Better Off Dead (1985)

Don’t we all just feel like this at one point in our lives.

After his girlfriend (Amanda Wyss) ditches him for a boorish ski jock (Aaron Dozier), Lane Meyer (John Cusack) decides that suicide is the only answer. But his increasingly inept attempts to off himself only bring more agony and embarrassment. Dan Schneider co-stars as Lane’s socially awkward neighbor, Ricky, whose mother takes in a foreign exchange student from France (Diane Franklin), only to meet with an explosive end.

I basically went into this film without any knowledge whatsoever, if it was good or bad. I luckily came out with a good side, and probably think this could be one of my favorite teen comedies of the 80s.

The film does a real great job at combining all these three different styles of comedy with Black, surreal, and mostly all absurdest. The film had a lot of serious and actually straigh-forward messages, but they were all broken down with the hilarious and at times random pieces of jokes.

There are little running gags in this film that really made me laugh. There is this paperboy that doesn’t get his two dollars from Cusack’s family, so throughout the whole film he just chases after Cusack. You would think this would get boring, but this and plenty of other running gags are just too hilarious to hate.

This may be an odd complaint but I feel like there wasn’t enough dark jokes about suicide or anything like that. In the beginning of the film there are little funny jokes about it, but never really did it go over the edge with it. I think this would have made the film a lot more insightful and also a lot more funny as it progressed.

By the end of the film, it starts to deride itself into a more natural romantic comedy film. I really felt this was not needed one bit, and by the end really did ruin it. There were so many little messages about suicide, friends, and love that were well brought out, but this end of the film really did destroy all those messages it was trying to give off.

John Cusack gives a very good performance here as the lovable loser type we all know and love him for. I felt myself cheering for him as the film went along, and I really did believe him as this young and heart-broken teen.

Consensus: Better Off Dead has hilarious blends of comedy and a noteworthy perforance from a young Cusack, but destorys itself with the last 30 minutes, and descending into a romantic comedy feel.



  1. One of the best coming of age comedy-dramas to appear in the 1980s. Savage Steve Holland was much more damning and unsentimental about teen life and high-school than John Hughes – both directors made some terrific films and yet Holland’s remain much less known than Hughes’. As much as I love Hughes’ work hopefully more people will discover the likes of Better Off Dead, Class, One Crazy Summer, Revenge Of The Nerds, Three O’Clock High, and Welcome to 18, for a different take on growing up in the 80s.

  2. Am I the only one who thought that claymation scene in the burger joint was fucking stupid as hell? All I remember about this movie is that part and Booger from Revenge of the Nerds snorting snow. Guess I need to see it again.

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