Little Darlings is a 1980 American teen comedy-drama film starring Tatum O'Neal and Kristy McNichol and featuring Armand Assante and Matt Dillon. It was directed by Ronald F. Maxwell.[3] The screenplay was written by Kimi Peck and Dalene Young and the original music score was composed by Charles Fox. The film was marketed with the tagline "Don't let the title fool you", a reference to a scene in which the character of Angel tells Randy, "Don't let the name fool you."

Little Darlings
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRonald F. Maxwell
Screenplay byKimi Peck
Dalene Young
Story byKimi Peck
Produced byStephen J. Friedman
StarringTatum O'Neal
Kristy McNichol
Armand Assante
Matt Dillon
Maggie Blye
Nicolas Coster
Marianne Gordon
CinematographyBeda Batka
Edited byPembroke J. Herring
Music byCharles Fox
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 21, 1980 (1980-03-21) (US)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$5.3 million[1]
Box office$34,326,249[2]

Film critic Roger Ebert said of the film that it "somehow does succeed in treating the awesome and scary subject of sexual initiation with some of the dignity it deserves."[4]



A group of teenage girls head to Camp Little Wolf, an all-girls camp, for the summer. The group includes Angel Bright, a cynical, streetwise girl, and Ferris Whitney, a romantic, naive rich girl. The two immediately develop a dislike for one another, and to their dismay learn they must share a cabin. Cinder Carlson, an arrogant teen model who is in the same cabin and is boastful about her sexual experiences, suggests to the group that Ferris and Angel are virgins, leading to the two girls making a bet to see which one of them can lose her virginity first. All of the girls in the camp divide into two "teams", each rooting for and egging on either Ferris or Angel.

One day, the girls manage to steal one of the camp buses and use it to get condoms from the men’s room at the local gas station. On the outing, Angel meets Randy, a boy from the camp across the lake. She decides Randy is the guy she wants to lose her virginity to. Meanwhile, Ferris sets her sights on Gary Callahan, a much older camp counselor. Angel regularly sneaks out of camp to see Randy and she tries to get him drunk, while Ferris attempts to seduce Gary, but neither girl is successful in her efforts. During Parents' Day, Ferris' dad reveals that he is divorcing her mom, which leads to Ferris feeling disillusioned in her ideas of romantic love. Angel feels distressed when her mother suggests that sex is "no big deal".

One night, Ferris finally tries to tell Gary how she feels. She goes to his cabin and talks about Romeo and Juliet, but Gary calmly rebuffs her, telling her he is "a teacher", not "a prince". Pressured by the other girls, she lies and says that she and Gary had sex. The rumors spread throughout the camp, jeopardizing Gary’s job.

Angel tries to view the act of sex with the same nonchalance as her mother, but when she has an opportunity to have sex with Randy in a boathouse, she becomes confused and hesitant. Randy is put off by Angel's reluctance and leaves, with Angel tearfully protesting, "But I like you!" A few days later, she meets Randy again with a changed attitude, and they manage to consummate their relationship. However, the experience is not what Angel thought it would be like, and she does not tell the other girls that she had sex. She allows Ferris to win the bet.

The girls in the camp eventually all turn against Cinder and call her out for instigating the bet, with some of the girls arguing that it doesn't matter who is a virgin or not. Ferris also apologizes to Gary and confesses to the camp director about her lie, saving Gary’s job. When Randy later seeks Angel out, she admits that while she likes him, she is not ready for a relationship with him. Angel and Ferris leave camp realizing they are more alike than different, and as they return home to their parents, they become best friends.





The film was made by Stephen Friedman's Kings Road Productions. Paramount agreed to provide $5.3 million to make it in exchange for $14.3 million to market and develop the film.[1]

Kristy McNichol had the first pick of lead roles over Tatum O’Neal and chose the role of Angel, the more streetwise character.[5][6]

Principal photography on Little Darlings began on March 19, 1979 at Hard Labor Creek State Park, 50 miles east of Atlanta.[7] The gas station men's room (condom) scene was filmed in downtown Rutledge, the town nearest the park. The meeting place for the buses at the beginning and ending were filmed in a parking lot near the offices of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the old Omni Coliseum can be seen in the background including in the last scene of the movie. When Ferris is driven into town, they pass the Swan House, indicating that her family lives in Buckhead, a wealthy part of town to the north of the city.[8]

A novelization of the film by Sonia Pilcer was released as a tie-in in 1980.[9]

Soundtrack and licensing issues


The film was notable for having a contemporary pop soundtrack, with music by artists like Blondie, Rickie Lee Jones, Supertramp, The Cars, and Iain Matthews. The original video release—on blue box VHS and laserdisc—kept the soundtrack intact; however, many songs in the film such as Supertramp's "School", John Lennon's "Oh My Love" and The Bellamy Brothers' "Let Your Love Flow" were removed from the second round of home releases—VHS red box—due to licensing issues,[10] and were replaced with sound-alikes.

On January 7, 2012, Lionsgate announced the release of the film on DVD, but it was later canceled.

The film was released by Cinématographe as their inaugural release on Blu-ray and 4K UHD in January 2024. It is also available for digital video rental on iTunes and Amazon Prime.[11] Turner Classic Movies also aired the original theatrical version, letterboxed, and with all original music and credits intact. Canada’s Hollywood Suite aired the original theatrical version on June 22, 2021, with a replay scheduled for the following day.



The film made $34.3 million domestically against a budget of $5.3 million.[1][2] NBC later acquired broadcasting rights for $2.7 million and the network first aired the film on May 9, 1983.[12] The film also made $1.2 million in the ancillary markets.[1]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a "fresh" approval rating of 67% based on nine reviews.[13] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 45 out of 100 based on nine reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[14]

Frank Rich of Time praised McNichol’s acting, but criticized the script and said the characters were underdeveloped.[15] Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote, “Miss O'Neal and Miss McNichol, both lovely and accomplished actresses, are much better than their material. And they go a long way toward lending the story a little charm.”[16]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times also criticized the tonal inconsistencies of the film, but noted that “the scenes in which [the characters] actually confront the realities of sex are handled so thoughtfully and tastefully that they almost seem to belong to another movie.”[4]

TV version


For its broadcast on TV, Little Darlings was shown in a heavily edited version which had all the sex-related scenes and dialogue removed, giving the impression that, instead of trying to lose their virginity, Angel and Ferris were engaged in competition simply to make a guy fall in love with them.[17] The deleted scenes were replaced with alternate footage not seen in the theatrical version, including a scene in which Angel rescues Ferris from drowning in the lake during a thunderstorm. Some additional music was also used in this version. Director Ron Maxwell has stated that he had no participation in this TV version and does not approve of it.[18]

Awards and honors

Nominee: Second Best Young Actress in a Major Motion Picture - Kristy McNichol[19]


  1. ^ a b c d Moreland, Pamela (July 12, 1981). "Loser at Box-Office, Often Lucrative on the Box: Pay TV, Videodiscs and In-Flight Film Deals Leading Investors to the Movies". Los Angeles Times. p. g1.
  2. ^ a b "Little Darlings". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 5, 2022.
  3. ^ "Little Darlings (1980)". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 24, 2008. Retrieved April 5, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (March 25, 1980). "Little Darlings". Retrieved December 17, 2021.
  5. ^ Jackovich, Karen (March 31, 1980). "Tatum & Kristy Come of Age". People. Archived from the original on March 31, 2022. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  6. ^ Gire, Dann. "Interview". Daily Herald. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  7. ^ "Little Darlings (1980)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  8. ^ "Little Darlings Filming Locations (1980) - Then and Now - Hollywood's Hallowed Grounds". YouTube. July 1, 2021. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  9. ^ Pilcer, Sonia (1980). Little Darlings. Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0345288943.
  10. ^ Higgins, Bill (April 12, 2018). "Hollywood Flashback: Long Before Politics, Cynthia Nixon Debuted in 'Little Darlings'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  11. ^ "Little Darlings". Paramount Pictures. Retrieved December 17, 2021.
  12. ^ NBC ad in Chicago Tribune TV Week, May 8, 1983
  13. ^ "Little Darlings". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 9, 2022.
  14. ^ Little Darlings, retrieved November 4, 2022
  15. ^ Rich, Frank (March 31, 1980). "Cinema: Growing Up". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Archived from the original on June 12, 2019. Retrieved April 5, 2022.
  16. ^ Maslin, Janet (March 28, 1980). "Screen: 'Little Darlings,' a Rite-of-Passage Comedy:Space Colonies in Yonkers Would You Like to Bet?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on April 5, 2022. Retrieved April 5, 2022.
  17. ^ "Little Darlings (1980) NBC TV Broadcast Premiere Spot May 9, 1983". YouTube. August 13, 2019. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  18. ^ "Little Darlings (1980) - Alternate Versions". IMDb. Retrieved December 17, 2021.
  19. ^ "Little Darlings - Articles". TCM Movie Database. Retrieved July 20, 2022.