The Dark R-Rated 80s Teen Comedy On Streaming That Defined A Generation

By Brian Myers | Updated


The 1988 film Heathers not only helped launch the careers of three of its stars but also captured the cynicism and black humor that grew to become two of the defining characteristics of Generation X. The film’s dark subject matter is remarkably lightened with Daniel Waters’ script and director Michael Lehmann’s touches, who both worked to produce a movie that was the polar opposite of the more optimistic teen films of the John Landis/John Hughes era.


Heathers follows high school student Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) who inadvertently falls into the popular girl clique at Westerburg High School. The three girls she runs with are snarky, cruel, and from wealthy families, and seem to revel in making life harder for anyone they believe is beneath their station in life. Heather Chandler (Kim Walker), Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk), and Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty) are collectively known as “The Heathers,” and serve as a group that Veronica strives to separate from.

JD And Veronica

Enter a new guy J.D. (Christian Slater), who becomes the object of Veronica’s affection. His zany behavior includes firing a gun (loaded with blanks) at bully football players and a fascination with explosives. He and Veronica quickly bond and concoct a plan for revenge on Heather Chandler after the snobby girl had a falling out with Veronica at a party.

In true black comedy fashion, Heathers has the worst-case scenario come to life multiple times throughout its 103-minute run. J.D. and Veronica end up killing Heather Chandler, setting off a course of events that lead to insane murder plots that culminate into an explosive ending.

Heathers follows the darkest of plotlines but successfully pulls off becoming a comedy with its quirky one-liners and outrageous plot twists. The film itself is the penultimate definition of irony captured on celluloid, as each action taken by J.D. and Veronica have the most unintended consequences imaginable. Though entirely unbelievable, the writing and the characters are able to make the environment and the vibe of the film familiar and leave you wanting a bit more.

Winona Ryder

Heathers gives a great look at Winona Ryder’s jump from little Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice) into teen comedy and drama roles that would be her mainstay in the years before her co-starring role on Stranger Things. The movie certainly made her a commodity in Hollywood and elevated her to elite status among Gen X audiences.

Christian Slater

The same could be said for Christian Slater, who’s J.D. made it possible for the actor to be cast in offbeat comedy films Kuffs and Pump Up the Volume. He and Ryder play off one another without missing a beat and are truly one of the film’s components that shine the brightest.

Stream It Now


Heathers proved to be well ahead of its time, but the cult status it quickly earned made filmmakers pay attention to a new subset within teen audiences who wanted so much more out of films than love stories and happy endings. Its legacy is far reaching, as Slackers, Reality Bites, and Jawbreaker would likely not have been made if not for the example set by this underappreciated 1988 film. Heathers gets 4.0/5.0-stars for its acting, hilarious screenwriting, and the overall vibe that Lehmann was able to capture with the project. 

You can stream Heathers for free with Roku, Tubi, and Pluto, or rent it On Demand with Google Play, Prime, and AppleTV.