Directed by Randal Kleiser, the film managed to assemble a cast that seems handpicked from teenage dreamland. John Travolta as Danny Zuko and Olivia Newton-John as Sandy Olsson (or Olsen) make for a screen pair that positively exudes charisma and chemistry.
The Grease soundtrack still makes us swoon
But what makes Grease a standout? It isn’t just the engaging storyline of summer loves and high school reunions. The music is a central character in this cinematic narrative. Songs like “Summer Nights” and “You’re the One That I Want” still get feet tapping, proving timeless appeal.
Besides its killer soundtrack, the film tackles universal themes: peer pressure, identity struggles, and the sweet pain of young love. It offers a mix of humor, emotion, and pure entertainment. And the dance sequences! They’re choreographed with an energy that’s infectious.
What were the reviews like?
When Grease first splashed onto cinema screens in 1978, critics were certainly not mum. Many lavished praise on the film’s energetic performances and catchy soundtrack. The dynamic duo of John Travolta — known best at the time for his role as a sweathog in Welcome Back, Kotter and a disco star in Saturday Night Fever — and Olivia Newton John drew accolades for their palpable on-screen chemistry.
Not every review was sung in a harmonious tune. Some critics raised eyebrows at the film’s portrayal of teenage relationships and its glossing over certain issues — arguing that the movie portrayed certain outdated gender norms or stereotypes — which is a fair point.
While not universally lauded, Grease still resonated with audiences, making it clear that box office success and critical reception don’t always waltz in step. Nonetheless, the sheer nostalgic charm and stellar performances secure its spot as a cult classic, and for the majority of us, it remains a fun, foot-tapping spectacle that’s perfect for a sentimental movie night.
Have a look back here at one of the early reviews, published originally back in 1978 — and check out the Grease trailer & Grease soundtrack, along with lots of nostalgic photos and stills! – BB
Grease movie original trailer (1978)
‘Grease’ is a slick Travolta film
By Joe Leydon – The Times (Shreveport, Louisiana) June 16, 1978
Slicked-back, sharp-looking, and raring to rock, “Grease” is an exuberant entertainment guaranteed to offer at least temporary relief from any summertime blues which ail you.
Adapted from the Broadway musical often credited with starting the Fifties nostalgia craze, the film brims with high spirits, low comedy, and just plain fun. A few anachronisms — such as a distractingly disco-flavored title tune — mar the period flavor, but for the most part, “Grease” effectively and entertainingly presents a 1970s vision of 1950s Americana.
Everything is highly romanticized and homogenized. Even the greased-back delinquents among the high school student characters look cuddly and harmless, much like television’s Fonzie. This is all intentional, of course. “Grease” is not a photograph of the period; rather, it’s a movie based on a play which was in turn based on the images in movies and popular songs that the era inspired.
All of the characters are stereotypes, with less depth than Daffy Duck. (At one point, in fact, there was talk of filming “Grease” as a feature-length cartoon.)
The fun comes from watching the way scriptwriter Bronte Woodward (working from the Broadway original) takes the stereotypes — the tough gang leader with a heart of gold, the “nice girl,” the “bad girl,” etc. — and gently satirizes them by exaggerating them just slightly.
The storyline is as simple as the characters. Danny (John Travolta) enjoys a chaste summer romance with Sandy (Olivia Newton-John), then returns to his leather-jacketed buddies at Rydell High. He entertains his pals with tall tales about his summertime affair, only to be embarrassed when Sandy also pops up at Rydell.
To maintain his cool image — and his lies about their intimacy — Danny brushes aside Sandy’s efforts to resume their relationship.
Just as you might expect, she eventually wins him back. Just as you might not expect, she does it by shedding her wholesome image for a more sensual look. Doris Day, make way for Ann-Margret.
Director Randal Kleiser takes the plot with a grain of salt, and treats it simply as an excuse to string together a series of clever songs and vibrant dances. He has a strong visual sense, and a nifty feel for the absurd — his staging of the hilarious “Beauty School Dropout” number looks like a playful homage to Ken Russell, of all people.
The best tunes — “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” “Summer Nights” — work brilliantly as both evocations and burlesques of 1950s pop music, while Patricia Birch’s inspired and energetic choreography keep one hoping for even more dance sequences than the film can contain.
The older folks in the cast — especially Sid Caesar as a high school coach — are largely overlooked and underused. The younger folks don’t look quite young enough — not one person in the cast would be asked for an ID in any bar in America — but at least they have more to do.
Stockard Channing is sexy, sassy, and simply perfect as the tart-tongued Rizzo, a girl who has seen the back seats of more cars than she might care to recall.
Olivia Newton-John has a less colorful part to play — the character has been turned into an Australian, in deference to Miss Newton-John’s accent — and she comes off a trifle bland, though there can be no faulting her singing in such duets with John Travolta as “You’re the One That I Want” and “Summer Nights.”
Travolta doesn’t need to sing. He doesn’t need to do much of anything. The man has a screen presence that is almost indecently electrifying. He could probably just saunter through a film to make an impact. His singing really isn’t that special, but his dancing in “Grease” is every bit as just as agile and sensual as it was in “Saturday Night Fever.”
Unfortunately, the choreography isn’t the only thing which harkens back to “Saturday Night.” Travolta plays another soulful slob with dancing feet in “Grease.” And since he is so good at it, he is definitely in danger of being typecast. Still, typecasting or no typecasting, there can be no gainsaying his appeal and impact.
Whether he has lasting power remains to be seen. But right now, Travolta is the star to watch, and “Grease” is the summer movie to enjoy.
Whether he has lasting power remains to be seen… ! 😆
Greased Lightning car
As the T-Birds tinker and sing, Greased Lightning transforms from a rundown jalopy into a dream machine. It’s not just about speed and races; it’s the embodiment of teenage dreams, aspirations, and the thrill of the open road. When this car revs its engine, it captures the very essence of the 1950s youth spirit in all its shining glory. (PS: Some people refer to this old Ford as Grease Lightnin’ or Grease Lightning. You do you.)
Grease is the word…
Watch the iconic Grease movie opening credits
Where to stream the Grease full-length movie
Grease Original 1978 Motion Picture Soundtrack
- Grease (sung by Frankie Valli)
- Summer Nights
- Hopelessly Devoted to You
- You’re the One That I Want
- Beauty School Dropout
- Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee
- Greased Lightnin’
- It’s Raining on Prom Night
- Alone at a Drive-In Movie (Instrumental)
- Blue Moon
- Rock n’ Roll Is Here to Stay
- Those Magic Changes
- Hound Dog
- Born to Hand Jive
- Tears on My Pillow
- Freddy, My Love
- Rock n’ Roll Party Queen
- There Are Worse Things I Could Do
- Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee (Reprise)
- We Go Together
- Love Is a Many Splendored Thing (Instrumental)
- Grease (Reprise)