Movie Review: American Graffiti

American Graffiti, released in 1973, is a coming of age film. I was surprised that George Lucas was the director and co-writer. I associate him with Star Wars, not coming of age. Well maybe coming of age, but in space. I’m learning from my movie project that I don’t know a whole lot about the movie business. Now I’m paying attention to directors, producers, and writers and not just with movies on this list. Only time will tell if I learn anything.

This film includes so many talented actors at a young age. The cast includes: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, and Suzanne Somers has a small role. In case you missed her, she’s the blond in the T-bird.

I read that the film only cost $775,000 to make (that doesn’t sound cheap to me) but when it was released it was a hit and has made more than $200 million. Now that’s a profit! It didn’t happen overnight, but still impressive.

Its set in Modesto, California in 1962 and it’s about a culture I really know nothing about. During my teen years, I didn’t cruise my town and listen to rock and roll. Some of you may wonder what I did do. To be honest, I was a quiet teen. I read a lot and watched movies.

There are several stories occurring in the film. It’s more like short character studies that come together in the end—mostly. It starts off slow and stays that way for most of the film. There’s some tension, a little action, but it still comes across subtly.

At first I wasn’t sure what to think of the film. Like I said, I couldn’t relate to the culture. I grew up in the 80s. But I love characters and this film has many of them. Once I got past the whole, “What’s this about? They just keep driving up and down the road” feeling, I settled into the movie.

What did the boys think:

I'm so bored

I’m so bored

Indiana Jones looks so young!

Indiana Jones looks so young!

It was nominated for Best Picture, but The Sting won, which isn’t on my top 100 list. As for me, I give it a thumbs up. If you watch it, be patient. It sucks you in slowly.

Up next: Sullivan’s Travels. I’m having issues tracking down a copy.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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39 Responses to Movie Review: American Graffiti

  1. Have not seen this movie for years but I remember enjoying it when I did see it–for a long time I was not into movies as I took three years of movie courses in university–but I did get to know the directors and underlying themes etc–suffice to say we never got to watch just entertainment like this movie–though its underlying theme is a bit deeper than at first glance

    • TBM says:

      yes, the underlying themes, subtext, and all that stuff that made me slam my head into a wall when I was in college. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important, but sometimes I just want to escape into a movie or book and not over think things. That can kill the best of stories. I try for this project to treat the books and movies as entertainment to help me unwind from life. That is until a film or book is from the time period I studied and then I’m all about themes. I can’t turn it off.

      • I had a double major–and english was one half of that major–and tearing books apart into little shreds was my least favourite thing–but it has made me a better reader and hopefully writer–the other half was communication studies which at that time took in journalism, television and radio–hence the years of film study–sometimes it is nice to be able to see below the surface–sometimes it is nice just to be entertained

      • TBM says:

        Below the surface–I like that. I agree, it does help to understand a work by delving a little deeper. And then it’s fun to turn off the brain and enjoy.

  2. i know i saw this movie years ago but have no recollection of it. strange.

    sullivan’s travels got mixed reviews around here. i loved it and thought it very funny. the boys, not so much. we had to buy a copy for me to see it. i think i took advantage of one of criterion’s 50% off events. these days you can watch it through “instant video” for $10.

    • TBM says:

      I looked at Amazon instant video here, and didn’t see it. I can rent it via the post but it’s one of those that isn’t always available. I think international rights messes with some of the streaming here.

      I’m actually looking forward to Sullivans. Haven’t heard of it, but when I looked it up, it sounded like something I would enjoy. I love classics.

  3. Great review, TB. I’ve never seen American Graffiti, but I did see the Sting. Maybe Miles is more enthralled than bored. Hard to tell. Either way, hope you are having an awesome week!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • TBM says:

      I have a vague recollection of watching The Sting when I was young. I think too young to get it and didn’t know what the fuss was about. I remember liking the soundtrack. Miles was throwing a fit since he wanted to go to the park, even though we’d been twice that day. He’s loving the nicer weather. Hope you’re having fun!

  4. I, too, am always amazed at all the stars in this movie which probably gave them their start in the business!


    Some of us would say this is by far George Lucas’ best film (that would be me and the sig other). The Sting should be on the 100 list. Sullivan’s is an excellent film but I hope Palm Beach Story made the list!

    Have fun watching and what do dogs know from good movies, anyways?

    • TBM says:

      Thanks for the link. Looks like if I sign up with netflix in the UK I can. currently, I’m with another company. Might have to.

      I checked again, The Sting and Palm Beach aren’t on the list. Just in case you’re curious, here’s a link:

      one of the good things about the movie challenge is that there’s only 100 so when i finish, I can add other top 100 lists and round out my watching.

      I think my sentimentality is influencing me, and Star Wars still wins. The movies are tied up with so many happy childhood memories it’s hard to be objective.

  6. I agree The Sting should be on the list! A much better film than American Graffiti, in my opinion. It was on cable a few days ago and I was shocked at how young Richard Dreyfuss looked.

  7. lynnsbooks says:

    I have seen this but can’t remember it at all! Oops, doesn’t sound memorable does it! You should definitely read the Sting – such a good film.
    Lynn 😀

  8. I saw AG when it was released and liked it very much. Even though I grew up in San Francisco, it’s not that far from Modesto and there were Mel’s all over the place. Their burgers were far superior to Micky D’s. If I recall correctly, the wild success of this film not only put George Lucas on the map as a filmmaker so he had the funds to develop his dream space project “Star Wars” – why he’s probably now a billionaire.

    • TBM says:

      I think you’re right, that this movie provided the cash and credit to go on to make Star Wars. I think I would have preferred Mel’s over Micky D’s. Even as a kid I was never a huge Micky D’s fan, but we had healthy meals all the time. I didn’t eat fast food much until I went to college and realized I can’t cook. And to make it worse, I don’t like cooking at all.

  9. Jo Bryant says:

    The Sting is NOT on the list…oh no !!!!

  10. Beth Ann says:

    I saw both American Graffiti and The Sting. The Sting was my favorite of those two —it should be on the list!!! Great review even if the boys were not impressed.

  11. saw it…lived it…
    We rode up and down 4th street in Louisville when a teen…to meet guys and have fun!…and around and around we would go through a “Jerry’s Drive-In Restaurant”…Totally relate!…but, then there’s that thing “age”…

    • TBM says:

      Did you? I have to admit, it seems a lot nicer than the way the teens hang out these days. I’m sure it wasn’t all idyllic and their were turf wars and other issues.

      I’m starting to get old. Just yesterday, I yelled at a driver in my neighbor hood for driving too fast and to turn down his music.

  12. The Guat says:

    Duuuuuuuuuude so glad you gave it a thumbs up. I really liked the movie when I saw it. I was a big fan of Ron Howard and that whole Happy Days feeling. I thought it was so cool. And you totally need to watch The Sting. Redford and Newman are awesome in it. 🙂

  13. Rorybore says:

    I loved AG — I could complete relate to cruising down the main drag because I grew up in a small town and that was where all the action was on a Friday night. And ours ended at the waterfront which was a whole other kind of party too. My experience is a bit more Canadian than the American version, but they aren’t so far off really. Loved seeing Harrison Ford in this role too. you can just see the future Indy or Han in that attitude.
    And you I will agree with everyone else – The Sting should be on the list.

    • TBM says:

      I think it’s hard for to Ford to turn off the Indy or Han attitude. Cruising in Canada–have you written a blog post about it?

  14. I haven’t seen this movie, but I’m loving your pets’ reactions to it, especially Miles’. So cute! 😛

  15. I remember enjoying this movie for many reasons, but specifically the cruising aspect. We did A LOT of that when I was growing up so I could instantly relate even though the similarities ended there.They all looked soooo young, didn’t they?
    I remember enjoying Sullivan’s Travels also. Veronica Lake is something. 🙂
    PS – love Miles’s “frog legs.”

    • TBM says:

      I recognize the name Veronica Lake, but can’t remember any of her movies. Hopefully I can find a copy soon. We do call him frog boy on occasion.

  16. Novroz says:

    I have never heard of this movie before…well, as far as I can remember.
    A slow beginning movie tends to make me feel like Miles. I have just Unfinished watching the Fifth Estate for the same reason as Miles there.

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