Joel Goodson is a high-achieving high school student who lives with his wealthy parents in the North Shore area of Chicago. His father wants him to attend Princeton University, his alma mater, so Joel participates in Future Enterprisers, an extracurricular activity in which students work in teams to create small businesses. When his parents go away on a trip, Joel's friend, Miles, convinces him to take advantage of his newfound freedom to have some fun. On the first night, he raids the liquor cabinet, plays the stereo loudly, and dances around the living room in his underwear and pink dress shirt to "Old Time Rock and Roll". The following day, Miles calls a call girl named Jackie on Joel's behalf. Jackie turns out to be a tall, masculine transvestite. Joel pays Jackie to go away, but before she leaves, she gives Joel the number for Lana, another prostitute. That night, Joel is unable to sleep and hesitantly calls Lana. She turns out to be a gorgeous blonde and they have sex all night.
Lana asks Joel for $300 for her services. He goes to the bank, but when he returns, Lana is gone, along with his mother's expensive Steuben glass egg. Joel finds Lana and demands the egg back, but they are interrupted by Lana's pimp Guido, who pulls a gun. While in his father's Porsche 928, Joel is chased by Guido, but eventually escapes. Lana tells Joel that the egg is with the rest of her stuff at Guido's. Joel lets Lana stay at his house while he goes to school. When he returns, his friends are over, and Lana has invited another prostitute Vicki to stay, but Joel rejects the idea. That night, Joel, Lana, Vicki, and Joel's friend Barry go out. They get stoned, and while Vicky and Barry wander away, Joel and Lana talk. Lana takes exception to something Joel says and leaves. While retrieving her purse from Joel's car, she moves the shifter out of gear. Moments later, the car rolls down the hill and onto a pier, despite Joel's futile attempt to stop it. The pier collapses, dumping the Porsche into Lake Michigan.
When Joel takes the car to a repair shop, he is horrified to learn how much it will cost to fix it. He and Lana later decide to turn his parents' house into a brothel for a night; Joel's share of the profits will pay for the car repairs. The party is a huge success; the house is packed with Joel's friends and classmates and Lana's co-workers. However, the recruiter from Princeton, Rutherford chooses that night to interview Joel for admission to Princeton. The interview is plagued by interruptions, and Rutherford is unimpressed by Joel's resume. Afterwards, he stays at the party and becomes acquainted with Lana's friends. After the party, Joel and Lana go and have sex on the Chicago 'L'.
The next morning, Joel finds his house has been burgled. When he tries to call Lana, Guido answers; he tells Joel that he will let Joel buy back his furniture. Fortunately, Joel and his friends manage to get everything moved back in just as his parents walk in, though his mother notices a crack in her egg. Later, Joel's father congratulates him; the interviewer was very impressed and has indicated Joel will be accepted into Princeton. Joel meets Lana at a restaurant, and they speculate about their future. She tells him that she wants to keep on seeing him; he jokes that it will cost her.
The remastered 25th-anniversary edition offers "both the upbeat studio ending and Mr. Brickman's original, more tentative and melancholic conclusion".
The film was scored by Tangerine Dream. Their songs compose nearly half of the soundtrack album. Also included are songs by Muddy Waters, Prince ("DMSR"), Jeff Beck, Journey, Phil Collins ("In the Air Tonight"), and the song for which the film is best known, "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger.
The soundtrack album was released on Virgin Records, Tangerine Dream's record company at the time of the film's release.
The film also includes "Hungry Heart" by Bruce Springsteen, "Every Breath You Take" by The Police, and "Swamp" by Talking Heads (which includes the words "risky business" in the lyrics). The LP and CD versions of the soundtrack include two different versions of "Love on a Real Train (Risky Business)," neither of which match the version used in the film for the final love scene or closing credits.
Risky Business was acclaimed by critics. It is also considered by many as one of the best films of 1983. Janet Maslin, in her 1983 review of the film for The New York Times, called it "part satire, part would-be suburban poetry and part shameless showing off" and said the film "shows an abundance of style", though "you would be hard pressed to find a film whose hero's problems are of less concern to the world at large." She called De Mornay "disarming as a call girl who looks more like a college girl" and credits Cruise with making "Joel's transformation from straight arrow to entrepreneur about as credible as it can be made."
Roger Ebert was much more positive, calling it a film of "new faces and inspired insights and genuine laughs" and "one of the smartest, funniest, most perceptive satires in a long time" that "not only invites comparison with The Graduate, it earns it".
The very best thing about the movie is its dialogue. Paul Brickman, who wrote and directed, has an ear so good that he knows what to leave out. This is one of those movies where a few words or a single line says everything that needs to be said, implies everything that needs to be implied, and gets a laugh. When the hooker tells the kid, "Oh, Joel, go to school, go learn something," the precise inflection of those words defines their relationship for the next three scenes.
Variety said the film was like a "promising first novel, with all the pros and cons that come with that territory" and complimented Brickman on "the stylishness and talent of his direction." The film holds a 96% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.
In 2006, the film was #40 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies. The magazine called the film a "sharp satire of privileged suburban teens", portraying the "soul-crushing pressure to be perfect."
In the years since the film's release, the scene featuring Cruise's character dancing in his pink dress shirt and briefs to "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger has been recreated in episodes of many television series, as well as in films, parodies, and advertisements.AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes: "Sometimes you gotta say, "What the fuck"." - Nominated
AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – Nominated
AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs - Old Time Rock and Roll - #100
AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies - Nominated
AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) - Nominated