I Just Rewatched Sixteen Candles For Its 40th Anniversary. It Hasn’t Aged So Well, But Here Are the Moments I Think Are Still Worth Celebrating

May the 4th is a big day for Star Wars, but it’s not the only movie worth celebrating. The day also marks the release of iconic writer/director John Hughes’ directorial debut, Sixteen Candles. Not only did the film kickstart his directing career, but it was also the first of many coming-age films he came to direct. 2024 marks 40 years since Sixteen Candles‘ premiere, and while it hasn’t aged well by today’s standards, there are still a handful of moments that are worth celebrating.

Molly Ringwald stars in it as Samantha Baker, a teenager who finds her 16th birthday overshadowed by her sister’s wedding that is happening the following day. Not only does her entire family forget about her special day, but it only gets worse from there. She’s kicked out of her bedroom so her grandparents can stay there; she continues to hopelessly pine over senior Jake Ryan (Paul Dooley), who unbeknownst to her, starts noticing her; and she finds herself fending off Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), a geeky freshman who is only trying to get with her so he seems cool with his friends.

At 40 Years Old, Sixteen Candles Has Not Aged Well 

Technology and picture-wise, Sixteen Candles holds up as well as any of the other classic movies of the decade do. It’s no better or worse than the original Star Wars trilogy or Indiana Jones. While the Brat Pack actors might never age, the same can’t be said about the movies they appeared in. The classic coming-of-age might be one of the worst offenders when it comes to some of the problematic elements of the story.

The one character of color included in the movie is a caricature of harmful Asian stereotypes. He’s there simply for “comedic” effect and lacks any real depth, which only makes his character worse for representation’s sake. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then and there have been many great movies about Asian American history and culture.

Despite being the main character, Samantha (and several of the young women characters) are often talked down to and made out to seem hysterical. Even her sister, the bride-to-be, is not saved from this sexist ideology, as the film goes as far as to make fun of her for being on her period during her wedding day.

As if those two examples weren’t proof enough that the coming-of-age movie hasn’t aged well, then the movie’s horrific attempt to excuse sexual assault as a funny moment will definitely do it. While it’s unclear if Ted actually slept with an intoxicated Caroline, he did take pictures of her without her consent.

But There Are Some Moments That Deserve To Be Celebrated 

There’s no arguing that a large portion of Sixteen Candles is outdated and downright problematic. However, there are some moments in the film that have aged well; so well that that they’ve become iconic pop culture moments.

Perhaps the best moment to come out of the coming-of-age flick, is the final scene where Sam finally gets the guy. Ditching her sister’s reception, Sam takes Jake Ryan back to her place where he gifts her with a cake to celebrate her birthday. The two share a chaste teenage kiss on the table as the birthday candles burn. It’s romantic, quintessentially teenage and by far one of the most iconic moments in any John Hughes movie.

Another Sam and Jake Ryan classic scene that is worth celebrating happens a few moments before the cake scene. Realizing her sister left her veil at the altar when she tore it off (after taking too many muscle relaxers for period cramps), Sam heads back inside to retrieve it. When she comes back out, most of her family has already moved on to the reception, but one person is waiting for her: Jake Ryan.

Not only is he waiting for her, but he’s standing leisurely by his red Porsche 944. She’s so surprised that he has to repeat himself twice. which has become one of the funniest quotes from a Hughes film. The scene has become a pop culture sensation. getting references in plenty of shows and movies — including a subtle easter egg in Bridesmaids.

What’s less popular, but still worth mentioning, is the scene where Sam has a heartfelt conversation with her dad about the trials and tribulations of growing up. For an ’80s movie, it was pretty groundbreaking to have the father step up to comfort his teenage daughter and even apologize. Her dad might be one of the best movie dads of the decade for that moment alone.

The unfortunate truth is that movies and shows are always going to age poorly, even newer ones we hold near and dear to our hearts. It’s important to be critical of problems that may arise and understand how that might complicate things going forward. At the same time, it’s important to still celebrate movies that have had a lasting impact on pop culture.

If you’ve never seen Sixteen Candles or what to rewatch to celebrate the major anniversary, you can stream it with an active Amazon Prime Video subscription.

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