American Graffiti

American Graffiti film posterDirector: George Lucas
Writer: George Lucas, Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck
Released: 1973
Featuring: Richard Dreyfuss, Ronny Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charlie Martin Smith, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Cindy Williams and Wolfman Jack

This movie nearly didn’t get made. Boy, am I glad it was. This is in my top five movies – at least!

American Graffiti - John Miler in his yellow carAmerican Graffiti is the colourful account of the final night of  high school for a group of students who go out cruising, attend ‘the hop’ and hang at the drive-in dina.

It’s not only an incredibly entertaining film, it’s also the most accurate documentation of what the sixties were all about.

This movie makes me upset because it makes me mourn the spectacular sixties. As mentioned in Midnight in Paris, it’s “Golden Age Thinking” – the thought that I’d be happier in another time. And boy does American Graffiti do that; it hits me right in the feels.

“The erroneous notion that a different time period was better than the one, one’s living in.” – Midnight in Paris

The music frequently takes centre stage with classics from the rise of the The Beach Boys, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and a whole lot more. It’s the wall-to-wall rock ‘n’ roll hits that makes this movie so recognisable and exciting.

Wolfman Jack in American GraffitiOf course with music comes radio, and its influence on the culture is seen. Wolfman Jack is the most popular radio host among the teenagers, who is looked up to and even sought out especially for personal advice. His charisma and unique material captures the infatuated listeners as his frequency hits almost every car in town.

If the music isn’t enough to paint the picture of the sixties, the cars and fashion are! I adore the cruising culture in this film. Unlike today’s cars of bland silver Toyotas with a monotonous tone, this film has the gorgeous cars of the 50s and 60s – all bright colours with personality.

In American Graffiti, it’s clear that everybody’s car is an extension of the driver’s personality, which seems a special trait of the sixties.

Based in one night – the final night of high school. Every kind of graduate is shown:

American Graffiti film - Carol


The cool guy John Milner (Paul Le Mat)
The nerd Terry Fields (Charles Martin Smith)
The scholar Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfus)
The naive Carol (Mackenzie Phillips)
The Highschool Sweethearts Steve Bolander (Ron Howard) and Laurie Henderson (Cindy Williams).

Now, although it all seems like a typical stereotyped high school drama, believe me when I tell you that it isn’t. Perhaps it’s just the time

Curt in American Graffiti film


difference, but every character seems so real! Not stereotyped, but flawed, and all have their own problems and aspirations.

I can so relate to Curt – who wants to leave town and everyone in it, but I’m so drawn to Carol – the totally naive girl who can’t grow up fast enough.

The simplicity of the movie reflects the simplicity of the time. It is not boring; it’s relatable. As George Lucas said himself; “it’s filmed documentary style” which is why it’s a film that stands out.

I could drool over and talk about this film all day; I’m watching the behind the scenes doco for the third time right now!

Jodie’s rating: 9.5/10

About NZ Film Freak

I am a journalism graduate (2014) from New Zealand. Currently working in marketing, and writing fiction in my spare time. I love to write about movies on this blog when I can. I also do paid reviews and voiceovers via Fiverr (nzfilmfreak).
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11 Responses to American Graffiti

  1. Popeye says:

    Great film, watch it at least 6 times a year…Be bop do wap and a shoobedo, wang!

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