Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Reality Bites (1994)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Reality Bites (1994)

In director/actor Ben Stiller's debut film, a soundtrack-filled, coming of age, definitive Generation-X cult film, it was set amongst a group of disenfranchised, self-conscious college graduates (post-Baby Boomers) in Houston, Texas - with the tagline: "A Comedy About Love in the 90's":

  • in the film's opening, the main character: Lelaina Pierce (Winona Ryder), a college graduate, delivered a valedictorian speech on a makeshift stage in the middle of a baseball stadium's field (filmed with a videocamera); she expressed her dissatisfaction with the consumeristic world and the Baby-Boomer sell-out: ("And they wonder why those of us in our twenties refuse to work an eighty-hour work week just so we can afford to buy their BMWs. Why we aren’t interested in the counterculture that they invented, as if we did not see them disembowel their revolution for a pair of running shoes. But the question remains. What are we going to do now? How can we repair all the damage we inherited? Fellow graduates, the answer is simple. The answer is...") - but she flubbed by misplacing one of the note cards of her speech and began to nervously fumble; she ended with an inane ad lib: ("The answer is...I don't know") - the audience erupted with applause and cheers
Post Graduation: On a Houston Skyscraper Rooftop
(Winona Ryder)
(Janeane Garofalo)
(Ethan Hawke)
  • after the ceremony, the four main Generation X characters celebrated by drinking beers on a skyscraper rooftop to the sounds of Alice Cooper's "School’s Out For Summer," while Lelaina documented (by jerky and fuzzy videotape) the thoughts of her friends about their futures (Lelaina: "I'd like to somehow make a difference in people's lives" Troy: "And I-I would like to buy them all a Coke" Lelaina: "And you wonder why we never got involved"); the documentary excerpt ended with the group singing "Conjunction Junction" (from Schoolhouse Rock!)
  • for a post-college career, Lelaina settled as a frustrated production assistant at a Houston TV station for a hosted talk show, Good Morning, Grant!, led by rude and obnoxious Mr. Grant Gubler (John Mahoney), while really wishing to be a videographer; she was filming a documentary called Reality Bites about the lives of her friends and roommates, infused with her anti-consumer and anti-yuppie viewpoints; she was warned about messing up her morning TV news host/boss' cue cards
  • the various characters in her life included her two roommates in a "Maxi-Pad": (1) an earthy, GAP-working, 70's disco-loving, sexually-active Vickie Miner (Janeane Garofalo), and (2) Lelaina's soul-pal - a smart, anti-capitalistic, self-centered, unemployed, alienated, brooding, and aspiring grunge rock musician Troy Dyer (Ethan Hawke) for his band "Hey, That’s My Bike"; also often included was Vickie's celibate and gay friend Sammy Gray (Steve Zahn); Troy moved in with the two females after being fired from his news-stand job, although Lelaina was not happy with his slacker attitude ("You are a master at the art of time suckage")
  • the scene (after a car accident between them) of Lelaina meeting with materialistic, corporate-oriented Michael Grates (Ben Stiller) - a video executive for a youth-oriented MTV-type network titled: "In Your Face TV"
Video Executive Michael (Ben Stiller) with Lelaina
  • the scene of the post-collegiate roommates-friends spontaneously dancing inside a gas station Food Mart (while buying junk food at the convenience store with Lelaina's gas credit card given to her by her father for one year) to the Knack's song "My Sharona" on the radio; when buying Evian water, Vickie proclaimed: "Evian is naive spelled backwards"
Convenience Store Binge Buying
and Dance: "My Sharona"
  • the scene of the friends recalling their favorite Good Times episodes ("Thelma's husband Keith has got vodka hidden in the toilet", or "JJ's prom date") when the TV show was airing, just as Mike arrived to pick up Lelaina for a first-time dinner date; he was supportive of her video documentary on his network when she described it: "It's really about people who are trying to find their own identity without having any real role models or heroes or anything"; she openly admitted: "I'm a non-practicing virgin"; after dinner, in the back seat of his convertible, they both drank 44-ounce Big Gulp soft drinks (Lelaina: "You get one. You have your essential vitamins and nutrients for the entire day") before kissing and having sex
Their Date: Drinking 44-ounce 'Big Gulps'
and Kissing Before Car Sex
  • the predictable developing love triangle between Troy, Lelaina and Michael; Troy jealously reacted to Lelaina's date: "I just would have liked to have been there to watch how you rationalized sleeping with a yuppy-head cheeseball on the first date....He's the reason why Cliff Notes were invented" - she was fed up with his reaction: ("Go to hell!")
  • Troy's cynical philosophy of life - video-recorded: "There's no point to any of this. It's all just a-a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes. So I take pleasure in the details. You know, a Quarter-Pounder with cheese, those are good, the sky about ten minutes before it starts to rain, the moment where your laughter become a cackle, and I sit back and I-I smoke my Camel Straights and I ride my own melt"
  • meanwhile, Lelaina was fired from her TV show for deliberately sabotaging the cue cards of her boss (after she overhead him threatening to fire her); his cue cards read: "Personally, I've always had an odd preference for very, very young girls. I, uh, uh, - being a total prick") - the audience was stunned
  • the sequence of chain-smoking Lelaina going into a downward spiral of interviewing for dozens of job, talking to a phone psychic, snacking, and laying around all day long; Vickie was upset: ("What are you doing? You lay on that couch all day. Those pajamas are like your uniform. You run up a four-hundred dollar phone bill. You watch TV. You chain-smoke. You don't go outside. You don't do anything. Man, you are in the bell jar"); with "ingenuity," she began using her father's gas credit card to finance everything
  • the development of a crisis in Vickie's promiscuous life - fearing that she was HIV-positive (after sex), she had an AIDS test at a free clinic; she confided in Lelaina at a coffee shop that she dreamt that she was an AIDS-dying character on "Melrose Place" and worried that all her friends would attend her funeral insensitively wearing halter tops: ("Every day, all day, it's all that I think about, OK? Every time I sneeze, it's like I'm four sneezes away from the hospice, and it's like it's not even happening to me. It's like I'm watching it on some crappy show like "Melrose Place" or some s--t, right? And I'm the new character, I'm the HIV-AIDS character, and I live in the building and I teach everybody that it's OK to be near me, it's OK to talk to me, and then I die. And there's everybody at my funeral wearing halter tops or chokers or some s--t like that"); Lelaina awkwardly consoled her: "It's gonna be OK, you know? I know it's gonna be OK. 'Melrose Place' is a really good show"
  • Lelaina's shocking realization during a special premiere screening of her video titled 'Reality Bites' - after selling her thoughtfully-made, non-commercialized video documentary to Michael's network - that it was recut and re-edited into a stylized, market-ready Real World-like reality show montage ("That was not my work, Michael. That's not what I did. That's not what I want. It had nothing! I can't believe I trusted you!...They cut up everything that meant anything to me!")
Lelaina Shocked at Screening of 'Reality Bites'
  • after the disastrous showing, Lelaina commiserated with Troy about her disappointment and expressed her rosy view of life: "You know, I know it sounds stupid, but it really meant something to me. I know it wasn't gonna, you know, end world hunger, you know, or save the planet, but it just meant something to me. I just don't understand why things just can't go back to normal at the end of the half hour like on The Brady Bunch or something"; Troy responded: "Well, because Mr. Brady died of A.I.D.S. Things don't work out like that"; Lelaina was downtrodden: "I was really gonna be something by the age of twenty-three"; Troy advised: "Honey, all you have to be by the age of twenty-three is yourself," but she had lost confidence in herself: "I don't know who that is anymore"
  • that night, Lelaina decided to sleep with Troy when he professed that he loved her; by the next night at the Joint where Troy had a gig, Vickie had heard about it and told Lelaina: "Sex is the quickest way to ruin a friendship" - followed by their immediate break-up; Troy panicked from the intimacy ("I've never had sex with somebody that I loved before"), fled town and then unexpectedly had to attend his father's funeral in Chicago
  • they reconciled a week later when he returned via taxi; on the front walkway, he apologized, and again professed his love for her: "I kinda got this arcane glimpse at the universe. And the best thing that I can say about that is, uh. I don't know. I- I have this, this planet of regret sitting on my shoulders. And you have no idea how much I wish that I could go back to that morning after we made love and do everything different. But I know that I can't, so I thought that I would come here and tell you something. And what I wanted to tell you was that I love you, and, uh, just wanted to make sure that that was clear so that there wasn't any confusion. Umh, so anyway, uh..."; they passionately embraced and kissed
  • the film's last lines included a phone answering machine's pickup with Troy's recorded announcement: ("At the beep, please leave your name, number, and a brief justification for the ontological necessity of modern man's existential dilemma. and we'll get back to you") and then the message left by Lelaina's concerned father: "Uh, Lelaina, this is your dad. Give me a call when you get this. I need you to explain something. I just got a nine-hundred-dollar bill on my gas card"
The Film's Ending
  • during the film's credits, the crass scumbag Michael had created/directed a new show for his network "In Your Face TV" - a film within a film (with stereotypical characters named "Elaina" (Karen Duffy) (an overachiever) and "Roy" (Evan Dando) (an apathetic bad boy) to represent Lelaina and Troy and capitalize on their relationship)

"The answer is...I don't know"

"Conjunction Junction"

"Good Morning, Grant!"

Lelaina Threatened by Boss

Vickie at GAP

Aspiring Videographer Lelaina

Recalling "Good Times" Episodes Scene

Troy's Philosophy of Life Videotaped

Lelaina Deliberately Seeking Retribution Against Boss (With Altered Cue Cards)

Vickie's 'Free Clinic' AIDS Test

Vickie Fearful of Dying of AIDS

Love Scene: Troy and Lelaina

Vickie: "Sex is the quickest way to ruin a friendship"


"Elaina" and "Roy" in Michael's New Show for His Network "In Your Face TV"


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z