Classic 80s Movie: “Better Off Dead…”

December 11th, 2013 by

Today’s Classic 80s Movie guest post comes from Jonathan Melikidse.

Movie Title: Better Off Dead…

Year: 1985

Writer: Savage Steve Holland

Better Off Dead movie poster

Lead Actors: John Cusack, Curtis Armstrong

Director: Savage Steve Holland

Plot Summary: John Cusack stars as Lane Meyers, a geeky loser high school student whose girlfriend dumps him in their senior year for the new captain of the ski team. Crushed by his loss, Lane decides that suicide is the only answer. His various pathetic attempts only end in embarassing failure, making matters worse. On top of all this, his father is harassing him about his life and his broken-down car, he is being stalked by a lunatic paperboy, and his ten year-old brilliant gifted brother is quickly becoming Hugh Heffner.

Obsessed with winning Beth back, he challenges the new captain to a deadly ski race down K-12, the most dangerous slope in California. Meanwhile, the outcast loser neighbor across the street is offering housing for a beautiful French foreign exchange student who decides to help him get back on track. Can he get his car running again? Can he survive the paperboy stalker? Will he win Beth back, or is he better off dead?

Why I Think This Is A Classic 80s Movies: A simple story of teen angst that dives into the absurd world that most people grew to love in the 80’s from John Hughes. But, Savage Steve Holland finds his own brand of surreal humor from psycho newspaper boys to drag racing teens who only speak “Howard Cosell.”

This is the classic set up for the protagonist. He knows what he wants (his ex back) and will stop at nothing to get her (or kill himself). In the process of impressing her enough to regain her affection, he learns more about who he is and finds his true love.

My Favorite Moment In The Movie: So many. The film is another one of those one-liner, quotables that anyone who’s seen it, knows them all. But, I will go with Lane Meyers’ confrontation with Johnny, the relentless paperboy. Although we are introduced to the menace right at the get go of this film, Johnny’s character is really summed up here:

My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie:

Roy Stalin: Alright, who wants to hold my clipboard?

[Beth raises her hand]

Roy Stalin: Well you’ll make a fine little helper. What’s your name?
Charles De Mar: [Thinking Roy has referenced him] Charles De Mar!
Roy Stalin: Shut up, geek. [to Beth] What’s YOUR name?


Lane Myer: Two brothers… One speaks no English, the other learned English from watching “The Wide World of Sports.” So you tell me… Which is better, speaking no English at all, or speaking Howard Cosell?

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie: Plenty of fun stuff: Badger, the autistic-playboy who is like RainMan, Hugh Hefner and Bill Gates all bundled into the body of a 14 year old. The different way Charles De Mar tries to score or do drugs. Ricky! Two Dollars! and the Asian Howard Cosell……

Thanks, Jonathan! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

Tomorrow: Another Classic 80s Movie!

I’m still looking for people to write guest posts in this series. Please email me with the movie you’d like to cover. Here is a template you should use:

Movie Title


Writers (both screenwriters and any authors whose books were used as the basis for adaptation)

Lead Actors (Just the main ones)


IMDB Plot Summary (You can find that directly under the Your Rating box. If you don’t feel the summary does the story justice, feel free to write up a logline of your own.)

Why I Think This Is A Classic 80s Movies (Feel free to write as much as you’d like up to a half-page or so.)

My Favorite Moment In The Movie

My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie (IMDB has a Quotes section for almost every movie, so you can find key dialogue in your movie’s site.)

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie

Please use this exact template to help me in the editing process.

If you can find a YouTube clip from the film or its trailer, include that URL.

When you are done with your guest post, you may simply copy and paste the content into an email to me.

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And if you emailed me about doing a specific movie, but haven’t sent in your guest post, now’s the time!

Thanks, everyone!

Comment Archive

3 thoughts on “Classic 80s Movie: “Better Off Dead…”

  1. […] Why I Think This Is A Classic 80s Movies: A simple …read more […]

  2. This is my favorite comedy film ever made.I am not saying it’s the greatest comedy film ever made, just that it’s my personal favorite. I think that’s a distinction that (I think) most fans of this film could agree with. Yes, true, there’s a lot of oddball, surreal humour. And, yes, I was a teenager in high school myself when this film came out, so there’s a lot of nostalgia there also…remembering watching this movie with freinds and cracking up. However, I’d really say the main reason this film remains my favorite comedy is that this film really did have a sort of innocence and decency about it, even as it had what many have referred to as a dark subject matter (main character seeming to be attempting suicide)…I can only speak for myself, but to me, at no time watching this comedy film did I ever think Lane Meier would actually kill himself…You just get the feeling that the hand of Providence will somehow keep this character going. Far from it being “pathetic” that Lane Meier keeps failing at his varied attempts to “end it all”, it instead seems more to me (as a fan of this film) that God is intervening and thwarting these attempts. That might be a heady statement to make about a screwball comedy for teens from the 80’s. However, I think that somehow the way this film was written & directed by Savage Steve Holland, and, in many ways, the way the genius of a youthful John Cusak sort of took this wacky film and carried it on his shoulders as the ultimate “straight man” in the face of hillarious absurdity…that all together is what makes this a great film. It’s the youthful optimism and innocence that this low budget film somehow showed, that to me makes it the best 80’s comedy film. To me, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, while CLOSE, is just a few inches below Better Off Dead in it’s status as the best 80’s comedy film. To me, in many ways, Lane Meier is like the “equal but opposite mirror image” of Ferris Bueller in some way…For Ferris Bueller, everything somehow turns out right- For Lane Meier, it seems like everything he tries turns out wrong. Maybe that’s also why us fans of Better Off Dead have been fans for so long….Ferris Bueller is who we would have liked to be like, whereas Lane Meier is who we often identified with more. Some may say I’m reading way too much into this (once again) low budget 80’s comedy, but I still am a huge fan of this film. “!!” Gotta love it.

    1. Scott says:

      Thanks for that, Jonathan. Glad you stumbled on this post and got a chance to relive a bit of the movie’s fun, then share with us.

      We’ll be doing another series in the 1st quarter of 2015: 60s movies. If you’ve got a favorite, join us!

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