Movie Summary of "Sixteen Candles"

by Christi Aldridge

Many of us grew up quoting the John Hughes classic "Sixteen Candles." If you melted over Jake Ryan and laughed about Long Duk Dong, then you are probably familiar with this hit from 1984. The movie, starring a young Molly Ringwald, helped put teen movies on the map and made stars out of then-unknown actors Ringwald, John Cusack and Anthony Michael Hall.


The main character of the movie is Samantha Baker, played by Ringwald. She is the prototypical teen girl who is not in the popular clique but does have a best friend, a loving family, and boys who notice her. Other main characters include Jake Ryan, the dreamy boy Sam has a crush on, played by Michael Schoeffling, and Ted, a geeky guy who is in love with Sam, who is played by Anthony Michael Hall. Samantha's parents, little brother, and both sets of grandparents appear prominently, as well as a foreign-exchange student named Long Duk Dong, played by Gedde Watanabe. Samantha's sister Ginny and Jake's girlfriend Caroline are supporting female characters.

The Beginning

The movie revolves around Samantha, who is turning 16. Instead of a big birthday celebration from her family or even a "Happy birthday" when she wakes up on her special day, she is completely overlooked because her beautiful older sister, Ginny, is getting married. It is revealed that Samantha is carrying a torch for Jake Ryan, who -- she thinks -- doesn't even notice her. She inadvertently passes a sex quiz to Jake at school after answering questions about her virginity and how she feels about him, not knowing he is interested in her. Samantha ends the school day finding out that both sets of grandparents, along with a strange foreign-exchange student, have become guests in her family's home.

Plot Points

Samantha is forced to take exchange student Long Duk Dong with her to the school dance, where he immediately finds a girlfriend, much to Samantha's chagrin. She laments her situation with her best friend and tries to avoid the advances of Ted, a geeky freshman who is obviously in love with her and wants to take her out on a date. He admits to Samantha that Jake briefly asked him about her, and she has a hard time believing that Jake would be interested in her since his girlfriend, Caroline, is the most popular girl in school and very beautiful. But Samantha lends her underwear to Ted for the information, and he allows other geeks to look at it for a dollar apiece so he can win a bet. The characters venture to a wild party at Jake's house, where the night ends with Jake confessing his feelings about Samantha to Ted.

Ending and Spoilers

Samantha survives the party, which turns out a success for Ted when he's given the keys to Jake's car and allowed to drive an inebriated Caroline home, which Jake facilitates with the promise of keeping Samantha's underwear for himself. Despite the fact that Samantha's life seems utterly chaotic, somehow her sister's wedding ends up happening despite the fact that Ginny ingests too many pain pills and makes a fool of herself during the ceremony. A surprised Samantha finally gets the birthday present she really wanted when Jake shows up at the church after the wedding, and they share a birthday cake together during the sweetest and most iconic scene in the movie.