The 10 Most Essential "Teen" Movies: Then and NowIt's hard to be a teenager. As adults, lots of us forget that. Careers, financial responsibility, and child-rearing make prom preparations and math quizzes seem insignificant in retrospect. At the time, however, that's all we knew. Our hormones were racing, our emotions were swinging wildly, and our skin was a mess. Worst of all, no one understood.
Thank Hughes, we had auteurs to tell our tales. Those who came of age when I did were blessed with the defining films of the genre. Oh, I know. Before Ferris Bueller there was Danny Zuko and whoever James Dean played in Rebel Without a Cause. Still, the '80s were the Golden Age of teen film.
Unlike most of my peers, I didn't leave teendom behind when I entered the real world. I'm still witness to teen drama on a daily basis, in all its hyperbolic glory. What's fulfilling about teaching English is introducing young people to the great stories that came before their existence. Half of this entry is dedicated to making sure the younger generation doesn't miss out on all the great teen flicks that came out before they were born. These films are mandatory viewing for today's youth. The best news? None of them are in black and white. Trust me; that's huge for them.
The other half is for folks my age and above. Perhaps you haven't watched movies that focus on teen turmoil since you left the demographic yourself, figuring that as you grow up you must put away childish things. Maybe you don't think you can access those same emotions anymore. But that's what great art does. It taps into deeply buried feelings and makes them present. If you haven't seen any of these new classics, rest assured: They'll bring back all that old angst... in the best possible way. Remember, you're just visiting for a couple hours; adolescents are stuck there for what seems like eternity.
For the distinction between "then" and "now," I'm drawing the line at 1996, the year I turned 20. It's my blog, and them's my rules. Oh, and they're presented in no particular order.
Best line: "Can you describe the ruckus, sir?"
Signature song: "Don't You Forget About Me" (Simple Minds)
Post viewing question: "So...what have these actors been in recently? They must be huge stars, right?"
Best line: "No more yankie my wankie. The Donger need food!"
Signature song: "If You Were Here" (Thompson Twins)
Post viewing question: "Wait. So in the '80s you could show a high school girl showering, with other girls ogling her bare breasts, and it would be rated PG? What happened?"
Best line: "The question isn't what are we going to do today; it's what aren't we going to do today?"
Signature song: "Twist and Shout" (The Beatles)
Post viewing question: "What happened when the real 'Sausage King of Chicago' showed up to claim his reservation?"
this. This times a million.
Best line: "I've been thinking about this, Mr. Hand. If I'm here and you're here, doesn't that make it our time? Certainly, there's nothing wrong with a little feast on our time."
Signature song: "Moving in Stereo" (The Cars, and no, I'm not linking to that scene; this is a family blog).
Post viewing question: "Why is Spicoli so serious now? Because he and Madonna got a divorce?"
Best line: "What I really want to do with my life - what I want to do for a living - is I want to be with your daughter. I'm good at it."
Signature song: "In Your Eyes" (Peter Gabriel)
Post viewing question: "Why don't more people sing 'The Greatest Love of All' at their graduations?"
Honorable Mentions (Really, you should see all of these, too):Weird Science (1985)
Better Off Dead (1985)
Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
Boyz n the Hood (1991)
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Best line: "Kissing? That's what you think happens? I've got news for you. Kissing isn't what keeps me up to my elbows in placenta all day long."
Signature song: "I Can't Keep My Eyes Off of You" (Heath Ledger)
Post viewing question: "Did Robin know he was enlisting the help of The Joker?"
Easy A (2010)Like 10 Things, Easy A takes something old (The Scarlet Letter) and makes it pop. It features a career-making performance by Emma Stone, who is sassy, smart, and sexy as a teen who does the unthinkable: She intentionally tarnishes her own reputation. What starts as a noble favor to a gay friend looking to stay in the closet turns crushing when she turns into the town harlot (by word of mouth only), even covering for her guidance counselor's (Lisa Kudrow) illicit affair. The film's greatest power might be that it encouraged an interest in the source material. Several of my students chose to read it for their American history book report. The interest was fleeting once they actually read Hawthorne's dry, rigid prose, but still.
Best line: "After we watch 'The Bucket List,' remember to cross 'watch "The Bucket List'" off our bucket list."
Signature song: "Pocketful of Sunshine" (Natasha Bedingfield)
Post viewing question: "So, did Amanda Bynes take her paycheck from this movie and go straight to her meth dealer, or did she stop for In n' Out first?"
Best line: "Tell that stupid Mick he just made my list of things to do today."
Signature song: "A Quick One While He's Away" (The Who)
Post viewing question: "Why don't all Wes Anderson's films make this much sense?
Best line: "Gretchen, stop trying to make 'fetch' happen! It's not going to happen!"
Signature Song: "Jingle Bell Rock" (The Mean Girls)
Post viewing question: "Did Lindsey Lohan refer Amanda Bynes to her meth dealer, or does she not like to share?"
Best line: "We accept the love we think we deserve."
Signature Song: "Heroes" (David Bowie)
Post viewing question: "Is there any way we, as a society, can get a restraining order on behalf of Emma Watson that keeps Lindsey Lohan and Amanda Bynes three states away from her at all times?"
Honorable Mentions:American Pie (1999)
Bring it On (2000)
Donnie Darko (2001)