The Legend of Billie Jean

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The Legend of Billie Jean
Legend of billie jean.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Matthew Robbins
Produced by Rob Cohen
Written by Lawrence Konner
Mark Rosenthal
Music by Craig Safan
Cinematography Jeffrey L. Kimball
Edited by Cynthia Scheider
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release date
  • July 19, 1985 (1985-07-19)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $3,099,497 (USA)

The Legend of Billie Jean is a 1985 American drama film, directed by Matthew Robbins.


The movie opens with Billie Jean Davy, a Corpus Christi, Texas high school girl and her younger brother, Binx, who live in a trailer park with their mother, Donna, going out for the day to a local lake on his Honda Elite scooter. On their way there, they encounter rowdy local teen Hubie Pyatt and his friends who make lewd advances and catcalls to Billie Jean as they follow them in their car. As they stop at a drive-in for ice cream, Hubie continues hitting on Billie Jean, but Binx humiliates him by tossing a milkshake in his face. Later at the lake, Binx asks Billie Jean to tell him about Vermont, somewhere Binx has always wanted to visit. Unbeknownst to the two of them, Hubie and his friends have followed them to the lake, where he takes his revenge by stealing Binx's scooter.

Billie Jean goes to the police with her friends Putter and Ophelia, where they speak to Lieutenant Larry Ringwald about the matter. He is sympathetic to the situation, but urges them to wait the problem out. Binx attempts to retrieve his scooter and returns badly beaten, with his scooter severely damaged. Billie Jean, Binx, and Ophelia go to Mr. Pyatt's shop to get the money ($608) to repair the scooter. While initially appearing helpful and understanding, Mr. Pyatt gets Billie Jean alone and propositions her with a "Pay as you go, earn as you learn" plan by which he will have sex with her, giving her more money each time. He then attempts to rape her, but she escapes.

Meanwhile, Ophelia and Binx, who are waiting downstairs for Billie Jean, has discovered a gun in the cash register and is playing with it when his sister returns, with Mr. Pyatt following. Seeing her in distress, an angry Binx turns the gun on Mr. Pyatt, who smugly tells him the gun is unloaded, so Binx pulls the trigger and a bullet hits Mr Pyatt in the shoulder, to the shock of everyone present, including Hubie. The group races away from the shop and back to the trailer park, where they quickly gather clothes and what little money they have. Putter sees what is happening and decides to go with them, wanting to escape from her boring home life and her bullying mother, despite Billie Jean's attempts to stop her. Ophelia cannot bring herself to go with them, but drives them to a safe place. They end up in an abandoned mini-golf park and spend the night there. Later on, as Billie Jean explores the park when Binx and Putter are sleeping, Ophelia returns, finding she could not abandon her friends and offers to take them anywhere they decide to go.

As the group continues across Corpus Christi the next morning, they are aided in getting gas and food at a local convenience store with the help some other teenagers. They also discover from a local newspaper that Mr. Pyatt was not seriously hurt and was released from the hospital. They also encounter people who believe the media, and Mr. Pyatt's lies, about what happened in the shop. Mr. Pyatt, in the meantime, has taken full advantage of the media attention by selling Billie Jean-themed wanted posters in his store and making a tidy profit at the same time, much to the disgust of Ringwald, who now regrets taking such a soft approach to the incident and resolves to help Billie Jean. Wanting to put a quick end to the situation, Billie Jean calls Ringwald and offers to turn herself in on the conditions that she receive the money to fix her brother's scooter and an apology from Mr. Pyatt, to which Ringwald agrees, but an angry Mr. Pyatt strongly objects. Later, the group arrives at Ocean Park Mall, where the meeting is to take place. After leaving IOU's for a pair of walkie-talkies and some batteries so they can keep in touch, Billie Jean spies Ringwald and Mr. Pyatt on the ground floor of the mall and goes down to meet them. While Ringwald is grilling Mr. Pyatt about what really happened the day of the shooting, Billie Jean approaches them. As Ringwald keeps his distance, Mr. Pyatt taunts Billie Jean and instead of giving her the money, he calls out to Hubie to grab her. Billie Jean flees up the mall escalator with Hubie in pursuit. She incapacitates him with a knee to the groin and runs for the second floor of the mall as Hubie's friends chase after her along with a furious Ringwald and some of his fellow cops and mall security. Billie Jean manages to slow them down by spilling marbles in their path and continues to run for safety. The kids quickly drive to the mall's parking complex where Binx pushes a garbage bin in front the exit Billie Jean is fleeing through, stopping them from following. Ringwald arrives through another exit, but Binx pulls a gun on him (a toy gun he took from the mall earlier) and holds him back long enough for the group to get away.

Later on, the group ends up at what they believe to be an empty mansion, but find it belongs to the local district attorney whose disgruntled teenage son, Lloyd Muldaur is home alone. As they get to know one another, Lloyd, who is an amateur filmmaker, offers his help in getting the public to see their side of the story after the kids see not only Mr. Pyatt speaking out against them, but a local truck stop owner who falsely accuses them of robbing and assaulting him at gunpoint. While they all discuss how to do it, Bille Jean finds herself watching the movie, Saint Joan, based on the life of historical figure Joan of Arc and draws inspiration from the scene where Jean Seberg, the actress playing her, is burned at the stake. After getting the group together, Billie Jean emerges near the mansion's pool, now sporting rebellious clothing and with her long, blond hair chopped into a crew cut. After Billie Jean makes a video of her demands, featuring herself, Lloyd offers to come along with them as their "hostage", so the public will take them more seriously. The next day at the police station, a little boy delivers a copy of the videotape of Billie Jean's declaration to the media to Ringwald. But before he can view it, the local news broadcasts their own copy of the tape, which sparks a powerful, positive response from the public at large.

As a result of the increasing media coverage, Billie Jean becomes a teen icon and a local heroine when she comes to the aid of a young boy whose father has been drinking and physically abusing him–-a symbol of youth empowerment and the evidence of the injustices adults are capable of, and young fans follow her every movement, copying her hairstyle and providing assistance. Even some adults in the area come around to her side, including Jimmy J. Judd, the local radio station DJ who was once convinced of her guilt, but now loudly declares his support for her. But over the next few days, when she and her friends face uncertain dangers, both physical and legal, Billie Jean is forced to turn Putter and Ophelia in to the police for their safety, while she, Binx and Lloyd go on alone. When Ringwald and the police arrive at the mini-golf park where they are hiding out and he demands to know where Billie Jean is, Ophelia defiantly replies, "Everywhere!"

To end the escalating situation, Billie Jean calls Ringwald (who came looking for her, Binx and Lloyd at the golf park later the next day with a proposal to finally end the matter) and arranges to turn herself in. Again, her only demand is that Mr. Pyatt pay for the scooter repairs and apologize for his actions. Once word gets out, it becomes a huge media event and the public, including Billie Jean's many followers, turn out to support her. In the meanwhile, Mr. Pyatt has set up a concession stand full of Billie Jean merchandise including T-shirts, posters and even a life-size statue in her likeness. To avoid early detection, she, Binx and numerous friends wear varying confusing disguises. Lloyd's father has sharpshooters at the ready due to the (fake) gun that Binx has been seen with. Even though Detective Ringwald tells him he doesn't know that it's real, the DA won't change his mind. As Binx and Lloyd approach the crowd, Billie Jean sneaks up onto the makeshift stage and brings Binx's scooter out from under a tarp, fully repaired. It is revealed that the DA paid for the repairs, making Lloyd realize that his father does care for him. But before Binx and Lloyd can proceed any farther, Hubie alerts the crowd to Binx's deception. He tries to tell Hubie to keep quiet and aims the fake gun at him, causing one of the sharpshooters to shoot him in the shoulder. Believing that it's Billie Jean, the crowd goes insane and riots. As Lloyd tries to help Binx, a horrified Billie Jean tries to get to him herself, but gets blocked by the crowds and the policemen trying to contain them.

As Binx is taken away in an ambulance, Billie Jean confronts Mr. Pyatt and gets him to admit to how his actions led to him being shot in his store. After a short argument ensues between them, in which she asks if the money is for the "sex" lessons he tried to force on her at the beginning, Mr. Pyatt tries to (finally) reimburse Billie Jean for the scooter. She reluctantly takes the money, realizing she has contributed to the furor that followed after the shooting as much as Mr. Pyatt has. Billie Jean, reiterating that she can't accept anything more than what she asked for, approaches a subdued Mr. Pyatt and rams her knee into his crotch, sending him sprawling to the ground. She then says "You can keep your money. Go buy somebody else!" and throws it in his face. The onlookers (including Hubie), seeing how Billie Jean was exploited and their indirect involvement in it, choose not to help when Mr. Pyatt knocks over a torch and his merchandise goes up in flames. Before leaving, Billie Jean smiles in gratitude at Ringwald and passionately kisses Lloyd.

At the end of the film, Billie Jean and a convalescing Binx find themselves in Vermont seeking a fresh start. Exiting the gas station where they ended up, Binx takes notice of a snowmobile parked outside and admires it, saying "Far out!"



Kleberg County Courthouse in Kingsville, Texas. Exterior of the police headquarters.
Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi, Texas. Location of the money handover cheat and subsequent chase.
  • Filming locations included the Sunrise Mall and several locations along South Padre Island Drive.[1]
  • The original title of the film was Fair is Fair.[2]


Craig Safan produced the original score for the film writing a couple of synthpop-styled instrumental tracks. Furthermore, some rock songs were added to the soundtrack which had never been officially released. The movie's theme song "Invincible" by Pat Benatar peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1985, while Billy Idol's reissue of his single "Rebel Yell" climbed up to number six on the UK Singles Chart in October 1985 after its first unsuccessful release in 1984.


Jay Boyar of the Orlando Sentinel stated that the film "has quite a lot going for it" and "doesn't get many points for finesse, but it has energy, good performances and more wit than you'd expect." He added, "One reason that sections of the movie are effective is that Helen Slater has enough style and presence to be believable as a young woman who is taken for a modern Joan of Arc. As Billie Jean, she's got the clear eyes of a dreamer and the toughness of a winner."[2] Janet Maslin of The New York Times said that the film is "competently made, sometimes attractively acted (particularly by Peter Coyote)... and bankrupt beyond belief. It's hard to imagine that even the film makers, let alone audiences, can believe in a sweet, selfless heroine who just can't help becoming a superstar."[3] The film holds a 44% approval rating on the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 9 reviews, though it currently lacks of consensus summary.[4]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on home video on VHS in 1985.

In 2009, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released in Europe a Spanish-titled DVD La Leyenda de Billie Jean, with 4:3 open matte image, but without any bonus material. A remastered NTSC DVD including commentary by Helen Slater and Yeardley Smith was released on November 1, 2011, via their manufactured on demand service.[5]

Mill Creek Entertainment released a retail version of the DVD, along with a Blu-ray edition on July 22, 2014.[6][7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Legend of Billie Jean Filming Locations". Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  2. ^ a b Jay Boyar (1985-07-25). "'Billy Jean' Is A Pretty Good B-plus". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  3. ^ Janet Maslin (1985-07-19). "Screen: 'The Legend of Billie Jean' Opens". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  4. ^ "The Legend of Billie Jean (1985)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
  5. ^ Chris Tribbey (2011-11-01). "DVD MOD Site Adds 33 More". Home Media Magazine. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  6. ^ Mill Creek Entertainment
  7. ^ Mill Creek Entertainment
  8. ^

External links[edit]