"American Graffiti" acts almost as a milestone to show us how far (and in many cases how tragically) we have come. Stanley Kauffmann, who liked it, complained in the New Republic that Lucas had made a film more fascinating to the generation now between thirty and forty than it could be for other generations, older or younger.
But it isn't the age of the characters that matters; it's the time they inhabited. Whole cultures and societies have passed since 1962. "American Graffiti" is not only a great movie but a brilliant work of historical fiction; no sociological treatise could duplicate the movie's success in remembering exactly how it was to be alive at that cultural instant.