The Dark 90s Crime Comedy With A Knockout Cast Makes You Feel Bad For Laughing, Stream Without Netflix Now

By Brian Myers | Published

The end of the 1990s saw a surge of teen comedy and horror films, with 10 Things I Hate About You, Cruel Intentions, and The Faculty resonating with the coming-of-age crowd in a way that the John Hughes films a decade prior did with the previous generation of high school students. But not all films followed the tested Hollywood formulas for success. Instead, they pulled from older inspirations in order to create an entry a bit more unique. The 1999 film Jawbreaker is the penultimate example of a studio’s deviance from market-tested material that led to a teen comedy drastically different than any of the others on screens that summer.

Popular Girls’ Twisted Prank

Jawbreaker is the story of four popular girls at Reagan High School. The ruthless leader Courtney (Rose McGowan) is as cruel as she is beautiful, her wickedness offset by Liz’s (Charlotte Ayanna) gentle nature. Rounding out the quartet of uber-popular teens are Marcie (Julie Benz) and Jules (Rebecca Gayheart).

On the morning of Liz’s 17th birthday, she is snatched from her home, tied up and gagged by her three friends and shoved into the trunk of a car. Before affixing the gag, the ladies shoved a jawbreaker in her mouth.

Death And Cover-Up

The plan was to drive her to breakfast before school, but when they go to retrieve her from the trunk, they find that Liz has choked on the jawbreaker and died as a result of the prank. When outcast Fern later catches the ladies with Liz’s dead body, she is brought into the fold with the promise of beauty and popularity if she keeps her trap shut. With the new name of Vylette, Liz’s star quickly rises as one clique member, Julie, distances herself out of guilt.

A Predictable End

Jawbreaker continues with the aftermath of the accidental death leading to attempting to frame an innocent man, friendships being torn apart, and an ending that is fairly predictable.

Along with McGowan and Gayheart, horror fans will see some familiar faces in Jawbreaker. P.J. Soles (Halloween) and William Katt (House) both have cameos, as do Carol Kane, Marilyn Manson, and Jeff Conaway.

Collision of Influences

Jawbreaker is a head-on collision of the 1988 cult film Heathers with George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, relying on age-old film and literature tropes to carry a film through the entirety of its 87-minute running time.

Its use of sardonic humor plays perfectly over its use of stark contrasts as the bright, vivid colors on screen seem to magnify rather than reflect the dark humor and overtones. Jawbreaker is a story that is familiar in so many ways, yet still succeeds with great surprises that begin the moment the lid of the trunk is opened.

Malevolence Shines

Jawbreaker doesn’t have A-level acting, but it doesn’t need to. The malevolence that lurks beneath the surface of Courtney and Marcie’s designer clothes and striking faces is played well by McGowan and Benz, which is really all the acting the film needed to get its point across. Gayheart and Greer have somewhat decent performances in the film but are both far outshined by McGowan.

Styling And Soundtrack


The film deserves recognition for its costuming and sets, both of which serve it well as a contrast to the massive levels of dark comedy. Jawbreaker also has the perfect score and soundtrack to fit nearly every scene transition, with Veruca Salt, The Donnas, and Imperial Teen helping to give the movie the right vibe of the era. You can stream Jawbreaker for free with Pluto, or rent it On Demand with Vudu, AppleTV, Google Play, and Prime.