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File:BetterOffDeadPoster 1758.jpg


Gee, Ricky, I'm real sorry your mom blew up.


Better Off Dead is a 1985 comedy film directed by Savage Steve Holland and starring John Cusack.

After being dumped by his utterly-unfaithful girlfriend Beth, luckless teen Lane Meyer makes several futile attempts to kill himself, while wandering in and out of a series of encounters with the inmates residents of his bizarre hometown. These include his super-genius younger brother Badger, his severely-underachieving best friend Charles, a pair of Korean car-racing enthusiasts who learned English by watching Howard Cosell, and one very determined paper-boy. Lane's life finally begins to turn around when he meets Monique, a comely French exchange student who has been sentenced to live with Lane's grotesque neighbors.

Probably doesn't quite make it to classic status, especially the ending which veers off into painfully straight teen-movie win-the-athletic-competition territory, but mentioning this film or quoting from it is very likely to bring a smile to the face of Tropers of a certain age. It does have a pretty strong cult following due to the fact that aside from that ending, it has a very different sense of humor from most 80s teen comedies and seems far less dated than other films of its type.

Tropes used in Better Off Dead include:

Lane: Gee, I'm real sorry your mom blew up, Ricky.

  • Burger Fool: Lane has to wear a hideous pig-themed hat, even though he works back in the kitchen.
  • Claymation: A brief sequence set in the burger joint where Lane works.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Lane's mother Jenny.
  • Cool Car: Initially averted with Lane's canvas-draped, cobwebbed (and nonfunctional) Camaro. But once Monique gets her hands on it, it goes from aversion to expression.
  • Dawson Casting: Charles. Explicitly justified:

Charles: I've been going to this high school for seven and a half years! I'm no dummy!


Lane: My little brother got his arm stuck in the microwave. So my mom had to take him to the hospital. My grandma dropped acid this morning, and she freaked out. She hijacked a busload of... penguins. So it's sort of a family crisis. Bye!

  • Instant Expert: "Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn."
  • Insult Backfire: Played with when Stalin insults Lane and Charles at one point during the New Years dance; Lane is insulted, but Charles finds it hilarious, even interrupting Stalin's dance with Beth because he's still laughing.
  • Interrupted Suicide
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Lane's mother serves Monique "Frahnch Fries", etc.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Of course, Lane comes to his senses in time.
  • Jerk Jock: The villain, such as he is.
    • His name? Roy Stalin.
  • Language of Love: Subverted, when it turns out that Monique speaks English fairly fluently.
    • Invoked by name by Ricky's mother, to Monique's utter disgust.
  • Lethal Chef: Hoo boy. Jenny. Lane pokes one of her creations with his fork, and it starts moving away.

"It's got raisins in it. You like raisins."

  • Malaproper: French exchange student Monique is mostly fluent in English, but has one or two slight vocabulary issues, resulting in lines like "He keeps putting his testicles all over me."
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Monique.
  • Meaningful Name: Roy Stalin.
  • Medium Shift Gag: There are a couple of gag sequences in both clay and hand-drawn animation, representing Lane's bizarre daydreams about dancing hamburgers and so forth.
  • Mess On a Plate: Jenny's mobile green goop.
  • Mocking Music: After Beth has broken up with him, Lane is driving despondently and looking for something cheery to listen to on the radio. Every station is playing a breakup song; he ends up ripping the radio out of the car and hurling it out the window.
  • My Beloved Smother: Ricky's harridan of a mother.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: After the break-up, every guy from the math teacher to the rude mailman to Barney Rubble is asking Lane if it would be all right to date his ex.
  • Naked Freak-Out: The roller-skating cheerleader in the cafeteria in her underwear, due to Lane's accidental slip-up. It Gets Worse as all of her boyfriends give him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Obstacle Ski Course: The ski-off with Roy at the climax of the film turns into one.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Vincent Schiavelli as Lane's math teacher.
  • Reverse Harem: Chris Cummins is a cheerleader who dates the basketball team. The entire team.
  • Running Gag: "I want my two dollars!!"
    • Also, Lane's drag-race-at-the-stoplight moments, plus the crash into the driver behind him.
    • Badger's mail-order purchases
    • The garage door window's getting broken.
  • Stalker Shrine: Lane has turned his room into one of these, dedicated to his girlfriend.
  • Standard Snippet: Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy" as Lane's Camaro rolls out for the first time. Gene Autry's "Here Comes Santa Claus" during the Christmas sequence.
  • Stock Shout Out: Lane doing Frankenstein-imbuing-the-creature-with-life at the start of the "Everybody Wants Some" sequence.
  • The Stoner: Charles. Or he would be, if he could find anything to get stoned on.

How are we going to get real drugs in this town? We can't even get cable!


This is pure snow! Do you have any idea what the street value of this mountain is?


And dying when you're not really sick is really sick, you know. Really!

  • Title Drop: The singer at the school dance.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Monique vs. Beth. Interestingly set up since as a French exchange student, Monique normally would be expected to be a fashionista Girly Girl. Instead, she's a (well-dressed) Wrench Wench and baseball fanatic.
  • Totally Radical: Lane's father awkwardly attempts to "connect" with him.
  • Trash Landing: