Sixteen Candles (review)

Sixteen Candles, written and directed by John Hughes (1984). 8/10

Tomorrow night a friend from high-school is having an 80s-themed birthday party. I had this lying around, and I hadn’t seen it before, so I put it on to rekindle my memory of the fashions of yesteryear. In 1984, apparently, big hair, brightly-coloured t-shirts, knits, and collared shirts were in. That year, I turned three.


I love good teen-angst movies. Despite having few good reasons to be (with the possible exception of being constantly love-lorn), I was a deeply tortured teenager. But it was fun! My angst was self-indulgent and optional enough that I was able to enjoy it. Movies like Sixteen Candles are a great way to revisit the more vibrant emotions of my adolescence (as compared to today), perhaps the moreso because in them, most people actually end up getting what they want, except for the villains if there are any.

The story of Sixteen Candles is simple. Sam (Molly Ringwald) is upset both because her family forgot her birthday and because she’s in love with a guy who doesn’t know she exists (or so she thinks). She spends a day chasing him around while a geek chases her around. Finally, Sam and her beloved, Jake, end up together, while the geek gets Jake’s ex-girlfriend, more than a few years his senior. Sam’s parents, also, finally remember her birthday, while her self-obsessed sister gets her just desserts by marrying a massive sleazebag.

There’s plenty of humorous incidents to punctuate the film, decent dialogue, cool clothes, and a great 80s soundtrack, as well as minor appearances by John and Joan Cusack (why do I always seem to see them together in movies?). As with other great teen movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (another John Hughes classic) and Donnie Darko, there’s a touching sensitivity and sincerity about the main characters that redeems their often immature antics.

Implausible and probably lowbrow as it may be, I enjoyed watching this movie. It’s a story well told.

As a final note, Myst (I think) once asked me, in person, if I ever give anything less than 8–9/10. Well, I did give Japanese Story a dismal 2/10. But generally I’ve given 7–9 here. Why? Well, my undergraduate days are over, and the research for my PhD is done, too. These days I don’t read, watch, play, listen to, or do anything much with, things I expect to hate, and I like it. Hence the high marks.

Just for the record, I give Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives, which I once had to read for a Literature class at uni, a grand score of 0/10. Proof that I do hate things now and then.

Author: Ben Hourigan

Ben Hourigan is a novelist from Melbourne, Australia. His books Kiss Me, Genius Boy and My Generation’s Lament are Amazon category bestsellers, and are available wherever good books are sold online. Ben also works as an editor, copywriter, and self-publishing consultant at his own firm, Hourigan & Co. For news and book release updates, sign up to his email newsletter.