The Adventures of Ford Fairlane

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The Adventures of Ford Fairlane
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRenny Harlin
Screenplay by
Story by
  • David Arnott
  • James Cappe
Based onCharacters
by Rex Weiner
Produced by
CinematographyOliver Wood
Edited byMichael Tronick
Music by
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • July 11, 1990 (1990-07-11)
Running time
102 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[2]
Box office$21.4 million[3]

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane is a 1990 American action comedy mystery film directed by Renny Harlin and written by David Arnott, James Cappe, and Daniel Waters based on a story by Arnott and Cappe. The film stars comedian Andrew Dice Clay as the title character, Ford Fairlane, a "Rock n' Roll Detective", whose beat is the music industry in Los Angeles. True to his name, Ford drives a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner in the film.

The film's main character was created by writer Rex Weiner in a series of stories that were published as weekly serials in 1979–80 by the New York Rocker and the LA Weekly. The stories were published as a book by Rare Bird Books in July 2018.[4]

DC Comics produced a prequel miniseries of the same name.[1]

The film was both a commercial and critical failure, being awarded the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture, tying with Bo Derek's Ghosts Can't Do It. However, Billy Idol's "Cradle of Love" from the soundtrack became one of his biggest hits on the Billboard Hot 100 (peaking at #2).


Ford Fairlane is seen sitting on a beach smoking as the film opens. A flashback initiates, showing a roaring crowd at a concert[5] at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado given by fictional popular heavy metal band The Black Plague. Lead singer Bobby Black makes an eccentric entrance down a zip-line from Creation Rock onto the stage and begins performing. Shortly into one of the band's songs, Bobby Black collapses on stage and dies.

After the lead singer of The Black Plague is murdered onstage, shock-jock Johnny Crunch, an old friend who came west with Fairlane, hires Ford to track down a mysterious teenage groupie named Zuzu Petals, who may have a connection to Black's death.

Soon after hiring Fairlane, Crunch is electrocuted on the air. The world's hippest detective soon finds himself trading insults with ruthless record executive Julian Grendel, a clueless cop and former disco star, Lt. Amos, a merciless hit man named Smiley and countless ex-girlfriends out for his blood. Aiding and abetting Fairlane is loyal assistant Jazz and a hip record producer at the head of a bizarre lineup of suspects, victims, beautiful women, and a koala as he finds himself hip-deep in the case of his life.

The MacGuffin of the film is three data CDs which, when read simultaneously, detail the illegal dealings of Julian Grendel, who was getting rich from bootlegging his record company's music and murdered Bobby Black when he found out Black had acquired the CDs with the incriminating evidence. Both of Fairlane's beloved possessions, his house and his car, are blown to bits, courtesy of Grendel.

The first disc was with Colleen Sutton, the second with Zuzu Petals, and the third disc was hidden under the star for Art Mooney on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

It is later revealed that Grendel killed Bobby Black and Johnny Crunch, as he considered them both greedy and stupid because they wanted more money for their involvement in pirating CDs to sell to the highest bidder, making the music industry corrupt. However, Fairlane kills Grendel by setting him on fire with a flammable alcoholic milkshake. Jazz leaves Fairlane, knowing how ungrateful he is for everything that has happened. Smiley shows up and plans to kill Ford, but not before revealing that he killed his young neighbor's [the Kid's] father. Ford distracts him and kills Smiley with a sleeve pistol. Jazz and Ford decide to reconcile, while the Kid decides to join their detective agency. Ford wins a million-dollar radio contest and buys a yacht. He sails away with Jazz, the Kid and the koala. They're all now one big happy family.


Howard Stern was originally considered for the role of Johnny Crunch.[6] Billy Idol was originally to play Vince Neil's role, and David Bowie was approached to play Newton's.[7]


Music being central to the plot of a film about a private detective who specializes in cases arising from the music industry, the soundtrack featured a diverse group of artists. The official soundtrack release featured:[8]

  1. "Cradle of Love" — Billy Idol
  2. "Sea Cruise" — Dion
  3. "Funky Attitude" — Sheila E.
  4. "Glad to Be Alive" — Lisa Fischer, Teddy Pendergrass
  5. "Can't Get Enough" — Tone Loc
  6. "Rock 'N Roll Junkie" — Mötley Crüe
  7. "I Ain't Got You" — Andrew Dice Clay
  8. "Last Time in Paris" — Queensrÿche
  9. "Unbelievable" — Yello
  10. "Wind Cries Mary" — Richie Sambora

The film's soundtrack includes Idol's "Cradle of Love", which also appeared on Idol's 1990 album Charmed Life. The video also featured footage from the film playing on a television in the neighbor's home, although none of the footage features Clay (at least not his face). This may be due to the infamous ban of Clay from appearing on the music network.

Richie Sambora's contribution to the soundtrack was a cover of the Jimi Hendrix song. Yello's "Unbelievable" samples bits of dialogue from the film, with one notable dialog switch - where in the film, a phone number is said as "1-800-Unbelivable" and in the song, the phone number is said as "1-800-Perfect". In the original theatrical release of the film, the line was "1-800-Perfect" but was changed most likely due to the fact that the number belonged to a business at the time. A number of the musicians featured on the soundtrack also appeared in the film itself, including Morris Day, Sheila E., Tone Loc (as Slam the Rapper), former Ozzy Osbourne bassist Phil Soussan, and drummer Randy Castillo appear playing the Black Plague concert during the flashback at the beginning of the film and Vince Neil, the lead singer of Mötley Crüe (who appeared as Bobby Black, the lead singer of the fictitious band, Black Plague). Black Plague's lead guitarist was played by Quiet Riot's axeman Carlos Cavazzo. Not appearing on the soundtrack is "Booty Time", the song that Ed O'Neill's character performs during the film.

Yello is also credited with the film's "music score", and an early cut of their album Baby is used as the film's incidental soundtrack. Barry McIlheney in Q Magazine was critical of the collection and only highlighted the Billy Idol contribution while giving the overall release 2 out 5 stars.[9]


Critical response[edit]

The film received generally negative reviews upon release. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 27% based on 30 reviews, with an average rating of 4.4/10.[10] On Metacritic, the film has a 24 out of 100 rating based on 13 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[11] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B" on scale of A+ to F.[12]

Roger Ebert gave the film 1 star out of a possible 4, and called the film "loud, ugly and mean-spirited" but he also suggested that Clay had the confidence and screen presence for a successful acting career if he could move beyond his shtick.[13]

Box office[edit]

The film was not a financial success during its original theatrical release, making just over $21 million in the U.S.[3] Clay has claimed in interviews that the film had a successful first week before being pulled from theaters under pressure from the politically correct.[14] In fact, the film played on more screens during its second week than its first, but still suffered a 53.5% drop in box office gross.[15]

Cult Following[edit]

Despite its lack of critical acclaim, the film has since developed a cult following, with calls for Clay to reprise his role in a sequel.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures Billy Idol – "Cradle of Love" Won
Golden Raspberry Awards[16] Worst Picture Joel Silver and Steve Perry Won[a]
Worst Director Renny Harlin Nominated
Worst Actor Andrew Dice Clay Won
Worst Supporting Actor Gilbert Gottfried Nominated
Wayne Newton Nominated
Worst Screenplay Daniel Waters and David Arnott & James Cappe;
Story by James Cappe & David Arnott;
Based on characters created by Rex Weiner
MTV Video Music Awards Best Video from a Film Billy Idol – "Cradle of Love" Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tied with Ghosts Can't Do It.


  1. ^ "THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE (18)". British Board of Film Classification. September 17, 1990. Retrieved July 24, 2015.
  2. ^ "AFI|Catalog". Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  3. ^ a b "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (Summary)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  4. ^ Weiner, Rex; Schwartz, Andy; Levin, Jay; Mutrux, Floyd (July 17, 2018). The (Original) Adventures of Ford Fairlane: The Long Lost Rock n' Roll Detective Stories (Original ed.). S.l.: Rare Bird Books, A Vireo Book. ISBN 9781945572807.
  5. ^ "FORD FAIRLANE FILMING Red Rocks Amphitheatre". Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  6. ^ Evans, Bradford (February 9, 2012). "The Lost Roles of Howard Stern". Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  7. ^ "Gilbert Gottfried Calling Lucy in the Hospital". YouTube.
  8. ^ "Adventures of Ford Fairlane - Original Soundtrack | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  9. ^ McIIheney, Brian (March 5, 1991). "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane OST". Q Magazine. 55: 80.
  10. ^ "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  11. ^ "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  12. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 11, 2019). "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane Movie Review (1990)". Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  14. ^ Harris, Will (March 26, 2007). "Andrew Dice Clay Interview. Dice: Undisputed Interview". Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  15. ^ "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (Weekend)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  16. ^ "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane". Retrieved November 15, 2021.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture (tied with Ghosts Can't Do It)
11th Golden Raspberry Awards
Succeeded by