Favorite Teen Movies of One
Who Is No Longer a Teen

by Lynn Lewis

  1. 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 Fraunch.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 little guy.
  7. 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.
  8. Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982: What’s not to love? Anybody out there not love this movie?
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Blackboard Jungle, 1955: Sidney Poitier. ‘Nuff said.
  12. Back to the Future, 1985: Gotta love the Delorean.
  13. 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 could dance.
  14. Grease, 1978: Ditto, except that I can both sing and quote entire scenes verbatim. Stockard Channing is priceless as Rizzo.
  15. 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.
  16. Rushmore, 1998: Smart, odd and occasionally disturbing, but so well done.
  17. Heathers, 1989: Back when Christian Slater seemed really cool and Winona Ryder bought her own hats, this movie seemed really daring and funny.
  18. Dead Poets Society, 1989: Sappy, but nice.
  19. 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.
  20. Election: Painful to watch, but, even cringing, I enjoyed seeing Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon eviscerate one another.
  21. 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.
  22. 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!