Encino Man Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary

Encino Man premiered in theaters on May 22nd 1992.

Encino Man turns 30 years old today. The 1992 high school buddy comedy is about a pair of high schoolers who find a frozen caveman in the backyard and introduce him to early 90’s California culture. To this day, this movie is still a blast with many laughs.

The film stars Sean Astin (The Goonies, Lord of the Rings) as Dave. He is a sweet but socially frustrated high school senior who dreams of throwing a huge after-prom party to finally land the girl of his dreams. Then-MTV VJ Pauly Shore plays his best friend Stoney, who has a distinctive California surfer style of speaking, dresses like a hippie, and always wants to goof off and have a good time.

The titular Encino Man, later named ‘Link’ by his friends, is played by Brendan Fraser (The Mummy, Doom Patrol). His gift for physical comedy brings Link to life. Fraser portrays Link with a vulnerability and sweetness that give Link more depth as a character. Of course, there are great gags. For example, Link mistaking a dump truck for a wooly mammoth when he first awakens, attempting to attack it with a spear. But there are also heartfelt moments, like Link being disturbed by the caveman exhibit at the natural history museum or when he gets Dave and Stoney to make up after a fistfight. Fraser does a remarkable job of making him more three-dimensional for a character that could have amounted to just grunts and smashing things.

There are a plethora of appearances by ’90s actors that would go on to be huge stars.

Robin Tunney (Empire Records, The Craft) plays a high school student who immediately develops a massive crush on Link. Rose McGowan (Charmed, Scream) also appears as a student. Astin’s Goonies co-star, Ke Huy Quan (credited as Jonathan Quan) has a small role as a fellow high school student. This would be one of Quan’s last American roles until this year’s masterpiece Everything Everywhere All at Once!

Sean Tajipour the Mayor of Nerdtropolis chats with Writer/Producer George Zaloom:

Q: What was the inspiration for the movie?

A: Growing up in New Jersey, during the hot summers, we always wanted a swimming pool, so I asked my dad if we could have one. He suggested that my friends and I dig the pool ourselves if we really wanted one, so we did and realized my dad was just joking, so we filled the pool back up. Years later, while working on a behind-the-scenes documentary for Indiana Jones, we were on a clay pot dig with a college professor. Someone joked that the Professor would find an Encino Man during the dig, and the light bulb went off, and I wrote the movie on a tiny Yellow post note. Putting the two stories together, Encino Man was born.

Q: What made Brendan Fraser the perfect Caveman?

A: Originally we screen tested Ben Stiller and he did a really good job but there was something about Brendan that was a little bit different as he brought physicality to the role and found his inner “cave boy”. From his first audition we knew that he was perfect for the role.

Q: Are you surprised by the film’s growing popularity?

A: I am so flattered by it. It is really nice to meet people that tell me how much they enjoy the movie and still know all the lines.

Q: As we speak Encino Man is 30 years old. How does that make you feel?

A: I feel old. It still holds up and people still talking about is amazing. There is more attention now thanks to social media and what people like you do that keeps the movie alive.

Some interesting tidbits about Encino Man:

Link, played again by Brendan Fraser, has a cameo appearance in Pauly Shore’s 1993 comedy Son-in-Law. The ending teases a sequel, with Link’s partner “Cave Nug” thawing out and making her way into Dave’s bathtub. The movie was followed by the 1996 made-for-TV sequel “Encino Woman”, with an entirely different cast.

There’s a reason why Encino Man remains a beloved comedy for many ’90s kids. The movie feels like a time capsule from the era—the clothes, the music, the way Pauly Shore talks. At 88 minutes, this film is jam-packed with laughs and lovable performances that audiences can still enjoy 30 years later.

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Writer, native Texan, DBZ fanatic, and budding Oscars historian

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