There are movies, and then there are movies. There are flicks(teen flicks) that we watch purely because, well, there is nothing left to stream on Netflix, and we are caught between a rock and the upcoming exams.
And then there are THE teen flicks. These are not your ordinary “boy meets girl, they meet, fall in love but got separated by cancer/disapproving parents/iceberg”.
These are movies that helped define a generation, taught us salient lessons about life, love, and how to rock those shoulder pads.
And so for our TOP FIVE
“Ah the humanity.”
Back when teen flicks banked on toilet humor and hyper-realistic reflections of high school life, there’s Heathers.
It’s a dark, cynical, almost surreal view of high school with rapey jocks and murderous geeks jostling for space in the high school pecking order.
And then there’s the titular Heathers, a group of girls all named Heather who are so high in the pecking order everybody wants to be like them, joined by a differently-named Veronica (Winona Ryder).
Enter James Dean expy J.D. (look ma! Same initials!) – a smoldering Christian Slater channeling his inner Jack Nicholson – and pretty soon the body count starts ratcheting up.
The non-Heather soon realized that should she not do something – and soon – the body count would pile up higher than a well-teased 80’s updo. With the rising incidence of school shootings in the US, film’s climax feels disturbingly prescient.
But therein lies its (visionary) charm. Film touches on dark themes – bullying, rape, murder, violence, bulimia, suicide — and takes them up to 11, one must wonder whether director Michael Lehmann secretly hates teen-agers.
Favorite line: “Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?”
“As if!” Valleyspeak.
Plaid skirts and knee-high socks. Alicia Frickin’ Silverstone.
I mean, what’s not to like about the 90’s teen flick about a spoiled Valley Girl-ish protagonist with a wardrobe straight from Teen Vogue.
Loosely based from Jane Austen’s Emma (it even has its own Harriet! RIP, Brittany Murphy), film focuses on spoiled yet sweet Cher, her best friend Dione (both named after singers who are now doing infomercials!), and their lifestyle West of the Valley.
Rarely has a film placed its bet on a spoiled rich heiress as its main character – they’re usually the bad guys, those b*tches – but Silverstone’s Cher is soooo adorable it’s easy to forgive her total self-absorption, with every move lined by selfish motivations (as observed by her adorkable step-bro, Josh played by Paul Rudd before he became Ant-man or Crap Bag or whoever he is to the current fandom).
Film got the Valleyspeak down pat and even created its own (the Bettys and the Barneys and the Baldwins) you would think helmer Amy Heckerling had spent years observing the specimens in their natural habitat.
Favorite line: “Do you prefer fashion victim or ensembly challenged?”
3. Mean Girls
Mean Girls is proof that once, in her life, La Lohan had a promising career and was poised to be the “It Girl of the New Millennium”.
Helmed by Mark Waters with a sparkling script by SNL’s own Queen Tina Fey, film tells the story of home-schooled Cady who was tasked to infiltrate a triumvirate of girls called the Plastics (think Heathers Lite) led by the Queen Bee, the aptly-named Regina George (Rachel McAdams).
Humor is wry, caustic and cynical (but not Heathers-level cynical), and there was the usual return to the natural order where everybody and everyone gets along in the end – too neat an ending. But still, there is no denying film’s influence and meme-ability (do Google keyword search on Mean Girls meme, and you will invariably find one that would suit your “feeling for the day”).
It’s a joy to watch, especially pre-Les Mis Amanda Seyfried as her character attempts to guess the weather using her boobs (yes, you’ve read that right).
Favorite line: “Ex-boyfriends are off-limits to friends. That’s just, like, the rules of feminism.”
4. The Breakfast Club
Sigh Where do we begin? Who could not relate with the quirky band of characters such as The Princess, The Criminal, The Athlete, The Brain, and The Criminal.
Film features the 80’s Brat Pack, with a high concept conceit centering on the question: What happens when five different students are locked together in detention with no way out? Director John Hughes answers it with a well thought of script that could have veered away into Ferris Bueller territory.
Except it didn’t.
It tells the story from five different perspectives, how each reacts to snippets of the other’s lives, and how – at the end of it all – we still succumb to society’s expectations on how to act and whom to hang out with.
There could be scenes that has a sort of values dissonance among today’s viewers – the Nelson Judd character’s treatment towards Molly Ringwald’s screams harassment. But it is a relic of its time. And it is unapologetic in its depiction of teenagers as – well — people.
Favorite line: “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”
5. Sixteen Candles
If you want a rabid discussion about a supposedly innocuous teen flick, watch this one.
It has an offensive Asian stereotype, and date rape (the latter done by a character we are supposed to root for). Values dissonance, again, but it should be watched like any relic of its time where teen flicks were a lot raunchier and exploitative.
Film, also helmed by John Hughes, kicked off when Sam (played by Hughes’ muse Ringwald) realized that her entire family had forgotten about her birthday. Plot focuses on Sam’s crush on quintessential jock Jake, not knowing quintessential geek is in love with her. And then there’s the quintessential Asian stereotype Long Duk Dong (Long Dong – get it?) who does not seem to serve any sole purpose in the story except offend Asians. Oh, and there’s this sub-plot involving a bet and Sam’s panties.
I assure you, everything was resolved in the end. Watch it with a keen knowledge that it is an 80’s flick, and how such a well-loved film has become quite dated and controversial.
Favorite Line: “That’s why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they’d call them something else.” #