The Gen-X touchstone turns 20 on Tuesday, which means it's just a few years from chain-smoking and pontificating about consumerism

By Nate Jones
February 18, 2014 01:00 PM
Universal Studios

Reality Bites turns 20 on Tuesday, which means the Gen-X classic is just a few short years away from chain-smoking and pontificating about post-college consumerism.

Two decades later, the film has become a ’90s touchstone, as well as an underrated romcom classic – just whisper the name “Troy Dyer” to a woman over 30 and you’ll be treated to an elaborate analysis on the romantic appeal of dudes in bands.

To celebrate the film’s entry into its post-grad years, we’ve outlined the 20 best things about Reality Bites.

1. How it launched a million crushes on Winona Ryder

Heathers set them up, and Reality Bites knocked them down: At the time of its release, Ryder didn’t have to pay for a drink for the rest of the decade.

2. Ethan Hawke‘s hair



“That character got me more attention from girls than anything I’ve ever done in my life,” Hawke told the New York Times. “If a woman I don’t know is coming up to me on the train, there’s a good chance she’s going to tell me that she had the poster of Reality Bites in her dorm room.

3. The lovable pretension of all its characters

Ah, the ’90s, when “I was valedictorian!” was considered a valid excuse for turning down a minimum-wage job.

4. That poster

The Reality Bites theatrical poster
Universal Studios

Love. Trust. Relationships. Credit cards. Movie poster. Irony!

5. The “My Sharona” dance sequence

And thus the trend of ironic dance parties was born.

6. … Which prevented Quentin Tarantino from using the song in Pulp Fiction

It would have played during the the infamous “Gimp” scene. (NSFW!)

7. The film launched Lisa Loeb’s career

Loeb got on the movie’s soundtrack after her friend Ethan Hawke convinced director Ben Stiller to listen to “Stay.” When the film’s soundtrack blew up, Loeb became the first unsigned artist to have a no. 1 hit.

8. Its totally ’90s obsession with pop-culture references

A scourge that, as this very list proves, we are still living under today.

9. And this classic moment about the nature of irony

Is this exchange itself ironic? Debate the topic with your friends for the next 15 years.

10. The soundtrack, which mixed unknowns and A-Listers to classic effect

The only time Me Phil Me was placed on the same bill with U2.

11. The way it proves that all generations were annoyingly self-involved in their twenties

Not just the current one.

12. The way Winona’s choice of Ethan Hawke over Ben Stiller goes from obvious to embarrassing as you get older

Is it a sign of maturity, or a disheartening look at the corporatization of culture in the years since the film’s release? Ethan Hawke argues it’s the latter: “The movie was probably one of the last moments when the girl makes the decision to go with the poor, self-serious dude. A theme of the movie is how money and corporate thinking was taking over everything.”

13. The slacker manifesto: “This is all we need – you, me and five bucks”

Which also gave birth to one of our favorite YouTube comments, which could have been taken from the film itself: “The tobacco and coffee beans cost way more than $5: there is a massive infrastructure that brings the smokes and joe to them. Not to mention the big city they live in which, again, is supported by an Infrastructure Monster that must be fed. ”

14. The immortal line “You look like a doily”

It was meant as a compliment. We think.

15. Janeane Garofalo!

Universal Studios

The first film of many she would steal.

16. Steve Zahn!

Universal Studios

The first film of many he would steal.

17. The many future famous people in small roles

Universal Studios

David Spade as a burger flipper! Andy Dick as a video guy! Renée Zellweger as a blonde!

18. Its understated treatment of social issues

Vickie (Garofalo) has a subplot about HIV, and Sammy (Zahn) struggles with coming out, and each of these issues is treated respectfully without defining their character.

19. The way teens on tumblr are still making inspirational GIFs out of it

If you’re looking for a female friendship to idolize, the one between Lainey and Vickie is a fine one to start with.

20. Its calming lesson for everyone suffering through post-grad malaise

“All you have to be by the time you’re 23 is yourself.” Hannah Horvath couldn’t have said it better.

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