The film was in production in late 1987. It was released on July 6, 1988 in the United States and grossed over $20 million at the North American box office. It was distributed by 20th Century Fox.
Les Anderson (Corey Haim) is a 16-year-old living in Southern California who tries to get his driver's license and falls in love with Mercedes Lane (Heather Graham).
After failing the knowledge portion of his driver's exam, Les takes the road test (and passes), following a computer surge that he inadvertently caused. The Department of Motor Vehicles originally let him pass the exam (as his failing score was thought to be irretrievable after the computer surge) because his twin sister had scored so highly; they decided that twins could not be too different. But when his test scores are finally retrieved, his new license is torn up and he is officially failed. Les lies to his parents and friends, convincing them that he has passed the test. Unfortunately, his parents find out the truth, and as a result, Les is grounded for the next two weeks. That night, having already made plans to use his new license, he sneaks out of the house with his grandfather's prized 1972 Cadillac Sedan de Ville for a night on the town with Mercedes. After showing him how Los Angeles looks from far away on a hill, she tells him that her father used to bring her to the hill. While Mercedes is getting drunk, she and Les cause the hood of the car to slightly cave in by dancing on it. Mercedes then passes out.
Les panics and goes to his best friend Dean's house, where Dean (Corey Feldman) fixes the dent in the car's hood. Dean persuades Les to go out for a joyride, along with their friend Charles (Michael Manasseri), who are both still unaware that Les does not have a license. The three, along with a blacked-out Mercedes (who they put in the trunk of the car), end up getting into all kinds of trouble and hilarity ensues as they cause ever more damage to the Cadillac. Meanwhile, Les' extremely pregnant mother, late in the night, wakes up her husband, shouting that she is in labor.
The next day, Les drops off Charles and Dean. Mercedes finally comes to and believes the fragments of the night that she does recall were a dream. She and Les kiss after he drops her off at her house. Les later does get in trouble with his father after returning home (after dropping Charles, Dean and Mercedes off) with the Cadillac, which is by now seriously damaged. Luckily, Les is able to drive his father, his mother and little brother Rudy to the hospital — in reverse, because the Cadillac is so badly damaged it can no longer be put into drive. After they get there, and Les' mother is taken into the hospital, a crane fails and a falling steel girder crushes the Cadillac, much to the shock of Les and his father. The family prepares to explain the state of the Cadillac to Les' grandfather, expecting the worst, but Les' grandfather laughs it off when he reveals that he has severely damaged Les' father's own car, a BMW, in an accident.
Les' father tells Les that the BMW is all his now, and laughingly tells him to take good care of it. Although Les thanks his father, he has changed his mind about getting a BMW, saying he does not need it anymore. Mercedes pulls up in a white Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet, while Les says "I already have a Mercedes". He then runs over and hops into the Cabriolet. Les drives off with Mercedes, without his license.Corey Haim as Les Anderson
Corey Feldman as Dean
Carol Kane as Mrs. Anderson
Richard Masur as Mr. Anderson
Heather Graham as Mercedes Lane
Michael Manasseri as Charles
Parley Baer as Grandpa
Harvey Miller as The Professor
Michael A. Nickles as Paolo
Nina Siemaszko as Natalie Anderson
James Avery as Les' DMV Examiner
Grant Goodeve as Natalie's DMV Examiner
Grant Heslov as Karl
Michael Ensign as School Teacher/Bus Driver
Helen Hanft as Miss Hellberg
Christopher Burton as Rudy
Nanci Meek-Kusley as Shakey's Waitress
License to Drive grossed $22,433,275 in North America.
Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half out of four stars and described the film as "more-than-passable summer entertainment, especially when it identifies with the yearnings of its young heroes to get behind the wheel." He said the first half of the film was "very funny" but the second half was "much more predictable".
The movie was a box office success. It earned $22,433,275 at the North American box office, against a production budget of $8 million.Track listing
- "Drive My Car" by Breakfast Club – 3:13
- "Sweet Surrender" by Brenda K. Starr – 4:50
- "I Feel Free" (extended version) by Belinda Carlisle – 6:55
- "Time Starts Now" by Boys Club – 4:28
- "Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car" by Billy Ocean – 5:29
- "Crucial" by New Edition – 4:30
- "One More Dance" by Jonathan Butler – 4:32
- "Jazzy's in the House" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – 2:55
- "Touch and Go" by Femme Fatale – 3:57
- "Make Some Noise" by Slave Raider – 3:28
- "Mercedes Boy" by Pebbles – 3:54 (single remix)
Songs played in the film, but not on the soundtrack
- "Rush Hour" by Jane Wiedlin – 4:03
- "Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra
- "That's Life" by Frank Sinatra
- "Waiting for the Big One" by Femme Fatale
License to Drive was first released on VHS by CBS/Fox Video in late 1988. It was notable that some VHS versions of the film replaced the Nia Peeples song "Trouble" with "New Sensation" by INXS.
A special edition DVD was distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment in the United States on May 3, 2005. Special features included interviews with Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, audio commentary with Greg Beeman and Neil Tolkin, deleted scenes, TV spots, theatrical trailers, and the film's screenplay (DVD-ROM).
On January 17, 2012, Anchor Bay released the film on Blu-ray.
In an interview on Larry King Live, on March 10, 2010, the day of Corey Haim's death, Corey Feldman revealed that he and Haim had been developing a sequel, titled License to Fly, an idea initiated by Haim. Feldman also stated that there were tentative plans for a trilogy, with a third installment called License to Dive.
Fox and Davis is developing a female-driven reboot based on the film.