Reality Bites

Director: Ben Stiller
Screenwriters: Helen Childress

Institute History


Lainie just graduated from college as valedictorian, but she’s already disenchanted with life. Only one thing seems meaningful—shooting a documentary about her equally disillusioned friends: her clever, irreverent roommate, Vickie; easygoing, sexually confused Sammy; and Troy, a chronically unemployed musician who uses incisive wit to keep people and commitment at a safe distance. When yuppie Michael, who works for an edgy television network, takes an interest in Lainie and her videos, things start looking up. Soon, though, Troy’s ambivalent reaction to her new relationship makes all three look hard at what they value.

When it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, Reality Bites marked Stiller’s directorial debut and his first chance to transfer his savvy sense of humor to film. Stiller’s sardonic eye and screenwriter Helen Childress’s realistic ear for the language of her generation turn this portrait of the aspirations and frustrations of twentysomethings in the chaotic, materialistic 1990s into something deeper than just romantic comedy. Even the film’s title does double-duty: is “bites” a noun or a verb?

Thanks to Universal Studios for this newly struck print, a result of the studio’s significant commitment to restoring its most-loved films in celebration of its rich history and cultural impact on its hundredth anniversary.

— Barbra Bannon

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]