Heathers is a 1988 American dark comedy film written by Daniel Waters and directed by Michael Lehmann. It stars Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. The film portrays four teenage girls—three of whom are named Heather—in a clique at an Ohio high school.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Lehmann|
|Produced by||Denise Di Novi|
|Written by||Daniel Waters|
|Music by||David Newman|
|Edited by||Norman Hollyn|
|Distributed by||New World Pictures|
|Budget||US$3 million (equivalent to $6 million today, adjusted for inflation)|
|Box office||US$1.1 million (equivalent to $2.2 million today)|
The film brought director Michael Lehmann and producer Denise Di Novi the 1990 Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. Daniel Waters also gained recognition for his screenplay, which won a 1990 Edgar Award. Despite high critical praise, the film was not a big box office hit; it later became a cult film with high rentals and sales. In 2015, it was ranked number 5 on the Entertainment Weekly list of the "50 Best High School Movies". It was ranked number 412 on Empire's list of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time".
Veronica Sawyer is one of the most popular girls at Westerburg High School in Sherwood, Ohio. In addition to Veronica, the popular clique consists of three wealthy and beautiful girls with the same first name: Heather Chandler, Heather Duke, and Heather McNamara. Though they are the most popular students, the Heathers are feared and hated. Veronica has had enough of their behavior and longs to return to her old life and her "nerdy" friends.
When a new student, a rebellious outsider named Jason "J.D." Dean pulls a gun on jocks Kurt Kelly and Ram Sweeney, who were trying to bully him, and fires blanks at them, Veronica finds herself fascinated with him. When Veronica attends a frat party with Heather Chandler, but refuses to have sex with a frat brother and throws up, Heather vows to destroy her reputation. J.D. shows up at Veronica's house and they end up having sex outside, after which Veronica tells J.D. she wants to make Heather puke her guts out. The next morning, Veronica and J.D. break into Heather's house. J.D. serves Heather a liquid he claims is a hangover cure but is actually drain cleaner, killing her. J.D. urges Veronica to forge a dramatic suicide note in Heather's handwriting.
The school and community look on Heather's apparent suicide as a tragic decision made by a popular but ostensibly troubled teenager. Heather Duke soon steps into Heather Chandler's former role as clique leader and begins wearing a red scrunchie that had belonged to Chandler.
Several days later, Kurt and Ram spread a false rumor about Veronica giving them oral sex, ruining her reputation. J.D. proposes that Veronica lure them into the woods with the promise to "make the rumors true," then shoot them with nonfatal "Ich Lüge" bullets. J.D. shoots and kills Ram but Veronica misses Kurt, who runs away. Veronica realizes the bullets are real; J.D. chases Kurt back towards Veronica, who panics and fatally shoots him. J.D. plants gay materials beside the boys, and a suicide note stating the two were lovers participating in a suicide pact. At their funeral, the boys are made into martyrs against homophobia. Although she keeps dating J.D., Veronica is increasingly disturbed by his behavior.
Martha Dunnstock, an obese student known as "Martha Dumptruck", pins a suicide note to her chest and walks into traffic. She survives, but is badly injured and mocked for trying to "act like the popular kids." Heather McNamara calls a popular radio show one night while Veronica and Heather Duke are listening and talks of depression in her life; the next day, Heather Duke tells the entire school about Heather McNamara's radio call. McNamara attempts to take her life by overdosing on pills in the girls' bathroom but is saved by Veronica.
Veronica tells J.D. that she will not participate in any more killings. He climbs into her room with a revolver to kill her, but Veronica has used a harness to make it look like she has hanged herself. Assuming she is dead, he rambles about his plan to blow up the school during a pep rally. A petition that he has been circulating to get the band Big Fun to perform on campus, which most of the students have signed, is actually a mass suicide note.
Veronica confronts J.D. in the boiler room, where he is rigging explosives. She shoots him when he refuses to stop the bomb. As J.D. collapses, he stabs the timer and it stops. Veronica walks out through the pep rally with everyone cheering. The severely injured J.D. follows her outside with a bomb strapped to his chest, offers a personal eulogy, and detonates the bomb.
Veronica confronts Heather Duke, takes the red scrunchie, says "Heather my love, there's a new sheriff in town," and invites Martha Dunnstock to hang out on prom night and watch movies with her. Martha and Veronica walk down the hallway while Heather Duke watches.
- Winona Ryder as Veronica Sawyer
- Christian Slater as Jason "J.D." Dean
- Shannen Doherty as Heather Duke
- Lisanne Falk as Heather McNamara
- Kim Walker as Heather Chandler
- Penelope Milford as Pauline Fleming
- Glenn Shadix as Father Ripper
- Lance Fenton as Kurt Kelly
- Patrick Labyorteaux as Ram Sweeney
- Jeremy Applegate as Peter Dawson
- Renée Estevez as Betty Finn
- Carrie Lynn as Martha "Dumptruck" Dunnstock
- Em Lodge as Emily May
- Chuck LaFont as Officer Milner
- Phill Lewis as Dennis
Daniel Waters wanted his screenplay to be directed by Stanley Kubrick, not only out of admiration for him, but also from a perception that "Kubrick was the only person that could get away with a three-hour film". (The cafeteria scene near the start of Heathers was written as an homage to the barracks scene which opens Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.) After a number of failed attempts to get the script to Kubrick, Waters approached director Michael Lehmann, who agreed to helm the film with producer Denise Di Novi.
In the original version of the script, J.D. successfully blows up Westerburg High, and the final scene features a surreal Prom gathering of all the students in Heaven. Executives at New World Pictures agreed to finance the film, but they disliked the dark ending and insisted that it be changed.
Many actors and actresses turned down the project because of its dark subject matter. Early choices for Veronica were Drew Barrymore, Justine Bateman, and Jennifer Connelly, who turned down the role. Brad Pitt auditioned for the role of J.D., but the filmmakers rejected him because they thought he came across as "too nice" and thus would not be credible. Winona Ryder, who was sixteen at the time of filming and badly wanted the part, begged Waters to cast her as Veronica. Waters at first didn't think Ryder was pretty enough, and Ryder herself commented that "...at the time, I didn't look that different from my character in Beetlejuice. I was very pale. I had blue-black dyed hair. I went to Macy's at the Beverly Center and had them do a makeover on me." Ryder's agent was so opposed to her pursuing the role that she got down on her hands and knees to beg her not to take it, warning her that it would ruin her career. Eventually, she was given the role, with Christian Slater being signed to play J.D. shortly thereafter.
Heather Graham, then seventeen, was offered the part of Heather Chandler, but turned it down. Kim Walker, who was dating Slater at the time, was offered the role instead. Graham was then cast as Heather McNamara, but her mother refused to allow her to accept the role, so Lisanne Falk was given the role instead. 17 year-old Shannen Doherty wanted the role of Veronica, but Ryder had already been cast, so the producers asked her to audition for Heather Chandler. Doherty was more interested in playing Heather Duke, and ended up giving an "amazing" reading as Duke which secured her the part. The producers wanted her to dye her hair blonde to match the other "Heathers", which Doherty refused, so they compromised on her having red hair.
Principal photography took place over 33 days in July and August 1988, on a budget of $3 million. Although set in Ohio, filming was done entirely in Los Angeles. "Westerburg High School" is an amalgam of Corvallis High School (now Bridges Academy) in Studio City, Verdugo Hills High School in Tujunga, and John Adams Middle School in Santa Monica. The auditorium scenes were shot at Verdugo Hills High, while the climactic scene on the stairs was filmed outside John Adams Middle School. The funeral scenes were filmed at Church of the Angels in Pasadena, a location used in other media including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Just Married.
Michael Lehmann has called Doherty "a bit of a handful" on set, in part because she objected to the swearing in the script and refused to say some of the more explicit lines. Falk stated that Doherty "didn't have much of a sense of humour, and she took herself a little seriously", while Di Novi commented that: "I don't think Shannen really got what Heathers was. And that worked for us. She made that character real." When the cast first viewed the movie, Doherty ended up running out crying, because the movie was a dark comedy and not the drama she was expecting.
The film uses two versions of the song "Que Sera, Sera", the first by singer Syd Straw and another over the end credits by Sly and the Family Stone. On the film's DVD commentary, Di Novi mentions that the filmmakers wanted to use the original Doris Day version of the song, but Day would not lend her name to any project using profanity.
The song "Teenage Suicide (Don't Do It)" by the fictional band Big Fun was written and produced for the film by musician Don Dixon, and performed by the ad hoc group "Big Fun", which consisted of Dixon, Mitch Easter, Angie Carlson and Marti Jones. The song is included on Dixon's 1992 greatest hits album (If) I'm A Ham, Well You're A Sausage.
The film's electronic score was composed and performed by David Newman and a soundtrack CD was subsequently released.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 94% of critics gave the film a positive review based on a sample of 52 reviews and an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Dark, cynical, and subversive, Heathers gently applies a chainsaw to the conventions of the high school movie – changing the game for teen comedies to follow." At the website Metacritic, the film earned a rating of 73/100 based on 19 reviews by mainstream critics.
Academics have likened Heathers to other films popular during the 1980s and early '90s which characterized domestic youth narratives as part and parcel of the "culture war". According to Clare Connors' scathing rebuke, Heathers reveals that conflict as arising within the heart of the American high school:
|“||On one hand, the high school serves as an icon of American democracy and longing for social justice and equality, one place in American life where every young citizen can access equal opportunity and upward mobility. On the other hand, the cultural life of high school operates as the central training ground in the ruthlessly competitive values and viciously hierarchical social structure of American capitalism. Through a series of homologies, Westerberg High School becomes a metaphor for American life and culture during the Reagan and George Herbert Bush administrations. The conflict between democratic values and the social brutalities of 1980s consumer culture resides not just at the heart of the high school experience, but at the heart of 1980s American life.||”|
According to Christine Hubbard, this conflict often leads to minimal resolution:
|“||Teens don’t really want to change the world, they just want to feel that they had some say in its construction ... Heathers ends with Veronica's establishment, not of a school social structure devoid of hierarchy, but of a kinder, gentler monarchy with the protagonist in charge.||”|
Desson Thomson of The Washington Post wrote, "Wickedly funny. In fact, Heathers may be the nastiest, cruelest fun you can have without actually having to study law or gird leather products. If movies were food, Heathers would be a cynic's chocolate binge." Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4 and wrote that the film "...is a morbid comedy about peer pressure in high school, about teenage suicide and about the deadliness of cliques that not only exclude but also maim and kill."
Some reviewers have discussed similarities between Heathers and Massacre at Central High, a low-budget 1976 film. Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters has stated that he had not seen Massacre at Central High at the time he wrote Heathers, but that he had read a review of it in Danny Peary's book Cult Movies, and that the earlier film may have been "rattling around somewhere in my subconscious".
This section needs additional citations for verification. (May 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
New World Video released Heathers on VHS in 1989, and it developed a cult following after being unsuccessful at the box office. It was released again on LaserDisc on September 16, 1996, with restored stereo sound. This widescreen edition was digitally transferred from Trans Atlantic Pictures' interpositive print under the supervision of cinematographer Francis Kenny. The sound was mastered from the magnetic sound elements. The film was first released on DVD on March 30, 1999, in a bare-bones edition.
In 2001, a multi-region special edition DVD was released from Anchor Bay Entertainment in Dolby Digital 5.1. The DVD was released in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe, and achieved high sales. In 2004, a limited edition DVD set of only 15,000 copies was released. The set contained an audio commentary with director Michael Lehmann, producer Denise Di Novi and writer Daniel Waters, a 30-minute documentary titled Swatch Dogs and Diet Cokeheads, featuring interviews with Ryder, Slater, Doherty, Falk, Lehmann, Waters, Di Novi, director of photography Francis Kenny and editor Norman Hollyn. It also includes a theatrical trailer, screenplay excerpt, original ending, biographies, 10-page full-color fold-out with photos and liner notes, an 8 cm "Heathers Rules!" ruler, and a 48-page full-color yearbook style booklet with rare photos.
On July 1, 2008, a new 20th anniversary special edition DVD set was released by Anchor Bay to coincide with the DVD of writer Waters' new film Sex and Death 101. The DVD features a new documentary, Return to Westerburg High. On November 18, 2008, Anchor Bay released a Blu-ray with all the special features from the 20th anniversary DVD and a soundtrack in Dolby TrueHD 5.1.
30th anniversary re-releaseEdit
In June 2018, Arrow Films reported that Heathers would be re-released on 8 August 2018 in cinemas and on 10 September on Blu-ray, in a new 4K restoration.
Possible film sequelEdit
On June 2, 2009, Entertainment Weekly reported that Ryder had claimed that there would be a sequel to Heathers with Slater coming back "as a kind of Obi-Wan character". However, Lehmann denied development of a sequel, saying, "Winona's been talking about this for years — she brings it up every once in a while and Dan Waters and I will joke about it, but as far as I know there's no script and no plans to do the sequel."
In 2010, Heathers was adapted into a stage musical directed by Andy Fickman. Fickman also worked on the musical Reefer Madness, a parody of the anti-cannabis film of the same name which was turned into a feature film on Showtime. The Heathers musical, which opens with a number depicting Veronica's acceptance into the Heathers' clique, received several readings in workshops in Los Angeles and a three-show concert presentation at Joe's Pub in New York City on September 13–14, 2010. The cast of the Joe's Pub concert included Annaleigh Ashford as Veronica, Jenna Leigh Green as Heather Chandler, and Jeremy Jordan as J.D.
The musical played at off-Broadway’s New World Stages with performances beginning March 15, 2014 and an opening night on March 31. The original cast of the Off-Broadway production included Barrett Wilbert Weed as Veronica Sawyer, Jessica Keenan Wynn as Heather Chandler, Ryan McCartan as JD, Alice Lee as Heather Duke, and Elle McLemore as Heather McNamara. It closed on August 4, 2014.
An Off-West End production of Heathers, directed by Andy Fickman, played at The Other Palace in London with performances between 19th June and 4th August 2018. Its cast included Carrie Hope Fletcher as Veronica Sawyer, Jodie Steel as Heather Chandler, Jamie Muscato as JD, T’Shan Williams as Heather Duke and Sophie Isaacs as Heather McNamara. It transferred to the West End in September 2018, playing in Theatre Royal Haymarket, London.
In March 2016, TV Land ordered the series as an anthology dark comedy series set in the present day, with Veronica Sawyer dealing with a very different but equally vicious group of Heathers. The series was written by Jason Micallef and Tom Rosenberg, and Gary Lucchesi executive produced for Lakeshore Entertainment. In January 2017 the Heathers Anthology was ordered to Series at TV Land. Original star Shannen Doherty guest stars in the pilot.
In March 2017, it was reported that the series was moved to the then upcoming Paramount Network. Selma Blair has a recurring role in the series. A trailer for the rebooted series was released in August 2017. The series stars Grace Victoria Cox as Veronica Sawyer, James Scully as J.D., Melanie Field as Heather Chandler, Brendan Scannell as Heather Duke, Jasmine Mathews as Heather McNamara, Birgundi Baker as Lizzy, and Cameron Gellman as Kurt. The series was set to premiere on March 7, 2018, but on February 28, 2018, it was announced that the premiere would be delayed in light of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
- Christopher Campbell (January 5, 2014). "6 Scenes We Love From 'Heathers'". Film School Rejects. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
- Maslin, Janet (March 31, 1989). "Review/Film; When a Not-So-Bad Girl Turns Very, Very Bad". The New York Times.
- "HEATHERS (18)". British Board of Film Classification. July 26, 1989. Retrieved May 30, 2015.
- "Heathers". thewrap.com. Retrieved September 20, 2015.
- "Heathers (1989)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. May 4, 1989. Retrieved May 30, 2015.
- Zilberman, Alan (March 31, 2014). "Still Very, 25 Years Later: The Bleak Genius of Heathers". The Atlantic. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
- "50 Best High School Movies". Entertainment Weekly. August 28, 2015. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
- "The 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time". Empire. October 3, 2008. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
- "Heathers DVD review". Qnetwork.com. September 25, 2001. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
- Adam Markovitz (April 4, 2014). "Heathers: An Oral History". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- Markovitz, Adam. "'Heathers': An oral history". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
- Return to Westerburg High DVD Featurette (dvd). Boulevard Entertainment Ltd. 2010.
- "Film locations for 'Heathers'". movie-locations.com. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
- "Heathers Movie Filming Locations". fast-rewind.com. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
- Return to Westerberg High 20th Anniversary Featurette (dvd). Boulevard Entertainment. 2010.
- "Weekend Box Office Results for March 31-April 2, 1989". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. April 3, 1989. Retrieved May 30, 2015.
- "Heathers". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
- "Heathers". Metacritic. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
- Connors, Clare (2005). "Heathers, High School and the Conflict Between Democratic Values and Consumer Culture". The Hollywood Youth Narrative and the Family Values Campaign, 1980–1992 (Ph.D. thesis). Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh. p. 201. Document No. 3192936 – via ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
- Hubbard, Christine Karen Reeves (December 1996). "The Teen Lifestyle Film". Rebellion and Reconciliation: Social Psychology, Genre, and the Teen Film, 1980-1989 (Ph.D. thesis). Denton, TX: University of North Texas. p. 23. Document No. 9714032 – via ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
- Howe, Desson (April 14, 1989). "Heathers". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
- Ebert, Roger (March 31, 1989). "Heathers". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
- Kane, Joe (2000). The Phantom of the Movies' Videoscope: The Ultimate Guide to the Latest, Greatest, and Weirdest Genre Videos. New York: Three Rivers Press. p. 524. ISBN 9780812931495.
We probably would have liked [Heathers] even better if we hadn't seen much the same story before, as 1976's Massacre at Central High... Heathers replaces Massacre's fascistic male clique with a femme one but otherwise clones the earlier flick pretty closely.
- Siegel, Scott; Siegel, Barbara (1997). The Winona Ryder Scrapbook. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Publishing Group. pp. 51–52. ISBN 9780806518831.
Heathers... spoofed the 1976 schlock horror classic Massacre at Central High... about a new student at a Southern California high school who doesn't like how other students are terrorized by a gang, so he decides to off the gang members one by one in gruesome fashion.
- Bowie, John Ross (2011). Heathers. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press. p. 14. ISBN 159376457X.
I [Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters] had most definitely not seen [Massacre at Central High], but I do remember reading about it in the beloved book Cult Movies by Danny Peary... so I guess it was rattling around somewhere in my subconscious.
- Holden, Stephen (July 30, 1989). "HOME ENTERTAINMENT/VIDEO: CRITICS' CHOICES; Black Comedy for a Conformist Era". The New York Times. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
- White, Cindy (November 26, 2008). "Heathers Limited Edition Locker DVD/Blu-ray Set Review". IGN. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
- Travis, Ben. "Heathers 30th Anniversary Poster". Empire. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
- Barrett, Annie (June 2, 2009). "Winona Ryder confirms 'Heathers' sequel. God, Veronica, drool much?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- Buchanan, Kyle (July 2, 2009). "Michael Lehmann Administers Cup of Liquid Drainer to Heathers Sequel". Movieline. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- "Heathers to get musical treatment". bbc.co.uk. BBC. March 12, 2009. Retrieved September 25, 2011.
- Champion, Lindsay. "What's Your Damage?! Heathers: The Musical to Slay Off-Broadway's New World Stages This Spring". Broadway.com. Broadway.com. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
- Bellino, Damian. "It'll Be Very! Full Cast Announced for Heathers the Musical Off-Broadway". Broadway.com. Broadway.com. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
- Contray, Danielle. "Off-Broadway's 'Heathers' to Close on August 4". NewYork.com. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
- Andreeva, Nellie (March 16, 2016). "'Heathers' Anthology Series Based On the Movie In Development At TV Land". Deadline Hollywood.
- "'Heathers' Anthology Ordered to Series at TV Land". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
- "Shannen Doherty, Original 'Heathers' Star, Confirmed for TV Land Reboot". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
- Goldberg, Lesley (March 16, 2017). "'Heathers' Reboot, Alicia Silverstone Comedy Switch Networks in Viacom's Paramount Push (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
- Goldberg, Lesley. "'Heathers' Reboot Enlists Selma Blair". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
- "Heathers TV Show Drops Its First Trailer". Den of Geek. August 29, 2017. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Lincoln, Ross (October 27, 2016). "TV Land's 'Heathers' TV Remake Finds Its Heathers". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Petski, Denise; Petski, Denise (June 23, 2017). "'One Day At A Time' Casts Ed Quinn; 'Heathers' Adds Birgundi Baker & Cameron Gellman". Retrieved May 20, 2019.
- "Heathers Isn't Trying to Be a "Responsible" Story About Bullying". TVGuide.com. January 15, 2018. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
- Ausiello, Michael (February 28, 2018). "Heathers Reboot Delayed in Wake of Florida School Shooting". TVLine. TVLine Media, LLC. Retrieved February 28, 2018.