Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend the film grossed $4,461,520 in 1,240 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking second. By the end of its run, Sixteen Candles grossed $23,686,027 against a budget of $6.5 million.[3]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 81% of critics gave it a positive rating, based on 43 reviews with an average rating of 7.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Significantly more mature than the teen raunch comedies that defined the era, Sixteen Candles is shot with compassion and clear respect for its characters and their hang-ups".[20] Ringwald's performance was especially praised; Variety called her "engaging and credible"[21] while Roger Ebert wrote that she "provides a perfect center for the story" in "a sweet and funny movie".[22] Janet Maslin of The New York Times called the film "a cuter and better-natured teen comedy than most, with the kinds of occasional lapses in taste that probably can't hurt it in the circles for which it is intended. The middle of the film wastes time on a bit more house-wrecking and car-crashing than is absolutely necessary, and there are some notably unfunny ethnic jokes. But most of the movie is cheerful and light, showcasing Mr. Hughes's knack for remembering all those aspects of middle-class American adolescent behavior that anyone else might want to forget."[23] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and called it "the best teenage comedy since last year's Risky Business", saying it was "certain to draw a lot of laughs, but the guess here is that it also will offer comfort to young girls and boys who feel awkward. And comfort and moments of recognition are in short supply in teenage movies, which often portray a world of violence and sexual mastery that is a lie."[24]

Pauline Kael wrote in The New Yorker, "It doesn't amount to much, and it's certainly not to be confused with a work of art or a work of any depth, but the young writer-director John Hughes has a knack for making you like the high-school age characters better each time you hear them talk."[25] Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times stated that "Vacation worked, for all its raunchiness. Sixteen Candles mixture of the sympathetic and the synthetic, the raucous and the racist, doesn't. At least not for me ... it flails about, substituting chaos and raunchy language for any semblance of wit."[26] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote, "Hughes isn't vigilant or deft enough to prevent the dramatic focus of attention from shifting at about the halfway point; he can't quite finesse the letdown that sets in when the engaging teen-age heroine, Samantha, delightfully embodied by Molly Ringwald, is allowed to become almost a subsidiary character in the second half of the story. Nevertheless, Sixteen Candles blends an idiosyncratic screwball imagination with a flair for updated domestic comedy and scenes of intimate, quirkily affectionate character interplay."[27] Metacritic gave the film a score of 61 based on 11 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[28]


A 1984 review in The New York Times criticized the character of Long Duk Dong for being "unfunny" and a "potentially offensive stereotype" of Asian people.[29] In 2008, Alison MacAdam of NPR wrote, "To some viewers, he represents one of the most offensive Asian stereotypes Hollywood ever gave America."[30] Asian Americans have complained that they were taunted with quotes of his stilted-English lines.[31]

In an article published in Salon, Amy Benfer considers whether the film directly condones date rape even though no sexual activity is established, consensual or otherwise.[32] After the party scene, Jake tells Ted that his girlfriend Caroline is "in the bedroom right now, passed out cold. I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to." He encourages Ted to drive her home saying, "She's so blitzed she won't know the difference." When Caroline and Ted wake up next to each other in the car, Caroline says she's fairly certain they had sex though neither of them remember it. Benfer writes, "The scene only works because people were stupid about date rape at the time. Even in a randy teen comedy, you would never see two sympathetic male characters conspiring to take advantage of a drunk chick these days."[32]

Author Anthony C. Bleach has argued that one possibility for Caroline's emotional and physical ruin in the film "might be that she is unappreciative of (or unreflective about) her class position", adding that, "What happens to Caroline in the narrative, whether her sloppy drunkenness, her scalping, or the potential for sexual coercion, seems to be both a projection of Samantha's desire to acquire Jake and become his girlfriend and a project of the film's desire to somehow harm the upper class."[33][34]


In December 1984, Ringwald and Hall both won Young Artist Awards as "Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture" and "Best Young Actor in a Motion Picture" for their roles in the film, respectively becoming the first and only juvenile performers in the history of the Young Artist Awards to win the Best Leading Actress and Best Leading Actor awards for the same film (a distinction the film still retains as of 2014).[35] The movie is ranked number 8 on Entertainment Weekly's list of "The 50 Best High School Movies".[36]

Proposed sequel[edit]

In 2003, USA Network was reportedly developing a sequel to the film.[37]

In 2005, Ringwald was said to be producing a sequel after having turned down previous offers. "I couldn't see how it would work. Now, it seems right."[38][39] By 2008, Ringwald was campaigning for the sequel, but said she was uncomfortable doing the film without the involvement of Hughes who, at that point, was not interested. Hughes died in 2009.[40][41]

In 2022, a project inspired by Sixteen Candles titled 15 Candles entered development for Peacock. It is executive produced by Selena Gomez along with writers/executive producers Tanya Saracho and Gabriela Revilla Lugo.[42]


  1. ^ "Sixteen Candles (15)". British Board of Film Classification. August 29, 1984. Archived from the original on February 15, 2017. Retrieved April 18, 2015.
  2. ^ "Molly Ringwald's 10 Highest Earning Movies". ScreenRant. September 7, 2020. Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  3. ^ a b "Sixteen Candles". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 27, 2009.
  4. ^ Rocca, Mo (April 17, 2011). "Molly Ringwald on life after teen angst". CBS News. Retrieved May 1, 2011.
  5. ^ Cook, Bruce (September 11, 1985). "Molly Ringwald teen fans' favorite". The Day. Retrieved May 1, 2011.
  6. ^ "Robin Wright on directing "Land," a film about human kindness". CBS News. February 7, 2021.
  7. ^ "Viggo Mortensen Was Up For A Big Role In Sixteen Candles". /Film. March 25, 2022. Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  8. ^ "The Lost Roles of Jim Carrey". Vulture. March 17, 2011.
  9. ^ "Interview with Actor Keith Coogan from 'Adventures in Babysitting' & More". January 17, 2020.
  10. ^ Lyman, Rick (May 21, 1984). "The long search for a perfect geek". The Day. Retrieved May 1, 2011.
  11. ^ Gora, Susannah (2010). You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation. Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-307-40843-3.
  12. ^ Gordon, William A. (1995). Shot On This Site: A Traveler's Guide to the Places and Locations Used to Film Famous Movies and TV Shows. Citadel. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-8065-1647-9.
  13. ^ "Wilmette/Kenilworth Reference Rolodex - Movies filmed on the North Shore". Wilmette Public Library. Archived from the original on December 7, 2008. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  14. ^ Thomas, Alex; Wiemer, Dave (March 5, 2002). "Hughes Hunt". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved February 18, 2018.
  15. ^ Sixteen candles, Universal, 2003, retrieved August 9, 2022
  16. ^ "Sixteen Candles". Amazon. Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  17. ^ "Sixteen Candles Blu-ray". Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  18. ^ "Sixteen Candles - 35th Anniversary Limited Edition Blu-ray + Digital". Amazon. Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  19. ^ "Sixteen Candles". Arrow Films UK. Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  20. ^ "Sixteen Candles (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  21. ^ "Sixteen Candles". Variety. January 1, 1984. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  22. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 4, 1984). "Sixteen Candles". Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  23. ^ Maslin, Janet (May 4, 1984). "Screen: '16 Candles', a Teen-Age Comedy". The New York Times. C14.
  24. ^ Siskel, Gene (May 7, 1984). "'Sixteen Candles': Teenage comedy matures". Chicago Tribune. Section 5, p. 3.
  25. ^ Kael, Pauline (May 28, 1984). "'Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 101.
  26. ^ Benson, Sheila (May 4, 1984). "'Sixteen Candles' Soon Loses Its Glow". Los Angeles Times. Part VI, p. 9.
  27. ^ Arnold, Gary (May 5, 1984), "'Sixteen Candles' Makes a Lovely Sight". The Washington Post. C1.
  28. ^ "Sixteen Candles Reviews". Metacritic.
  29. ^ Maslin, Janet (May 4, 1984). "Screen: '16 Candles,' A Teen-Age Comedy". The New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  30. ^ MacAdam, Alison (March 4, 2008). "Long Duk Dong: Last of the Hollywood Stereotypes?". NPR. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  31. ^ Gross, Michael Joseph (May 9, 2004). "When the Losers Ruled in Teenage Movies". The New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  32. ^ a b Benfer, Amy (August 11, 2009). "The "Sixteen Candles" date rape scene?". Salon. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  33. ^ Bleach, Anthony C. (Spring 2010). "Postfeminist Cliques?: Class, Postfeminism, and the Molly Ringwald-John Hughes Films". Cinema Journal. 49 (3): 36–37. doi:10.1353/cj.0.0209. S2CID 191607198.
  34. ^ Park, Andrea (October 2, 2018). "Molly Ringwald says she's 'bothered' by parts of 'Sixteen Candles' in #MeToo era". CBS News. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  35. ^ "35th Annual Awards". Archived from the original on November 19, 2013. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  36. ^ "50 Best High School Movies - Sixteen Candles". Entertainment Weekly. May 11, 2022. Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  37. ^ Bonin, Liane (October 15, 2003). "Get ready for a Sixteen Candles sequel". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on September 8, 2017. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  38. ^ Keck, William (June 5, 2005). "MTV awards honor actors". USA Today. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  39. ^ Bowles, Cheryl (June 7, 2005). "Ringwald says '16 Candles' sequel script takes the cake". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on November 13, 2021. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  40. ^ Reynolds, Simon (July 1, 2008). "Ringwald hopes for 'Sixteen Candles' sequel". Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  41. ^ "Ringwald Begs For Sixteen Candles Sequel". July 1, 2008. Archived from the original on September 3, 2018. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  42. ^ Cordero, Rosy (March 15, 2022). "Tanya Saracho, Gabriela Revilla Lugo & Selena Gomez Developing Comedy Series That Reconfigures The World Of John Hughes' '16 Candles'". Deadline. Retrieved March 22, 2022.

External links[edit]

Quotations related to Sixteen Candles at Wikiquote