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Better Off Dead

Film poster
Directed by Savage Steve Holland
Produced by Gil Friesen
Michael Jaffe
Andrew Meyer
Written by Savage Steve Holland
Starring John Cusack
David Ogden Stiers
Diane Franklin
Curtis Armstrong
Music by Rupert Hine
Cinematography Isodore Mankofsky
Distributed by Theatrical
Warner Bros.
Home video
CBS/Fox Video (VHS) (1985-1998)
Paramount Home Entertainment (VHS/DVD) (1999-present)
Release date(s) August 23, 1985 (limited)
October 11, 1985 (wide)
Running time 97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Gross revenue $10,297,601

Better Off Dead is a 1985 teen black comedy film starring John Cusack, written and directed by Savage Steve Holland. Originally released by Warner Bros. on October 11, 1985, it tells the story of high school student Lane Meyer who is suicidal after his girlfriend breaks up with him. It is known for its presentation of a typical high school life, interspersed with the occasional absurdity. Better Off Dead was produced by CBS. Paramount Pictures now owns theatrical and video rights to the film.



Better Off Dead takes place in the fictional town of Greendale in "the state of Northern California" and centers on high-schooler Lane Meyer (John Cusack), whose girlfriend Beth (played by Amanda Wyss) dumps him for the arrogant and bullying captain of the high school ski team, Roy Stalin. Lane cannot get past this rejection and decides that death is the only way out of his misery. His half-hearted attempts at suicide, however, always manage to leave him alive, with comedic consequences.

Lane's family is odd: his mother (Kim Darby) is a sort of deranged Stepford wife and perhaps the world's worst cook; his genius little brother never speaks but can build laser guns and attract trashy women; and his father (David Ogden Stiers) is convinced Lane is using drugs. Lane's best friend, Charles de Marr (Curtis Armstrong) attempts to inhale everyday substances, like the nitrous oxide in a whipped cream can (known as a whippit) or snow, as if it were cocaine because he "can't even get real drugs here." The film also introduces two Korean drag racing brothers, one of whom learned English by impersonating Howard Cosell.

As Lane attempts to either end his life or win back his ex-girlfriend, he gradually gets to know a new girl: a French foreign-exchange student named Monique (played by Diane Franklin, who also starred in other '80s teen dramedies The Last American Virgin and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure). She is staying with Lane's neighbors across the street, who are so annoying that she pretends she cannot speak English. Monique turns out to be a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers (as she calls them) and is a tough, confident soul. She helps Lane fix up his 1967 Camaro and rekindles Lane's confidence and his will to live through "language lessons" in the international language of love.

The climactic scene involves a ski competition against the ski jock Roy Stalin on a treacherous slope called the K-12. As the two rivals race, a persistent paperboy pursues Cusack, repeating that he wants two dollars that are owed (spawning the catchphrase, "I want my two dollars!"). As Lane races down the mountain on one ski, he overcomes a life gone downhill to find happiness.



At least some of the skiing scenes were shot at Snowbird, in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. During the sword fight with ski poles, the word "Mid Gad" is plainly visible on the lift machinery; Mid Gad is a ski lift at Snowbird. Most of the ski scenes were shot at Alta Ski Area; the parking lot is Alta's parking lot. It is widely speculated that many of the "town" scenes of the film were shot in various locations throughout the eastern San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties in California. It appears that many of the scenes were shot in Upland, California. Several scenes were filmed in the city of Burbank, as local landmarks are visible in driving scenes. The film's final scene was shot at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.


The film has received positive reviews from critics with an 81% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 21 reviews. The consensus is "Better Off Dead is an anarchic mix of black humor and surreal comedy, anchored by John Cusack's winsome, charming performance."[1] However, according to Savage Steve Holland it was less well received by Cusack, who said after a screening that it "was the worst thing I have ever seen. I will never trust you as a director ever again, so don’t speak to me.” Holland claims that Cusack felt he had been made to look foolish and that his comments "made me not care about movies anymore".[2]


Better Off Dead: Original A&M Soundcrack (sic)
Soundtrack by various artists
Released 1985
Genre Rock
Length 39:45
Label A&M
Producer Rupert Hine
Professional reviews

The film's soundtrack was produced primarily by Rupert Hine.

The opening track, "With One Look (The Wildest Dream)", was produced by Hine and features Cy Curnin and Jamie West-Oram of The Fixx on lead vocals and guitars respectively. Hine had previously worked with Curnin and West-Oram, and also contributed vocals to the song. The following track, "Arrested By You", as well as "Better Off Dub (Title Music)" and "Race The K-12 (Instrumental)" were performed solely by Hine.

"Dancing In Isolation" features Terri Nunn of Berlin on lead vocals. Hine produced the song and was reportedly under consideration to produce an album for Berlin.

"Come To Your Rescue" was performed by Thinkman, a group formed by, and including, Hine for the purpose of restoring his solo career without the music press knowing about it. West-Oram also provided guitar work to this song, as well as the instrumental "The Falcon Beat".

The only two tracks on the CD without Hine's involvement are "A Little Luck" and "One Way Love (Better Off Dead)."[1] Valley Girl's Elizabeth Daily, credited on the soundtrack as E.G. Daily, sang lead vocals on both songs and also performed them "live" in the film during the high school dance scene.


Track listing

  1. "With One Look (The Wildest Dream)" – 3:26 (written by Torrence Merdur/Rupert Hine)
  2. "Arrested By You" – 5:07 (written by Torrence Merdur/Rupert Hine)
  3. "Shine" – 3:49) (written by Martin Ansell)
  4. "Better Off Dub (Title Music)" – 3:48 (written by Rupert Hine)
  5. "Dancing In Isolation" – 4:04 (written by Torrence Merdur/Rupert Hine)
  6. "Come to Your Rescue" – 5:03 (written by Jeanette Therese Obstoj/Rupert Hine)
  7. "A Little Luck" – 4:21 (written by Angela Rubin)
  8. "The Falcon Beat (Instrumental)" – 2:37 (written by Rupert Hine)
  9. "One Way Love (Better Off Dead)" – 3:33 (written by Steve Goldstein/Duane Hitchings/Craig Krampf/Eric Nelson)
  10. "Race The K-12" – 3:49 (written by Rupert Hine)
  • Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 produced by Rupert Hine.
  • Tracks 7 and 9 produced by Steve Goldstein.

Songs not included on the soundtrack

  1. Neil Sedaka - "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do"
  2. Paul Simon - "Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover"
  3. Hall & Oates - "She's Gone"
  4. Linda Rondstadt - "Hurts So Bad"
  5. Darlene Love - "Winter Wonderland"
  6. The Carpenters - "Here Comes Santa Claus"
  7. Jimi Hendrix - "Foxy Lady"
  8. Van Halen - "Everybody Wants Some!!"
  9. Howard Jones - "Like To Get To Know You Well"
  10. Muddy Waters - "Mannish Boy" (1977 Version)

Rod McKuen's "A Man Alone" (as made famous by Frank Sinatra) is also included in the film, although it is not listed in the credits. Sinatra released at least two recordings of this song. The version in the film is from his Reprise Collection, Disc 3, Track 19.


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Better Off Dead article)

From Wikiquote

Better Off Dead is a 1985 film about a teen learning how to move on after his long time girlfriend dumps him for the captain of the ski team. It is set in the 80's in the mythical state of Northern California.

Directed by Savage Steve Holland. Written by Savage Steve Holland
Insanity doesn't run in the family, it gallops (taglines)

File:P1 betteroffdead.jpg


Al Myer

  • I know its bacon... but what have you done to it?!

Lane Myer

  • Joanne Greenwald... the girl with the antennae on her face?
  • I'm real sorry your mom blew up, Ricky.
  • She only speaks French, Roy. She doesn't speak imbecile.
  • [why he can't pay the paper boy] Uh, my brother, this morning, got his arm caught in the microwave, and my grandmother, she dropped acid and freaked out and hijaked a schoolbus full of...penguins.
  • I gotta go, the Christmas tree is on fire. [hangs up the phone.]

Charles de Mar

  • I've been going to this high school for seven and a half years! I'm no dummy!
  • This is pure snow. It's everywhere! Do you have any idea what the street value of this mountain is?
  • Dying when you're not really sick is really sick, you know. Really!
  • [giving skiing instructions] Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.


  • Beth Truss: She dates the basketball team. Not certain members of the team, Lane, the whole team!
  • Johnny Gasparini (paper boy): I want my two dollars! (repeated line)
  • Monique Junot: I think all you need is a small taste of success, and you will find it suits you.
  • Roy Stalin: [Upon seeing Lane] Oscar Meyer!
  • Roy Stalin: Beth, you were standing with Oscar. Is he your main wiener man?
  • Tree Trimmer: [After Lane falls into a dump truck off of a bridge] Man, that's a real shame when folks be throwin' away a perfectly good white boy like that.


Jenny Myer: How was your day?
Lane Myer: Beth just dumped me.
Jenny Myer: Oh, that's nice.

Monique Junot: Instead he just uses it as an excuse to put his testicles all over me!
Lane Myer: Sorry, what?
Monique Junot: Uh, how you say... octopus... testicles.
Lane Myer: No, tentacles. N-T. There's a big Difference.


  • Insanity doesn't run in the family, it gallops
  • Teenage life has never been darker...or funnier...


External links

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