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Risky Business

For other uses, see Risky Business (disambiguation).
Risky Business
File:Risky Business.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Brickman
Produced by Jon Avnet
Steve Tisch
Written by Paul Brickman
Music by Tangerine Dream
Cinematography Bruce Surtees
Edited by Richard Chew
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
August 5, 1983
Running time
98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6.2 million
Box office $63.5 million

Risky Business is a 1983 American romantic comedy film written by Paul Brickman in his directorial debut. It stars Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay. The film launched Cruise to stardom.[1] It covers themes including materialism, loss of innocence, coming of age and capitalism.


Joel Goodson (Tom Cruise) is a high school student who lives with his wealthy parents in the North Shore area of suburban Chicago. His father wants him to attend Princeton University, so Joel's mother tells him to tell the interviewer, Bill Rutherford, about his participation in Future Enterprisers, an extracurricular activity in which students work in teams to create small businesses.

When his parents go away on a trip, Joel is left with explicit instructions not to touch the stereo system and not to use his father's beloved Porsche. Joel's friend, Miles (Curtis Armstrong), convinces him to take advantage of his newfound freedom to have some fun. On the first night, he raids the liquor cabinet, plays the stereo loudly, and dances around the living room in his underpants, socks, and pink dress shirt to "Old Time Rock and Roll". Later, he and his friend Barry (Bronson Pinchot) take the Porsche out and drive it recklessly.

The following day, Miles calls a call girl named Jackie on Joel's behalf despite his frustrated objections. Jackie (Bruce A. Young) turns out to be a tall, masculine transvestite. Joel reluctantly pays Jackie most of the money his parents gave him, but before Jackie leaves, he gives Joel the number for Lana, another prostitute, promising that she's "what every white boy off the lake wants".

That night, Joel has a nightmare of his house being covered by squad cars and the police arresting him for statutory rape as his friends and family watch in horror. Jostled awake, Joel hesitantly calls Lana (Rebecca De Mornay). She turns out to be a gorgeous blonde and they have sex all night. The following morning, Lana asks Joel for $300 for her services. Having no money in the house, he goes to the bank, but when he returns, Lana is gone, along with his mother's expensive Steuben crystal egg. Joel and Miles find Lana at a restaurant and demand the egg back, but they are interrupted by Lana's pimp, Guido (Joe Pantoliano), who pulls a gun. Joel (in his father's Porsche 928[2]) is chased by Guido, but manages to escape.

The next morning, Lana tells Joel that the egg is with the rest of her stuff at Guido's. Joel lets Lana stay at his house while he goes to school. When he returns, his friends are over, and Lana has invited another prostitute, Vicki (Shera Danese), to stay. Later, Lana mentions to Joel that his friends should collaborate with her friends to make money. Joel rejects the idea.

That night, Joel, Lana, Vicki, and Barry go out. They get stoned, and while Vicky and Barry wander away, Joel and Lana talk. Lana takes offense to something Joel says and leaves. While retrieving her purse from Joel's car, she inadvertently moves the shifter out of gear. Moments later, the car rolls down the hill and onto a pier, despite Joel's futile attempt to stop it. The car miraculously stops at the pier's edge and Joel breathes a heavy sigh of relief, but moments later the pier collapses, dumping Joel and the Porsche into Lake Michigan. Joel takes the car to a repair shop and is horrified to learn how much it will cost to fix it.

Arriving tardy to school, Joel realizes his lateness will cause him to fail two midterms. He attempts to explain his situation to the school nurse but is coldly rebuffed. He grabs the nurse by the collar and calmly demands compassion. Following this, Joel is suspended from school for five days and kicked out of Future Enterprisers. He goes to see Lana, who decides to turn the Goodsons' house into a brothel for a night; Joel's share of the profits will pay for the car repairs.

The party is a huge success; the house is packed with Joel's friends and classmates and Lana's co-workers. However, Rutherford (Richard Masur) chooses that night to visit and evaluate Joel for admission to Princeton. The interview is plagued by interruptions by partygoers, and Rutherford is unimpressed by Joel's resume. Unaffected by the apparent rejection, Joel famously puts on a pair of Wayfarers and joyously exclaims, "Looks like University of Illinois!" Afterwards, Rutherford stays at the party and becomes acquainted with Lana's friends. After the party, Joel and Lana go and have sex on the deserted Chicago 'L' train.

The next morning, Joel finds his house has been burgled. When he tries to call Lana, Guido answers; he tells Joel that he will let him buy back his furniture. Later that day, Guido delivers the vanload of furniture to the house and Joel buys it all back, the final piece being the glass egg. Guido's female associate Vicki (who has clearly double-crossed Joel; left unclear is how much Lana participated in the burglary) tosses the egg like a football and Joel manages to catch it just before it hits the ground. Deal now closed, Guido leaves and Joel and his friends manage to get everything moved back in the house just as his parents walk in, though his mother notices a crack in her egg. Joel eventually accepts responsibility and goes out to rake the yard. His father comes up to him and excitedly informs Joel that Rutherford was satisfied with the interview and said "Princeton could use a guy like Joel".

Joel meets Lana at a restaurant, and they speculate about their future. She tells him that she wants to keep on seeing him; he jokes that it will cost her. In a final voiceover, Joel reveals that, for Future Enterprisers, he "deals in human fulfillment" and has "grossed over $8000 in one night". He ends by quoting Guido: "Time of your life, huh kid?"

Original ending

After test screenings, David Geffen, the head of the studio, insisted that director Paul Brickman shoot a more upbeat ending for the film. The upbeat studio ending ordered by Geffen was used in the original theatrical release.[3] The remastered 25th-anniversary DVD edition offers "both the upbeat studio ending and Mr. Brickman's original, more tentative and melancholic conclusion".[4] In the melancholic ending, while Joel is still accepted into Princeton, the film ends on an ambiguous note. Joel and Lana ponder the future and Joel then asks Lana if their "night together" was all a setup. Lana denies this, but it is clear that Joel has difficulty believing Lana and states that he does not want her to get hurt, to which Lana exclaims in frustration, "Why does it have to be so tough?" Joel asks Lana for her embrace, and she embraces him reluctantly. The scene and film conclude not with the quote from Guido, but with the voiced-over line, "Isn't life grand?"[5]



The film score was by Tangerine Dream. Their songs comprised nearly half of the film soundtrack. Also included were songs by Muddy Waters, Prince, Jeff Beck, Journey, Phil Collins, and the song for which the film is best known, "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger.

The soundtrack album was released on Virgin Records, which was also Tangerine Dream's record company at the time the film was released.

The film also included "Hungry Heart" by Bruce Springsteen, "Every Breath You Take" by The Police, and "Swamp" by Talking Heads (which includes the words "risky business" in the lyrics). The LP and CD versions of the soundtrack included two different versions of "Love on a Real Train (Risky Business)," neither of which matched the version used in the film for the final love scene or closing credits.


Risky Business received critical acclaim by critics. It is also considered by many as one of the best films of 1983.[6][7][8][9] Janet Maslin, in her 1983 review of the film for The New York Times, called it "part satire, part would-be suburban poetry and part shameless showing off" and said the film "shows an abundance of style", though "you would be hard pressed to find a film whose hero's problems are of less concern to the world at large."[10] She called De Mornay "disarming as a call girl who looks more like a college girl" and credits Cruise with making "Joel's transformation from straight arrow to entrepreneur about as credible as it can be made."[11]

Roger Ebert was much more positive, calling it a film of "new faces and inspired insights and genuine laughs" and "one of the smartest, funniest, most perceptive satires in a long time" that "not only invites comparison with The Graduate, it earns it".[12]

Ebert continued:[12]

The very best thing about the movie is its dialogue. Paul Brickman, who wrote and directed, has an ear so good that he knows what to leave out. This is one of those movies where a few words or a single line says everything that needs to be said, implies everything that needs to be implied, and gets a laugh. When the hooker tells the kid, "Oh, Joel, go to school, go learn something," the precise inflection of those words defines their relationship for the next three scenes.

Variety said the film was like a "promising first novel, with all the pros and cons that come with that territory" and complimented Brickman on "the stylishness and talent of his direction."[13] The film holds a 98% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[14]


In 2006, the film was #40 on Entertainment Weekly‍ '​s list of the 50 Best High School Movies. The magazine called the film a "sharp satire of privileged suburban teens" about the "soul-crushing pressure to be perfect."[1][15]

In the years since the film's release, the scene featuring Cruise's character dancing in his pink dress shirt and briefs to "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger has been seen in episodes of many television series, films, and advertisements.

American Film Institute lists


  1. ^ a b The 50 Best High School Movies Entertainment Weekly
  2. ^ "The Risky Business Porsche 928" by Greg Hudock Excellence (magazine), August 2007, retrieved August 18, 2010
  3. ^ Tom King, The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood, pp. 358-361, 371-374, Broadway Books (New York 2001).
  4. ^ "Critic's Choice" by Dave Kehr The New York Times. October 6, 2008.
  5. ^ "Original Ending to Risky Business" YouTube. Retrieved July 14, 2012.
  6. ^ "The Greatest Films of 1983". AMC Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  7. ^ "The 10 Best Movies of 1983". Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  8. ^ "The Best Movies of 1983 by Rank". Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1983". Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  10. ^ Janet Maslin, Review: "Paul Brickman's Risky Business" The New York Times. August 5, 1983. Retrieved December 12, 2008
  11. ^ J. Maslin NYTimes Ibid.
  12. ^ a b Ebert, Roger. - Review: "Risky Business". - Chicago Sun-Times. - January 1, 1983. - Retrieved July 2, 2008
  13. ^ Review of Risky Business by Variety
  14. ^ "Risky Business Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  15. ^ Entertainment Weekly's 50 Best High School Movies from
  16. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees
  17. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Laugh
  18. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees
  19. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees

External links