American Graffiti is a 1973 American coming-of-age comedy film directed and co-written by George Lucas starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Bo Hopkins, and Wolfman Jack. Suzanne Somers, Kathleen Quinlan, Debralee Scott, and Joe Spano also appear in the film.
Set in Modesto, California, in 1962, the film is a study of the cruising and early rock 'n' roll cultures popular among Lucas's age group at the time. Through a series of vignettes, the film tells the story of a group of teenagers and their adventures over the course of a single night.
The genesis of American Graffiti was in Lucas' own teenaged years in early 1960s Modesto. He was unsuccessful in pitching the concept to financiers and distributors, but found favor at Universal Pictures after every other major film studio turned him down. Filming was initially set to take place in San Rafael, California, but the production crew was denied permission to shoot beyond a second day. As a result, production was moved to Petaluma.
American Graffiti premiered on August 2, 1973, at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland, and was released on August 11, 1973, in the United States. The film received widespread critical acclaim and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Produced on a $777,000 budget, it has become one of the most profitable films of all time. Since its initial release, American Graffiti has garnered an estimated return well over $200 million in box-office gross and home video sales, not including merchandising. In 1995, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. A sequel, More American Graffiti, was released in 1979.
A couple of high school grads spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college.