There's an argument circulating that after John Hughes dominated the eighties and the likes of Empire Records and The Craft held movie goers captive throughout the nineties, we (being the world of teen-angst dramas) lost our way. Let's be honest, there was no Molly Ringwwald of the naughties, or was there? Here our writers augment the aforementioned popularity of Pretty in Pink while also finding fifteen year old solace in Freddie Prinze Jnr., Courteney Cox and Shakespeare.
1) Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 1 & 2:
I love these films because they are based on the premise that there are “magical pants” which make things happen, magically. It means that the films are full of quotes like this:
Tibby: [in tears] Yeah, I know, but that doesn't matter... none of it really matters... you have to take them, Bailey... okay, you have to let them help you... please. I know that you're tired, okay, but you can't give up, the Pants will give you a miracle, you have to believe.
Bailey: The Pants have already worked their magic on me. They brought me to you.
Are the pants really magical? Well, no-one knows for sure. They somehow manage to fit all the girls, who range in size from Ugly Betty to Serena van der Woodsen, which makes me suspect they have supernatural powers. However, when Joan of Arcadia has a pregnancy scare (that she could have avoided by being reasonable and doing a test instead of secretly angsting over it and breaking up with her really nice and unbelievably cut boyfriend) wearing the pants seem to make no difference, biologically speaking. The pants certainly help Rory Gilmore loosen up, especially when she wears them around Kostas, the Greek fisherman and London School of Economics Student that she draws bad, nipple-centric portraits of (key romantic quote: “I hoped you would come to my boat, but I was worried you would not remember which one it was”). When Ugly Betty wears the pants, she mostly pouts like a brat and is really rude to her well-intentioned step mother. Maybe the pants just produce a placebo effect? I don’t know.
2) She’s the Man:
She’s the Man is one of those films that you coyly bring up with your friends against your better judgement: “You know, that film, where, (gulp) Amanda Bynes pretends to be her twin brother so she can play on an all boys Soccer team and speaks in a totally unidentifiable accent?”
You brace for mockery and scorn, but instead there’s a collective opening of floodgates as they all confess to having it on their computers in a file called “Secret Shame”, and that they watch it all the time, mostly when they’re drunk. It’s just a really funny movie. Amanda Bynes is a genius.
3) Ten Things I Hate About You:
A decade on, I still cannot understand the decision making process behind Heath Ledger’s hair. The prom dresses are all just terrible, even by nineties teen movie standards. It’s also one of those films where everything would be fine if the characters were just honest with each other and explained what was going on well before prom night. It is a classic teen movie trope: they get caught in their lies and don’t explain themselves properly when they a) have the chance and b) could mitigate the damage caused by the lie most effectively. It makes me yell at the TV. In spite of these flaws, Ten Things I Hate About You is still a favourite. Heath is such a babe, even with the wavy bob and unfortunate leather pants. Something about his Australian accent, all alone in a sea of American accents, makes it sound really, really attractive. The “whelmed” debate is totally relatable. Letters to Cleo sing on the roof. Most of all, I love everything that Joey the evil male model says, especially when he holds up two identical photos of himself and asks which one Bianca prefers:
4) Simply Irresistible:
This probably isn’t a teen movie. But since I’m not sure what kind of a movie it is, I’m including it. Sarah Michelle Gellar is a sad orphan who runs her parent’s restaurant. Unfortunately, business is slow and she doesn’t know how to cook. So, one day she puts on her dead mother’s earrings and goes to the market. A kooky fishmonger pops up out of nowhere and invites her to buy some crabs. This seems totally reasonable to SMG so she buys a sack full of crabs and takes them to the restaurant to cook for dinner. One special crab escapes the cooking pot, gestures magically with its claws and somehow, whether it is because of dead mother’s earrings or spell-casting pincers, SMG becomes the best cook in the world. Her emotions infuse magically with the food: when she weeps into her cooking (gross), then diners feel sad, if she feels romantic, they all climax at the table (awkward). Anyway, she captures the attention of a paper-plane enthusiast department store owner who happens to be looking for a chef for his new restaurant. Romantic hijinks ensue. The enchanted crab wears a tuxedo and a top hat and nods approvingly.
I love this movie because it gave me my favourite anecdote of all time:
I was 14, sitting in the front row of Crossroads at the Imax. Britney was singing “Like a Virgin”, the girl from Centre Stage was being sassy, and I felt as though this was a teen movie that I could really get behind. Then I noticed something amiss: a big gross foot in a dirty white sport sock wriggling through the gap between my seat and the one adjacent. I looked on in horror as the intruder came to a stop on my arm rest. Then it stayed there. I looked at my friends in disbelief – they shrugged helplessly - then I glanced behind me at the owner of the foot. She was huge, and her friends took up the whole row. If it came to fisticuffs, we were totally screwed, so I decided to ignore the foot and hope for the best. I turned back around and went back to watching the movie. After a while, it receded back into its own territory and I heaved a sigh of relief and went back to enjoying Crossroads (a lot).
But then something terrible happened. The psychopath behind me began to wriggle her bare feet through the gaps on either side of my chair. No gross white socks this time, just the sweaty feet that had been encased in them, dangling on either side of my face. This insult could not be borne. I spun around and confronted the foot owner. “Do you mind?” I squeaked, knowing full well that this confrontation would lead only to physical pain. She and her enormous friends looked at me with disdain and she leaned forward, told me to “shut up Bitch” then slapped me hard across the face. I recoiled in total disbelief. Did I just get slapped in Crossroads? I did! Cheek and pride stinging, I turned back around to face the screen. My tormentor removed her feet. My friends and I finished watching the movie, then power-walked out of the cinema as fast as we possibly could.
- Hannah Cooke
1) She’s All That: Life was sweeter when Freddie Prinze Jnr’s semi-lisp was still charming. Plus, Usher coordinates an epic prom dance sequence. We tried to emulate it, once, at our school disco. Hard to do when there’s just the one Spice Girls album and a Now That’s What I Call Music 3 to choose from. It was also the only video we owned for a while, so it was watched on a weekly basis.
2) Bring it on: The original: Because Spirit Fingers was one of the best epidemics to ever take over our hallways. You could Spirit Finger your way out of anything. And yes, I’m aware how that sounds. What I mean is no matter what the scenario, be it argument, be it awkward silence, the use of Spirit Fingers guaranteed a chortle and warm look of recognition. For a while, it was probably more universal than the thumbs up or the high five.
3) Clueless: Paul Rudd! Paul Rudd! (Or ‘granola breath’ as well named by Cher). Also because not only did this flick manage to make it momentarily forgiveable to hook up with your stepbrother (it IS icky out of Clueless context) and legitimatise falling for the skateboarder, it claimed to based on Emma by Jane Austen. Hell. Yes.
4) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Because baby does actually get put in the corner. Sure. Matthew Broderick is who we all wished we were, but I love this film because Jennifer Grey is just so very angry. And for reasons bigger than whether she did or did not carry a watermelon.
5) Scream: Because it was so, like, totally refreshing to see Courtney Cox in a whiny, over-bearing role. I still believe it was her performance that gave me the night terrors for a month after watching this movie. Not the fact that it was suddenly a possibility that everyone you know either wants you dead or will, no matter how sturdy their escape route, die. Why would that ever be a reason for sleeping with the light on when sharing a dorm room with the girl whose ‘boyfriend’ you’d ‘pashed’ at the last ‘social’? Nah. It was totes Courtney.
- Kat Patrick
1) Welcome to the Dollhouse: Dawn Weiner. Where do I even start with you? Nerdy, insolent, selfish, innocent, slightly arrogant yet simultaneously insecure. No easy feat for a Weiner. I loved Dawn because she was a true blue nerd with no hope of a makeover/life transformation. Instead she is forced to flounder in the awkward hopelessness that is her life and fight back with sarcasm and insolence. Her dancing is amazing, her sweaters off the chain, there is so much to love about Dawn. And with quotes like "You think you're hot shit, but you're really just cold diarrhea" and "Yo Weiner, you better get ready, 'cause at three o' clock today, I'm gonna RAPE you!" it's definitely the darker side of hilarious. Being directed by Todd Solondz this comes as little surprise. The best thing about Dollhouse is it shows how truly mean kids can be, how parents are sometimes wrong and no matter how terrible your life seems, you are actually all kinds of awesome.
2) She's all that: What happened to Rachel Leigh Cook? I loved 'She's all that' with a passion to end all passions. Laney's angsty geek chic ways, the paint on those overalls, her black framed glasses, and the awkward pool cleaning father. I think the thing I loved the most about the movie was the makeover (by a goth sluzz inspired Anna Paquin, awesome). Who doesn't love a good transformation where the ugly duckling sheds her skin and transforms into a magical swan? You may think I'm being sarcastic at this point but I'm not. Being the female equivalent of Steve Urkel as a teen I lived for a movie with a makeover. Recently I watched 'She's all that' and predictably, felt disappointed. Laney was kind of annoying, and obviously beautiful behind those black framed glasses. Also, her performance art really sucked. I hate to say it but perhaps she looked better before they put her in the slutty cleavage poppin' red dress. Nevertheless this was one of my favourite teen movies. It gave me hope that maybe the hot school jocks would start talking to me. That never happened.
3) The Craft: Like most respectable and confused young ladies I went through a Wiccan phase. This meant wearing all black with the exception of a blood red velvet choker, practising surly looks in the mirror as well as dabbling with Ouija boards and tarot cards. The Craft was amazing because it combined the usual teen bitch popularity problems with added magic. Don't like someone? Poof! Their hair falls out. Irritating step dad? Poof! Heart attack. The best thing about the movie was probably Nancy (Fairuza Balk) who is amazing at playing a crazy psycho bitch. The Craft is the kind of movie that upon revisiting I still enjoy a lot, although I think the chanting of spells and Ouija boards have been firmly put to rest.
4) Ten things I hate about you: Hot young Heath Ledger. That is all.
5) Crazy/Beautiful: Oh young love. And inequality. And mixed ethnicity relationships. And the combined hotness of Kirsten Dunst and Jay Hernandez. Damn. This was a great movie because you could be all 'No Jay, don't give up on Kirsten because she's a drunk!' and then feel really relieved when he saves her from getting date raped at a party because he does love her. This was a great teen movie because there was a sincerity and believability in the love they had for each other as opposed to an under dog lusting over the most popular person in school, and vice versa.
- Gemma Rasmussen
1) Clueless: so AMAZING. I watched it recently and was a little bit nervous that seeing it as an adult would take away some of its shine because what if my favourite teen movie actually sucked? but it really doesn't suck! phew! such an incredible representation of popular teen culture of that time.
2) Empire Records: I'm sure I could quote a significant proportion of this movie. such intensely great feelings towards it. Oh man, those roof tops scenes.
3) Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: Not technically a teen movie but I watched this a fuckload as a teenager.
4) Grease: Dancing and singing movies rule! I watched dirty dancing for the first time about a month ago and that blew my mind as well.
5) Blue Velvet: Potentially not a teen movie also but I am currently obsessed with david lynch. I think that he is incredible and I wish that he could be my friend so I could hang out with him all the time. he is the only filmmaker that I will permit to have scary bits in a movie. usually I switch off immediately if I get scared but there is just something so amazing about his work that makes me keep watching. I could list any of the movies I have seen of his and wish that I had seen them as a teenager but blue velvet was the first one that came to my head.
- Emily Miller-Sharma
1) Pretty in Pink: Because Molly Ringwald and James Spader had the perfect love / hate relationship, and while she was caught up in a love triangle between Ducky Dale (the typecast nerd who now spends (or at least, until recently, spent) his days as Charlie Sheen's sidekick in Two and a Half Men, that's right) and the cool, calm and collected, but also non-judgmental rich kid (oh, the trials and tribulations of class separation in Reagan's America), all anyone (and by anyone I mean my Boston Legal, receeding hairline obsessed self) could think about was the fact that in the sequel Spader and Ringwald would definitely get it on. Listen to this foreplay:
Spader: Leans against red convertible Porsche, smokes cigarette. You know, I've been out with a lot of girls at this school, what makes you so different?
Ringwald: Ummmmm, I have some taste.
Spader: Throws cigarette on ground and, as he is walking away: You're a bitch.
2) Mean Girls: This is arguably the only film of the naughties that competes in any way with the high-school centric movies of yore, and, because Tina Fey is a genius. If you can write a breast-sensitivity weather girl into a commercial film, you're definitely doing something right. Oh, and although it wasn't called The Burn Book, I was totally involved in similarly sinister penmanship in my teenage years, and I guarantee you were too.
3) Empire Records: I shouldn't like this film. I dislike Liv Tyer, I dislike Renee Zellweger, I dislike that skateboarding creep who seems to crop up as a minor-character in a myriad of films from this era. But alas, the uplifting quality this film emanates through that theme of people coming together in times of hardship (and the romantic plot between Tyler and that dude is also quite charming) makes me happy and nostalgic for both working with rad people (and idiots) in retail and traditional music formats. Actually, perhaps Empire Records is more relevant today - the death of the CD and record store - than it ever was ten years ago. Re-watch time.
4) Ten Things I Hate about You: I'd just forgotten so many things about this film that are amazing - and do justice to an appropriation of Shakespeare - until re-visiting it for this piece. They are as follows in no particular order.
Julia Stiles angst (car-crashing, sarcasm, vomiting on a swing).
Heath Ledger's serenade.
The weird, cat-obsessed guidance counsellor.
The totally fashun, other guy.
All of these factors unite to form the almost perfect teenage film and while there are questionable leather pant, stereotypical plot line (although if this is Shakespeare, we could argue that Ten Things I Hate about You invented said stereotypes) Letters to Cleo playing on a roof top rights all wrongs. Plus, I like, totally love The Bell Jar too. Julia Stiles / Courtney twins, no biggie.
5) The Craft: Epic maxi-skirt action.
By Courtney Sanders