So I love teen movies, like LOVE THEM and every summer I get really wistful, staring out my window and thinking how amazing it would be to live in California, have a beat up van and really cool but quirky and sexually mystified friends. Sigh. What a dream.
When I was 14 – 16 and videos were just about still a thing, we had a rental shop around the corner from us where I would go most weeks to raid the shelves. This is where I discovered a lot of my favourite films. Imagine Matilda in the library, but I’m a teen with spikey hair, plastic jewellery and big baggy trousers (<3). Anyway, one of those films was Josie and the Pussycats (2001) and a friend just posted her own article about the film and it took me back to that musky little shop (which also sold mobile phones and stale popcorn). SO I decided to put together a list of my absolute favourite movies in and around the teen genre. Now don’t judge, but some of these changed my life.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
So just to get it out of the way because it’s a given, right? This film MADE modern teen movies, it set a precedent that I don’t think was every successfully followed (there were imitations like She’s The Man who also ‘adapted Shakespeare’ and it was awful.) 10 Things is so good, not just because of the quick wit but because Kat Stratford represented something that was really missing from teen films – a solid non-conforming female lead with genuine taste and an essence of 90’s feminist punk. What. A. Babe. It also pushed out a very open stereotyping of high school which is followed up in films like Mean Girls (2004) and I ALWAYS get a little cheap thrill when Heath Ledger brings up Bikini Kill. Also, LETTERS TO FUCKING CLEO. so good.
Never Been Kissed (1999)
THIS. FILM. God, I don’t know where to start. Drew Barrymore plays a 25 year old ‘dull’ copy editor and goes back to high school as an undercover reporter and relives the horrors of her loser teenage years and then with the help of her brother, becomes the coolest girl in school. It’s actually the music I love most about this film, lots of Hole, De La Soul and The Cardigans. I loved watching this, over and over, and I still have the VHS somewhere! Definitely recommend this. Look out for flashbacks that remind you of your own loser days and a young Jessica Alba.
This should be on everyone’s list. It’s a fucking masterpiece. Winona Ryder and Christian Slater are SO good and the film is an absolutely beautiful critique of high school hierarchies, hysteria and the hypocrisy of authority over youth. If you haven’t seen it, what are you doing with your life?
A Walk to Remember (2002)
So, I remember renting this from the library when I was about 17 and I watched it FIVE TIMES in the three days I had it. LOL. I am aware it is SUPER cheesy with classic lines such as ‘our love is like the wind… I can’t see it, but I feel it’ and ‘promise me that you won’t fall in love with me’. Classic mush. If you’ve never seen this film, Mandy Moore plays a good little Christian girl who is the loser of her school, but refreshingly, she doesn’t care, she doesn’t try to be anything over than herself and that’s why The Hot Stud, Shane West, falls for her, thus ensues epic and tragic romance. It’s bittersweet, and WILL MAKE YOU CRY YOUR LITTLE ANGSTY EYES OUT. Maybe. 17 year old me did, it totally quenched my longing for soppy romance that I was clearly never going to get in real life. Plus Mandy Moore does the soundtrack and her songs definitely have a place in my romantic moments playlist.
Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)
Technically not a teen movie but a black comedy based around American beauty pageants. I picked this up at the video shop on a whim, I wasn’t that bothered about it but wanted something to watch. SOO glad I did! A BRILLIANT mockumentary which looks at class and the deadly competitive side of small town pageants. Kirsten Dunst and Denise Richards play rivals from different sides of the the track. Dunst’s character lives in a trailer whilst Richards’ is born out of pure American capitalism; the daughter of wealthy (and really sleazy) businessman. I watch this film when I’m feeling sarcastic, bitchy and a little bit murderous.
I first saw this ate the cinema on a date but we left halfway through and a few years later I gave it another go and really enjoyed it. Jena Malone is one of my favourite actresses and can basically do no wrong, and Mandy Moore proves that she can be more than just the sweet girl in a sterling performance of deep ridden insecurity. Eva Amurri Martino is brilliant as Jewish outcast Cassandra, teaming up with Macaulay Culkin as the morally-impaired pair. I don’t know what it is about this film in particular, but I really like it. ha.
Ghost World (2001)
..Need I say anything about this film? Another whim from the video shop, but the fifteen billion times I watched it thereafter are testament to the richness of this film. In my opinion, this is Scarlett Johansen’s greatest role. Anything after just doesn’t cut it for me. Thora Birch is equally excellent, it’s one of her best roles too and I love the the realistically selfish and flawed relationship between their characters. As it grows apart I am reminded of so many friendships doing the same and emphasising with the overall stagnant state of Thora Birch’s life – we’ve all been there. So much of my style at 16 – 17 was inspired by this film and it was nice to have a female lead who wore glasses and it wasn’t a tool used to make her look undesirable.
If you are super into teen films and tv like me I definitely recommend reading Teen Dreams by Roz Kaveney, it’s got some great analysis and comparisons of some classic teen movies like The Heathers, Clueless and the John Hughes films aaaaand the documentary Beyond Clueless which is worth a watch, but left me with nothing new.
Anyway, those are some of my favourites. As I finished about five more popped into my head but I have to stop at some point!
If anyone has any good recommendations, I’m open!