25 years ago today we were “totally bugging” over the release of “Clueless,” the defining teen movie of the 90s (if not ever).
The iconic film about Cher (played by Alicia Silverstone) a rich, spoiled, ditzy but well-meaning 16-year-old never feels dated and that’s why it remains relatable for today’s generation.
“Clueless,” which is a loose retelling of Jane Austen’s “Emma” revived the teen movie genre which had peaked in the mid 80s with “Risky Business,” “Pretty in Pink” and the slew of other John Hughes movies. As mentioned on an earlier episode of “History of the 90s,” teen movies peaked in 1999, with no less than 15 high school set films including , “Varsity Blues,” “She’s All that,” “Cruel Intentions,” “10 things I Hate About You” and “American Pie.”
“Clueless,” which was written and directed by Amy Heckerling, who made her directorial debut with “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” in the 80s, was very a inexpensive film to make. At $12 million, it cost about one-third what the average studio movie does.
But the movie almost didn’t get made when 20th Century Fox, which owned the rights to the script, dropped its option. Heckerling told the New York Times in 1995 that the studio didn’t have faith in her concept.
“They were worried about something that was so female-oriented. They kept pressuring me to create more of a life for the boys in the film, to create more of an ensemble piece, which didn’t make sense to me at all.”
Paramount eventually picked up the script and turned it into the sleeper hit of the summer of 95 making over $56 million dollars in domestic ticket sales.
Part of the success of Clueless can be attributed to the fact that it united multiple generations. An article in Huffington Post sums it up best:
“It was written and directed by a Boomer, marketed to Gen X, made a contemporary classic by millennials and transformed into a point of nostalgia by Gen Z.”
“Clueless” helped launch the careers of Paul Rudd and the late Brittany Murphy and in the last quarter century has inspired a TV show, books, a comic book series and an off-Broadway musical written by Heckerling.
Today, the cult classic is known for its iconic 1990s style. For Cher and friends, fashion was everything. Who can forget Cher’s famed yellow plaid mini skirt and blazer and feather-lined cardigans or Dionne’s knee-high stockings and hats.
In “As If!: The Oral History of Clueless,” costume designer Mona May said that there were 63 outfit changes for Cher, but she only had $200,000 to spend on the wardrobe for the entire film.
“I had to go to the thrift store. I had to go to high-end stores. I had to make some stuff and create things because they were not even in the stores, because they were just being thought out and dreamed up by the designers on the runway shows.”
And then there is the 90s slang and classic Clueless lines: You are a snob and a half, that was way harsh, you’re a virgin who can’t drive, whatever, Ugh, as if!
“Clueless” is streaming on Netflix in case you want to celebrate the anniversary by spending a little time with Cher and the gang.
For more stories from the 1990s make sure to check out my podcast “History of the 90s” on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Google Play and anywhere else you stream audio. You can also listen at Curiouscast.ca