The beloved nineties’ teenage comedy, Clueless was first released in the US, 20 years ago today on 19th July 1995.
The film, directed by Amy Heckerling, was loosely based on Jane Austen’s classic 1815 novel, Emma and followed the ditzy exploits of Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) – a good natured but superficial 16 year old girl who is at the top of the high school social scene. After successfully playing matchmaker and getting two of her teachers together, Cher makes it her mission to “adopt” the “tragically unhip” new girl at school – Tai Fraser (the late Brittany Murphy)- and transform her into an airhead worthy of the popular clique.
With the help of her best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash), Cher manages to give Tai the ultimate makeover, but her efforts soon backfire when Tai’s popularity surpasses her own. The film also starred Paul Rudd as Josh – Cher’s older step-brother, who is among the few to find fault with Cher’s self-centred behaviour.
Heckerling, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, first saw the potential to rejuvenate Austen’s classic romance when she was asked to create a show for and about “modern kids” – but was careful not to tell the studio about her ideas until the script was finished. As she would later state: “It was all there in Jane Austen. It wasn’t there in the studio meetings.” In order to capture the film’s now iconic teenage vernacular, (“Ugh, as if!”, “Whatever!”) Heckerling sat in on high school classes to pick up on what the kids were saying, and exactly how they were saying it.
Upon release, the film proved to be one of the most popular sleeper hits of 1995, grossing well over $11 million on it’s opening weekend. It would eventually go on to be the 32nd highest-grossing film of 1995, earning a massive cult following and a total of $55 million during it’s theatrical run. The film also catapulted main star, Alicia Silverstone into international fame.
The film later spawned a short-lived TV sitcom, which ran for three seasons from 1996-1999. It would also prove to be an essential part of the contemporary renaissance of Austen’s work in the late nineties/early noughties, as well as one of the most quintessential teen movies in cinematic history.
Remind yourself of the light-hearted brilliance of Clueless in the classic trailer below.