Movie Night: Empire Records

Welcome to Movie Night! Where we choose a movie based on any number of variables and feelings, create a themed menu and some decoration ideas to match, then spend the night eating these foods and watching these movies! It’s an uncomplicated but promising plan.

This movie night is a celebration of music and 90s nostalgia. It’s about coming of age and having none of the answers and just doing what you can to get along and damn The Man and save the Empire. It’s also about gaining unrealistic expectations of careers in music retail.

The Movie

Empire Records

[buy me]

Synopsis via Wikipedia:

“Empire Records is a 1995 coming-of-age film that follows a group of independent record store employees over the course of one exceptional day. The employees try to fight off becoming a large chain, all while learning about each other. The film was directed by Allan Moyle and stars Anthony LaPaglia, Robin Tunney, Rory Cochrane, Renée Zellweger, Ethan Embry and Liv Tyler.”

This music is the glue of the world, Mark. It holds it all together. Without this, life would be meaningless.
– Eddie

What do you think the best song in Empire Records is? It’s a question I’ve been debating since I first saw the film at the impressionable age of thirteen. My friends and I were completely obsessed ’cause we knew these characters, we knew them better than any others on our screens at that time; we were Lucas’ fuck up and Gina’s jealousy and Cory’s dishonesty and AJ’s love-sickness and Debra’s suicidal thoughts. We were even a little Warren; we were suddenly desperate to get jobs in record stores too.

If you’ve never seen this film, it’d be worth watching for the quotable quotes alone, there’s one for every life situation. “Oh Sinead O’Rebellion, shock me, shock me, shock me” used to be my favourite, at thirteen, even though I didn’t actually understand the reference until years later because back then my CD wallet was filled with real-life Rex Mannings. Now it’s this one.

Today Today
I feel like this movie still holds up 18 years later. My obsession definitely has. The only difference is that I no longer want to marry Mark (Ethan Embry) and I now fully appreciate the many things that I’d been totally oblivious to as a thirteen year old. Like just how damn hot Debra (Robin Tunney) is.

And Rex Manning, oh god. Brilliantly played.

Rex Manning
Back to that question about the best song, though. When Lucas drives to the casino to Ape Hangers’ “I Don’t Want To Live Today,” and when Deb cuts off her hair to The Martinis’ “Free,” and when everyone dances of the rooftop to The The’s “This Is The Day,” I mean, those soundtracks are pretty fucking perfect. “Seems” by Queen Sarah Saturday is probably my favourite song overall, and that it didn’t make it on the official Empire Records soundtrack still bothers me to no end.

I don’t feel the need to explain my art to you, Warren.
– AJ

Setting the Mood

Here are some ideas for how you can theme up your evening.

1. Suggest to your guests that they dress in their best mid-90s get-up. Wallet chains, baggy tees, plaid patterned skirts and cardigans should be encouraged. I wore my 2XL purple Green Day hoodie which is the only thing I still own from the 90s.

2. Play the Empire Records soundtrack while your guests arrive. If you skip “Sugar High” though then I don’t think anyone will hold it against you.

3. Give out Empire Records buttons! I didn’t do this because I don’t own a button-maker and also I’m not crafty, but if you did it then your guests (and I) would be super impressed.


Rex Manning Day Cupcakes



I brought some pizza just in case anyone got hungry.
– Eddie

Just like traditional pizza, calzones are super flexible; you can make single-serve ones or a few large ones to share, and fill them with whatever you like. “Do whatever you want” wouldn’t be a helpful instruction for first-time calzone makers, so here’s a recipe for two large calzones with a ham, mushroom, spinach and tomato filling. Just adapt the size and filling as you like!

Ingredients (2 large calzones, feeds 4-6 people):

+ 1/2 batch pizza dough (I like Jamie Oliver’s recipe, you can use whatever)
+ Flour, for dusting
+ 2 Tbsp olive oil
+ 300g baby spinach leaves
+ 250g mozzarella, pre-shredded or torn into pieces
+ 400g mushrooms, sliced
+ 200g leg ham, sliced
+ 1 pnt of cherry tomatoes
+ 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
+ Dried oregano
+ 1 red onion, sliced
+ 50g butter
+ Salt and ground black pepper
+ 2 tbsp tomato paste


First, make your pizza dough and heat the oven to 200 C / 390 F. Roll out two bases on a floured surface, to the thickness and size of a standard large pizza base – about 30cm across and 0.5cm deep.

Coat the cherry tomatoes and garlic with 1 tbsp of olive oil and bake for 10 minutes or until soft. While that’s happening, pour 1 tbsp of olive oil into a hot frying pan and cook the onion until softened. Add the mushrooms and once they’re soft, add your butter and keep stirring until it’s all browned. Season with a little salt and pepper, if you’re into that, and put it in a colander to drain any excess moisture.

Add the spinach leaves to the pan and stir until they start wilting, then put them in the colander too. The draining part is super important ’cause if your filling is wet then your calzone is gonna burst in the oven.

Are the tomatoes and garlic ready? If so, remove them and dice the garlic finely. Turn the oven down to 180 C / 355 F.

It’s time to assemble! Important: as you place the filling down, leave about 1cm /0.4 in of clean dough around the edges so you can fold the calzones in. Spread tomato paste on the whole surface of each base. On one half of the surface, lay down the onions, mushrooms, garlic, spinach, tomatoes, ham and mozzarella. Sprinkle salt, pepper and oregano on top, if you enjoy those things.

To finish the calzone, take the clean half of your base and fold it over so it covers the half that has filling. Pinch the edges so that it’s totally enclosed. Place them on floured trays and bake for 20 minutes on 180 C / 355 F until the dough is golden and the filling is hot.

Rex Manning Day Cupcakes

Happy Rex Manning Day!
– Corey


+ 1 box of cupcake mix
+ Vanilla icing, pre-made or a mix
+ 1 or more tubes of cake decorating gel


Make the cupcakes as per the instructions on the box. Once they’ve cooled, slather icing on top and write “Happy Rex Manning Day” on the top with the gel. If have subpar cake gel penmanship like me, maybe you won’t be able to fit all those words on top. That’s fine! Just write any words that remind you of Empire Records. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, maybe go with these. They’ll all make sense by the end.


Share your Empire Records related feelings in the comments! What’s your favorite quote? And song? Tell me everything. 

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Founding member. Former writer. Still loves Autostraddle with her whole heart.

Crystal has written 320 articles for us.


  1. When my sister and her wife got married, their wedding was loosely Empire Records themed. At the very least, she wanted it to start at 1:37 exactly.

  2. Why would you skip Sugar High!?!? That is a shining star of excessively loud teen singalongs in old cars with the windows down. This movie also made me fall in love with Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet. And now I will spend the rest of the day on youtube trying to recapture my adolescence.

    AKA thank you, this is awesome.

    • i used to really love Sugar High, I had the lyrics written on the cover more than one high school binder, but then i learned later in life that coyote shivers is not very nice to women and it lost its appeal.

      • Ugh why must the patriarchy ruin everything fun. At least I only have the version of the song I downloaded from Kazzaa.

    • Also I just checked Spotify and the soundtrack is on there so now I know what I’ll be listening to for the next ~hour.

  3. I know it’s the wrong movie, but every time I see Rory, all I want to say is “Check you later,” damn it. lol

  4. just when i think i can’t love you any more than i do, you go ahead and post something like this. GODDAMNIT CRYSTAL.

  5. Just watched this for the first time like a month ago, and it was so pleasantly 90s wtf. And I feel like my fashion sense is slowly creeping back to the 90s and I am okay with this.

  6. I used to put Corey and AJ’s kiss at the end of the film on repeat like 50 times when I watched this movie. Only now am I realizing I did it to see Liv Tyler kissing… who cares if it was a guy?! In my mind it was totally me :)

    • When I watched this movie as pre-teen, I thought I had a huge crush on AJ. Many years later, I realized I more so wanted to be AJ because I was so hopelessly in love with Liv Tyler.

  7. I love this movie and it’s definitely one of the best soundtracks ever. I had listened to the soundtrack approx a million times at work before I even saw the movie.

  8. every morning before high school when i was in 10th grade, or maybe 9th gra de or maybe both, i would listen to “Free” while I took a shower and i had to be done with my shower by the time the song was over. i believe it was 4 minutes and 23 seconds, something like that. i used a shampoo/conditioner combo obvs.

    p.s. i liked sugarhigh! i made a bad music video to it starring my brother.

  9. I’m not sure whether it was because of Gina, Liv Tyler, or Debra, but one/all of them were very formative in the development of my sexuality.

    Aka I watched this film a million times and was in love with all the girls.

  10. she’s not my fave but i love when renee zellweger sings sugar high sooooooooo much

    i love liv tyler in a crop top and plaid skirt

    i love the ‘romeo and juliet’ by dire straits montage scene

    i love when lucas dances to acdc

    i love the soundtrack

    too many feelings about this movie!!

  11. This is my new favorite thing on Autostraddle. So glad I’m not the only one still obsessed with this film. A very young me had very confusing feelings about Liv Tyler in that skirt. It all makes sense to me now.

    Also, the idea of a movie post combined with a food post makes my heart happy.

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