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Risky Business (1983)

The 1983 comedy Risky Business is both the movie that launched Tom Cruise’s career and the movie that saved Ray-Ban’s Wayfarer sunglasses from extinction. Cruise plays Joel, a suburban high school student whose parents go out of town for the weekend, leaving him free to dance around the house in his underwear. His character wears Ray-Ban’s Wayfarer sunglasses, which became so popular as a result that 360,000 pairs were sold that year.

The placement did more than just shift units; it literally pulled the product back from the brink. Just two years earlier, Ray-Ban had sold an anemic 18,000 pairs of Wayfarers, and they were close to discontinuing them entirely. However, in 1982, the company hired Unique, a Burbank product placement firm, and they got the sunglasses into 60 different films and TV shows in the next five years, Risky Business included. As a result, they made their way onto the faces of many of the 1980s’ major celebrities, and by 1986, 1.5 million pairs had sold.

The film also gave an unsolicited shout-out to Porsche. At one point in the film, Joel is involved in a car chase, and he escapes in his father’s Porsche 928. After getting away, he says, “Porsche: There is no substitute,” the company’s tag line at the time. While there are no figures to indicate whether this helped the German automaker move a single car off of the lot, it certainly couldn’t have hurt.

Photo: Warner Bros.