I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I had never seen Sixteen Candles before last week. However, I now understand why it holds strong as a classic teenage film and has remained culturally relevant through the decades. The Film tells the story of Samantha Baker, the typical and relatable American high school student who is plagued by such hardships as her parents forgetting her birthday, her crush not knowing of her existence, and a geeky freshman vying for her attention.
The success of the film can most likely be contributed to its familiar story, relatable nature, and fairytale-like ending. Samantha awakes on the morning of her sixteenth birthday to find her mother scolding her for her teenage attitude, her younger brother tormenting her, and the attention of the family turned on her sister’s wedding, which is scheduled for the next day. After a harsh day at school and learning that a secret note containing her wishes for senior Jake Ryan has been seen by some unknown person, Samantha comes home to find her grandparents in her room for the coming wedding, while all the while they forget her birthday too. She later attends the school dance, along with the eccentric foreign exchange student that her grandparents bring from out of town. After attempts to lose the annoying geek freshman, who has made a bet to bed her, Samantha ends up confessing her love for Jake to him. The freshman later tells the popular senior, who has been intrigued with Samantha ever since finding her note earlier in the day. Jake then offers the geek his blonde, inebriated girlfriend in exchange for Samantha’s underwear, which she had given him earlier to satisfy his bet with the other geeks.
Samantha reconciles with her parents after they realize that they forgot her birthday and the family attends the unique wedding the following day. Jake drives up in his shiny car to rescue Samantha and takes her to celebrate her birthday in a romantic and picturesque closing scene in which the teenage ideals of innocent love and granted wishes are fulfilled by the glow of sixteen burning birthday candles.
Sixteen Candles is a quintessential 80’s film because of its distinct style and cultural references. However, it also a timeless coming of age high school story, as well as a Cinderella story. With it’s distinctly exaggerated portrayal of the American high school student, it remains relatable and entertaining, while its sweet and unlikely love story between the seemingly unknown Samantha Baker and the popular and prince-like Jake Ryan make the film intriguing and endearing. Sixteen Candles proves not only to be a distinct 80’s film, but an immortal embodiment of the age-old concept of teenage life and love.