Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Risky Business (1983)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Risky Business (1983)

In writer/director Paul Brickman's debut film - an effective, satirical and well-received teen, coming-of-age sex comedy that equated the rewards of sexuality and a successful capitalistic Horatio Alger-like enterprise, and in some ways became the 1980s version of Mike Nichols' The Graduate (1967):

  • the film's first zooming-out image was the face of Chicago suburbia-dwelling, respectable, college-bound high school Joel Goodson (Tom Cruise), in the town of Glencoe, speaking directly into the camera (wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses) for the dreamy, hallucinatory opening scene
  • in the opening fantasy-dream sequence, Joel saw a strange young "incredible girl" (Francine Locke credited as "Shower Girl") soaping up in a steamy shower in a neighbor's house: "The dream is always the same. Instead of going home, I go to the neighbors'. I ring, but nobody answers. The door is open, so I go inside. I'm looking around for the people, but nobody seems to be there. And then I hear the shower running, so I go upstairs to see what's what. Then I see her. This girl! This incredible girl! I mean, what she's doing there, I don't know, because she doesn't live there. But it's a dream, so I go with it. 'Who's there?' she says. 'Joel,' I say. 'What are you doing here?' 'I don't know what I'm doing here. What are you doing here?' 'I'm taking a shower,' she says. Then I give her: 'Do you want me to go?' 'No,' she says. 'I want you to wash my back.' So now I'm getting enthusiastic about this dream. So, I go to her, but she's hard to find through all the steam and stuff. I keep losing her. Finally, I get to the door and I find myself in a room full of kids taking their College Boards. I'm over three hours late! I've got two minutes to take the whole test. I've just made a terrible mistake. I'll never get to college. My life is ruined"; his fantasy-dream, capped by her non-chalant request: "I want you to wash my back" - had made him three hours late for his College Boards' SAT test
  • throughout the film, Joel was faced with a few major, coming-of-age pressures - losing his virginity, getting admitted to college, and becoming a successful businessman
  • Joel received repeated advice from his prankster friend Miles Dalby (Curtis Armstrong) to live freely: "Sometimes you gotta say, 'What the f-k.' Make your move....Every now and then say, 'What the f--k.' What the f--k gives you freedom. Freedom brings opportunity. Opportunity makes your future" - it was especially good advice to use during Joel's upcoming parents' vacation ("What the f--k.' If you can't say it, you can't do it") - when he could cut loose and exhibit his independence
  • while taking his parents (Nicholas Pryor, Janet Carroll) to the airport for a one-week trip to Europe, Joel was reminded of his chores and of his father's prohibition not to drive his Porsche; he was also given some emergency money: (Mother: "As far as the house is concerned, just use your best judgment. You know we trust you")
  • Joel decided to experience a good time while his materialistic, strict parents were away; after setting the table with a still-frozen TV dinner and a drink from the liquor cabinet (Chivas Regal Scotch Whiskey mixed with Coke), Joel's famed exhibitionist-karaoke scene, including his floor-sliding entrance into the front hallway while solo dancing; he was wearing white socks, a long-sleeved button-downed pink-striped shirt, and tight cotton underwear, as he lip-synched (and air-guitared) to the tune of Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock & Roll" in his family's living room
Karaoke Sequence: "Old Time Rock & Roll"
  • at school, Joel was participating in an extracurricular group called Future Enterprisers of America; as part of a competing team, his goal was to create a small business company and product (and market it) - so that it would look good on his record for college (Princeton preferably, according to his father's and mother's wishes); the group's faculty advisor stressed: "Profit motive. Competition. Free enterprise"
  • Miles contacted a call-girl service on Joel's behalf, after he had seen an advertisement: ("A good time, Joel, in the privacy of your own home"); and later, Joel was utterly embarrassed and uncomfortable when a taxi pulled up in his driveway that evening and a prostitute arrived at his door; the black call-girl was named Jackie (Bruce A. Young) - a tall transvestite; Joel attempted to disavow that he was Joel: "Nice to meet you, Jackie. I'm not Joel. Joel stepped out for a moment. Uhm, I'll go call him"; due to the misunderstanding, Joel was forced to let Jackie inside to be paid and call a cab: "As long as we come to an arrangement, I'm in no mood for complaining. I mean, when you put your good money down, you gotta get what you went after in the first place. Know what I'm sayin'? When you buy a TV, you don't buy Sony if you want RCA. I mean, I know we could get along real nice, but, hey, it's your hard-earned dollar, am I right?"
  • after Joel paid 'Jackie' $ 75 dollars for her carfare, time, effort and "infinite patience and understanding," she provided a referral: "Joel, I'm going to give you a number. You ask for Lana. It's what you want...It's what every white boy off the lake wants"

"Hello, Joel, I'm Jackie"

"I'm not Joel"

"You ask for Lana"
  • Joel experienced a masturbatory session gone awry in his bed that night; he imagined himself making love on the kitchen table with Kessler (Anne Lockhart), the neighborhood babysitter; the house was surrounded by police and a detective's (Ron Dean) megaphone blared out: ("All right, Goodson, we know you're in there...Joel, the house is surrounded. Do exactly as we say, and no one gets hurt. Get off the babysitter. Put on your pants. Come out with your hands up"); his parents also scolded him: ("Please Joel, do as they say, just get off the babysitter. Don't throw your life away like this"); the babysitter's father (Jerome Landfield) added: ("Listen, you goddamn punk. You'll never have a future. Not if I can help it. You got that? No future") - the nightmarish scenario was evidence of Joel's extreme worry about his manhood and his future
Joel's Disastrous Masturbatory Fantasy
  • to ultimately prove his manhood after unable to fall asleep, Joel phoned prostitute Lana (Rebecca DeMornay), and gave her a fake name (Ralph) and his address for contact; his first hot encounter with the seductive call-girl came later that evening - during an erotic, dream-like sequence; he had fallen asleep on the couch in the living room awaiting her arrival; after she rang his doorbell, she let herself in; she entered the living room, and enticingly asked: "Are you ready for me, Ralph?"; he slowly approached and helped to remove her purple dress from the bottom up; it was revealed that she was naked underneath; as he stroked her bare torso and breasts from behind, she was swept naked into his arms as the wind blew the living room's patio doors open; she turned to kiss him - and they made love on the stairs and on a rocking chair late into the night, all to the tune of electronic music provided by Tangerine Dream
"Are You Ready For Me, Ralph?"
  • the next morning, she wished to collect her $300 services fee from him, but he only had $50 dollars; he suggested: "Can I send it to you?" and she responded with incredulity: "Can you send it to me, Joel?...I'm not real good at waiting for people...Give it a try"; after he left for the bank and returned, Lana had already left - with his mother's valuable Steuben glass egg as collateral
  • Joel left the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago, driving his father's prized silver Porsche 928 with Lana and his friend Miles; they were pursued in a car chase by her crazed and angry, gun-wielding "manager" (or pimp) Guido (Joe Pantoliano) [Note: Although Lana had broken off from Guido, as she explained later - "Nobody owns me" - she owed debts to him for clothes and hospital bills, and he continually pursued her.] Miles was worried: "I've got a trig mid-term tomorrow and I'm being chased by Guido, the Killer Pimp"; eventually, Joel maneuvered the car out of sight from Guido and escaped, and proudly stated: "PORSCHE, there is no substitute!"
  • the next day, Guido located Lana and her hooker friend Vicki (Shera Danese) at Joel's house and was incensed when Lana and Vicki refused to go with him, and sought refuge in Joe's house: "Maybe we don't work for you anymore...Maybe we work for Joel now"; Guido threatened Joel: "Now, you're havin' fun now, right? Right, Joel? The time of your life. In a sluggish economy, never, ever f--k with another man's livelihood. Now, if you're smart, like I hope you are, you're not gonna make me come back here"
  • after Joel, his friend Barry (Bronson Pinchot), Lana and her hooker friend Vicki smoked dope and bought ice cream one evening, Lana proposed an idea to Joel - he could raise a lot of money in just a few days - by matching up his friends with her friends: ("You people have a lot of bonds. So I was thinking, if we ever got our friends together, we'd make a fortune, you know that?"); she even suggested she'd be his girlfriend for free: ("What if I said I'd be your girlfriend the next couple of days? No charge?")
  • soon after, Lana accidentally released the parking brake on his father's $40,000 Porsche when she pulled her handbag out of the car; the Porsche slowly rolled downhill and onto a Lake Michigan wooden pier that collapsed; the next day at a car dealership repair shop, Miles made a weak attempt to comfort Joel about the car's total destruction: "You OK? Do you want an aspirin? Your dad own a gun?"; the car dealer asked: "Who's the U-boat commander?"
  • at school, Joel presented a false doctor's note to sour-faced Nurse Bolik, the school's nurse, to try to acquire an 'excused' absence for missing classes (to prevent his grade point average from dropping); his further explanation was also met with extreme skepticism: "The truth of the matter is, my parents are away and I met this girl. A call girl, actually, and she came to my house....It just wasn't the girl, it was my father's car. I put my father's car into Lake Michigan. I had to get it fixed. Just, just give me a break. Let me put it this way: I have spent the last four years of my life busting my butt in this s--t hole. I'm - I'm sorry. I just don't think I can leave until I get just a little compassion from you" - for his insubordination, Joel received a 5-day suspension and was kicked out of Future Enterprisers
  • distraught, Joel took a taxi Lana's hotel-apartment, and buried his head in Lana's shoulder - the camera spun 360 degrees around them - she realized that she now had Joel right where she wanted him; Joel was forced to accept Lana's suggested services of her friends, to pay for repairs for his parents' damaged Porsche; he marveled at her ability to organize and profitably transform his house into a make-shift brothel (with her many call-girl co-workers), to make him a successful entrepreneur sharing in the profits
  • at a furniture rental store, they rented a number of beds, as Joel marveled at her skill and her capitalist risk-taking in a voice-over: ("It was great the way her mind worked. No guilt, no doubts, no fear....None of my specialties. Just this shameless pursuit of immediate material gratification. What a capitalist. She told me I could make more money in one night than I'd make all year. Enough to pay for my father's car. She told me she'd be my girlfriend. She told me a lot of things. I believed them all. So she introduced me to her friends....I introduced her to my friends")
  • there was a long procession of dolled-up hookers entering Joel's house that evening, with Barry greeting them at the door, to the tune of Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy"; Barry was made Treasurer, Lana was in charge of Production, and Joel did Sales with pitches to sexually-inexperienced high-schoolers to receive sexual "knowledge": ("College girls can smell ignorance like dog s--t")
  • in the midst of the party held on Friday night, the sequence of Joel's inopportune interruption - a pre-arranged appointment-interview for admission by Princeton University recruiter Bill Rutherford (Richard Masur); early on, Rutherford wasn't very impressed: "Well, Joel, your stats are very respectable. You've done some solid work here, but it's not quite Ivy League, now is it?"; Joel asked: "You know, Bill, there's one thing I've learned in all my years. Sometimes you gotta say, 'What the f--k?' Make your move"; Joel rose and smiled: "Looks like University of Illinois"
  • in a daring and risky late-night scene after the party, high-class hooker Lana and Joel became sex-exhibitionists during a deserted, elevated CTA subway ride; Joel explained in voice-over: "She wanted to make love on a real train. Who was I to say no?"; they began kissing - to the tune of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight"; after all the other passengers vacated, they found themselves in an empty car where they could be more intimate and passionate; as the pounding electronic rhythms of Tangerine Dream took over, he touched her thighs through her dress and slipped off her panties, while she unbuckled his pants; they made love while seated, as the train slipped quietly through the night
Late Night Subway Ride with Lana
  • in the conclusion, Lana's menacing pimp Guido (with Vicki) stole all the furniture in Joel's house as pay-back (during the possible 'set-up' by Lana to take him away on the train during the night), forcing Joel to buy it back and move it all back into the home with the help of his friends just before his parents arrived later that Saturday from the airport in a taxi; his mother noticed a slight crack inside her egg - Joel apologized and agreed to pay for it; shortly later, surprising news came from the Princeton interviewer: "Princeton can use a guy like Joel"
  • in the final scene between Joel and Lana, he suspected she had set him up, and he asked: "Was our night together just a setup for Vicki and Guido?" - Lana denied it, but he was skeptical; that evening, as they walked through a park and thought to each other: (Lana: "Guess we won't be seeing each other for a while"), she asked to spend the evening with him - and he jokingly and playfully asked Lana if she could afford his services; he replayed their first night together after she claimed she had only $20 dollars: ("What are we gonna do about this?"); she said that she had a bond in the bank
  • the film's ending quote proved Joel's business prowess by successfully dealing in "human fulfillment" - his acceptance of Lana's idea to raise money (for her services, and to pay for repairs for his parents' damaged Porsche) had resulted in the transformation of his house into a profitable brothel - making him a successful entrepreneur and Ivy League college-bound graduate; he had succeeded by both coming-of-age and by winning the school club's competition and admission to Princeton - the film's last line (voice-over): "My name is Joel Goodson. I deal in human fulfillment. I grossed over eight thousand dollars in one night. The time of your life, huh, kid?"

First Image: Joel's cool Ray-Ban sunglasses

"I want you to wash my back"

"My Life is Ruined"

Miles' Advice: "What the f--k!"

The Goodsons' Steuben Crystal Glass Egg on the Mantle

Joel's Parents: Leaving for One Week in Europe

Joel's Participation in Extra-Curricular HS Group: Future Enterprisers

Lana's Request for Her $300 Fee The Next Morning

Miles: "I'm being chased by Guido, the Killer Pimp"

Joel: "Porsche, there is no substitute"

Guido (Joe Pantoliano) Threatening Joel

Lana's Proposal to Joel: To Be His Girlfriend For Free, and to Make a Lot of Money

Collapse of the Pier From Weight of Porsche

Joe's Weak Excuse to the School Nurse For His Unexcused Absence from School

360 Degree Camera Rotation Around Joel and Lana

Lana: Brothel Entrepreneur with Joel

Call-Girls Entering Joel's House - Greeted by Barry at the Door

Princeton Interviewer Bill Rutherford (Richard Masur)

Joel: "Looks like University of Illinois"

In the Park: Joel's Last Contact with Lana


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