An outcast secretly pays the most popular girl in school one thousand dollars to pretend to be his girlfriend for a month.


Steve Rash
1,507 ( 457)
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Patrick Dempsey ... Ronald Miller
Amanda Peterson ... Cindy Mancini
Courtney Gains ... Kenneth Wurman
Tina Caspary ... Barbara
Seth Green ... Chuckie Miller
Sharon Farrell ... Mrs. Mancini
Darcy DeMoss ... Patty (as Darcy De Moss)
Dennis Dugan ... David Miller
Cloyce Morrow Cloyce Morrow ... Judy Miller
Devin DeVasquez ... Iris (as Devin Devasquez)
Eric Bruskotter ... Big John
Gerardo Mejía ... Ricky
Cort McCown ... Quint
Ami Dolenz ... Fran
Max Perlich ... Lester


Ronald Miller is tired of being a nerd, and makes a deal with one of the most popular girls in school to help him break into the "cool" clique. He offers her a thousand dollars to pretend to be his girlfriend for a month. It succeeds, but he soon learns that the price of popularity may be higher than he expected. Written by Kevin Ackley <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Ronald is making an investment in his senior year. He's hiring the prettiest cheerleader in school to be his girlfriend.


Comedy | Drama | Romance


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Ronald Miller, when on his last official date with Cindy, mentions that he was born on the day NASA first landed on the moon. This would mean Ronald was born on July 20, 1969. See more »


The direction of shadows cast by the girls at cheerleader practice changes radically. See more »


Quint: I've learned to appreciate the finer things in life. I even travel with my own wine. You never know the quality you may encounter at a soiree.
Fran: [smells the wine and coughs] Very classy.
Quint: [takes a swig out of the wine bottle] Mm-hmm. I'm into class. It's my new thing.
See more »

Alternate Versions

UK theatrical version was edited by 1m 14sec to secure a PG rating. See more »


Remade as Love Don't Cost a Thing (2003) See more »


One for the Mockingbird
Written by Nick Van Eede
Performed by Cutting Crew (as The Cutting Crew)
Courtesy of Virgin Records America, Inc. and Siren Records
See more »

User Reviews

Best of the genre for its suspenseful story and the messages it gives.
23 April 2019 | by EmreBilgeSee all my reviews

The "nerd" Ronald Miller doesn't appreciate his group of friends and their activities of playing cards and video games. He wants to do something else in his senior year. He craves the life of the "jocks" who date and party which seems to be the privilege of being "popular" at his school. He is also fed up with going "the long route through the library" instead of simply walking "the cool hallway" en route to his class, sitting at the corners of the cafeteria and the "visiting section" at his "own school" to watch his school team's matches. To make matters worse, he has a crush on the head cheerleader, Cindy. Up to this point, your standard youth movie storyline. Assuming that "popularity" would bring him happiness, Ronald decides to offer Cindy $1000 he has been saving mowing the lawn to buy a telescope in return for she pretending for one month that they are dating. His plan goes smoothly at first for quite a good amount of time after which things take a terrible turn.

Congratulations to the director Steve Rash, the writer Michael Swerdlick and the cast. Basically for two unexpected reasons for its genre, this movie is the best of all the youth romantic comedies I have seen. First, the movie has twists and turns in the story and character development which make a variety of endings possible, boost your interest and make you curious in what is going to happen next. Second, the movie does not merely have the generic light-hearted elements of the genre such as parties, relationships, the feud between the different social "layers" in high school.

The remaining paragraphs may contain some spoilers.

The movie gives the youth the life lessons that things you are craving now are not what they seem like, are not really what really matters in life and will not necessarily make you happy in the long term. Falling for short-term cravings and passions interfere with the ability of the brain to process reasonably which leads to dishonesty which leads to regret, loss of dignity and self-respect.

For his age, what Ronald has done can be forgiven especially because, at the end, he realizes his terrible ways even though only after losing the pseudo-popularity and even the former respect as a fellow human and schoolmate, after having rejected Cindy's now sincere (yet, unrealistic in real life) intimacy attempts, having ditched his former friends, so ending up having nowhere to turn to. The showdown between Ronald and the fiercest jock (despite not being the leader), Quint, which was caused by Quint's harassing Kenneth, his former best friend he ditched to be with the popular group, wasn't expected and was dramatic with perhaps long-time consequences for the informal caste system of the school. Ronald was so regretful of going out of himself, his personality, rejecting his friends, his terrible behaviour against his best friend Kenneth and furious at the unjust attitude of the popular group against him, his friends and the other outcasts at the school that he couldn't take it anymore which gave him the courage to stand up to Quint for Kenneth. This and how he handled the rest with Quint is amazing and what restored his dignity and which perhaps raised him to a level of respect which isn't what he had planned with his $1000 at the beginning, but a more dignified, long-term one. He didn't take a step back and vowed to fight Quint if he wouldn't let Kenneth go. Then, he reminded Quint how once they were all friends, Quint fell out of Ronald's tree house and Kenneth picked him up and the two carried him 12 blocks to the hospital and now he wants to kill Kenneth because he's talking to one of the cheerleaders on their "side of the cafeteria". This was a perfect balance of standing up to Quint, showing him that he's not afraid of him and ready to fight if that's the last resort vs. reminding him of how they were once all friends, they even helped him when he was desperate. A perfect concept to invoke the humanity in a fierce person. Ronald now did really grow up, didn't he?

I was also impressed with the brief scene with the African-American teacher stopping the older female school principal from intervening in the fight. He seemed like a far-sighted teacher. He was perfectly cognizant of the situation and the high emotions on the two opposite camps, but still let Ronald express his wounds and insecurities growing inside of him for a long time and let him reach a resolution for himself with perhaps positive consequences for all schoolmates. He seemed cognizant that the fight could lead to a rapprochement and understanding between the two camps and lowering the barriers. I would have liked this character had a longer role in the script.

So what may happen next? Of course jocks will still be jocks, nerds will still be nerds (forget these terms anyway, I am just using these terms as everybody is familiar with them which helps to get my points across). But they will respect each other more. They will acknowledge that nobody is perfect, everybody has ups and downs; that one being good at sports, the other good at lessons, etc., both qualities are noteworthy, complementary and may contribute to accomplishments for their schools and their future. And best of all is when you are humble and appreciate others, your qualities are appreciated in return and you get more respect compared to the case of behaving the other way around. Lessons most of us don't learn at high school, but when we're older. Whether or not Ronald became popular or got Cindy is besides the point and which is what places this movie in a different and special place among its genre. I recommend this movie for adults as well as the youth as adults can also enjoy it. They can also draw lessons as age alone does not necessarily make one mistake-proof and there is always ground for further improvement.

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Release Date:

14 August 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Can't Buy Me Love See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,754,732, 16 August 1987

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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