AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Director: Randal Kleiser (Dir)
Release Date:   16 Jun 1978
Duration (in mins):  110 or 112
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Cast: John Travolta  (Danny)
  Olivia Newton-John  (Sandy)
  Stockard Channing  (Rizzo)

Summary: As teenagers Danny and Sandy frolic on the beach, Sandy laments that they may not see each other again when the summer holiday ends and she returns to Australia, but Danny insists that their romance is just beginning. Sometime later, on the first day back to class at Rydell High School, Danny brags about his beach lover to his friends in the “T-Bird” gang of boys, also known as “greasers.” However, Danny is unaware that Sandy has not gone back to Australia, after all, and he does not see her as she arrives for her first day of class at Rydell. Meanwhile, a group of tough girls called the “Pink Ladies” rejoice at their newfound authority as high school seniors. At lunch, Sandy’s friend, Frenchy, introduces Sandy to the Pink Ladies: Rizzo, Jan, and Marty. Sandy describes her virtuous summer romance to the girls while Danny, on the other side of campus, recounts his lusty conquest to the greasers. When Sandy reveals the name of her suitor, the girls giggle and Rizzo, who once dated Danny, declares that Sandy may discover her “Prince Charming” where she least expects him. Later, at a pep rally for Rydell’s failing football team, Sandy performs with the cheerleading squad and flirts with football player Tom Chisum. Meanwhile, T-Bird greasers Doody, Sonny, and Putzie inspect a jalopy that the gang’s leader, Kenickie, purchased with earnings from his summer job. Kenickie insists that with a little work, the car will be a perfect place to seduce young women. The Pink Ladies plot a surprise reunion between Sandy and Danny, then lead their Australian friend to Kenickie’s car. Although the couple is initially delighted to reconnect, Danny realizes that his friends disapprove of his chivalrous banter and assumes a disaffected tone to shrug her off. Confused and hurt, Sandy calls Danny a “fake” and runs away in tears. Frenchy consoles Sandy by inviting her to a Pink Lady slumber party. There, Sandy tries in vain to smoke cigarettes, drink wine, and have her ears pierced to fit in with the girls, but the girls mock Sandy’s prudery. Frenchy announces that she is dropping out of Rydell to attend beauty school. When the T-Birds arrive in search of Sandy, Rizzo climbs out the window and seduces Kenickie. Frustrated by breaking with Sandy, Danny storms away as Kenickie and Rizzo drive off in the jalopy. Back at the slumber party, Sandy mourns the loss of Danny and reflects that she is “hopelessly devoted” to him. Meanwhile, at a lovers’ lookout, Kenickie realizes the condom he bought in 7th grade is broken and Rizzo, in the heat of passion, decides to make love anyway. The couple is interrupted by Leo, the leader of the Scorpions, a rival gang, and his girl friend, Cha Cha, who back into the jalopy and leave another dent. Back at Rydell, the T-Birds convene at shop class with Kenickie’s car and Danny tells his friends how they can transform the vehicle into “greased lightning.” Sometime later at Frosty Palace, a local diner, Danny is upset at seeing Sandy sharing an ice cream sundae with Tom Chisum, the football player. When Sandy goes to the jukebox, Danny apologizes for his behavior and makes fun of Tom, but Sandy accuses him of jealousy and criticizes his poor athleticism. Back at Rydell, Danny seeks physical education from Coach Calhoun, but the boy is unable to conform to game rules and, as a last resort, Calhoun puts Danny on the track team. Sometime later, Sandy sees Danny trip over a track hurdle and consoles him; the couple rekindles their romance and plan to go to the upcoming dance contest. On a date at Frosty Palace, Danny is eager to conceal their relationship but the T-Birds and Pink Ladies congregate at their table. As Rizzo and Kenickie fight, the diner closes and the friends disperse. Lingering behind, Frenchy confesses to Vi, the waitress, that she dropped out of beauty school. She fantasizes about a teen angel, who encourages her to go back to Rydell. Later, at school, Rizzo makes Kenickie jealous by seducing his rival, Leo, and then arriving at the nationally televised dance contest as Leo’s date. In response, Kenickie partners with Leo’s girl friend and Danny’s former lover, Cha Cha. After Principal McGee and Coach Calhoun explain the rules of the contest, National Bandstand host Vince Fontaine launches the dance-off and begins eliminating contestants. With Sandy and Danny in the lead, Cha Cha breaks into their routine. Sandy runs away in tears as Danny and Cha Cha are declared champions and sway to “Blue Moon.” Sandy and Danny later reunite at a drive-in movie theater, even though she is still upset about Cha Cha. Her mood improves when Danny gives her a ring to symbolize his loyalty. Meanwhile, in the bathroom, Rizzo tells Pink Lady Marty that she might be pregnant and the rumor spreads throughout the drive-in. Kenickie assumes he is responsible, so he offers to help Rizzo, but she claims the baby belongs to another boy and Kenickie is hurt by her infidelity. In Danny’s car, Sandy is dismayed by his attempts to kiss her and runs away after tossing his ring into the car. Danny laments their split and hopes they will one day stay together forever. Sometime later, shop class teacher Mrs. Murdock admires Kenickie’s refurbished car and wishes the T-Bird boys well in their race against Leo and the Scorpions at Thunder Road. In a dry concrete riverbed, Leo announces that the winner of the race will be awarded ownership of their rival’s vehicle. When Kenickie is momentarily knocked unconscious by the car door, Danny takes over as driver. Sandy watches from afar as Danny wins the race and is celebrated as a hero. She wishes to fit into Danny’s crowd and asks Frenchy to help her transform her uptight image. At a carnival on the last day of school, Rizzo tells Kenickie that she is not pregnant after all, and they make up. Danny arrives in a letterman sweater that he earned on the track team, hoping his new look will impress Sandy. He tells the T-Birds that he will stop at nothing to win Sandy back. Just then, Sandy shows up in a skin tight, black ensemble. Electrified by Sandy’s new appearance, Danny peels off his sweater and falls at her feet, where she stamps out her cigarette and warns him that he “better shape up.” The T-Birds and Pink Ladies worry they might not remain friends after graduation, but Danny insists they will always be together.  

Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures Corporation
Production Company: Allan Carr Enterprises, Inc.
Stigwood Group, Ltd.
Director: Randal Kleiser (Dir)
  Neil A. Machlis (Unit prod mgr)
  Jerry Grandey (Asst dir)
  Lynn Morgan (2d asst dir)
  Paula Marcus (2d asst dir)
  Wally Samson (Prod mgr [Studio features])
Producer: Robert Stigwood (Prod)
  Allan Carr (Prod)
  Neil A. Machlis (Assoc prod)
Writer: Bronté Woodard (Scr)
  Allan Carr (Adpt)

Subject Major: Adolescents
  High schools
  High school students
Subject Minor: Automobile mechanics
  Automobile racing
  Cosmetology and cosmetologists
  Diners (Restaurants)
  Football players
  Pep rallies
  Personality change
  Premarital sex
  Track and field athletics
  Unrequited love

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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