The Adventures of Ford Fairlane
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRenny Harlin
Screenplay by
Story by
  • David Arnott
  • James Cappe
Based onCharacters
by Rex Weiner
Produced by
CinematographyOliver Wood
Edited byMichael Tronick
Music by
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • July 11, 1990 (1990-07-11)
Running time
102 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[2]
Box office$21.4 million[3]

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane is a 1990 American action comedy film noir mystery film directed by Renny Harlin[4] and written by David Arnott, James Cappe, and Daniel Waters based on a story by Arnott and Cappe. The film stars comedian Andrew Dice Clay as the title character, Ford Fairlane, a "Rock n' Roll Detective",[5] whose beat is the music industry in Los Angeles. True to his name, Ford drives a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner in the film.

The film's main character was created by writer Rex Weiner in a series of stories that were published as weekly serials in 1979–80 by the New York Rocker and the LA Weekly. The stories were published as a book by Rare Bird Books in July 2018.[6]

DC Comics produced a prequel miniseries of same name.[7]

The film was both a commercial and critical failure, being awarded the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture, tying with Bo Derek's Ghosts Can't Do It. Billy Idol's "Cradle of Love" from the soundtrack became one of his biggest hits on the Billboard Hot 100 (peaking at #2). The film has since developed a cult-following.


Private investigator Ford Fairlane is seen sitting on a beach smoking with great melancholy as the film opens. A flashback initiates, showing a roaring crowd at a concert[8] at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, given by fictional popular heavy metal band, "The Black Plague". Lead singer Bobby Black makes an eccentric entrance down a zip line from Creation Rock onto the stage and begins performing. Shortly into one of the band's songs, Bobby Black starts gagging and collapses dead on stage.

After the lead singer of The Black Plague is murdered onstage, shock-jock Johnny Crunch, an old friend who came west with Fairlane to become a rock star, hires Ford to track down a mysterious teenage groupie named Zuzu Petals, who may have a connection to Black's death.

Soon after hiring Fairlane, Crunch is electrocuted on the air. The world's hippest detective soon finds himself trading insults with ruthless record executive Julian Grendel, a clueless cop and former disco star, Lt. Amos, a merciless hit man named Smiley and countless ex-girlfriends out for his blood. Aiding and abetting Fairlane is loyal assistant Jazz and a hip record producer at the head of a bizarre lineup of suspects, victims, beautiful women, and a koala as he finds himself hip-deep in the case of his life.

The MacGuffin of the film is three data CDs which, when read simultaneously, detail the illegal dealings of Julian Grendel, who was getting rich from bootlegging his record company's music and murdered Bobby Black when he found out Black had acquired the CDs with the incriminating evidence. Two of Fairlane's beloved possessions, his house and his car, are blown to bits, courtesy of Grendel, and he loses his prized guitar (a custom design for the original owner, Jimi Hendrix) in a fight with Smiley.

The first disc was with Colleen Sutton, the second with Zuzu Petals, and the third disc was hidden under the star for Art Mooney on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

It is later revealed that Grendel killed Bobby Black and Johnny Crunch, as he considered them both greedy and stupid because they wanted more money for their involvement in pirating CDs to sell to the highest bidder, making Grendel Records and the rest of the music industry corrupt. However, Fairlane kills Grendel by setting him on fire with a flammable alcoholic milkshake and a cigarette. Jazz leaves Fairlane, knowing how ungrateful he is for everything that has happened. Smiley shows up and plans to kill Ford, but not before revealing that he killed his young neighbor's [the Kid's] father. Ford distracts him and kills Smiley with a sleeve pistol. Jazz and Ford decide to reconcile, while the Kid decides to join their detective agency. Ford wins a million-dollar radio contest and buys a yacht. He sails away with Jazz, the Kid, and the koala (now in a neck brace). They're all now one big happy family.


Howard Stern was originally considered for the role of Johnny Crunch.[9] Billy Idol was originally to play Vince Neil's role, and David Bowie was approached to play Newton's.[10]


According to writer Daniel Waters, the film was slated for release in May of 1990 for slate against Cadillac Man and Bird on a Wire, but Fox moved it back to July to "to build Dice awareness", which he cited as a mistake.[11]


Music being central to the plot of a film about a private detective who specializes in cases arising from the music industry, the soundtrack featured a diverse group of artists. The official soundtrack release featured:[12]

  1. "Cradle of Love" — Billy Idol
  2. "Sea Cruise" — Dion
  3. "Funky Attitude" — Sheila E.
  4. "Glad to Be Alive" — Lisa Fischer, Teddy Pendergrass
  5. "Can't Get Enough" — Tone Loc
  6. "Rock 'N Roll Junkie" — Mötley Crüe
  7. "I Ain't Got You" — Andrew Dice Clay
  8. "Last Time in Paris" — Queensrÿche
  9. "Unbelievable" — Yello
  10. "Wind Cries Mary" — Richie Sambora

The film's soundtrack includes Idol's "Cradle of Love", which also appeared on Idol's 1990 album Charmed Life.[13]

A number of the musicians featured on the soundtrack also appeared in the film itself, including Morris Day, Sheila E., and Tone Loc (as Slam the Rapper). The members of the fictional band Black Plague are played by professional musicians: Vince Neil, lead singer of Mötley Crüe; Ozzy Osbourne bassist Phil Soussan and drummer Randy Castillo; and Quiet Riot guitarist Carlos Cavazo. Richie Sambora's contribution to the soundtrack was a cover of the Jimi Hendrix song "Wind Cries Mary". Yello's "Unbelievable" samples dialogue from the film, although a phone number given as "1-800-Perfect" is changed to "1-800-Unbelievable". Not appearing on the soundtrack is "Booty Time", the song that Ed O'Neill's character performs during the film.

Yello is also credited with the film's music score, and an early cut of their album Baby is used as the film's incidental soundtrack. Barry McIlheney in Q magazine was critical of the collection and only highlighted the Billy Idol contribution while giving the overall release 2 out 5 stars.[14]


Critical response

The film received generally negative reviews upon release.[15] Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 25% based on 32 reviews, with an average rating of 4.3/10.[16] On Metacritic, the film has a 24 out of 100 rating based on 13 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[17] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B" on scale of A+ to F.[18]

Roger Ebert gave the film 1 star out of a possible 4, and called the film "loud, ugly and mean-spirited" but he also suggested that Clay had the confidence and screen presence for a successful acting career if he could move beyond his shtick.[19] He and fellow critic Gene Siskel each gave the film a thumbs down on their series Siskel & Ebert & the Movies.[20]

Box office

The film was not a financial success during its original theatrical release, making just over $21 million in the U.S.[3] According to Clay, "They pulled my a week...I was a lightning rod for everything [politically correct]".[21]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures Billy Idol – "Cradle of Love" Won
Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Picture Joel Silver and Steve Perry Won[a]
Worst Director Renny Harlin Nominated
Worst Actor Andrew Dice Clay Won
Worst Supporting Actor Gilbert Gottfried Nominated
Wayne Newton Nominated
Worst Screenplay Daniel Waters and David Arnott & James Cappe;
Story by James Cappe & David Arnott;
Based on characters created by Rex Weiner
MTV Video Music Awards Best Video from a Film Billy Idol – "Cradle of Love" Won

See also


  1. ^ Tied with Ghosts Can't Do It.


  1. ^ "THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE (18)". British Board of Film Classification. September 17, 1990. Retrieved July 24, 2015.
  2. ^ "AFI|Catalog". Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  3. ^ a b "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (Summary)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  4. ^ Turner Classic Movies
  5. ^ Inventory: Stop That Vehicle! 20 Misbegotten Movies Custom-Made For The Utterly Unworthy - The A.V. Club
  6. ^ Weiner, Rex; Schwartz, Andy; Levin, Jay; Mutrux, Floyd (July 17, 2018). The (Original) Adventures of Ford Fairlane: The Long Lost Rock n' Roll Detective Stories (Original ed.). S.l.: Rare Bird Books, A Vireo Book. ISBN 9781945572807.
  7. ^ Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990) comic books
  8. ^ "FORD FAIRLANE FILMING Red Rocks Amphitheatre". Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  9. ^ Evans, Bradford (February 9, 2012). "The Lost Roles of Howard Stern". Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  10. ^ "Gilbert Gottfried Calling Lucy in the Hospital". YouTube.
  11. ^ "Interview: Writer/Director Daniel Waters » We Are Cult". October 27, 2017.
  12. ^ "Adventures of Ford Fairlane - Original Soundtrack | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  13. ^ Cradle Of Life - Billy Idol on official YouTube channel
  14. ^ McIIheney, Brian (March 5, 1991). "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane OST". Q Magazine. 55: 80.
  15. ^ MOVIE REVIEW : Role of the Dice : Comedy: The controversial Andrew Dice Clay sanitizes his stand-up act for ‘Ford Fairlane,’ but it’s a pointless exercise for the Diceman. - Los Angeles Times
  16. ^ "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved November 17, 2022.
  17. ^ "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  18. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  19. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 11, 2019). "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane Movie Review (1990)". Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  20. ^ Ghost, Quick Change, Arachnophobia, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Jetsons: The Movie, 1990 - Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews
  21. ^ Harris, Will (March 26, 2007). "Andrew Dice Clay Interview. Dice: Undisputed Interview". Retrieved June 6, 2013.