Favorite Teen Movies of One
Who Is No Longer a Teen
- Better Off Dead, 1985: John Cusack as Lane Meyer, the
ideal teen protagonist: sincere but cynical and deadpan. This is an inventive,
preposterous and unceasingly funny movie. With drag-racing Korean kids who
learned to speak English from listening to Howard Cosell on MNF, Esther
Williams-inspired animated french fries moving in syncopation to the strains
of Eddie Van Halen, and the scene-stealing neighbor-boy Ricky, this movie
speaks “the international language” of funny. Not to mention
- Say Anything, 1989: John Cusack again. The king of teen
heroes was ideally cast in this sweet, intelligent, funny and romantic story.
The boom box scene with Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”
is painful and perfect. With the inimitable Lily Taylor in a supporting
role as a horrendously bad aspiring singer/songwriter.
- My Bodyguard, 1980: Subtly written and beautifully acted,
this tale of nerd/loner bonding and revenge gets emotional without the schmaltz.
And I’m not done with Cusacks yet: this time it’s sister Joan
in a small but meaty part, perfect for her particular gawkiness.
- Hoosiers, 1986: Aside from Jeff’s reservations
about watching Gene Hackman kissing anyone at any time in any movie—and
I have to admit that I agree with him—this movie is dang nigh perfect.
- Stand & Deliver, 1988: As with Hoosiers, I’m
a big, big sucker for success-against-the-odds movies, especially ones based
on true stories, and most particularly ones set in my own hometown. Haven’t
seen this film in at least a decade, but since I still get all misty-eyed
when I think of it, I figure it belongs up near the top.
- Rebel Without a Cause, 1955: Another one set in the home
of my youth, this time featuring a destination of more than one school field
trip. (By the way, the Griffith Observatory was a fantastic spot to see
a Pink Floyd laser show in 1981.) Question: Is it very, very wrong that
I fell more in love with geeky Sal Mineo than I did with the sexy James
Dean? I know I wasn’t supposed to, but Sal was such an endearing
- Gregory’s Girl, 1981: A sweet film from Scotland
with thick accents and lots of very, very pale teenagers in bad shorts.
Earnest, funny, engaging and a lot of fun.
- Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982: What’s not
to love? Anybody out there not love this movie?
- Finding Forrester, 2000: Another story about beating
the odds, this film surprised me with its sensitivity and the extraordinary
performance of the lead, 16-year-old Rob Brown, in his first-ever acting
job. Even the ever-bloated Sean Connery—whom Jeff refers to as “a
joke of a man”—was restrained and compelling.
- Valley Girl, 1983: I have never liked Nicolas Cage half
so much as when he played Randy, the lovelorn punk from Hollywood, besotted
with the way tubular Julie from the Valley. Though I lived in neither Hollywood
nor the Valley, I could relate to them both and could reach either in under
an hour on the RTD; plus, I had peculiarly dyed hair and a belated hippie
mother, so it felt extra familiar. The movie is silly, silly and silly,
but charming and possessing like a totally rad soundtrack.
- Blackboard Jungle, 1955: Sidney Poitier. ‘Nuff
- Back to the Future, 1985: Gotta love the Delorean.
- Fame, 1980: Saw this over and over and over and over
again on cable in 1981, back when they didn’t have much of a movie
library available yet. I can still Sing the Body Electric. And that Leroy
- Grease, 1978: Ditto, except that I can both sing and
quote entire scenes verbatim. Stockard Channing is priceless as Rizzo.
- Pleasantville, 1998: An inventive story, beautifully
rendered and ideally cast. Plus, I used to babysit Tobey Maguire’s
black-and-white-turned-Technicolor love interest, the gorgeous Marley Shelton.
- Rushmore, 1998: Smart, odd and occasionally disturbing,
but so well done.
- Heathers, 1989: Back when Christian Slater seemed really
cool and Winona Ryder bought her own hats, this movie seemed really daring
- Dead Poets Society, 1989: Sappy, but nice.
- Karate Kid, 1984: Sure, I stood on one leg and waggled
my arms, just like everybody else. And tried to catch a fly with chopsticks.
And waxed on, waxed off. Didn’t you? Plus, parts of the sequel were
filmed right in my own neck of the barrio.
- Election: Painful to watch, but, even cringing, I enjoyed
seeing Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon eviscerate one another.
- Pretty in Pink, 1986: Molly Ringwald may have been a
bit of a snot in The Breakfast Club*, but she’s more
appealing in Pink. Jon Cryer is the best thing going in this one, though.
- The Bachelor & The Bobbysoxer, 1947: Shirley Temple
is still cute after puberty, but it’s Cary Grant and Myrna Loy who
make this picture a solid piece of entertainment. You remind me of a
man. What man? The man with the power. The power of what? The power of hoodoo.
Hoodoo? You do. I do what? Remind me of a man…
*If I hadn’t just re-watched The Breakfast Club the other
day, it would almost certainly have made my list. But I did re-watch it, and
it wasn’t nearly as good as I remembered. That may have been, at least
in large part, because all the swearing was dubbed over, and every other sentence
contained swearing. Lots of tinny-sounding gosh darnits and some
strange, strange epithets like shove you and your mother, too!