Heathers is a 1988 American black comedy film, directed by Michael Lehmann, starring Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and Shannen Doherty.
The film was released in the United States on March 31, 1989 by New World Pictures.
| Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
The most dominant clique at Westerburg High School in Sherwood, Ohio, consists of three wealthy and beautiful girls named Heather: the leader, Heather Chandler (Kim Walker), the quiet, bookish and bulimic Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty), and the weak-willed cheerleader Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk). Even though they are the most popular students, the Heathers are both feared and hated.
They recently invited 17-year-old Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) to join their group, by association making her a very popular girl as well. However, as the film begins, Veronica has had enough of their selfish behavior and longs to return to her old life and her nerdy friends.
At school, a rebellious outsider named Jason "J.D." Dean (Christian Slater) pulls a gun on school bullies Kurt Kelly (Lance Fenton) and Ram Sweeney (Patrick Labyorteaux) and fires blanks at them. Veronica finds herself fascinated by this dark and quirky sociopath.
When Veronica embarrasses Heather Chandler at a frat party by refusing sex and vomiting, Heather vows to destroy her reputation. Later, J.D. shows up at Veronica's house and they end up having sex after an impromptu game of strip croquet. Veronica tells J.D. she wants to make Heather puke her guts out.
The next morning, Veronica and J.D. break into Heather's house. J.D. serves Heather a liquid he claims is a hangover cure but is actually drain cleaner, killing her. Although initially shaken by their act, J.D. regains his composure and urges Veronica to forge a dramatic suicide note in Heather's handwriting. The school and community look on Heather's apparent suicide as a tragic decision made by a popular but troubled teenager.
Several days later, Kurt and Ram spread a rumor about Veronica giving them oral sex at the same time. To get even, J.D. proposes that Veronica lure them into the woods with the promise to "make the rumors true", then shoot them with what he promises are nonfatal "Ich lüge" (which means "I'm Lying" in German) German bullets that only break the skin but do no real damage.
Afterwards they would humiliate Kurt and Ram by writing a fake suicide note explaining that the two were secret lovers, and planting "gay" materials, such as a Joan Crawford photo, mascara, and mineral water, alongside their unconscious bodies.
At the rendezvous in the woods, J.D. shoots Ram but Veronica misses Kurt, who runs away. Seeing Ram dead on the ground, Veronica realizes that the bullets are real after all. J.D. chases Kurt back towards Veronica, who panics and shoots him dead. J.D. plants the "gay" materials and suicide note beside the boys. At their funeral, the boys are made into martyrs against homophobia.
Due to J.D.'s betrayal and increasingly murderous behavior, Veronica breaks up with him, but he says he knows she'll come back. J.D. then shows Heather Duke old photographs of her and Martha "Dumptruck" Dunnstock (Carrie Lynn) when the two girls were friends. Since Martha is an obese and very unpopular student, Heather Duke doesn't want the photos to be seen. J.D. says he will give her the negatives of the photos if she does him "a favor."
J.D. then persuades Heather Duke to step into Heather Chandler's former role, which Heather Duke gladly embraces. Duke begins wearing the red scrunchie that had belonged to Heather Chandler as a symbol of her new status, and starts acting as badly as Chandler had acted.
Once Heather Duke establishes herself as the school's alpha female, J.D. tells her to start a petition to get the band Big Fun to play at the school pep rally. In return, he gives her the negatives of the photos.
The fake suicides prompt an epidemic of similar attempts. Martha pins a suicide note to her chest and walks into traffic. She survives but is badly injured and is mocked for trying to "act popular", mostly by Heather Duke. That night, Heather McNamara calls a popular radio show while Veronica and Heather Duke are listening and says she feels like she is cursed and begins to cry.
The next day, Heather Duke tells the entire school about Heather McNamara's radio call. Heather McNamara, humiliated, attempts to take her life by overdosing on pills in the girls' bathroom, but is rescued by Veronica; afterwards, the two become real friends.
Veronica and Heather Duke have a fight in which Heather reveals that the petition was J.D.'s idea. J.D. then attempts to rekindle his romance with Veronica, but she rejects him, angering J.D. When Veronica returns home she finds that J.D. has left her threatening notes and objects implying that he will murder her and frame it as a suicide.
That afternoon, Veronica has a vivid dream that J.D. murders Heather Duke, and at Heather's funeral Veronica talks to Heather Chandler. That night, J.D. climbs into Veronica's room with a revolver to kill her, but finds Veronica hanging from a noose. Thinking she's dead, he talks about his plan to bomb the school during a pep rally. He reveals that the petition he had been circulating via Heather Duke was actually a mass suicide note.
Almost everyone except Veronica signed, so the mass murder would appear to outsiders to be a mass suicide instead. However, unbeknownst to J.D., Veronica faked the hanging by rigging herself with a harness around her waist.
Now clued in to J.D.'s mass-murder plot, she confronts him in the boiler room below the gym where he is rigging timed explosives. After a brief struggle, Veronica shoots him three times, removing his middle finger. As J.D. collapses, he stabs the timer and it stops.
Veronica walks outside to find the severely injured J.D. with the bomb strapped to his chest, which he detonates as an apathetic Veronica looks on with an unlit cigarette hanging from her lips. J.D. blows himself up; the blast singes Veronica and lights her cigarette.
As the students rush outside to find out what happened, Veronica confronts Heather Duke. Veronica relieves Heather of the red scrunchie, saying "Heather, my love, there's a new sheriff in town."
Free at last of the Heathers' toxic influence, she invites Martha to hang out on prom night and watch movies with her.
- Winona Ryder as Veronica Sawyer
- Christian Slater as Jason "J.D." Dean
- Shannen Doherty as Heather Duke
- Lisanne Falk as Heather McNamara
- Kim Walker as Heather Chandler
- Penelope Milford as Pauline Fleming
- Glenn Shadix as Father Ripper
- Lance Fenton as Kurt Kelly
- Patrick Labyorteaux as Ram Sweeney
- Carrie Lynn as Martha "Dumptruck" Dunnstock
- Jeremy Applegate as Peter Dawson
- Jon Matthews as Rodney
- Phill Lewis as Dennis
- Renée Estevez as Betty Finn
- Jennifer Rhodes as Mrs. Sawyer
- Bill Cort as Mr. Sawyer
- Kirk Scott as Big Bud Dean
- Mark Carlton as Mr. Kelly
- John Ingle as Principal Gowan
Daniel Waters wanted his screenplay to go to director Stanley Kubrick, not only out of profound admiration for Kubrick but also from a perception that "Kubrick was the only person that could get away with a three-hour film."
After a number of failed attempts to get the script to Kubrick, it made Waters realize the futility of the enterprise, he decided to give the script to Michael Lehmann, who then took it on with Denise Di Novi.
Various actors and actresses turned down the project because of its dark subject matter.
The early choices for Veronica and J.D. were Jennifer Connelly, who turned down the role and Brad Pitt, who auditioned for the role of J.D., but the filmmakers rejected him because they thought he came across as "too nice."
Justine Bateman was also considered for the lead role and Drew Barrymore auditioned for the movie.
Then-sixteen-year-old Winona Ryder, who badly wanted the part, begged Waters to cast her. Eventually, she was given the role with Christian Slater being signed shortly thereafter.
Then-seventeen year-old Heather Graham was offered the part of Heather Chandler, but she turned it down.
Kim Walker (who was dating Christian Slater at the time) was offered the role instead. Graham was then cast as Heather McNamara, but her mother wouldn't allow her to accept the role, so Lisanne Falk was given the role instead.
The film's principal photography took place over 32 days from July 5th to August 17, 1988. It was primarily filmed in California.
Although the film takes place in Ohio, the high school scenes were filmed at Verdugo Hills High School and the Osaka Sangyo University of Los Angeles in Los Angeles.
Other locations were filmed in Santa Monica, Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills, Pasadena, the San Fernando Valley and Tujunga.
"Heathers" was a commercial failure at the box office, grossing only $177,247 during its opening weekend. Domestically, the film grossed $1,108,462.
Despite the low performance at the box office, the film has gone on to become a cult classic.
"Heathers" was acclaimed by critics and audiences.
Rotten Tomatoes reported that 95% of critics gave the film a positive review based on a sample of 43 reviews.
The site's critical consensus reads: "Dark, cynical, and subversive, Heathers gently applies a chainsaw to the conventions of the high school movie -- changing the game for teen comedies to follow."
On Metacritic, the film earned a favorable rating of 73/100 based on 19 reviews by mainstream critics.
Desson Thomson of the Washington Post wrote the film was "wickedly funny. In fact, Heathers may be the nastiest, cruelest fun you can have without actually having to study law or gird leather products. If movies were food, Heathers would be a cynic's chocolate binge."
Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4 and wrote that the film "...is a morbid comedy about peer pressure in high school, about teenage suicide and about the deadliness of cliques that not only exclude but also maim and kill."
1990 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
- Best Actress: Winona Ryder (nominated)
- Most Promising Actor: Christian Slater (nominated)
- Most Promising Actress: Winona Ryder (nominated)
1989 Deauville Film Festival
- Critics Award: Michael Lehmann (nominated)
1990 Edgar Allan Poe Awards
- Best Motion Picture: Daniel Waters (won)
1990 Independent Spirit Awards
- Best First Feature: Michael Lehmann (director) and Denise Di Novi (producer) (nominated)
- Best Female Lead: Winona Ryder (nominated)
- Best Screenplay: Daniel Waters (nominated)
1989 Sundance Film Festival
- Grand Jury Prize- Dramatic: Michael Lehmann (nominated)
1989 Torino International Festival of Young Cinema
- International Feature Film Competition; Special Mention (for acting; festival title: "Lethal Attraction): Winona Ryder (won)