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Risky Business is a 1983 comedy-drama film written by Paul Brickman in his directorial debut. It is best known for being the film that launched Tom Cruise to stardom. The film also stars Rebecca De Mornay as Lana and Joe Pantoliano as Guido. It features Curtis Armstrong as Miles, Richard Masur as Rutherford, the Princeton Universitymarker interviewer, and Bronson Pinchot as Barry.


Joel Goodson (Tom Cruise) is a tame high school student who lives with his wealthy parents in the North Shore area of suburban Chicago. His father wants him to attend Princeton Universitymarker, his alma mater, so Joel participates 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's friend Miles (Curtis Armstrong) convinces him to take advantage of his newfound freedom by having some fun. On the first night, he raids the liquor cabinet, plays the stereo loudly, and dances around the living room in his underwear and pink dress shirt to the tune of "Old Time Rock and Roll". Another night, he races his father's Porsche 928, despite his parents' explicit instruction to drive only his mother's car.

The following day, Miles suggests that Joel contact a call girl. Joel refuses, but Miles calls "Jackie" on his behalf and leaves Joel's address on the answering machine. Jackie (Bruce A. Young) turns out to be a tall, masculine transvestite. Joel sends Jackie away, but before she leaves, she gives Joel the number for Lana, another prostitute, promising that she's what "every white boy off the lake wants".

That night, Joel is unable to sleep and hesitantly calls Lana (Rebecca De Mornay). She visits him that evening, and turns out to be a stunning blonde. They then have sex and spend a heated night together.

The following morning, Lana asks Joel for $300. She agrees to wait while he goes to the bank to get the money; however, when he returns, Lana is gone, along with his mother's expensive Steuben glass egg.

Joel and Miles go to the Drake Hotel, where Jackie says Lana will be. Joel sees Lana, but only waves at her before leaving. As they are leaving, Lana asks Joel for a ride. As they sit in the car, Joel demands the egg back in exchange for the ride. Lana agrees, but as the discussion continues, the car is approached by Lana's pimp, Guido (Joe Pantoliano), who pulls a gun. Joel (in his father's Porsche) is chased in his car by Guido, but eventually escapes.

The next morning, Lana tells Joel that the egg is with the rest of her stuff at Guido's. Joel lets Lana stay while he goes to school. When he returns, his friends are over, and Lana has invited another prostitute, Vicky, to stay. They agree that the stay is only temporary. Later Lana mentions to Joel that "we should get your friends and my friends together. We'd make a lot of money." Joel rejects the idea.

That night, Joel, Lana, Vicky, and Joel's friend Barry (Bronson Pinchot) go out. They get stoned, and while Vicky and Barry wander away, Joel and Lana talk. Joel says something that Lana takes as judgmental, and she leaves. While retrieving her purse from the car, she accidentally bumps the shifter out of gear. Moments later, the car rolls down the hill where Joel has parked and onto a pier. The pier collapses, and his father's Porsche falls into Lake Michiganmarker.

Joel takes the car to a repair shop. Later he goes to school and argues with the school registrar that if his absence is labeled as unexcused, he will fail two midterms. The confrontation causes him to be punished with a five day suspension and his expulsion from Future Enterprisers. Exasperated, he goes to visit Lana, and they are reunited.

Joel and Lana arrange a huge party, turning his parents' house into a brothel for a night. Joel describes arranging the event using the same terms as creating the product for his Future Enterprisers business.

The party is a huge success, and the house is packed with young men and prostitutes. However, Joel has forgotten that the interviewer from Princeton (Richard Masur) is still coming by to evaluate Joel. The interview is plagued by interruptions, and the interviewer does not seem impressed by Joel's resume, telling him: "You've done some solid work, but it's just not Ivy League now, is it?" After the interview, he stays at the party for a while, and is evidently well-treated by Lana's friends. Later, Joel gets a call from his parents, reminding him of their flight home. After the party, Joel and Lana go out and have sex on the Chicago 'L'.

The next morning, Joel finds his house has been burglarized. When he tries to call Lana, Guido answers. He tells Joel that he will let Joel buy back his furniture. Fortunately, Joel and his friends manage to get everything moved back in just as his parents walk in, though his mother notices a crack in her egg. Joel tries to make amends by doing some extra housework. While he is raking the lawn, his father appears and congratulates him: the interviewer was very impressed, and has indicated Joel will be accepted into Princeton.

Later, Joel meets Lana at a restaurant, and they speculate about their future. Joel ponders how their lives will be ten years hence; Lana responds "I think we're both gonna make it big. I'm very optimistic." As they walk, she tells him that she wants to keep on seeing him; he jokes with her that it will cost her, reenacting the earlier scene where Lana asks Joel for $300. The film ends with Joel's voiceover echoing Guido's earlier threat: "Time of your life, huh kid?"

Alternate ending

The newly-remastered 25th-anniversary edition from Warner Home Video offers "both the upbeat studio ending and Mr. Brickman's original, more tentative and melancholic conclusion". In the alternate or "bummer" ending, Joel is also accepted into Dartmouth Collegemarker, and ponders his future with Lana on a rooftop.



The film score was by Tangerine Dream; their songs composed 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, 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.


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." 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."

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".Ebert, Roger. - Review: "Risky Business". - Chicago Sun-Times. - January 1, 1983. - Retrieved July 2, 2008

Ebert continued:
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.
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."

In 2006, the film was 40th 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."

In December 2008, columnist Stephen Metcalf looked at whether Cruise's career "bubble [has, with Valkyrie,] burst," and particularly looked again at Risky Business as not only important to Cruise's then-formative career but also as an important marker of the then-nascent Ronald Reagan and "money" cultures of the 1980s and beyond.

References and parodies

A scene featuring Cruise's character dancing in his pink dress shirt and briefs to Old Time Rock and Roll by Bob Seger has been referenced or parodied in episodes of many television series, films, and advertisements:
  • The Guru , the eponymous main character played by Jimi Mistry auditions for a film while dancing to the song in underwear
  • Duckman episode "Apocalypse Not"
  • Arrested Development, episode "Development Arrested", Ted is dressed like Tom Cruise (sunglasses, collar up, no pants) under the "Risky Business" banner. He can be heard saying "I couldn't see through the glasses and I slid into the ladder", implying he (unsuccessfully) attempted to re-create the famous "sliding in front of the stairs" scene from the film, in front of the ladder. (Although Cruise's character wears Ray-Ban Wayfarers in many scenes, and in promotional materials for the film, they are absent from the lip-syncing scene. Many parodies include the sunglasses nonetheless.)
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, episode "The Philadelphia Story"
  • King of the Hill, episode "Peggy the Boggle Champ"
  • Briefly in the Kappa Mikey episode "Mikey Impossible"
  • Lizzie Mcguire, Season one, episode 10
  • The Lone Gunmen episode "Eine Kleine Frohike"
  • The Nanny, episode "Canasta Masta"
  • NewsRadio, episode "The Lam"
  • Saturday Night Live, Season 11, episode 9 (hosted by Ron Reagan) and Season 19, episode 7 (hosted by Nicole Kidman)
  • The Simpsons, episode "Homer the Heretic" (Homer Simpson dances in a similar fashion, though to a different song)
  • South Park episode "The Wacky Molestation Adventure" (Kyle Broflovski dances to the same song in the same way after his parents are taken away)
  • Doug
  • Saved by the Bell episode "House Party". Zack Morris, A.C. Slater, and Screech Powers dance around in their underwear and sunglasses to The Beach Boys Barbara Ann when Screech's mother leaves them home alone for the weekend.
  • Veronica Mars, episode "Ruskie Business" (which also features a character named "Tom Cruz")
  • Scrubs episode "My Identity Crisis", Dr. Cox, J.D., Turk, and The Todd doesn't dance at all. Dr. Cox slides in, then J.D., Dr. Cox tries to eject J.D. from the dance. Turk slides in only to hear J.D. tell him Cox said no. The Todd slides in with tiny underwear saying, "Fellas, why you wearing such giant underwear?"
  • ALF episode 3 "Looking for Lucky".
  • Married with Children Season 11 episode "Breaking up is Easy to Do, Part 2". (Al Bundy dances to the same song and in the same fashion after moving into his new apartment)
  • Mrs. Doubtfire.
  • Never Been Kissed In a Famous Couples prom theme, Rob dresses up as Cruise in his dance scene in Risky Business
  • The Office Season 2 episode 3, "Office Olympics". Michael Scott, making reference to Risky Business, instructs an employee to "take your pants off, run around."
  • During the finale of season 7 of American Idol, finalists David Cook and David Archuleta appeared in separate identical commercials for the game franchise Guitar Hero, where they each parodied the scene by playing Guitar Hero III. However, Old Time Rock And Roll is not featured in the game.
  • Writer Greg Hudock interviewed Lewis Johnsen (who had documented the history of the Porsche 928 from Risky Business) in the August 2007 issue of Excellence.
  • Episode 218 of The O.C. (called "The Risky Business") also references the film. The episode's plot involves a crystal egg being stolen (supposedly the same prop egg that was used in Risky Business); the rest of the episode is centered on the characters trying to get back the egg. The episode also includes a remake of the film's "throwing the egg like a football" scene. A song from the Risky Business soundtrack, Tangerine Dream's "Love on a Real Train", is also heard during the episode.
  • In a commercial for Guitar Hero World Tour, four athletes parodied the scene with Kobe Bryant on vocals, Alex Rodriguez on guitar, Michael Phelps on bass and Tony Hawk on drums.
  • Two other versions of the Guitar Hero World Tour parody commercial featured supermodel Heidi Klum. In both versions, she lip-synced to the song while dancing around the living room with the wireless guitar controller; the director's cut, however, had her strip to her underwear halfway through the commercial.
  • There was another version of the Guitar Hero commercial with Corbin Bleu.
  • Another commercial in the same vein was created for Guitar Hero: Metallica. It starts with the song's lead-in, but no actors slide into the frame. After the first verse begins, the viewer is shown the outside of the house, where the actual members of Metallica tie the actors, all dressed in dress shirts, sunglasses, and underwear, to a tree. James Hetfield looks towards the camera, proclaims that the band would never allow something so ridiculous in a Metallica commercial, and blow the house up as they walk away, as "All Nightmare Long" plays in the background.
  • Another Guitar Hero Metallica commercial featured coaches of Basketball.
  • The song "Old Time Rock And Roll" is available as downloadable content for Guitar Hero World Tour, and features customised motion capture sequences to mimic elements of the dance.
  • Another of those parodies was played during the NCAA Basketball tournament in March-April 2009. [61203] It included coaches Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, Roy Williams, and Bob Knight as the lead singer - all dressed in the standard pink shirt and boxers.
  • Joey Joey tells Michael that somebody saw him do the 'Famous underwear dance , from Risky Business' in his new house.
  • An advertisement for the live-action Garfield film recreated this scene.
  • The ad for Guitar Hero 5 and the Van Halen expansion features several Playboy bunnies recreating the scene in the Playboy mansion. After several seconds of dancing playmates, the ad shows Hugh Hefner sitting amidst it all, at which point he looks at the camera and states "What? I like variety.", followed by a knowing smirk.


  1. The 50 Best High School Movies Entertainment Weekly
  2. "Risky Business Indeed: Why the Tom Cruise bubble burst" by Stephen Metcalf Slate, December 22, 2008, retrieved December 28, 2008
  3. "Critic's Choice" by Dave Kehr The New York Times. October 6, 2008.
  4. Janet Maslin, Review: "Paul Brickman's Risky Business" The New York Times. August 5, 1983. Retrieved Decenber 12, 2008
  5. J. Maslin NYTimes Ibid.
  6. Review of Risky Business by Variety
  7. Entertainment Weekly's 50 Best High School Movies from
  8. S. Metcalf, Slate Op. cit.
  9. History of the Risky Business Porsche 928
  10. Guitar Hero World Tour Risky Business - Heidi Klum
  11. Guitar Hero World Tour Risky Business - Heidi Klum (Director's Cut)
  12. Corbin Bleu "Guitar Hero Commercial" section

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