Do they even make good teen films nowadays? Did I just use the word nowadays? Oh dear. I'm just not sure that there are any classics in the making for teens these days. I'm talking solid-gold cheese fests that teach you everything you need to know about life, love and friendship, whilst also having an awesome soundtrack. Today's teens were born in the nineties (side note: this is very unsettling) but I was already approaching teendom and preparing myself by watching these gems. Maybe it's just nostalgia for youth, or maybe it's that these films were actually good - either way, I highly recommend!
Let me just get this out the way first, because it's not actually about teens. I just had to add it because it's the king of 90's youth films and my sister and I still quote lines from this! I also still listen to the amazing soundtrack! It's a university graduation film - that moment in life where you want to get a decent job, realise the terrible debt you're in, and generally try and sort out your life. In a time when arty types were labelled slackers and ambitious go-getters (who would be the start-up generation of today) are dimissed as yuppies - Winona Ryder has to choose between a suit-wearing fresh-faced Ben Stiller (who also directed this gem), and hipster Ethan Hawke whose massive attitude problem gets in the way of the chemistry between him and Win. Things to love about this: Winona spends the whole movie vlogging everything and trying to sell it to a TV channel - if only YouTube had been invented! Also, her pixie haircut, Janeane Garofalo in fine form as sassy BFF, and a scene where they dance to My Sharona in a petrol station. "All you have to be at 23 is yourself" - indeed!
After the runaway success that was Baz Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet Shakespeare became all cool and that, and a crop of high school movie versions of his plays turned up. This one, a re-working of The Taming of The Shrew, is by far the best, and has the perfect balance of lols, cheesiness, and angsty teenage romance. The film also manages to make the original play a hundred times less misogynistic and more about love breaking down the walls people put up when they feel insecure. There are also lessons to be learnt about the shallowness of liking someone for their looks... is it inappropes to mention here how hot Heath Ledger is in this movie? He's also brilliant too, of course.
Speaking of adaptations - this reboot of Dangerous Liaisons (which was also a reworking of something else) made a group of rich teens the players of mind games and dirty double crossings - all because Ryan Phillippe is desperate get his hands on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He sinks low when he pretends to be in love with the cute, innocent Reese Witherspoon, but starts to get feelings for her. The awww factor is ramped up by knowing that they were were falling in love in REAL LIFE too. Fake friendships, boys who only think with their junk, mean girls - could this be anymore educational about life as a teen? Realistic except for all the stacks of money and amazing houses and cars they have. Side note: also features Pacey from Dawson's Creek! Woo hoo!
Ryan Phillippe's surly hotness also graced this lesser known flick. His moody, insecure character hooks up with an equally hot and troubled girl played by Angelina Jolie. The two crazy hair-coloured hipsters (oh, nineties fashion!) meet one night and love doesn't go quite to plan. Across town, loads of other couples are meeting too, and it turns out their lives are all connected (yeah, one of those movies). Not strictly a film just about teens, but theirs is the faltering, complicated relationship to watch and cringe at. A scene that gets me every time is one between Jay Mohr, playing a young man dying of AIDS, and his mother, played by Ellen Burstyn, at his bedside. He asks her what it will feel like to die and she says "When you were born the contractions started, and now they're starting again." I've just realised how weird that sounds. Trust me, you'll be blubbing like a baby when you see that scene!
Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion
Although the main characters aren't teenagers, this whole movie is about high school angst and going back to see the people who used to be your whole world as a teen. Romy and Michelle were high school nerds, forever trying to be in with the in-crowd and lusting after good-looking but horrible boys. They're determined to go back ten years later as somebodies, demonstrating the hold that our teen lives and insecurities have over our adult selves. Alan Cummings is cute as the super-dork who fancies Lisa Kudrow, and Janeane Garafolo is back again in hilarious sass mode. There's so much to love about this film; friendship rules, and so do elaborate dance routines to Cyndi Lauper.
In the true Hollywood tradition of ugly duckling girls taking off their glasses, letting their hair down, and becoming stunners, this film asks you to suspend your disbelief and pretend that Rachel Leigh Cook in glasses and a ponytail is some kind of minger. Freddie Prinze Jr is dared to date her, and of course he ends up smitten - learning along the way that looks aren't all that (the hot girls at school are, somewhat predictably, quite mean), and that our heroine is a ballsy little lady with endless skills and talents. As well as the unspeakably hot pairing of Freddie and his BFF, played by a young and frankly beautiful Paul Walker, there's also a mad scene in which Usher, the Usher, DJs at the school dance and everyone does a syncronised dance routine that he 'taught them'. Ah, nineties high school films. Mad as a bag of spanners.
Drew Barrymore spent a lot of the nineties in rom-coms and teen films, so it was nice to see her doing something a bit different - being a teen in a fairytale. This version of Cinderella sees Drew playing an eighteen year old orphan and looking a bit grubby, but still absolutely gorgeous. She's having to deal with her pyscho-bitch step-family and not being invited to any balls. A chance meeting in an orchard with the prince leads them to spending the night together (this fairytale moves fast!) and Drew has to battle to get back to him. Not easy when your stepmum is on to you, and is also played by the forever fabulous and utterly terrifying Angelica Houston. This film sounds bonkers, especially the fact that our Drew is helped to the ball not a fairy godmother, but by Leonardo Da Vinci. It all makes sense (kinda) and her big entrance at the palace, dressed as a resplendent, glittery fairy, and telling herself to "just breathe" used to give me goosebumps. I also loved the narrator telling us "it doesn't matter if they lived happily ever after, what matters is they lived." How many fairytales keep it real like that?
More Drew Barrymore fabulosity! In the same vein as Romy and Michelle, Drew plays a young woman being sent back to the place that tormented her as a teen - high school. She's a 23 year old reporter going undercover as a student, and despite her need to get in with the cool kids for her journalistic assignment, she fails all over again by being the biggest loser dork going. Of course there ends up being a She's The One style makeover, and Drew is suddenly hot (like she wasn't before!). She totally pulls it off because no one does loser dork as adorably as Drew, and you totally believe her that she's never found the one and been kissed properly. Okay, it's a bit dodgy that her English teacher falls for her, especially as he thinks she's 17, but who cares about that right? It's all about them getting together and showing those wretched high school kids what love really is. Clue, kids: it's not about liking someone just because they're 'cool'. More often than not cool = douchebag.
Speaking of the cool kids, this film was unusual in that it showed you teen life from their perspective, and they weren't in any way wretchedly horrible (Cruel Intentions style). Cher and her friends (all named after famous pop stars) rule the school, wearing amazing tartan mini skirts and talking on ginormous mobile phones. They're so fancy, Iggy Azalea style. Yet another piece of classic literature gets a high school reboot, this time Jane Austen's Emma, and one of the most hilarious and quoteable teen movies of the nineties, and of all time, is born. Cher learns the price of meddling in the love lives of others, whilst also learning a lot about herself, friendship and love along the way. Side note: AMAZING soundtrack! I still listen to it.
Way before Renee Zellweger changed her face, even way before she became Bridget Jones, she played second fiddle to Liv Tyler in this awesome movie about a bunch of teens working part time in a record store. Yes, an actual shop where you could physically purchase music - I know there are huge swathes of teens who won't have even set foot in one of these, let alone had the coolest Saturday job ever. This kooky bunch get to deal with a shoplifter, bitch about everything from haircuts to doing well at school, dance on the roof, host a creepy popstar doing a signing, and help their boss save their adorable independent store from being bought up by a big chain (like those didn't go out of business ten years later in real life anyway! Ironic lolz). There's tears, tantrums, love, friendship, and more tartan mini-skirts. AND yet another great soundtrack. I heart this film so much. Damn the man!
"Be careful of weirdos round here" says a bus driver dropping off the four high school wannabe witches this film centres on. "We are the weirdos", they retort. Whilst high school is confusing and often scary in other nineties teen films, it's mostly glossy and no one is doing anything too weird. In this film our protagonists aren't just a gang, they're a coven. Outfits that can only be described as sexy-goth are worn; mini-skirts, dark lipstick and Doc Martens. At first we like the witches, they take out the mean girls and make them pay for being beautiful but ugly inside. Then the power goes to their heads and Neve Campbell (a nineties babe known for TV's Party of Five, raunchy movie Wild Things, and teen-horror franchise Scream) has to battle evil and un-goth herself. After seeing this my friends and I went through a bit of a phase of wearing DMs and trying to cast spells. We were probably the weirdos in our school, but with zero magical powers.
Oops for adding Josie and The Pussycats and Get Over It in my collage at the top of the post - they're both from the 2000's. So I'll just have to write another post about teen movies from that decade too! How many of these movies have you seen and enjoyed? Are there any other teen films from the nineties that you love? Leave me a comment below.