Clueless is a 1995 American coming-of-age teen comedy film written and directed by Amy Heckerling. It stars Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy and Paul Rudd. It was produced by Scott Rudin and Robert Lawrence. It is loosely based on Jane Austen's 1815 novel Emma, with a modern-day setting of Beverly Hills. The plot centers on Cher Horowitz, a beautiful, popular and rich high school student who befriends a new student named Tai Frasier and decides to give her a makeover.
Clueless was filmed in California over a 40-day schedule. The film's director studied real Beverly Hills high school students to understand how real teens in the 1990s talked and learn some appropriate slang terms.
The film grossed $56.1 million in the United States. It has received positive reviews from critics and is considered to be one of the best teen films of all time. Clueless has developed a cult following and has a continuing legacy. The film was followed by a spin-off television sitcom, series of books, and Paramount Pictures has announced that they are producing a remake.
Cher Horowitz lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with her wealthy father Mel, a gruff litigator; her mother died during a liposuction procedure when she was a baby. Cher is attractive, stylish, good-natured and popular. She attends Bronson Alcott High School with her best friend Dionne Davenport, who is also wealthy and beautiful. Dionne has a long-term relationship with popular student Murray Duvall. Cher claims that this is a pointless endeavor for Dionne, who ought to be dating more mature guys.
Josh, Cher's socially conscious ex-stepbrother, visits her during a break from college. They spar continually but playfully. She mocks his idealism, while he teases her for being selfish, vain and superficial, saying that her only direction in life is "toward the mall".
After receiving a poor grade, Cher decides to play matchmaker for two hard-grading teachers at her school, Mr. Hall and Miss Geist. She orchestrates a romance between the two teachers to make them relax their grading standards so she can renegotiate a bad grade on her report card. After seeing their newfound happiness, Cher realizes that she enjoys doing good deeds. She then decides to give back to the community by "adopting" a "tragically unhip" new girl at school, Tai Frasier.
Cher and Dionne give Tai a makeover, which provides Tai with confidence and a sense of style. Cher tries to extinguish the attraction between Tai and Travis Birkenstock, an amiable but clumsy slacker, and to steer her towards Elton, a handsome and popular student. However, Elton has no interest in Tai and instead tries to make out in his car with Cher, who rebuffs him.
A fashion-conscious new student named Christian attracts Cher's attention at school and becomes her target boyfriend. When he comes over to watch some movies at her home, she tries to seduce him, but he deflects her advances. Murray subsequently explains to Cher and Dionne that Christian is gay. Despite the failure of her romantic overtures, Cher remains friends with Christian, primarily due to her admiration of his good taste in art and fashion.
Cher's privileged life takes a negative turn when Tai's newfound popularity strains their relationship. Cher's frustration escalates after she fails her driving test and cannot change the result. When Cher returns home in a depressed mood, Tai confesses her feelings for Josh and asks Cher for help in pursuing him. Cher says that Tai is not right for Josh, leading to a quarrel which results in Tai calling Cher a "virgin who can't drive". Feeling "totally clueless", Cher reflects on her priorities and her repeated failures to understand or appreciate the people in her life.
After thinking about why she is bothered by Tai's romantic interest in Josh, Cher finally realizes that she is actually in love with him. Cher begins making awkward but sincere efforts to live a more purposeful life, including captaining the school's Pismo Beach disaster relief effort. Cher and Josh eventually follow through on their feelings for one another, culminating in a tender kiss. Ultimately, Cher's friendships with Tai and Dionne are solidified, Tai and Travis are dating, Mr. Hall and Miss Geist get married, and Cher catches the wedding bouquet – helping Josh win a $200 bet. She then embraces Josh and they kiss.
According to the special feature titled "Creative Writing", Heckerling describes the origins of Clueless as follows:
I went to 20th Century Fox and they said "We want you to do something about teenagers." And I thought "I'm so tired about doing stuff about teenagers." But they said, "We want you to do something about the 'in' crowd." I thought "I'll do it if I can make fun of them." So, we developed this script. It was a pilot for a TV show. And it was about this girl that was completely happy, no matter what happened. And I was really getting into that kind of character. But nothing happened with it. They passed on it, they didn't get it. And a number of things were sort of falling through. I was just getting very frustrated. So I switched agents and when I had my new agent, they said: "What have you been working on?" So I showed Ken Stovitz, one of the agents there, this pilot. And he said, "This is too good for TV. You should make this into a feature."
I started to think, "What's the larger context for that kind of a 'nothing can go wrong' 'always looks through rose colored glasses' kind of girl?" And I remembered Emma, which I'd read in college. So, I took it out and reread it, and I said: "Unconsciously, I've been writing an Emma-like character." Because I've always loved it and part of it had sort of stored it away in my brain... So I really related to her and got into it. And the plot was so brilliantly laid out in Emma. So I tried to take all the things that were in this sort of pretty 1800s world and see what would that be like if it was in Beverly Hills.
Associate producer Twink Caplan, who also played Miss Toby Geist in the film, recalls the title of the proposed TV show:
No Worries was the original television script that Amy wrote. Then, we went to I Was a Teenage Teenager because with every new draft that Amy writes, she picks a whole new title.
Fox picked up the picture, but put the film in a turnaround. The male studio heads wanted Heckerling to rewrite the script so that fewer women would feature. Six months later, the script made its way to producer Scott Rudin. Rudin liked the script and it was the subject of a bidding war, with Paramount Pictures beating out the other studios. Heckerling was excited, as Paramount owned several major youth-centered channels, such as MTV and Nickelodeon, which was suited to the film's target demographic.
Principal photography for the film began on November 21, 1994. The film had a 40-day filming schedule, yet despite challenges, retained the carefree high school experience in that short time. Twice during filming Alicia Silverstone experienced stomach ulcers serious enough to prevent her from working. It halted production as there were very few scenes in which she was not a part of. Breckin Meyer and Brittany Murphy also endured hardships during filming. Breckin sprained his ankle rehearsing the competition half-pipe. He was cleared to work again the following day, however staging had to be tailored to avoid walking scenes because he was on crutches. Brittany required a parent or guardian present during filming because she was only 17 at the time. Her mom, who accompanied her, had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Writer and director Amy Heckerling sat in on classes at Beverly Hills High School to get a feel for the student culture. Herb Hall, played by Wallace Shawn, a real life debate teacher at Beverly Hills High School and friend of Heckerling, had a short scene as the principal in the film. Wallace Shawn, prior to full-time acting, had also been a professional teacher and drew on that experience during filming. Scenes depicting the high school campus, including the tennis courts, the outdoor cafeteria, and the quad were filmed at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Ulysses S Grant High School in Valley Glen provided filming locations for the fictitious school's interior sets. Other notable filming locations include Circus Liquor in North Hollywood, where Cher is mugged in her designer dress, and Rodeo Drive, featured in Cher's "crisis" scene as she dejectedly wanders after a failed drivers test and confrontation with Tai. Rain caused a considerable number of complications during filming. Cher's house in the film, rented by the crew, sustained floor damage caused by consistent tracking in of mud. Equipment trucks became susceptible to loss after several days of rain flooded the Sepulveda basin where they were parked. Eventually, they had to be moved. In addition, the Mighty, Mighty Bosstones performance, originally an outdoor event, had to be moved inside. Paul Rudd bought everyone gifts after filming wrapped.
The film became a surprise sleeper hit of 1995. Clueless opened in 1,653 theaters on July 19, 1995 and grossed $10,612,443 on its opening weekend, which led to a ranking of second behind Apollo 13. The film grossed $56,631,572 during its theatrical run, becoming the 32nd-highest-grossing film of 1995. This box office success brought the then-largely unknown Silverstone to international attention. The film also developed a strong cult following after its release.
The film was well received by critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 81% based on reviews from 115 critics, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "A funny and clever reshaping of Emma, Clueless offers a soft satire that pokes as much fun at teen films as it does at the Beverly Hills glitterati." On Metacritic, the film has a 68 out of 100 rating based on 18 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".
The film was seen as a teen flick that had a strong influence on fashion trends and lingo. Fashion as a form of self-expression played an important role in the narrative and character development of the film, television series, and novels, which are topics examined by Alice Leppert.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars. Janet Maslin of The New York Times notes, "Even if Clueless runs out of gas before it's over, most of it is as eye-catching and cheery as its star." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film four stars, contrasting it to the more adult-oriented film about teenagers released around the same time, Kids, stating, "The materialism in Clueless is almost as scary as the hopelessness in Kids."
In 2008, Entertainment Weekly selected Clueless as one of the "New Classics," a list of 100 released between 1983 and 2008; Clueless was ranked 42nd, and they named it the 19th-best comedy of the past 25 years.
The film was reissued in a special tenth-anniversary "Whatever! Edition" DVD on August 30, 2005. The new issue included featurettes and cast interviews, including:The Class of '95 (a look at the cast), Creative Writing (Amy Heckerling talks about the script), Fashion 101 (how filmmakers invented the trendsetting style of Clueless), Language Arts (the director and cast members give facts on the groundbreaking slang and how Clueless revived Valspeak slang), Suck and Blow (how to play the game depicted in the Sun Valley party scene), Driver's Ed, We're History (stories from cast and crew of Clueless), and two theatrical trailers.
It was released on Blu-ray on May 1, 2012. Special features were carried over from the "Whatever! Edition" of 2005 and included a new trivia track.
After the death of Brittany Murphy, Silverstone stated that she "always felt connected to [Murphy] as [they] shared a very special experience in [their] lives together", and said "I loved working with Brittany. She was so talented, so warm, and so sweet."
Heckerling later reunited with both Silverstone and Shawn for the vampire comedy Vamps.
The film was well known for the characters' catchphrases and vocabulary. Cher's verbal style is also marked by ironic contrasts between current slang and historical references, such as when she compares Tai to "those Botticelli chicks".
Clueless was the main inspiration for Australian rapper Iggy Azalea's music video for her 2014 song "Fancy" featuring Charli XCX. Many visuals and costumes inspired by the film were used in the video, which is filled with remakes of Clueless scenes. The outfits are also reinvented to channel the famous stylings of the film with a slightly modern edge. "Fancy" was shot in the same Los Angeles high school where Clueless was filmed.
A reference to Cher's seduction of Christian is included in the music video to Simone Battle's 'He Likes Boys'.
In the second episode of the second season of the BBC America thriller series Killing Eve, "Nice and Neat" (2019), the Russian assassin Villanelle calls her agency and uses the codename Cher Horowitz to secretly inform her boss that she is in trouble and needs to be rescued after being kidnapped.
In a 2020 Discover Card commercial, a clip from the film was featured which consisted of Cher Horowitz saying her famous phrase "Uh uh, no way".
In 1996, the producers created a spin-off television series, which followed the continuing adventures of Cher and her friends. Several cast members from the film went on to star in the series, with the notable exceptions of Silverstone (who went on to sign a film deal with Columbia-TriStar worth $10 million) and Rudd (whose film career began to take off). Silverstone was replaced in the series with actress Rachel Blanchard.
In October 2019, it was announced that CBS would be adapting the film into a drama series. The series will be centered around Dionne after Cher goes missing, and is described by Deadline as a "baby pink and bisexual blue-tinted, tiny sunglasses-wearing, oat milk latte and Adderall-fueled look at what happens when the high school queen bee Cher disappears and her lifelong number two Dionne steps into Cher's vacant Air Jordans." On August 14, 2020, it was moved to NBCUniversal's streaming service known as Peacock. In May 2021, it was reported that the series would not be moving forward at Peacock and would be redeveloping at CBS Studios.
In 2015, to celebrate the film's twentieth anniversary, pop culture writer Jen Chaney published a book titled As If!: The Oral History of Clueless. The book is based on exclusive interviews with Amy Heckerling, Alicia Silverstone, and other cast and crew members. Excerpts from the book were published in Vanity Fair.
Clueless: The Musical opened in New York City on December 11, 2018, as part of The New Group's 2018–2019 season. The show was written by Heckerling and starred Dove Cameron as Cher and Dave Thomas Brown as Josh. It closed on January 12, 2019 .
The musical was a jukebox musical featuring pop songs from the 1990s, though with lyrics mostly or entirely rewritten by Heckerling to fit the storyline. Songs adapted from the movie's soundtrack included "Supermodel" and "Kids in America."