Writer-director Barry Levinson's autobiographical first feature fondly remembers his Baltimore youth. It's late 1959, and six guys in their early twenties are stumbling into adulthood, alternating responsibility with carefree time at their local diner.
The story centers on the return from college of Billy (Tim Daly) to serve as best man at the wedding of his pal Eddie (Steve Guttenberg). Billy is consumed by a confusing relationship with a close female friend, while Eddie still lives at home, preparing a football trivia test for his fiancée and vowing to cancel the wedding if she fails.
Other characters woven into the narrative include Boogie (Mickey Rourke), a womanizer with a gambling problem, and Shrevie (Daniel Stern), a music addict with a troubled marriage. Diner became known for its bittersweet comic screenplay and its remarkable cast, which also included Paul Reiser, Kevin Bacon, and Ellen Barkin.
In order to capture the loose, laid-back dialogue of the diner scenes, Levinson directed them last, so that the actors would be more comfortable with each other. Diner was the first part of Levinson's Baltimore Trilogy, followed by Tin Men (1987) and Avalon (1990).