Dante Hicks, a 22-year-old retail clerk at the Quick Stop convenience store in Leonardo, New Jersey, is called into work on his day off by his boss to cover a few hours for another employee who is sick. Arriving at the store, he finds that the locks to the security shutters are jammed closed with chewing gum, so he hangs a sheet over them with a message written in shoe polish: "I ASSURE YOU; WE'RE OPEN."
Dante's day is spent in the purgatory of serving a succession of customers while repeating the fact that he is "not even supposed to be here today". Stressed with the demands of his job, Dante passes time in wide-ranging conversations with his best friend, Randal Graves. Randal is an irresponsible slacker who works in the next-door video store, RST Video, although he spends most of the day at the Quick Stop, neglecting the video store's customers. They converse about many things to pass time, such as whether or not the contractors working on the second Death Star when it was destroyed at the end of Return of the Jedi were innocent victims. Other events of the day include the discovery that Dante's high school girlfriend, Caitlin Bree, whom he has been having early morning phone conversations with, is engaged to be married. Dante's current girlfriend, Veronica Loughran, also stops in to bring him homemade lasagne. The two talk about Dante's stuck-in-a-rut lifestyle with no motivation to change before having an argument about her past sexual partners.
Learning that he is stuck working the store all day, as his boss went to Vermont, Dante convinces his friends to play hockey on the store roof, though the game is short; twelve minutes in, an enraged customer shoots their only ball off the roof and into a sewer. Reopening the store, Dante finds another of his ex-girlfriends has died and her wake is today. Randal talks him into closing the store again and going to the wake. The visit is catastrophic, with Randal and Dante running out to escape in their car. What happened inside the funeral home is not shown, but a subsequent conversation between the two reveals that Randal accidentally knocked over the casket by leaning on it.
That night, Caitlin surprises Dante with a visit. After she assures Dante that the engagement announcement was premature and arranged by her mother, the two trade banter and Dante becomes torn between her and Veronica. He finally decides to take Caitlin on a date and goes home to change. He returns to discover that Caitlin had sex with a dead man in the unlit bathroom, having mistaken the man for Dante (the man had earlier entered the bathroom with a pornographic magazine and had suffered a fatal heart attack while masturbating). An ambulance takes a catatonic Caitlin away along with the man's body.
Jay and Silent Bob, a pair of slackers who have spent all day loitering (and dealing marijuana) outside RST Video, enter the Quick Stop to shoplift. Dante turns down Jay's offer to party with them. Aware of Dante's problem, Silent Bob pauses before following Jay outside and offers the following wisdom: "You know, there's a million fine-looking women in the world, dude. But they don't all bring you lasagna at work. Most of 'em just cheat on you." Dante then realizes that he loves Veronica. When she returns to the Quick Stop, however, Randal complicates things by revealing that Dante asked Caitlin out. Veronica angrily breaks up with Dante, telling him that Randal informed her of the planned date with Caitlin.
When Randal enters the Quick Stop after closing RST, Dante attacks him and the two fight, making a mess of the store. Afterward, they lie on the floor exhausted. Dante claims that Randal does nothing for him but make his life miserable by getting him fined, offending his customers, and ruining his relationship. Randal loses his temper and verbally explodes, saying that Dante deserves the blame, as Dante, closed the store to play hockey, closed it again to go to the wake, and closed it yet again to try to hook up with his ex-girlfriend, cheating on his current one in the process. He then says that Dante came to work of his own free will and "overcompensates for having a monkey's job". He claims Dante thinks he is more advanced than the customers and storms off with "if we're so fucking advanced, what are we doing working here?" leaving Dante speechless on the floor.
They reconcile and Dante says he will try to talk to Veronica, visit Caitlin, and possibly get some direction in his life. The film ends with Randal walking out of the store, popping back in briefly to toss Dante's sign at him stating, "You're closed!"Brian O'Halloran as Dante Hicks
Jeff Anderson as Randal Graves
Marilyn Ghigliotti as Veronica Loughran
Lisa Spoonauer as Caitlin Bree
Jason Mewes as Jay
Kevin Smith as Silent Bob
Scott Mosier as Willam the Idiot Manchild / Angry hockey-playing customer / Angry mourner
Scott Schiaffo as Chewlies gum representative
Al Berkowitz as Old man
Walt Flanagan as Woolen cap smoker / Egg man / Offended customer / Cat admirer
Ed Hapstak as Sanford / Angry funeral woman
Pattijean Csik as The Coroner
Ken Clark as Administer of Fine / Orderly
Ernest O'Donnell as Rick Derris
Kimberly Loughran as Heather Jones
Frances Cresci as Little smoking girl
Joey Lauren Adams (The Lost Scene) as Alyssa Jones (voice)
Gary Stern as Tabloid Reading Customer
The MPAA originally gave Clerks an NC-17 rating, based purely on the film's explicit dialogue, as it contains no real violence, and no clearly depicted nudity. This would have serious financial implications for the film, as very few cinemas in the United States screen NC-17 films. Miramax hired civil liberties lawyer Alan Dershowitz to appeal the decision and the MPAA relented and re-rated the film with the more commercially viable "R" rating, without alteration.
The film was shot in black-and-white and roughly edited due to a very modest budget of $27,575. To acquire the funds for the film, Kevin Smith sold a large portion of his extensive comic book collection in 1993, maxed out eight to ten credit cards with $2,000 limits, dipped into a portion of funds set aside for his college education and spent insurance money awarded for a car he and Jason Mewes lost in a flood. The film was shot in 21 straight days (with two "pick-up" days). Smith based the character of Dante on himself, and Randal on Smith's friend, Bryan Johnson, who would later appear in Smith's subsequent films.
The Quick Stop convenience store (located at 58 N. Leonard Avenue in Leonardo, New Jersey) where Smith worked was the primary setting for the film. He was only allowed to film in the store at night while it was closed (from 10:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.), hence the plot point of the shutters being closed due to a vandal having jammed gum in the padlocks. Because Smith was working at Quick Stop during the day and shooting the film at night, he slept no more than an hour a day. By the end of the 21-day shoot, Smith was unable to stay awake while some of the most climactic scenes of the film were shot.
The events of Julie Dwyer's wake were scripted by Smith, but un-filmed due to the prohibitive cost of producing the scene. For the tenth anniversary Clerks X DVD release, the scene was produced in color using an animation style similar to that of Clerks: The Animated Series. The "lost scene" was also presented in comic book form of the Clerks comic book series, with the title of "The Lost Scene".
The original ending for the film was meant to continue from when Randal throws Dante's "I Assure You We're Open" sign to him. After Randal leaves, Dante proceeds to count out the register and does not notice another person entering the store. Upon Dante's informing the latecomer that the store is no longer open, the customer shoots Dante, killing him in cold blood. Afterward, the killer makes off with all the money from the cash register. The sequence ends with Dante's dead face looking off past the camera; after the credits roll, a customer (played by Smith, wearing glasses, in a ponytail and a baseball jersey, with his beard shaved off) comes into the store, sees no one around (Dante is lying dead behind the counter) and steals some cigarettes.
The depressing ending was criticized by Smith's mentors Bob Hawk and John Pierson after its first screening at the Independent Feature Film Market, and it was under Pierson's advice that Smith cut the ending short, deleting Dante's death and ending the movie with Randal's departure. Fans have since analyzed the death of Dante as an homage to the ending of The Empire Strikes Back, which is discussed earlier in the film as Dante's favorite Star Wars movie because "it ended on such a down note". Deleted scenes from the extended cut of the film also implied that the killer would never be caught, as Randal disconnects the security cameras earlier in the day. Smith said it concluded this way because he "didn't know how to end a film". Both versions are available in Clerks X, the tenth anniversary special edition; the lost ending itself was among the extras on the 1995 LaserDisc and the 1999 DVD release; in his commentary on the 1999 DVD, Smith states that had he kept the original ending, there would have likely been no further View Askewniverse films. The culprit in question was played by Smith's cousin John Willyung, who would go on to appear in later Smith films (most notably as "Cohee Lunden" in Chasing Amy).
The film became a surprising success after it was taken by Miramax Films and grossed over $3 million in the United States despite never playing on more than 50 theater screens in the United States at the same time.
The film was well received by critics, and is considered a cult classic. It currently has an 88% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In his 1994 review of Clerks, Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of a possible 4. Ebert praised the film for interestingly depicting a full day of "utterly authentic" middle-class life, adding: "Within the limitations of his bare-bones production, Smith shows great invention, a natural feel for human comedy, and a knack for writing weird, sometimes brilliant, dialogue." Peter Travers gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, calling attention to Anderson's "deadpan comic brilliance" and writing that "Smith nails the obsessive verbal wrangling of smart, stalled twentysomethings who can't figure out how to get their ideas into motion."
When released, the film was noted for its realism and memorable characters. Clerks won the "Award of the Youth" and the "Mercedes-Benz Award" at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, tied with Fresh for the "Filmmakers Trophy" at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards (Best First Feature, Best First Screenplay and Jeff Anderson for Best Debut Performance). In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted Clerks the 16th greatest comedy film of all time and in 2006, British film magazine Empire listed Clerks as the 4th greatest independent film. The film is also No. 33 on Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly ranked it 13th on "The Cult 25: The Essential Left-Field Movie Hits Since '83" and 21st on "The Comedy 25: The Funniest Movies of the Past 25 Years". Also in 2008, Empire named it one of their "500 Greatest Movies of All-Time" placing it 361st on the list. The film was also one of the 500 films nominated for a spot on AFI's 100 Years…100 Laughs but failed to make the top 100. The film was also included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
Clerks was first released on VHS on May 23, 1995. On August 30, 1995, a LaserDisc version was issued. This version features the original letterboxed version of the film, audio commentary by Smith and various cast and crew members, seven deleted scenes from the film, a theatrical trailer, and a music video for "Can't Even Tell" performed by Soul Asylum.
The first DVD incarnation of the film appeared on June 29, 1999. The special features for the DVD do not vary from the LaserDisc features. It was then released as a 3-disc, tenth anniversary edition set in 2004.
The film was released on UMD (playable on PlayStation Portable) on November 15, 2005. Special features include "Clerks: The Lost Scene", "The Flying Car" and original cast auditions. In the fall of 2006, a new edition of the Clerks DVD appeared in Canada, dubbed the Clerks: Snowball Edition. The new release included a photo of a bikini-clad model on the cover and some of the extra features from the 1999 edition. It appears Smith was not involved in this release, as he indicated on his official message forum in August 2006 that he was not aware of its release.
Clerks was released on Blu-ray on November 17, 2009, as a "15th Anniversary Edition". It has the same special features as Clerks X, below, along with a new documentary, Oh, What a Lovely Tea Party, as well as an introduction to the documentary by Kevin Smith.
On September 7, 2004, a tenth anniversary edition of Clerks was released. The 3-disc set is commonly known as Clerks X as part of the Miramax Films Collector's Series. The features for this version of the DVD include:A 24-page color booklet featuring thoughts on the film from Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier ten years after making it. The booklet also features various reprints of reviews and images of posters and memorabilia from the film's release. Smith states in the booklet that Clerks II would be filmed in 2005.
Disc 1 – Theatrical FeatureThe original theatrical cut of the film in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround.
The original 1995 laser disc commentary track.
An "enhanced playback track" featuring trivia subtitles and title card descriptions.
"Clerks: The Lost Scene" animated short. This scene was originally written in the screenplay for the film but was never shot. For the DVD, the scene was animated in the same style as Clerks: The Animated Series. The scene can be presented in two different ways.
The scene can be viewed separately from the film with an introduction by Smith and Mosier.
The DVD also presents the owner with the ability to play the theatrical cut of the film with the animated scene as if it were part of the feature.
The Flying Car, a short film featuring Dante and Randal. The short was shot in 2001 for The Tonight Show and features the two main characters from Clerks stuck in traffic having a somewhat similar conversation as the one in Clerks where the two are driving to a funeral and discussing sexual curiosity. On the DVD, the short is presented in its original cut with an introduction from Smith.
A series of short television ads that MTV commissioned from Kevin Smith featuring Jay and Silent Bob. Eight of them appear on the DVD, two of which have edited soundtracks (MTV also aired a special that Smith hosted but it could not be secured for the DVD for clearance reasons). The spots are introduced by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier.
An original film trailer for the film edited by Matthew Cohen with a brief introduction from Kevin Smith.
The original music video for "Can't Even Tell" performed by Soul Asylum directed by Kevin Smith. The music video is introduced by Smith and Scott Mosier.
Three short featurettes about the restoration process used to recreate the feature film for the Clerks X DVD. In the first featurette, Scott Mosier describes the sound restoration process. In the second, David Klein explains the visual restoration process. The third featurette is hosted by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier as a general introduction to the restored version of the film.
Original auditions for the film featuring Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, and Ernest O'Donnell. The auditions are introduced by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier.
Disc 2 – Clerks: The First CutThe very first cut of the film before it was edited for theaters. It features additional scenes and the original ending intact, less sound production, and the original soundtrack which featured music by Love Among Freaks exclusively. This version replicates what Smith showed to film critics and journalists before taking the film to Sundance and selling it to Miramax. It was taken from a Super-VHS tape and unlike the theatrical release underwent no apparent restoration. It is included in the 10th anniversary set in lieu of the collection of deleted scenes that had appeared in the previous DVD issue.
Audio and video commentary for the first cut of the film. The commentary was recorded in 2004 with Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes.
Disc 3 – Bonus Features"Snowball Effect", a 90-minute retrospective documentary for Clerks that focuses on Smith's early inception of the film, the process of making and distributing and finally, the reaction and response to the film from critics and fans.
Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary, a short student film that Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier made during their time at film school. It comes with an introduction by Smith and Mosier.
10th Anniversary Q&A session with Kevin Smith, David Klein, Scott Mosier, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Jason Mewes, Jeff Anderson and Brian O'Halloran.
13 deleted scenes and outtakes from Snowball Effect
A still photo gallery of over 50 photographs and production images from Clerks as well as early photos of crew and cast members.
Two collections of journal entries written by Smith. The first entries were written before finishing Clerks and the second were written while Smith took the film to Sundance Film Festival.
Eight articles and reviews about the film.
The soundtrack was released on October 11, 1994. It was composed of various new and previously released songs by alternative rock, grunge and punk rock artists such as Bad Religion, Love Among Freaks, Alice in Chains, and Soul Asylum. The soundtrack also featured various sound clips from the film. It has been noted that Clerks is one of the very few films in which the cost of obtaining the rights to the music used was greater than the production costs for the entire film.
The Soul Asylum song "Can't Even Tell", which was played over the film's end credits and featured on the soundtrack, peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart in 1994. The music video for the song was directed by Smith and was filmed in the same locations as the film. The video featured Smith, Jason Mewes, Jeff Anderson and Brian O'Halloran reprising their roles from Clerks.
Another song which appeared on the soundtrack was "Got Me Wrong" by Alice in Chains, which had previously been released on the band's extended play Sap (1992). The song was issued as a single in late 1994, due to renewed radio interest from the song's appearance in Clerks. The song peaked at number 7 on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart and number 15 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks in 1994.
Although not direct sequels in terms of addressing the original film's storyline, characters from the original Clerks - primarily Jay and Silent Bob - appeared in the films Mallrats (1995), Chasing Amy (1997), Dogma (1999), and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), all of which take place in the same continuity as Clerks. Dante and Randal also reprised their roles in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. The 2001 film was originally promoted as the finale to the series, but an official sequel to Clerks was announced a few years later.
The live-action, feature film sequel to Clerks was released on July 21, 2006. The working title was The Passion of the Clerks, though the film was released under the title Clerks II. The credits for Dogma stated "Jay and Silent Bob will return in Clerks 2: Hardly Clerkin' "; however, that project "evolved" into Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. The sequel features Jeff Anderson and Brian O'Halloran reprising their roles as Dante Hicks and Randal Graves. The two now work at a Mooby's restaurant after Graves' incompetence resulted in the destruction of the Quick Stop and RST Video.
During press for Clerks II, Smith briefly discussed the possibility of a Clerks III. Stating that "if there's ever gonna be a Clerks III, it would be somewhere down the road in my 40s or 50s, when it might be interesting to check back in on Dante and Randal. But I don't know about Jay and Bob so much, 'cause at 45, leaning on a wall in front of a convenience store might be a little sad."
This was confirmed further during one of the three audio commentary tracks on the Clerks II DVD where Smith expressed interest in making a Clerks III in his 40s or 50s in which Anderson jokingly says "Oh, don't get me started," referring to Anderson's well known doubts about making Clerks II when first approached by Smith.
On December 25, 2009, Smith replied to a tweet with a message board post. In it he says "Might be nice to box 'View Askew Productions' 'til the eventual look back in on Dante and Randal with Clerks III."
On March 29, 2012, Smith expressed his interest in producing Clerks III as a Broadway play after seeing the Theresa Rebeck comedy Seminar starring Alan Rickman, with whom Smith had previously worked on Dogma.
On December 7, 2012, Smith announced on his Twitter account, that his ice hockey film, Hit Somebody, would be changed to a TV mini-series and that Smith's last directorial effort will be Clerks III. Smith states, "So with the Hit Somebody shift, the minute Jeff Anderson signs on, my last cinematic effort as a writer/director will be Clerks III."
On December 10, 2012, Smith released a special Hollywood Babble-On episode, Hollywood Babble-On #000: GIANT SIZED ANNUAL # 1: CLERKS III, AUDIENCE 0, in which he revealed greater details on his plans for Clerks III. Smith revealed that an ongoing audit over residuals from Clerks II with The Weinstein Company was causing a delay in several key Clerks III cast and crew members, including Jeff Anderson and Scott Mosier, from coming on board until the audit was resolved. Smith also revealed that he would like to crowdsource Clerks III, either through Kickstarter or Indiegogo, with contributors receiving anything from DVDs, posters, and even roles as extras in the film. As of yet, no start date for production has been set. On June 5, 2013, he changed his mind on crowdsourcing, stating "I've got access to money. And worst-case scenario, I can put up my house."
On March 8, 2013, Smith announced via Facebook that he had officially begun writing the script for Clerks III. On May 13, 2013, Smith finished the first draft of the upcoming film, stating that it is "The Empire Strikes Back" of the series.
On the July 15, 2013 episode of Up at Noon on IGN with Greg Miller, Mewes said Smith has "finished and packaged together" Clerks III. They are waiting to hear back from The Weinstein Company, and he hopes to start shooting soon.
On September 26, 2014, Smith stated on the Hollywood Babble-On No. 183 episode, why he’s glad that he made Tusk, Smith added, "Everything in my life would suck right now if I hadn't made that movie. I'm back in movies now. I've got three lined up, and this is the fucking grand news. Tusk was the absolute bridge to Clerks III. Because of Tusk, I got my financing for Clerks III." Smith continued, "A year and change ago, I was trying to fucking desperately get Clerks III made for the 20th anniversary. And that desperation, I must have reeked of it, because I couldn't fucking find money and shit. But it was Tusk, it was people going 'Holy Fuck! What else do you have?' And I was like, Clerks III, done. So everybody that's like, 'He failed, he failed,' thank you I failed into Clerks III. So, never trust anybody when they tell you how your story goes, man. You know your story. You write your own story.”
On April 8, 2015, Smith announced that plans to start shooting Clerks III in May 2015 were put on hold and instead his next film would be Mallrats 2. Smith said, "We were talking about initially shooting Clerks III this summer and then we were going to get to Mallrats in the beginning of 2016. And then it jumped into 2015, where we were going to shoot Clerks and then hopefully ‘Mallrats’ before the end of the year. But now, based on a fucking mall that we all dig that will be going away, the priority has become Mallrats. So the next fucking movie I’m making is Mallrats 2." In June 2016, Smith announced that the plans for a Mallrats sequel had been turned into plans for a 10-episode TV series.
On February 9, 2017, Smith revealed on Facebook that Clerks 3 "can't happen" as "one of our four leads opted out of the flick". At a panel at Nashville Comicon it was revealed that Jeff Anderson decided not to return as Randall, therefore Clerks 3 cannot be made.
Following Clerks, Smith set several more films in the same "world", which he calls the View Askewniverse of overlapping characters and stories. Of all of Smith's films, however, Clerks is the one with the most direct spin-off products.
A pilot for a live-action TV series was produced in 1995. It was produced by Touchstone Television. The pilot only referenced the character names and starred none of the cast from the original film, contained no foul language, and did not feature Silent Bob. The character of Jay was featured, prompting Smith to point out that he owned the character rights to both Jay and Silent Bob (for the purposes of featuring them in separate films). The producers' solution was to change the character's name to Ray. Kevin Smith was unaware of the production of the series until casting was underway. Smith had been in production with Mallrats at the time and attempted to become involved in the series but became disheartened quickly as an episode he had written for the series was shot down. He would later use the script for an episode of Clerks: The Animated Series.
O'Halloran and Anderson both auditioned for the role of Dante Hicks (as Anderson's part of Randal Graves from the film had already been filled by future SNL performer Jim Breuer). After seeing the result, Smith said that it was terrible, and O'Halloran and Anderson said they were both glad they didn't get the part.
Touchstone Television (with Miramax Films) also produced Clerks: The Animated Series a short-lived six-episode animated television series featuring the same characters and cast of the original film. Two episodes aired on the ABC network. in late May/early June 2000 before being pulled from the lineup. The full six episodes were released on DVD in 2001 before being run on Comedy Central in 2004 and Adult Swim in 2008-10. In a trailer for (but not in) Smith's 2001 film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Randal remarks on the series, saying to Dante: "If you were funnier than that, ABC wouldn't have canceled us."
Clerks. is a series of comics written by Kevin Smith featuring characters from the film. In the series are Clerks: The Comic Book, Clerks: Holiday Special, and Clerks: The Lost Scene. Smith has discussed plans for Clerks 1.5, a comic that would bridge the gap between the original film and its sequel, to be included in a reprint of the Clerks. trade paperback. The story ultimately was printed in the 2006 Tales from the Clerks collection, which also included the other Clerks comics with additional View Askewniverse material.