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American Graffiti

A comedy movie directed by George Lucas

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Has it really been 35 years?

  • Sep 15, 2003
I saw this film and Diner (1982) when each was first released and have since followed with interest the subsequent careers of their youthful lead actors, notably Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Charles Martin Smith and Cindy Williams in American Graffiti and Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Ellen Barkin, and Paul Reiser in Diner. Separated by nine years, the two films offer informative as well as entertaining perspectives on their respective youth cultures. George Lucas directed this film which focuses on Modesto (California) during the late-summer of 1962. The screenplay and cinematography are seamlessly integrated with 4l popular tunes which comprise the soundtrack. Most of the central characters can be viewed as "tweeners," in awkward transition from one phase of life to another. For example, Curt Henderson (Dreyfuss) will soon depart for college but seems ambivalent about that. The others' plans are even less certain.

Meanwhile, together or separately, they spend their evenings cruising around town. (All of the scenes are at night.) I enjoyed the humor, some of it poignant, and could identify with many of the situations which closely resemble those of my own teenage years in Chicago. Keep an eye open for Harrison Ford in a brief appearance as Bob Falfa. Who knew then what awaited him next: a minor part in The Conversation (1974) and then starring roles in Lucas' Star Wars (1977) and Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Of course, I have no idea how appealing American Graffiti will be to those born since (let's say) 1985 but it is still great fun for many of us born before then and will perhaps be of greatest interest to cultural anthropologists who study the teenage culture in the U.S. in the 1960s. For me a sobering thought with which I conclude this brief commentary: if Curt (Dreyfuss), Steve (Ron Howard), Terry (Smith), and Laurie (Cindy Williams) were real people and alive today, they would be mid-60s. Hmmmmmmm....

If you purchase the DVD version (which I strongly recommend), be sure to check out the documentary "The Making of American Graffiti" which features interviews with director George Lucas, executive producer Francis Coppola, and other cast and crew members as well as never-before-seen screen tests. Excellent stuff.

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More American Graffiti reviews
review by . April 28, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
It is the summer of 1962 and a group of teenage friends have reached a point of decision. High school is over and they are in that uncertain time of trying to decide what to do, where to go and what to leave behind. Their old habits are still there, so they hang out at the drive-in diner and cruise their main street.    A wide variety of teen personalities are portrayed, from those making decisions about college to the ace mechanic driving the hottest car. None of them wants the night …
review by . February 06, 2009
American Graffiti
I was still in college when "American Graffiti" hit the silver screen way back in 1973.  The first time I saw it I was absolutely captivated!  Set in Southern California in 1962 "American Graffiti" follows the exploits of a group of teenagers who are "cruising" around town on a warm summer night.  George Lucas assembled a young and talented cast for this film including Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Candy Clark, Cindy Williams, MacKenzie Phillips …
review by . December 08, 2003
This movie never gets dated and has an all-star cast, many of whom were first starting their movie careers. Richard Dreyfuss was great and reminded me of several people I went to high school with. His search for the mysterious blonde in the car (Suzanne Sommers) is something that many males must have gone through.On the eve of graduation, seniors prepare for a high school dance. The plot seems to revolve Ron Howard and Cindy Williams relationship problems. Though they had different names, they seemed …
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Robert Morris ()
Ranked #74
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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About this movie


Set in 1962; Produced and released in 1973.

AMERICAN GRAFFITI presents a powerful collage of youth on the brink of maturity just before the assassination of J.F.K.. Based on George Lucas's own teenage hot-rodding days in Modesto, California, this brilliant, bittersweet comedy inspired numerous other productions, including the long-running TV series HAPPY DAYS. Lucas's second feature film (following THX 1138), AMERICAN GRAFFITI contains an early screen appearance by Harrison Ford, who would figure heavily in the director's next movie, the sci-fi epic STAR WARS. The film follows one night in the lives of several recently graduated high school students. The genial Steve (Ron Howard) prepares to leave for college the next day, and Laurie (Cindy Williams), his girlfriend, is upset by his impending departure. Laurie's brother, Curt (Richard Dreyfuss), the class intellectual, is also slated for college, but he has serious doubts about his future. Also included here are the hopeless nerd (Charles Mar...
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