An ‘American Graffiti’ 50th Anniversary Restoration Is Coming to Theaters and a New 4K Ultra HD Release

photo from the 1973 movie
Courtesy Everett Collection
John Milner (Paul Le Mat) hangs out by his sweet yellow hot rod at Mel's Drive-In in American Graffiti

Where were you in ’73?

Specifically, Aug. 11, 1973, when American Graffiti opened in wide release in U.S. theaters?

Cowriter/director George Lucas‘ nostalgic, Best Picture Oscar-nominated classic about Modesto, California, teens hanging out, cruisin’ the strip in cool cars and being uncertain about their futures as they take their first steps into adulthood on the last night of summer vacation in 1962 earned him Oscar nods for his direction and the screenplay he wrote with Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck (Katz and Huyck would later cowrite two other Lucas productions: 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and 1986’s Howard the Duck).

poster art for the 1973 movie "American Graffiti." It is an illustrated poster. At top is the film's title, designed in neon lettering like the type seen at an early 1960s drive-in. Below that is a large illustration of a female carhop wearing roller skates standing in the parking lot of a drive-in. She is smiling and holding up a tray containing a burger, fries and a bottle of Coke in her right hand. Behind her, two 1960s-era cars are parked at the main building of the drive-in, whose name, Mel's Drive-In, is featured in neon lettering on the building's side.

© Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

Coproduced by Francis Ford Coppola, American Graffiti, in my opinion, represents Lucas’ best directing job on a film (yes, I include Star Wars in that assessment). Perhaps his somewhat personal connection to the story, drawing from his own days as a hot-rodding California teen, helped Lucas bring funny, dramatic and emotional elements to it not seen often in his other works.

Lucas was certainly aided by the film’s terrific cast, boasting a roster of soon-to-be stars, including Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard (already well known as a child star, but embarking on one of his first “adult” roles here), Cindy Williams, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips and Harrison Ford, who, of course, would later re-team with Lucas on several blockbusters in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises.

Another valuable costar that makes American Graffiti such an entertaining success is not even human. The film’s fantastic soundtrack features a killer lineup of more than 40 rock/pop hits from the 1950s and early ’60s that plays nearly nonstop throughout as the night goes on for these teens. The songs are heard mostly over car radios, emanating from a small, remote station where the records are spun by a disc jockey played by the legendary Wolfman Jack.

Whether you were able to see American Graffiti when it premiered in theaters half a century ago, or if you’ve discovered and enjoyed the film on television or home video in the decades since, you can experience it in a way unlike ever before with a new 50th anniversary restoration that is coming to theaters and a new 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray set.

And if you have never seen the film, you’re definitely in luck to be able to experience it for the first time in what looks to be a beautiful and lovingly produced restoration of the film’s sights and sounds.

Lucasfilm recently announced that American Graffiti, the first production from that now-famous company founded by its namesake, has been newly remastered for its 50th anniversary, including being given a new sound mix.

So, the colors of the movie’s parade of bitchin’ rides and the neon lights of Mel’s Drive-In, along with the rockin’ hits, should pop spectacularly and make for a crisper and more immersive experience that might make you feel even more like you are back in ’62.

American Graffiti‘s 50th anniversary restoration will first be able to enjoy on the big screen, with a (very) limited theatrical release courtesy of Fathom Events. It will be screened at select U.S. theaters for two days only: Sunday, Aug. 27, and Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023.

You can search for theaters that are screening American Graffiti and buy tickets at this link.

A little later in the fall, the restoration will be available for enjoyment at home with a 4K UHD/Blu-ray set, comprised of two discs and a digital copy of the movie (a caveat mentions that this latter option is subject to expiration; visit for more details on the film’s digital availability).

The remastered film in this set features High Dynamic Range (HDR10) for brighter, deeper and more lifelike color. Bonus goodies include The Making of American Graffiti, screen tests, the theatrical trailer and feature commentary with Lucas.

The American Graffiti 50th Anniversary Edition 4K Ultra HD set will be released Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. Check out this link for more details and to pre-order the set.