better off

Better Off Dead (film)

Better Off Dead is a 1985 teen cult black comedy starring John Cusack, written and directed by Savage Steve Holland. 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 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, may be the world's worst cook; his genius little brother who never speaks but can build laser guns and attract trashy women; and his father who is convinced Lane is using drugs. Lane's best friend, Charles de Marr (Curtis Armstrong) attempts to inhale everyday substances, like whipped cream or snow, as if they were cocaine because he is unable to obtain drugs. 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 80's 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 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 is 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.

The movie's final scene was shot at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.

References in pop culture

  • In the Family Guy episode "I Take Thee Quagmire", Peter rides Joan (the maid he won on Wheel of Fortune) to the store as if she were a horse and comes to a stop light. Two Asian men pull up next to him, also riding a woman like a horse while one of them speaks like Howard Cosell. Peter straps on goggles and gloves to race them, but the maid collapses underneath him. The ski race finale is also parodied in the episode, "Road to Rupert".
  • In the episode "Asspen" of the TV series South Park, the kids go to a ski resort, and there are various references to Better Off Dead and other 80's comedies, including a Roy Stalin-style bully who challenges Stan to a race down the "K-13".
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, the title of this film is parodied in an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon as "Butter Off Dead".


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)." 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)
  11. Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 produced by Rupert Hine.
  12. 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. Additionally, the version in the film is performed by an uncredited Sinatra impersonator.

External links

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