6 Scenes We Love From ‘Dazed and Confused’

By  · Published on March 10th, 2013

It won’t officially be the 20th anniversary of Dazed and Confused until this fall, but last Thursday the film was honored at the annual Texas Hall of Fame Awards, where it received the Star of Texas Award from presenter Quentin Tarantino. In person to accept were writer-director Richard Linklater and members of the cast, including Wiley Wiggins, Anthony Rapp and Joey Lauren Adams. To continue the film’s recognition, it seemed fitting to devote this week’s Scenes We Love to the 1993 high school movie classic.

Dazed is not the sort of feature that is easily broken up by scenes. There are many memorable moments, a lot of quotable lines, but as far as individual scenes are concerned there aren’t many that can be bracketed and labeled so cleanly. There are definable acts marked by location, such as the school act, the Emporium act and the beer bust/moon tower act. Are the many distinct pieces of each of these sections qualifiable as scenes? Obviously I’m thinking too much about it. I feel like this is a conversation for Tony, Mike and Cynthia to have while cruising around. Clearly those geeks were the ones I most identified with when the movie came out during my junior year.

As usual feel free to name your own favorite scenes or those you think are the “best.” You can find six scenes I love and the personal reasons why after the jump.

Freshman Hazing

Fortunately, by the time Dazed arrived I was already well into high school. So, I escaped the time for being hazed (I did get my share of shit, however, since I entered freshman year as my brother and his friends became seniors). But even though I was a junior when I saw it, and some friends and I contemplated the idea of taking inspiration from the film once June came around, it never happened. Partly because you kind of need a whole community involved or at least accepting of it (as is noted by Tony and Mike), and in the middle of 1994 the movie was still not so widely known in my area, and partly because it is actually pretty mean and creepy, especially to go after young strangers and spank them.

Freshmen Hazing

Mailbox Revenge

A lot of the aimless cruising and hanging out in Dazed is what makes it so identifiable to most teenagers. And it’s timeless, which is why it shares a bond with American Graffiti and why both films continue to resonate with kids generation after generation. The kinds of trouble they get into in this film, though, is not necessarily familiar, although it may still be relatable in concept. Personally, I would never have destroyed people’s property, as the guys do with their destruction of mailboxes – an act that must not have been so rare given we see something similar in Stand By Me – but I did a fair share of stupid shit and occasionally got caught or harassed as a result, whether it was a private or legal matter. There’s nothing more thrilling than acting a fool and nothing more frightening than being snagged or stopped by someone out of the blue like what happens to the boys in the scene below. Once I had a cop yell in my face, “Where is the hookah!” Unlike the characters in Dazed, though, I actually did not know what that was at the time.

Mailbox Man’s Revenge

High School Girls

This is one of those “scenes” that’s really just a famous line. Why do we all love such a creepy statement? Would it have worked from any other actor than Matthew McConaughey? For better or worse, too, it’s not the only instance of Humbert-esque behavior. With Wooderson alone there’s the counterpoint scene in which he tries to pick up Cynthia (Marissa Ribisi) – “I love those redheads” – and Mike (Adam Goldberg) disgustedly yet humorously responds with, “Do you realize that when he graduated we were three years old?” But then his buddy Tony is on the same path making out with girls barely out of middle school, and that whole “will you marry me?” part of the hazing gets overly lewd in general. Add the instance where Dawson (Sasha Jenson) hits on a teacher and you’ve got a whole number of levels of inappropriateness between the ages.

High School Girls

Gilligan’s Island Fantasy

I didn’t care much for this little moment 20 years ago, but now it’s an interesting minor, expendable scene because it’s such a ’90s film nerd filmmaker kind of thing. That pop culture reference and theorizing that we mostly associate with Tarantino films (still). Sure, Gilligan’s Island isn’t a film, but the media analysis thing isn’t limited to long jokes about the plot of King Kong being mistaken for “the story of the negro in America.” It can be about the sexual fantasy behind a TV series or the meaning of a Madonna song or anything of that nature. One thing, though: Mrs. Howell should have been included. She’s married and in her 60s, but she’s no beast and also she’s rich. And given that Natalie Shafer was 13 years older than Jim Backus (Thurston Howell, III), she apparently liked younger guys.

Ben Affleck Gets Painted

As if Ben Affleck’s directorial debut wasn’t bad enough, he also made his major acting breakthrough the same year in this movie playing its least likable character (even next to Nicky Katt’s Clint and a guy we all understand to be a statutory rapist), who gets the most humiliating scene. Also, he’s much huskier than in any other movie since. Watching the now-two-time-Oscar-winner (neither for acting) in Dazed, I get hopeful that he’ll one day wind up playing villains again on a regular basis. Maybe he’ll even gain the weight back and then some. He could wind up my generation’s Orson Welles! On a separate note, isn’t it weird that O’Bannion’s name is Fred? Affleck doesn’t look like a Fred. Actually, a lot of the first names of Dazed characters seem strange when you think about them because we mostly hear them called their last names throughout the film. Wooderson’s name is David? That doesn’t seem to fit.

Just Keep L-I-V-I-N

A mantra so nice and uttered so memorably that McConaughey has not only never been able to shake this dialogue but he’s turned it into an organization called the j.k. livin foundation, which is committed to empowering teenagers. I’m not sure if part of that guidance has anything to do with the antiauthoritarianism and endorsement of drugs and underage alcohol usage central to this scene, and I presume it’s not okay with twentysomething philanderers with a think for high school girls. But anyway. One of my favorite parts of this scene is the dialogue of Dawson (I don’t know why, but I liked this character so much that I started wearing overalls regularly after seeing the film), and another is the barely noticeable bit where Slater (Rory Cochrane) throws a joint or something and it bounces off Shavonne (Deena Martin) and lands right back in front of him. It’s the little things I love like that.

Just Keep Livin’

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.