In Kenosha, Wisconsin, Darcy, editor at her high school paper, and her long-term boyfriend Stan are in their final year of high school and already have been accepted at good colleges; before Darcy goes to the University of Wisconsin to study journalism, she will go on a trip to Paris with her mother for her graduation present, while Stan will go to Caltech to study architecture. With the help of Darcy's best friend Lila, Darcy and Stan spend a weekend together, where they sleep together, and Darcy becomes pregnant. They announce the news at Thanksgiving, and neither Darcy's mother Donna, who was abandoned by her husband and brought up Darcy alone, nor Stan's Catholic parents are very supportive. Respectively, they urge the young couple to have an abortion or give up the baby for adoption. Darcy plans to have an abortion, but does not go through with it, much to Stan's relief.
At Christmas, the kids announce their plans to keep the baby, causing a break between them and their parents. They rent a decrepit apartment and get married to the cheers of their friends, despite the fact that without parental consent the marriage is not legal. At the urging of her high school guidance counselor, who explains that other girls will want to emulate her and become teenaged mothers themselves, Darcy drops out of high school but works toward her GED. Prom is interrupted by Darcy's water breaking; although baby Thea (short for Theodosia) is healthy, Darcy suffers from post-partum depression, unable to even hold her daughter, and Stan struggles to pay the bills on a part-time job salary. Only when Darcy hears an intruder (who turns out to be Stan's father) and picks up her baby protectively, does she break from her depression.
Without telling Darcy, Stan sacrifices his Caltech scholarship because there is no married housing at the school for undergraduates. Although Stan takes a second, dead-end job, the bills pile up, and the couple finally moves in with Donna, which alienates Stan and Darcy, and causes Stan to start drinking heavily. Local neighborhood girl Michaela informs Darcy of the scholarship deception so she enlists Stan's best friend Chris in a plan to ensure he take the scholarship and go to college after all. The plan entails throwing out Stan and annulling the marriage. Stan reconciles with his parents, but is heartbroken over the split with Darcy, who does not change her mind but becomes visibly angrily at her mother's cold attitude.
At Darcy's night school graduation, Stan arrives to inform Darcy that he has applied for scholarships to the University of Wisconsin–Madison for them both. Darcy lets slip her role in the Caltech deception with Chris, and Stan chases after her as she drives away. Darcy finally tells Donna that Stan is a good man, that she loves him and Donna can either embrace them as an entire family or watch them live their lives without her; Donna finally gets over her past and says she loves and supports Darcy fully. They reconcile, go forward on their plans to attend college in Madison in the fall, and remark Thea will have a very early curfew when she is a teenager. Stan says ten p.m. and Darcy says eleven p.m. Then they say if she is really in love her curfew will be eight p.m.Molly Ringwald as Darcy Elliot Bobrucz
Randall Batinkoff as Stan Bobrucz
Kenneth Mars as Mr. Bobrucz
Miriam Flynn as Donna Elliot
Conchata Ferrell as Mrs. Bobrucz
Sharon Brown as Lila
John Zarchen as Chris
Pauly Shore as Ryan
Michelle Downey as Michaela
Patricia Barry as Adoption Official
Janet MacLachlan as Miss Giles
Jaclyn-Rose Lester as Mary Bobrucz (as Jaclyn Bernstein)
Matthew Licht as Leo Bobrucz
Renée Estevez as Marnie
Darcy DeMoss as Elaine
The film is set in Kenosha, Wisconsin and was partially filmed there. Primary location work took place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
The film had a number of titles while in production, possibilities including "Maybe, Baby" (by which it is known in some overseas territories) and "For Keeps?", before settling on the final question mark-less version.
The promising career of John Zarchen, thought to be on the verge of breakout in the supporting role of Stan's best friend, Chris, literally hit a wall during the shooting, as Zarchen suffered a life-threatening head injury while driving in Hollywood, allegedly under the influence of alcohol. He survived a brief period of being comatose, and actually returned to the film, although director John Avildsen, due to his medical absence and disgusted with the actor's disregard for the opportunity and the production, greatly cut down his role. This movie also marks the film debut of Pauly Shore, who appears in a small role as another friend of Stan.
The musical score features a lullaby-like version of the song "Be My Baby", sung by composer Ellie Greenwich.
Actor Adam Silbar was originally cast in the lead role of Stan but, for unknown reasons, the role was later re-cast with Randall Batinkoff just weeks before the first day of production. Author and casting director Paul G. Bens, Jr., then an actor, was one of the two finalists to replace Silbar. The role ultimately went to Batinkoff.
Rotten Tomatoes aggregate score gave the film a 22% rotten rating. Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review saying, "The movies of Molly Ringwald have been responsible for a revolution in the way Hollywood regards teenagers. Before Ringwald (and her mentor, John Hughes) there were only horny teenagers, dead teenagers, teenage vampires and psychotic crackups. Now teenage movies are working their way through some of the aspects of the normal life of American teenagers, and in “For Keeps,” Ringwald plays a popular high school senior who gets pregnant and gets married."
Janet Maslin of New York Times said, "Most of For Keeps is entirely predictable, but that should do little to diminish its interest for audiences of high-school age. Here again, Miss Ringwald is the very model of teen-age verisimilitude, and she's most impressive in making even the most hackneyed situations seem real. In fact, she's so good she's almost a problem. Mr. Batinkoff, while pleasant, is no real match for her, and the glowering parents who make their kids' lives miserable for a time are no real threat. There is the feeling that Miss Ringwald's Darcy can triumph over anything. But perhaps that's just what Mr. Avildsen had in mind."
Judge Brian Pope gave a positive review saying, "Pretty but approachable, smart but funny, cool but sweet, Ringwald represented everything most high-school girls wanted to be: the girl next door who always got the guy without compromising her values. Small wonder she is still regarded as an icon of '80s teen cinema. It wasn't until Ringwald began dipping her toes into slightly more adult roles that she lost her footing. Take 'For Keeps', for instance. This movie dared to suggest that even a popular honors student is capable of making wrong decisions that result in life-changing consequences. More crucially, Ringwald suggested to her fans that the qualities they found so endearing in her aren't always adequate substitutes for natural maturity. Perhaps that was a bitter pill for her fans to swallow, but it's not such a bad message, and, more than 15 years after its release, 'For Keeps' isn't such a bad movie."
David Nusair gave a more negative review saying, "For Keeps takes a potentially intriguing subject (two teenagers attempting to start their lives together) and piles on cliche after cliche, until it's about as compelling as an afterschool special."
In January 1988, the film debuted at #4 at the box office (behind Good Morning, Vietnam, Three Men and a Baby, and Moonstruck). Grossing $17,514,553 domestically, the film is a box office success given its estimated budget of $10 million.
On March 23, 2004 the film was released on DVD.
Referenced in the Gilmore Girls episode, "Take the Deviled Eggs..."