Celebrate Dazed and Confused’s 30th Anniversary With These Five Iconic Moments

Some of the memorable moments that make Richard Linklater’s teen comedy an unforgettable masterpiece

30 years ago, writer-director Richard Linklater released Dazed and Confused, his semi-autobiographical comedy about a Texas high school. Set in 1976 on the last day of classes at Lee High School, the film chronicles the experiences of different students as they wander into the next phase of their lives. 

When the film was released, Entertainment Weekly wrote, “Once every decade or so, a movie captures the hormone-drenched, fashion-crazed, pop-song-driven rituals of American youth culture with such loving authenticity that it comes to seem a kind of anthem, as innocently giddy and spirited as the teenagers it’s about.” Over the decades, fans returned to the film over and over again, quoting their favorite lines and remembering the different characters.

Many of the young, once-unknown cast—Milla JovovichAdam GoldbergParker PoseyRenée ZellwegerCole HauserBen Affleck, and Matthew McConaughey—graduated from Linklater’s film to become full-fledged movie stars. Even recently, Slant named it “an unimpeachable American masterpiece,” and Variety described it as “one of the defining American independent films of the 1990s and one of the most beloved cult classics of all time.”

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, we are recalling some of the memorable lines and unforgettable scenes that make Dazed and Confused a classic.

David Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) in Dazed and Confused

David Wooderson | “Alright, alright, alright”

Perhaps the three most famous words in Dazed and Confused are “alright, alright, alright.” Local slacker David Wooderson (McConaughey) utters these words from his car while hanging with the school stoner Ron Slater (Rory Cochrane). The lines were improvised by McConaughey. McConaughey told The Independent, “Wooderson's about four things: he's about cars, weed, rock 'n' roll, and chicks.” With Wooderson sitting in his Chevelle getting high listening to Ted Nugent, McConaughey thought, “Buddy, you got three out of four. Alright, alright, alright!”

Darla Marks (Parker Posey) in Dazed and Confused

Darla Marks | “Wipe that face off your head”

As Darla Marks, Posey plays one of cinema’s most magnificent mean girls. In her memoir, You're on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing MemoirPosey describes her character as “one of those my feelings are facts people, one of those drama queens.” As a senior, she takes it upon herself to humiliate incoming freshmen girls. At the local Dairy Queen, she and her team make their victims lay down on the ground as they squirt them with mustard and ketchup and cover them with flour and raw eggs. Linklater adds insult to this injury by playing War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends” over the scene. One of Darla’s best lines, “Wipe that face off your head,” came directly from Posey’s own experience. As she once explained, the line came from a bad translation of Bertolt Brecht she read in college.

Anthony Rapp, Adam Goldberg, and Marissa Ribisi in Dazed and Confused

Mike Newhouse | “I’m just trying to be honest about being a misanthrope”

Driving around town with Cynthia Dunn (Marissa Ribisi) and Tony Olson (Anthony Rapp), the class’s budding intellectuals, Mike Newhouse (Goldberg), explains his decision not to go to law school by saying, “I’m just trying to be honest about being a misanthrope.” Having only one film credit before Dazed and Confused, Goldberg’s memorable take on being a nervous, nerdy teen helped launch his career. MovieWeb recounts how Steven Spielberg was impressed by his performance and cast him for Saving Private Ryan five years later.

Cynthia Dunn (Marissa Ribisi) and Tony Olson (Anthony Rapp) in Dazed and Confused

Cynthia Dunn | "If we're all going to die anyway, shouldn't we enjoy ourselves now?"

Cynthia (Ribisi) was cruising about town with Tony and Mike, talking about brewskis and philosophizing about Dionysian way, when she utters the declaration that could easily serve as the principle of her generation. Ribisi began her acting career early appearing in various TV shows. Dazed and Confused marked her ascension to adulthood as her first part in a feature film.

Dan O'Bannion (Ben Affleck) in Dazed and Confused

Dan O’Bannion | “This first lick I'd like to dedicate to your mother”

Ben Affleck plays Dan O’Bannion, one of the most memorable characters in the film. A senior who supposedly flunked out so he could repeat his senior year, O’Bannion has no interest in entering the real world. He would rather hold on to his identity as a ruling member of the high school class, carrying out school rituals, like hazing incoming freshmen. Indeed, he gleefully spends his last day of school hunting down freshmen, first tracking down Mitch’s best friend Carl, then trapping Mitch after he wins a baseball game. Linklater choreographed the scene where a gang of seniors led by O’Bannion descend on Mitch with Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

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