How Van Halen Brought a Hamburger to Life in ‘Better Off Dead’
The 1985 dark comedy Better Off Dead is remembered as a cult classic and one of John Cusack's best early films, but arguably the flick's most memorable moment was a dream sequence featuring Van Halen's "Everybody Wants Some!!"
In the movie, Lane is ditched by his girlfriend in favor of the popular ski-team captain. The despondent teen decides to kill himself, but his half-hearted attempts at suicide always fail -- with comedic consequences.
Until he ultimately finds love with the pretty exchange student across the street, Lane is left with little else to focus on but his demoralizing job at Pig Burger. It's there that the Van Halen-soundtracked scene commences.
Like many of the film’s elements, Lane’s occupation had roots in the real-life experience of writer/director Savage Steve Holland. The filmmaker had worked at a McDonald’s in his teen years and was used to strange stories from the fast food world.
“There was this rumor that a rat fell into a vat at a chicken place and somebody got served fried rat,” he recalled in a 2011 conversation with Entertainment Weekly. “That was what I had in the original script.” The rat gag was too gross for the film’s producers, so Holland searched for another idea for the scene.
“I saw this guy Jimmy Picker had made this really funny claymation short film about mayor Ed Koch called Sundae in New York. I was like, ‘If I could do something like that and still incorporate it into a hamburger scenario.’”
The Van Halen song helped Holland's new idea click. He made “Everybody wants some” the burger joint’s slogan, then used the track to highlight a bizarre dream sequence.
While working late one night, Lane envisions himself as a mad scientist who breathes life into a burger, Dr. Frankenstein-style. While the jungle beat of the "Everybody Wants Some!!" plays in the background, the newly-animated claymation sandwich takes up with a girl-burger and even does some shredding on one of Eddie's iconic red and white guitars.
“It was just so, so out there and stupid, that everybody was really worried about it,” Holland recalled of the studio’s response to the scene. “But it was the highest testing thing when we went to the test audience. They thought that was the greatest thing in the whole movie.”
Indeed, the scene proved to be one one of the most memorable moments in Better Off Dead, which was no easy feat -- it had stiff competition from a menacing paperboy who just wants his two dollars already and an Asian Howard Cosell impersonator. And even though "Everybody Wants Some!!" isn't on the movie's soundtrack, it's safe to say no other song is associated with the film more.
Watch the 'Better Off Dead' Scene Featuring Van Halen's "Everybody Wants Some!!"