“I was really going to be somebody by the time I was 23.”
Twenty years ago today, the world was introduced to the existential struggle of Gen X-er Lelaina Pierce in Reality Bites. Played by Winona Ryder, Lelaina was a college valedictorian with dreams of becoming a documentarian, but trapped in a Sisyphean nightmare of trying to find a creative job with no experience in a bad economy.
Stuck in stasis, she works as a production assistant for a lousy boss and hangs out with her best friend Vicki (Janeane Garofalo), the closeted Sammy Gray (Steve Zahn) and has a desultory crush on the brooding, talented and aimless Troy Dyer (Ethan Hawke). When Lelaina runs into the car of a yuppie MTV-ish executive (Ben Stiller) it seems like things are going to change for her. Then again, if that happened, the title wouldn’t be Reality Bites.
Watched two decades later, the film is a perfect time capsule — filled with ’90s fashion, Gen X life crises and 7-11 Big Gulps. While the film was good, however, the soundtrack was great. Loaded with songs from ’90s alt-rock heroes like Dinosaur Jr, Juliana Hatfield and World Party, the compilation also included adult contemporary tracks that had been mostly forgotten by Gen X — proving that oldies could also be goodies.
Here are nine tracks that show that while reality may bite, good tunes help soften the blow:
New Order – “Confusion”
While included in the film, it wasn’t released as part of the soundtrack until the 10th Anniversary Edition.
The Juliana Hatfield Three – “Spin The Bottle”
The video was directed by Ben Stiller, who also directed Reality Bites.
Crowded House – “Something So Strong”
Me Phi Me – “Revival!”
This is reportedly the only track that Stiller specifically chose for the soundtrack.
U2 – “All I Want Is You”
While U2 has always been good, their coolness factor has dwindled over the years. This song helped give the band some cred.
Lisa Loeb – “Stay (I Missed You)”
Love it or hate it, this song is here to stay.
The Squeeze – “Tempted”
The Squeeze’s classic song had been out of rotation for awhile, before Reality Bites made it the perfect song to accompany smashing into Ben Stiller’s car.
World Party – “When You Come Back To Me”
The sample of David Bowie’s “Young Americans” makes this song the perfect addition to the soundtrack.
And, because no post on the Reality Bites soundtrack would be complete without the song that reintroduced the world to The Knack (and made convenience store dancing a thing):
The Knack – “My Sharona”