American Graffiti is a 1973 American coming-of-age comedy film directed and co-written by George Lucas starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Bo Hopkins, and Wolfman Jack. Suzanne Somers and Joe Spano also appear in the film.
Set in Modesto, California, in 1962, the film is a study of the cruising and rock 'n' roll cultures popular among the post–World War II baby boom generation. Through a series of vignettes, the film tells the story of a group of teenagers and their adventures over the course of a single night.
The genesis of American Graffiti was in Lucas' own teenage years in early 1960s Modesto. He was unsuccessful in pitching the concept to financiers and distributors, but found favor at Universal Pictures after United Artists, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Warner Bros., and Paramount Pictures turned him down. Filming was initially set to take place in San Rafael, California, but the production crew was denied permission to shoot beyond a second day.
American Graffiti premiered August 2, 1973, at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland, and was released August 11, 1973 in the United States. The film received widespread critical acclaim and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Produced on a $777,000 budget, it has become one of the most profitable films of all time. Since its initial release, American Graffiti has garnered an estimated return of well over $200 million in box office gross and home video sales, not including merchandising.
In 1995, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. A sequel, More American Graffiti, was released in 1979.