Can't Buy Me Love (film)

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Can't Buy Me Love
Can't Buy Me Love Movie Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Steve Rash
Produced by Thom Mount
Written byMichael Swerdlick
Music by Robert Folk
Cinematography Peter Lyons Collister
Edited by Jeff Gourson
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • August 14, 1987 (1987-08-14)(United States)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$31.6 million

Can't Buy Me Love is a 1987 American teen romantic comedy film directed by Steve Rash, [1] starring Patrick Dempsey and Amanda Peterson in a story about a nerd at a high school in Tucson, Arizona who gives a cheerleader $1,000 to pretend to be his girlfriend for a month. The film takes its title from a Beatles song of the same title.



Ronald Miller is a typical high school nerd living in suburban Tucson, Arizona. He has spent all summer mowing lawns to save up for a telescope. At an opportune moment, he makes a deal with next-door neighbor and popular cheerleader Cindy Mancini. Cindy had borrowed her mother's expensive suede outfit without permission, to wear to a party, only to have wine accidentally spilled on it. Cindy reluctantly agrees to help Ronald look "cool" by posing as his girlfriend for a month for $1000 (which was used to replace the ruined outfit), although she already has a boyfriend named Bobby who is attending the University of Iowa.

Ronald then trades his nerdy, yet loyal, friends for the popular, but shallow students, and undergoes a complete clothing and hair makeover under Cindy's direction. Over time, a bond develops between the two. Cindy has Ronald read a secret poem she wrote that means a great deal to her. In turn, Ronald reveals his interests in astronomy and space travel. On their last date which Ronald "paid" for, Cindy begins to have real feelings for him and hints that she would like to kiss him, but he misunderstands. The next day at school, they stage a "breakup" in front of a crowd, but Ronald takes things too far and says some hurtful things about Cindy in front of her friends. Cindy remains calm and distant, but informs Ronald that popularity is hard work and that he needs to make sure that he "stays himself." The next day, Cindy notices Ronald behaving arrogantly at school, and becomes jealous when she sees him flirting with her best friends Barbara and Patty, further indicating her feelings for Ronald.

Ronald takes Patty to a dance at school, where he performs a dance he learned from an African cultural show on public television (which he mistakenly thought was the latest dance craze performed on American Bandstand ). At first, the other kids are mystified, but they soon join in, and Ronald's new "trendy" dancing further increases his popularity. On Halloween night, Ronald and some jocks drive to the house of Kenneth, Ronald's best friend, where the jocks test his loyalty by coercing him to hurl dog feces at Kenneth's house. Kenneth is lying in wait and catches Ronald, but lets him go before his dad can call the police. Kenneth ignores Ronald the next day at school.

At a New Year's Eve party at Big John's house, Ronald starts drinking and has a romantic tryst with his date, Iris, in the bathroom. Cindy walks by and hears Ronald reciting her special poem to Iris. Devastated, Cindy starts drinking even more. Later, Cindy's boyfriend Bobby unexpectedly shows up at the party. After Bobby learns about Cindy's "relationship" with Ronald, he breaks up with her. Cindy tries to explain the situation, but Bobby still walks out on her. In a drunken rage, Cindy reveals the truth about her and Ronald to the party-goers, and Ronald is immediately ostracized. Dejected, Ronald leaves and spends the night in his garage crying himself to sleep. When school resumes, he finds himself a social outcast, by both the jocks and the nerds. His attempts to reconcile with both Cindy and Kenneth are rebuffed.

However, Ronald gets an opportunity to redeem himself at lunch when he sees Quint (one of the jocks) bullying Kenneth after noticing Kenneth helping Patty with her math homework. Quint threatens Kenneth with physical violence if Kenneth doesn't go back to "his side of the cafeteria." Ronald intervenes, threatening to break Quint's pitching arm if he does not leave Kenneth alone. Ronald points out that the three were all friends at one time: when they were nine, Quint fell out of their treehouse and broke his arm and Kenneth and Ronald carried him twelve blocks to the hospital. Ronald confesses he was desperate to run with the popular crowd but had messed up by trying to buy his way in (unlike Kenneth, who was helping Patty out of a genuine interest in her). Ronald goes on to say that the clique dynamic is "all bullshit" and that it's tough enough just being yourself, and walks away. Quint apologizes to Kenneth and the two shake hands as the whole school applauds.

Following the incident, Cindy recognizes Ronald's worth and chooses to spend an evening with him rather than hanging out with her friends, hopping on the back of his riding lawnmower. Ronald then asks Cindy to prom, and the two kiss for the first time, as the Beatles title song plays. The newly-formed couple then ride off into the sunset on the lawnmower.


Production notes

The film was shot on location in Tucson, Arizona, at Tucson High Magnet School (then known as Tucson High School). [2] The choreography is by Paula Abdul, who makes an uncredited appearance as a dancer. [3]

On a date where the main characters begin to bond, they jump the perimeter wall and explore the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group Aircraft Bone Yard on Davis–Monthan Air Force Base that contains 4,400 aircraft.

The film was originally titled Boy Rents Girl but was changed before its release.

Critical reception

Can't Buy Me Love received mixed reviews from critics. Caryn James, in The New York Times , wrote that the film missed its mark and traded its potential originality for a bid at popularity:

Michael Swerdlick, the writer, and Steve Rash, the director... waste a chance to make the much deeper, funnier movie that strains to break through. [The film]... has an identity crisis that's a mirror-image of Ronald's own. He thinks he wants popularity at any price, though he's really a sincere guy. The film thinks it wants to be sincere, when all it truly wants is to be popular, just like the other kids' movies, so it sells off its originality. [4]

Roger Ebert gave the film a half star out of a possible 4:

If 'Can't Buy Me Love' had been intended as a satirical attack on American values—if cynicism had been its target—we might be on to something here. But no. On the basis of the evidence, the people who made this movie are so materialistic they actually think this is a 'teenage comedy'. Can't they see the screenplay's rotten core? [1]

Rotten Tomatoes has a rating of 48% based on 23 critics. [5] In 2006, it ranked number 41 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies. [6] [7]


Young Artist Award

Home Media

Touchstone home Entertainment on August 14th 2002 release on VHS AND DVD


In 2013 Intrada Records released Robert Folk's complete score for the film on a limited edition CD paired with David Newman's work for Paradise . [8]


In 2003, Can't Buy Me Love was remade as Love Don't Cost a Thing starring Nick Cannon and Christina Milian. [9] Though the triggering event differs between the two films, many of the aspects/scenes from the original film are reinterpreted in this remake, such as the eating of raw egg in the Home Economics classroom, as well as the cheerleader telling the bully that he is sitting in the wrong section in the cafeteria that he needs to sit in the "asshole section" of the cafeteria.

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  1. 1 2 Roger Ebert (August 14, 1987). "Can't Buy Me Love". Chicago Sun-Times . Retrieved 2016-09-16.
  2. Huestis, Lucy. "THMS History". Tucson Unified School District. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 12 Feb 2014.
  3. "Can't Buy Me Love (1987) - Full Cast & Crew". IMDb. Retrieved 12 Feb 2014.
  4. James, Caryn. "Film: 'Can't Buy Me Love'" . Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  5. "Can't Buy Me Love" . Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  6. "Entertainment Weekly's 50 Best High School Movies". Retrieved November 17, 2010.
  7. (2006). "Entertainment Weekly Ranks Top 50 High School Flicks". Retrieved November 11, 2007.
  8. "PARADISE / CAN'T BUY ME LOVE". Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  9. Scott Brown (December 10, 2003). "Love Don't Cost a Thing". Entertainment Weekly . Retrieved 2007-11-11.