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Sixteen Candles is a 1984 American coming-of-age comedy film starring Molly Ringwald, Michael Schoeffling, and Anthony Michael Hall. It was written and directed by John Hughes.

Sixteen Candles
Sixteen Candles.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Hughes
Produced by
Written byJohn Hughes
Music byIra Newborn
CinematographyBobby Byrne
Edited byEdward Warschillka
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 4, 1984 (1984-05-04)
Running time
93 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$6.5 million
Box office$23.7 million[2]



High school sophomore Samantha "Sam" Baker struggles to go through the day on her 16th birthday, which her entire family has forgotten about because her older sister, Ginny, is getting married the next day. She is also infatuated with a popular and attractive senior, Jake Ryan. At school, she fares no better when she finds out that a completed "sex quiz" which she tried to surreptitiously slip to her friend Randy, never reached her and, unbeknownst to either of them, was picked up by Jake. Despite her name not being on the quiz, Sam is still a bit panicked because the quiz contains sensitive information, such as how she is a virgin and is saving herself for Jake.

During gym class, Jake opens up to his friend Rock, admitting that he feels like things with his girlfriend Caroline have become stagnant. He also tells him how he thinks it is cool that he keeps catching Sam looking at him.

Meanwhile, an outgoing geeky freshman named Ted is in love with Sam. On the school bus ride home, he tries to hit on her, only to have her spurn him before she departs.

At home, Sam has a whole new set of problems when she discovers that all four of her grandparents are staying at the Baker home during the wedding. One set of grandparents has brought along a bizarre Chinese foreign exchange student, Long Duk Dong. The grandparents force Sam to take him along to her school's senior dance that night and, to Sam's amazement, it takes the "Donger" only five minutes to find an unlikely girlfriend—the tall, large-breasted jock, Marlene.

As the freshmen hang out at the gym, Ted's two best friends Bryce and Cliff watch as Ted crashes and burns after he once again hits on Sam and fails, with an upset Sam running off. Undeterred by this latest rejection, Ted accepts a bet from his friends that he can score with Sam. For proof, they need Ted to bring them her panties. While Jake and Caroline are slow dancing, Jake sees Ted's interaction with Sam. He later asks Ted what he knows about her. Shocked that a senior is talking to him, Ted opens up a bit and boldly states that Ted hopes to take Sam home with him after the dance.

Looking for some solace, Sam finds her way to the school's auto shop. Ted finds her and sees that she is still upset. She opens up to Ted, telling him how disappointed she was with her family forgetting her birthday. Sam also confesses her love for Jake. Upon hearing this, Ted tells her that Jake had asked about her at the dance, and they agree that Sam should just go and talk to him. As she is leaving, Ted reveals the wager he made with his friends, so Sam agrees to let him borrow her panties.

After Ted, Cliff, and Bryce have an impromptu peep show in the boys' bathroom to show off the panties, they head over to Jake's house for the dance's after-party. Almost immediately, the trio find themselves in an awkward situation, knocking over a huge beer can pyramid. Disgusted by Caroline's drunkenness and the mess she and her friends have made of his house, Jake heads to his bedroom to be alone and tracks down Sam's phone number after finding her picture in the school yearbook. He tries to call her, only to get tongue-tied when her grandparents answer instead.

At night's end, Jake takes in the scene of his parents' trashed house. While cleaning up, Jake finds Ted trapped under a glass coffee table and, after freeing him, they talk. Jake inquires further about Sam, and Ted explains the situation. Jake makes a deal with Ted: If Jake gets to return the panties to Sam, then Ted gets to drive a very drunk Caroline home in Jake's father's Rolls Royce. Ted stops at Bryce & Cliff's house to get them to take a picture of him and the drunk prom queen.

The next morning, Jake goes to Sam's house, only to have a hungover Donger miscommunicate that Sam was at church getting married. In the church parking lot, Jake finds Caroline and Ted making out in the back of his dad's banged-up Rolls. With this turn of events, Jake and Caroline mutually agree that it is time for them to break up and remain friends. Jake then drives to the church just in time to meet an incredulous Sam after her sister's wedding.

The film concludes with Sam and Jake sharing a kiss over a birthday cake with 16 candles. Jake tells her to make a wish, but Sam says that her wish has already come true. The two kiss as the film fades to black.



John Hughes had asked his agent for headshots of young actresses, and among those he received were those of Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy. Sheedy had auditioned for the role of Sam, but was dropped because of Hughes thinking Ringwald was more fitting for the role, but he called her a year later to give her a role in The Breakfast Club. Inspired by Ringwald's appearance, he put it up over his desk and wrote the film just over a weekend with her in mind for the lead role.[3][4] For the male lead in the film, it had come down to Schoeffling and Viggo Mortensen.[5] For the part of Ted, Hughes saw a number of actors for the role: "Every single kid who came in to read for the part... did the whole, stereotyped high school nerd thing. You know - thick glasses, ball point pens in the pocket, white socks. But when Michael came in he played it straight, like a real human being. I knew right at that moment that I'd found my geek."[6]

Sixteen Candles was filmed primarily in and around the Chicago North Shore suburban communities of Evanston, Skokie, and Highland Park, Illinois during the summer of 1983, when leads Ringwald and Hall were 15 years old.[7] Most of the exterior scenes and some of the interior scenes were filmed at Niles East High School,[8] close to downtown Skokie, the setting for Hall's driving the Rolls Royce.[9] A cafeteria scene and a gym scene, were filmed at Niles North High School. The auto shop scene was filmed at Niles East High School in the auto shop. The Baker house is located at 3022 Payne Street in Evanston. The church (Glencoe Union Church - 263 Park Avenue) and parking lot where the final scenes take place are in Glencoe.[10]

Soundtrack and songsEdit

Sixteen Candles
Soundtrack album by
various artists
Side 1
No.TitlePerformed ByLength
1."16 Candles"Stray Cats2:52
2."Hang Up the Phone"Annie Golden2:59
3."Geek Boogie"Ira Newborn & the Geeks2:48
Side 2
No.TitlePerformed ByLength
1."Gloria"Patti Smith5:54
2."If You Were Here"Thompson Twins2:55

The original soundtrack was released as a specially priced mini album containing only 5 songs. However, the movie actually featured an extensive selection of over 30 songs. Songs from the movie that were not included on the soundtrack EP are as follows:

Home mediaEdit

Pre-2003 releases of the film featured a re-scored soundtrack due to rights issues. This wasn't until 2003 when the film was released on DVD with the original theatrical mix intact albeit in 5.1. In 2008, the film was again released on DVD as a "Flashback Edition" with a new featurette "Celebrating Sixteen Candles". In 2012, the film was released on Blu-ray for the first time as part of Universal's 100th Anniversary with the 2008 featurette carried over along with two new features highlighting the impact of Universal Studios: "The 80s" and "Unforgettable Characters". In 2019, Universal re-released the film on Blu-ray in a digipak highlighting its 35th anniversary. The disc was the same 2012 release with nothing new added. In that same year, Arrow Video announces their release with a new 4K restoration and an extended version albeit 2 minutes longer.


Box officeEdit

In its opening weekend the film grossed $4,461,520 in 1,240 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking second. By the end of its run, Sixteen Candles grossed $23,686,027 against a budget of $6.5 million.[2]

Critical responseEdit

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 87% of critics gave it a positive rating, based on 38 reviews with an average rating of 7.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Significantly more mature than the teen raunch comedies that defined the era, Sixteen Candles is shot with compassion and clear respect for his characters and their hang-ups".[11] Ringwald's performance was especially praised; Variety called her "engaging and credible"[12] while Roger Ebert wrote that she "provides a perfect center for the story".[13]


The character of Long Duk Dong was criticized for being "unfunny" and a "potentially offensive stereotype" of Asian people.[14] In 2008, Alison MacAdam of NPR wrote, "To some viewers, he represents one of the most offensive Asian stereotypes Hollywood ever gave America."[15] Asian Americans have complained that they were taunted with quotes of his stilted-English lines.[16] At the time of release Roger Ebert defended him, writing that Gedde Watanabe "elevates his role from a potentially offensive stereotype to high comedy".[13]

In an article published in Salon, Amy Benfer considers whether the film directly condones date rape.[17] After the party scene, Jake tells Ted that his girlfriend Caroline is "in the bedroom right now, passed out cold. I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to." He encourages Ted to drive her home saying, "she's so blitzed she won't know the difference." When Caroline and Ted wake up next to each other in the car, Caroline says she's fairly certain they had sex though neither of them remember it. Amy Benfer writes, "The scene only works because people were stupid about date rape at the time. Even in a randy teen comedy, you would never see two sympathetic male characters conspiring to take advantage of a drunk chick these days."[17]

Author Anthony C. Bleach has argued that one possibility for Caroline's emotional and physical ruin in the film "might be that she is unappreciative of (or unreflective about) her class position", adding that, "what happens to Caroline in the narrative, whether her sloppy drunkenness, her scalping, or the potential for sexual coercion, seems to be both a projection of Samantha's desire to acquire Jake and become his girlfriend and a project of the film's desire to somehow harm the upper class."[18][19]


In December 1984, Ringwald and Hall both won Young Artist Awards as "Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture" and "Best Young Actor in a Motion Picture" for their roles in the film, respectively becoming the first and only juvenile performers in the history of the Young Artist Awards to win the Best Leading Actress and Best Leading Actor awards for the same film (a distinction the film still retains as of 2014).[20] In July 2008, the movie was ranked number 49 on Entertainment Weekly's list of "The 50 Best High School Movies".[21]

Proposed sequelEdit

As of 2003, USA Network was developing a sequel to the film.[22]

As of 2005, Ringwald was producing, saying she had been approached repeatedly but had turned down all previous offers. "I couldn't see how it would work. Now, it seems right."[23][24] By 2008, Ringwald was campaigning for the sequel, but said she was uncomfortable doing the film without the involvement of Hughes who, at that point, was not interested.[25][26]


  1. ^ "SIXTEEN CANDLES (15)". British Board of Film Classification. August 29, 1984. Retrieved April 18, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Sixteen Candles". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 27, 2009.
  3. ^ Rocca, Mo (April 17, 2011). "Molly Ringwald on life after teen angst". CBS News. Retrieved May 1, 2011.
  4. ^ Cook, Bruce (September 11, 1985). "Molly Ringwald teen fans' favorite". The Day. Retrieved May 1, 2011.
  5. ^ "Ringwald visits John Hughes class". Toronto Sun. April 30, 2011. Retrieved May 1, 2011.
  6. ^ Lyman, Rick (May 21, 1984). "The long search for a perfect geek". The Day. Retrieved May 1, 2011.
  7. ^ Susannah Gora (2010). You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation. Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-307-40843-3.
  8. ^ William A. Gordon (1995). Shot On This Site: A Traveler's Guide to the Places and Locations Used to Film Famous Movies and TV Shows. Citadel. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-8065-1647-9.
  9. ^ "Wilmette/Kenilworth Reference Rolodex - Movies filmed on the North Shore". Wilmette Public Library. Archived from the original on December 7, 2008. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  10. ^ Thomas, Alex; Wiemer, Dave (March 5, 2002). "Hughes Hunt". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved February 18, 2018.
  11. ^ "Sixteen Candles (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  12. ^ Variety Staff (January 1, 1984). "Sixteen Candles". Variety. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  13. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (May 4, 1984). "Sixteen Candles". Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  14. ^ Maslin, Janet (May 4, 1984). "Screen: '16 Candles,' A Teen-Age Comedy". The New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  15. ^ MacAdam, Alison (March 4, 2008). "Long Duk Dong: Last of the Hollywood Stereotypes?". NPR. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  16. ^ Gross, Michael Joseph (May 9, 2004). "When the Losers Ruled in Teenage Movies". The New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  17. ^ a b Benfer, Amy (August 11, 2009). "The "Sixteen Candles" date rape scene?". Salon. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  18. ^ Bleach, Anthony C. (Spring 2010). "Postfeminist Cliques?: Class, Postfeminism, and the Molly Ringwald-John Hughes Films". Cinema Journal. 49 (3): 36–37. doi:10.1353/cj.0.0209.
  19. ^ "Molly Ringwald says she's "bothered" by parts of "Sixteen Candles" in #MeToo era".
  20. ^ "35th Annual Awards". Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  21. ^ "50 Best High School Movies". Entertainment Weekly. July 31, 2008.
  22. ^ "Get ready for a Sixteen Candles sequel".
  23. ^ William Keck (June 5, 2005). "MTV awards honor actors". USA Today. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  24. ^ "Ringwald says '16 Candles' sequel script takes the cake".
  25. ^ "Ringwald hopes for 'Sixteen Candles' sequel". July 1, 2008.
  26. ^ "Ringwald Begs For Sixteen Candles Sequel". July 1, 2008.

External linksEdit