Better Luck Tomorrow


Top 20% of all time (see others with this rank)

Festival Year

2002 (click here to see all competition films from this year)


Dramatic Competition


Parry Shen, Jason Tobin, Sung Kang, Roger Fan, John Cho, Karin Anna Cheung

Non-Cast Credits

Justin Lin, Julie Asato, Ernesto M. Foronda, Justin Lin, Joan Huang, Fabian Marquez, Patrice Lucien Cochet


Capturing the frustration of kids who grow up in a society that forces roles and identities onto volatile minds seeking to create their own image, Better Luck Tomorrow unspools a kinetic high school fable that shatters the stereotype of the bookwormish, passive, Asian male. It introduces, instead, fresh and complex Asian American characters within a suburban landscape on the verge of a moral collapse.

The story follows the fateful rise of four friends in a Southern California high school. Driven by a desire for scholastic achievement, Ben is sole-bent on getting good grades and going to college. He, his best friend Virgil, and the streetwise Han execute perfectly planned, petty thefts that ultimately lead them down the "slippery slope" to Daric, president of the academic decathlon team. The team turns out to be a cover for a cheat sheet scam that propels the foursome into the high school elite. Now the envy of the school, Ben begins a frustratingly innocent relationship with Stephanie, whom he has had a crush on. As the parties and drugs take their toll, his grades begin to slip, and he realizes what is important to him and wants out, but is talked into doing one last job.

Bursting with fresh dialogue, innovative cinematography, and dynamic, ultracool performances, the film Justin Lin has created obliterates stale preconceptions and presents an uncompromising journey into the dark side of a misunderstood community.


Trevor Groth (see other films reviewed by the same reviewer)

Film Takes Pace.