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Better off Dead

Better off Dead

4.4 21
Director: Savage Steve Holland

Cast: John Cusack, David Ogden Stiers, Kim Darby


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Most animation aficionados of the 1990s know "Savage Steve Holland" as the cocreator (with Bill Kopp) of the all-stops-out TV cartoon series Eek! The Cat. But Holland had been exercising his own peculiar brand of deviltry on live characters long before Eek! came into being. In Holland's Better Off Dead, John Cusack plays a lovestruck teenager,


Most animation aficionados of the 1990s know "Savage Steve Holland" as the cocreator (with Bill Kopp) of the all-stops-out TV cartoon series Eek! The Cat. But Holland had been exercising his own peculiar brand of deviltry on live characters long before Eek! came into being. In Holland's Better Off Dead, John Cusack plays a lovestruck teenager, hopelessly enamored with Amanda Wyss. When she dumps him in favor of a more popular high-schooler, the boy's entire day quickly goes to Hell. In the words of Hamlet, all occasions do inform against Cusack: he is bullied, tormented and torn apart by everyone from the paperboy (who seemingly turns up everywhere) to the disembodied voice of a radio deejay. Cusack attempts suicide, but his efforts are just as unsuccessful-and amusing-as Bud Cort's in Harold and Maude. Meanwhile, French exchange student Diane Franklin, held a virtual prisoner by her host family, develops a long-distance crush on Cusack.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Greg Fagan
Easily one of the most refreshing teen comedies ever committed to film, Better Off Dead features John Cusack as Lane Myer, a jilted, angst-ridden high schooler whose multiple suicide attempts fail miserably, to great comic effect. This decidedly black angle, in the cheery years of Ronald Reagan's second term (1985), gave this conventionally plotted flick a patina of post-punk nihilism and may have scared some ticket buyers away. But those who have come to love it from repeated TV and video airings know that this film, writer-director "Savage" Steve Holland's first, is sweet and genuine despite its darker trappings. Cusack, an awkward 18-year-old when this was filmed, embodies the Everyteen -- surrounded by idiots, unable to catch a break, and utterly devastated when his girlfriend, Beth (Amand Wyss), dumps him in favor of the far more handsome and popular ski team captain, Roy Stalin (Aaron Dozier). When she explains her decision to hook up with Stalin without mincing words (oh, and she says his car's nicer, too), you're ready to follow poor Lane right over the brink. Holland surrounds Lane with hilarious caricatures while punctuating the action with dream/fantasy sequences that underscore his hapless lot, but he affords a glimmer of hope in the cute French exchange student living across the street from Lane. Yes, Better Off Dead slips back into teen-movie conventions with the inevitable Stalin-Myer downhill ski race in the last reel, but for 85 or so minutes it's a breakneck run that you'll want to try again.
All Movie Guide
Cartoonist Savage Steve Holland made his directorial debut with this acid comedy about a going-nowhere hamburger flipper and his run of bad luck. Its gleefully twisted tone, exemplified by a goofy suicide attempt in a basically lighthearted film (John Cusack's character jumps off a bridge, only to land among the refuse of a passing garbage truck), made it a minor quotable classic to a generation of young anti-authoritarian filmgoers. In one of his earliest roles, Cusack wears his expression of hangdog gloom with real comic sensibility, and the succession of miserable people and events that enter his life warrant every last frown and sigh. The funniest and most memorable character set on bedeviling Cusack's Lane Myer is the determined paperboy, willing to ride his bike down a ski slope to collect his fee, whose refrain "I want my two dollars!" will resonate with audiences long after the credits roll. Curtis Armstrong and Dan Schneider also turn in quirky performances as Lane's best friend and his nemesis next-door neighbor, respectively. The set pieces, some of them punched up by Holland's own animation and offshoots thereof, make for a pleasingly outlandish little coming-of-age story that doesn't betray its own world view, even during the inevitable happier moments of the tale.

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Special Features

Closed Caption

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
John Cusack Lane Myer
David Ogden Stiers Al Myer
Kim Darby Jenny Myer
Demian Slade Johnny Gasparini
Scooter Stevens Badger Myer
Diane Franklin Monique Junet
Amanda Wyss Beth Truss
Laura Waterbury Mrs. Smith
Curtis Armstrong Charles De Mer
Aaron Dozier Roy Stalin
Rima Delane Joanne Greenwald
David Vaughan 3rd Jock
Dan Schneider Ricky Smith
Yuji Okumoto Yee Sook Ree
Brian Imada Chen Ree
Chuck Mitchell Rocko
Frank Burt Avalon Roy's 1st Ski Buddy
J. Warren David Roy's 2nd Ski Buddy
Peter Ellenstein Roy's 3rd Ski Buddy
Vincent Schiavelli Mr. Kerber
Edward Mehler Buster
Thomas Rollerson Roller Skater
Toby Iland Nerd #1
Jonathan Charles Fox Nerd #2
Darren Harris Nerd #3
Randy Stoklos Jock #1
Sam High Jock #2
Tina Littlewood Chris Cummins
Steven Williams Tree Trimmer
Stuart K. Robinson Tree Trimmer's Helper
Taylor Negron Mailman
Yano Anaya Paperboy
Joey Tushnet Paperboy
Sebastian Dungan Paperboy
Rick Rosenthal Smitty
Rich Little Voice Only
Elizabeth Daily Herself

Technical Credits
Savage Steve Holland Director,Screenwriter
Alan Balsam Editor
Roy Downey Special Effects
Gil Friesen Executive Producer
Rupert Hine Score Composer
Michael Jaffe Producer
Brad Loman Costumes/Costume Designer
Isidore Mankofsky Cinematographer,Screenwriter
Andrew Meyer Executive Producer
Gary Moreno Set Decoration/Design
Herman Zimmerman Production Designer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Better off Dead
1. Beating the Paperboy [:16]
2. Cereal and Boiled Bacon [:11]
3. Howard Cosell Impersonators [2:12]
4. Ski Team Tryouts [2:24]
5. Death Attempt by Hanging [2:44]
6. Green Goo With Raisins [1:57]
7. Nose Wiping Incident [:29]
8. "I Want My Two Dollars!" [4:46]
9. Chalkboard Fantasy [1:28]
10. Mr. Kerber Asks to Date Beth [:03]
11. Cartoon Fantasy [2:23]
12. Death Attempt by Jumping [2:50]
13. White Trash [1:16]
14. Christmas Miracle [:47]
15. Mailman Asks to Date Beth [3:16]
16. Father/Son Talk [1:30]
17. High School Dance [2:24]
18. Meeting Monique [1:29]
19. Attack of the Paperboys [1:00]
20. A Man Alone [2:18]
21. Everybody Wants Some [2:07]
22. Barney Rubble Asks to Date Beth [1:57]
23. "French Fries, French Dressing, French Bread" [:53]
24. K12 Challenge [2:46]
25. Persistent Paperboy [1:24]
26. Big Faker [2:17]
27. Lane Wins the Drag Race [2:34]
28. Romantic Frozen Dinner [1:56]
29. Sliding Down the Mountain [:20]
30. Paperboy on Skis [1:03]
31. Lane Wins the Ski Race [4:43]
32. Language Lessons [1:05]
33. One Look [:17]


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Better off Dead 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very entertaining ,classic movies
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this movie. It reflects how the world can seem insane from the perspective of a teenager. Also it's a perfect 80's teenage comedy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is one of my all time favorite movies!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Surreal comedy that is one of the best movies to come out of the 1980¿s! While movies like the Breakfast Club and others might be more in the consciousness of America, Better Off Dead is by far the best movie to come out of the wasted decade known as the 80¿s. While the main subject of the movie is suicide, and it might be considered a dark comedy it is much more light hearted than one would expect. If you can imagine a cross between the down on his luck Ziggy and less geekish Dilbert you get a fair representation of Lane Myers. While it might be considered a ¿teen movie¿ I am still enjoying the movie every time I see it (even as an old man over 30).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this is one of the funniest movies with john cusak all the scenes are funny the whole movie is funny and i loved john in this movie he was great! this has to be the best john cusak movie ever!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's not always thought of as a christmas movie, but it fits in well. I remember seeing this at the theatre and laughing so hard when Jimmy the paperboy goes over the cliff. John Cusack was just coming off of doing 'The Sure Thing' and he was on fire. I wish we could get more films from Savage Steve, his animated clips are awesome. Take a trip in the wayback machine and visit the mid-eighties teen comedy. You won't regret it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best movie ever. Would I lie to you. Lane is a high school kid who gets dumped by Beth and she goes out with bleached boy so Lane must fix his 67 camaro and ski the K2 in order to redeem himself in the eyes of the Lord and the kids at school.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a classic 80s teen movie. All of Cusack's 1980s films are great--why can't he do movies like this anymore? The depiction of teen angst is hilarious at times. Funniest moments: Lane's kid brother reading ''How to Pick Up Trashy Women'', Lane's dinner walking off his plate, and the fat kid's mom getting blown up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you've never seen this movie, it's time to come out from the rock you've been hiding under. This is the funniest 80's teen flick, hands down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Asian dragsters speaking ''Howard Cosell'' is reason enough to watch this movie. Anyone who has ever been the underdog will praise this movie and love it for what it's worth. Oh yeah, and Booger snorting jello up his nose with a straw. Need I say more. John Cusack in his prime. OK I said more.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Greatest nostalgia movie ever. John Cusack is a much better prize than the other guy~ awesome soundtrack. Gotta have it and share with your teenage kid. Let him know you remember what it was like!