George Lucas’ American Graffiti

George Lucas’ American Graffiti

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Universal Pictures

Release date: July 25th, 2011
Certificate (UK): PG
Running time: 107 minutes
Year of production: 1973

Director: George Lucas
Writers: Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck, George Lucas

Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Charles Martin Smith, Bo Hopkins, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Phillips Mackenzie, Paul Le Mat, Wolfman Jack

I don’t know how many of you out there used to do this or perhaps still do it today, but as a teenager there was nothing else I loved more than hopping into cars with my friends and just driving aimlessly through the night.

It never mattered that I was grounded, I was always grounded, so I figured I might as well be grounded for something good and, to me at least, arriving back home at 5:30am was a much better reason to be grounded than at 11:30pm.

American Graffiti

Watching George Lucas’ American Graffiti brought back those memories and even though the time period was off by about 30 years, teenage rebellion is timeless as time itself.

It all takes place in the course of one night. It’s set in the early Sixties in pre-Vietnam America, where the annual school dance has just finished and rather than heading home, a group of teenagers decide what better way to end their high school years than by cruising the whole night. Among them are Steve (Ron Howard) and Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) who are supposed to leave for college the next day and the story more or less centres on them.

American Graffiti

Steve’s girlfriend Laurie (Cindy Williams) doesn’t want him to go and this leads them having a big fight when he suggests they start seeing other people. Meanwhile, Curt is wrestling with the idea of not going to college, despite having received a scholarship. He gets distracted by the sight of the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on as she drives past him and he makes it his mission to find her. His plan doesn’t run so smoothly though and he gets mixed up with a group of hoodlums who egg him on to commit a series of crimes.

The real rebel and charmer is John Milner (Paul Le Mat) who cruises in his Yellow Deuce Coupe, he’s every inch a James Dean fan, complete with his combed back hair, white tee and tight blue jeans. Milner ends up with Carol (Mackenzie Phillips), an underage girl who’s annoying as hell, in his car. As the night progresses, the two seem to hit it off like brother and sister, but there’s no denying that Carol has a schoolgirl crush on the rebel.

American Graffiti

Nerdy Terry (Charles Martin Smith) can’t believe his luck when an older woman, Debbie (Candy Clark) takes notice of him; he’s so into by her that he forgets to keep an eye on the car Steve has lent him for the night!

At the climax these storylines criss-cross. Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford), an arrogant racer has a bone to pick with Milner, with Laurie on the passenger side he attempts to race his rival on Paradise Road. With dawn breaking, their fateful night comes to a sobering end, leaving them each to decide what to make of their lives now that their best years are behind them.


  • The Making of American Graffiti (1:18:10)
  • TScreen Tests (22:34)

It’s easy to see why American Graffiti is so steadfastly named among the best high school movies, along with Animal House (1978) and The Breakfast Club (1984), without it we wouldn’t have had those Happy Days (1974-1984).

It’s cast and rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack really deliver a sense of nostalgia, American Graffiti not only captures a feeling of, but strongly embodies an era when America still had innocence.

About Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.