Reel Quick: Better Off Dead


Better Off Dead (1985)

Better Off Dead poster

Starring: John Cusack, Curtis Armstrong, Diane Franklin, Dan Schneider, Amanda Wyss, Chuck Mitchell

Directed by: Savage Steve Holland (One Crazy Summer; How I Got Into College; Safety Patrol)

Synopsis: A spaz named Lane Myer becomes suicidal after he’s dumped by his girlfriend, but can he win her back by beating her new man on the ski slope, with the help of his best friend who’s Booger but not really, and a French chick who’s hotter than his ex-girlfriend?

Best parts: TWO DOLLARS.

Everybody wants some!

Worst part(s): I know it’s pretty much the point of the movie, but Lane is kind of a big pussy.

Best line: Charles De Mar: “Lane, I’ve been going to this high school for seven and a half years. I’m no dummy.”

Nudity: No nudity but Elizabeth Daily wears a very short dress at least.

Best Song on the Soundtrack: “One Way Love” (Better Off Dead) by Elizabeth Daily

Awesome Trivia: Savage Steve Holland stated in an interview that John Cusack hated this movie and walked out of the film after twenty minutes during a special screening prior to the star of production on One Crazy Summer. Holland said: “The next morning [Cusack] basically walked up to me and was like, ‘You know, you tricked me. Better Off Dead… was the worst thing I have ever seen. I will never trust you as a director ever again, so don’t speak to me’ . . . He was just really upset. And I said, ‘What happened?! What’s wrong?!’ And he just said that I sucked, and it was the worst thing he had ever seen, and that I had used him, and made a fool out of him, and all this other stuff . . . It was so out of left field that it just floored me”. Cusack completed principal photography on One Crazy Summer due to contractual obligations but it had it not been for this Cusack likely would have not done the second film with Holland.

Overall: Thomas J. Ford, whom you may know from Music & Movies Cafe, recently posted a list of movies that tie in with the events of the Winter Olympics, and I suggested Better Off Dead, with its prominent snow-skiing presence, and he said he wasn’t aware of it (he’s from some non-America place), so I thought I’d do a quick post about it (plus, the awkward love story is perfect for Valentine’s Day!). Skiing isn’t completely necessary to the plot (it could have been any sport in which Lane Myer tries to take down his rival), but it ties in very nicely in this movie, and also inspired the best episode of South Park ever. This is definitely one of the most enjoyable, ludicrous but consistently funny teen comedies of the ’80s—and probably top 5 in that category. There’s nothing here not to like, and even if you’re suicidally depressed, you’ll be able to relate to the main character! There’s something for everybody! Except non-white people, maybe. Well there are two Asian characters, but one of them speaks like Howard Cosell and the other one is mute. But it’s a really fun movie that never takes itself too seriously, unlike John Cusack.

Score: 7.75 Van Halen burgers (out of 10)

8 thoughts on “Reel Quick: Better Off Dead

  1. Wasn’t there also something about how Cusack charged everyone two dollars for Handies and that’s where the whole “I want my two dollars” thing came around?


  2. great movie. Cusack hated this so much that when he made Grosse POint Blank (1997), the first character killed is a delivery boy. Guess thats revenge for this one 🙂

    Always loved this movie. sucks that Cusack himself hated it


  3. He probably hated looking like a pussy at a time when his career was only starting to blossom. Looking back, I bet he feels like an asshole for being so hard on an obviously endearing classic.


  4. Pingback: Shake the Scene: One Crazy Summer | Hard Ticket to Home Video

  5. Pingback: Shake the Scene: Grosse Pointe Blank | Hard Ticket to Home Video

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