Not Even One Candle

Things changed since Sixteen Candles in 1984. Fashion, especially. The culturally dated sexism and Asian stereotyping don’t help either.

Yet, aside from those decades old touches, Sixteen Candles doesn’t veer from ordinary high school worries. Those things never change. Puberty, social pressures, stuck lockers; universal teenage truths that persist no matter the generation.

Sixteen Candles still has value. While it predictably ends with the princess and the prince embracing, Samantha’s (Molly Ringwald) daily struggles with her looks, food, forgetful parents, and anxiety continue to resonate. It’s universal. Samantha comes from a 2 ½ kid, upper middle class household; pure Americana, and she wants to date the senior whose dad owns a Rolls-Royce with an “NYSE” vanity license plate. The want to climb the status ladder is central to Sixteen Candles (and flaunted ‘80s wealth).

The ‘80s were what they were, and Sixteen Candles skirts their worst inclinations

Recent years brought embarrassing reality TV in which spoiled rich kids scream about their Sweet 16 parties. Sixteen Candles debunks that idiocy – it’s not about the party, but the experiences around it. Growing up, understanding, accepting; those matter more than gift-wrapped presents and cake. Teens become near-sighted, but what’s waiting as they grow matters more, the takeaway from Sixteen Candles.

Authentic perspective means teens can relate to a worried, depressed Samantha. The adults can laugh at how menial those problems now seem, bringing parents and teens together for a workable dialog. John Hughes brings a definite male value system to Sixteen Candles, with “The Geek” (Anthony Michael Hall) scoring with the school’s popular girl. The fantasy isn’t limited to Samantha.

While Sixteen Candles is at times grossly aggressive, disgusted looks and evil eyes directed to the boys offer a glimmer of the change to come. Treating this all as comedy is potentially dismissive, if also spelling out the farce of a male-dominated social structure. Samantha isn’t weak – just doughy-eyed – standing up for herself, making choices without being forced.

For the routine high school fairy tale, fascination with Wall Street wealth, and discomforting gender gap, Sixteen Candles comes out okay. With John Hughes, it’s the honesty in his work, no matter his own context. The ‘80s were what they were, and Sixteen Candles skirts their worst inclinations to create something lasting and thoughtful, with a want to put women on screen rather than nerdy guys peeking into showers to gawk. When Sixteen Candles uses nudity, it does so to indicate a thought process, and how impossible expectations unfairly target teen women. Until those norms change, Sixteen Candles can never lose its relevancy.


Arrow’s new 4K scan is generally glorious. The newfound texture reveals superb detail in close-ups or those suburban homes in wide shots. Sharpness never loses its luster other than when indicating a dissolve edit. Consistency gives Sixteen Candles a pure, natural look. While the grain thickens compared to other 35mm productions, it’s clear encoding does the work, and no processing is applied to diminish the film stock’s organic feel.

Superlative color reproduction glows, without any sign that digital grading is at play. Primaries excel, bold and pure for the full runtime. Flesh tones land accurately, while bridesmaid’s dresses in the finale never looked so bright. If there’s one area where Sixteen Candles improves the most, it’s here.

That doesn’t mean contrast sags. Black levels succeed too, dense as possible without loss to crush. Hardly any dirt or damage remains on this print either. Restoration makes sure of it.


Multiple options are here, all in DTS-HD. Original theatrical mono and a 5.1 upmix offer excellent clarity. The 5.1 is the better choice, contained primarily to the front soundstage, using the expanded set-up for music. Only a few sound effects break from the center.

Extra is the VHS mix, seemingly an odd choice, until it’s clear that for licensing reasons, the music changed on home video. Having that preserved gives Sixteen Candles a different vibe, and creates an alternative viewing option.


Arrow brings over one DVD feature, a 38-minute retrospective from 2008. Image galleries and trailers partly copy the DVD/previous Blu-ray too.. The value in this release comes from interviews, all new. Casting director Jackie Burch (9:06), actor John Kapelos (6:26), extra Adam Riffkin (8:19), camera operator Gary Kibbe (7:38), and composer Ira Newborn (8:19) provide unique angles given the variety in their work. The best is a chat between Gedde Watanabe and Deborah Pollack (19:20) as they have a blast discussing their parts.

A feminist-based video essay from Soraya Roberts puts Sixteen Candles under the modern microscope, a fantastic breakdown that runs 17-minutes.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Sixteen Candles
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Sixteen Candles isn’t without its uncomfortable ’80s social standards, but pulls through with an honest and authentic story.

User Review
3 (2 votes)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 23 Sixteen Candles screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 100,000+ already in our library), 100 exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.

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