What do Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) and Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross) even see in each other? They have the sleaziest, most cringe-worthy first date this side of Robert De Niro and Cybill Shepherd in Taxi Driver, and then their budding romance is snuffed out when she learns that he’s been having an affair, largely out of mutual boredom, with her mother (Anne Bancroft). But when she moves on (leaving Los Angeles to attend Berkeley, meeting a new guy), and when her parents forbid Benjamin to see her, he turns into a stalker.
Maybe he’s acting out of spite, maybe he truly loves her, but now, the aimless Benjamin has finally found a purpose in life. You’d think that creepy intensity would put her off, even when she’s at the altar, but when she hears Ben outside the church screaming her name, she decides to chuck her well-planned future and well-groomed groom and run off with her stalker. (That use of the crucifix to lock the guests inside the church and allow the fleeing couple a clean getaway is some cheap but effective symbolism.)
It’s a failed wedding so iconic that it’s been parodied many times (most memorably, in Wayne’s World 2), but the best part is afterwards, when the runaway pair are riding the bus, with “What now?” expressions on their faces. (Asked what would happen to Ben and Elaine after that, director Mike Nichols said, “They become their parents.”)
Next Betsy’s Wedding