Smoking in Movies

Movies in the 1980’s appear to make smoking the cool thing to do. Almost every heroin or protagonist character smokes cigarettes. Let’s just look at a few:



We start with the original badass: Bruce Willis in Die Hard. He is portrayed as this awesome guy, he defeats everyone ends up winning his wife back. We are all supposed to like him, and he smokes almost constantly in the movie.



We have Veronica from Heathers. She is not your typical heroin, she does kill innocent people, but yet she is the protagonist we are supposed to like. And she smokes and it makes her look cool.



Ren from Footloose is only shown smoking once when he is angry and dancing in the warehouse. This makes the connection that smoking will help alleviate stress and make you more calm. We love Ren, he is our main character; he stands up for what he believes in and of course he smokes.



Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon is another genuine badass. He is literally registered as a lethal weapon because he is such an amazing fighter. He is our hero in this movie. He overcomes his depression and channels his anger towards locking up or killing bad guys. His picture could be in the dictionary next to chain smoker though.


Sandy from Grease (1978) is transformed into the kind of woman a man wants. She tries to impress Danny by putting on tight leather pants and a sexy little shirt AND she smokes! This is a direct connect between being cool and smoking.



In 1980 when Popeye the movie was released this brought smoking into an even younger generation! Popeye is never seen without his pipe.



Even advertisements in magazines showed models smoking. Which is hilariously contradictory for this particular ad considering it is for Chanel, which is famous for their fragrances.

Don’t forget the music industry. This song which was releases in 1985 also promotes smoking as the cool thing to do!

This article outlines the trends in smoking through time. It offers doesn’t offer a huge spike in tobacco use during the 1980s but it does show a tremendous decrease as we get closer to modern day. Perhaps this is due to advances in technology and medicine that has reaffirmed the dangers of smoking.

Either way as we continue though the movies of the 80’s the overwhelming trend of the popularity of smoking is becoming more and more apparent. You certainly don’t see many of the modern movie heroes smoking as often.






Wealth and Social Status

Many of the films of the 80’s (and most from today for that matter) put a great emphasis on wealth. Wealth being the thing that controls whether one is going to be popular or well-liked. A few examples being Ferris Bueller, we can tell from his house and even Ferris’s dad’s office that the Bueller family has money. Ferris is also a very popular kid. Cameron too, he lives in a very nice house and his dad owns very nice cars and what do you know he is best friends with Ferris who is one of the most popular kids in school.

camerons-house2 ferris-bueller-250gt-804


Another example comes from Dirty Dancing in which you can see both the rich and the poor. You have Baby who comes from a very rich family and she is very pretty and all the boys want to talk to her. Her sister who is one of the most annoying characters but yet she is still popular. The father is the reason the entire movie takes place he is a well-liked man and it is a friend and patient of his that owns the resort that they go to. The other families that are at the resort are also very wealthy and you can see that this allows them to get whatever they want and in turn makes them popular around the resort. Then you have Johnny who has to work for a living and he doesn’t have money from the family and he is walked all over. His boss talks down to him and he is treated poorly.



In Sixteen Candles Jake Ryan is the most popular guy in school and what do you know he is also ridiculously wealthy. He drives a Porsche and has a huge house. A house that is sufficiently large enough to play host to party with all of the senior class along with some unwanted underclassmen. Even Jake Ryan’s girlfriend shows signs of having great wealth; from her perfect hair and perfect clothes.

Jake Ryan Jake's Girlfriend

Then from The Heathers the wealth of all the families involved is obviously the reason the Heathers and Veronica are popular. Their wealth is what gives them their social status. They have the money to have the latest clothes and the best hair products to make them the ideal women for that time period.


This can still be seen through in today’s movies as well. For examples, The Heathers sister movie Mean Girls also has very wealthy main characters–the wealth undoubtedly led to these girls becoming the “it” girls.

As you can see Regina drives the really nice car and has a really nice house and so obviously she must be the most popular girl in school.

I think the moral of this story is that you must be wealthy to be popular! Obviously because Hollywood has made this apparent for the last few decades. But according to this news story perhaps popularity is what brings the wealth not the other way around. That’s not the way Hollywood has long portrayed the role of money and wealth.