Welcome to Pop Culture Throwdown, a weekly column where Mashable’s Entertainment team tackles the big questions in life, like what Star Wars movie is best and which superhero would win in a fight.
This week, we asked each other (and all of you, on Twitter): What’s the best teen movie? Let the throwdown begin.
10 Things I Hate About You
When I watched 10 Things I Hate About You as a teenager, I don’t think I’d yet encountered a character quite like Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles). I remember my mum’s friend telling me to watch the movie because it was based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, which I was studying at school. Prior to that, the only films of that genre I’d seen painted popularity as the zenith of the teen experience — something that differed greatly from my own lived experience (and that of most teens, I’ll wager). I was a deeply uncool teenager who was not universally adored by my peers, so seeing Kat being blissfully OK with being openly disliked felt radical and edifying to my teenage self. Here was a character so deeply unconcerned with likability she actively mocked the niceties expected of her.
From her love of riot grrrl bands to her exquisite taste in feminist literature to her deliberate crash into the school dickhead’s car, Kat was basically my teen idol. It would be remiss of me not to mention Heath Ledger’s character — the dorky, weird, but very beguiling Patrick Verona, who pursues Kat for a bet, but ends up falling for her. Ultimately, this movie gives uncool, unpopular, and unconventional teens permission to be different. It’s a lesson in speaking your mind and not being defined by other people. And that is what makes this a GREAT teen movie. — Rachel Thompson, Senior Culture Reporter
16 Candles … because it is.
— L.G. (@luvnwngs) May 12, 2020
Fast times… no competition!
— ParanoidDBA (@MichaelSosis) May 12, 2020
Who allowed Booksmart to be this good? Who allowed Booksmart to take…my breath…away? Olivia Wilde’s 2019 teen movie (armed with Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins’ sharply funny script) is one of the smartest in the game. At the heart of the film lie two ambitious, smart, inseparable best friends — reserved renegade Amy and future Supreme Court judge Molly, played by the most excellent Kaitlyn Dever and genuinely hilarious Beanie Feldstein. The pair call “Malala” when they need unconditional support and shower each other with ferocious compliments — indeed, Molly and Amy feign offense at each other’s brilliance with an enthusiasm that would make the women of Broad City proud.
It has all the elements of a teen movie: new and old friends, graduation, a big party, confrontations with crushes — but Booksmart manages to bring a new level of progressive intelligence and actual fun (not just cringe) to the well-worn, dude-virginity-losing genre. Wilde’s take on the Breakfast Club-established teen movie trope of not truly knowing someone beyond their high school label feels heartfelt instead of cliché. The film’s staggeringly good soundtrack takes front and centre with the most mesmerizing, music video-worthy use of slow-motion since Beyoncé smashed up a hydrant. I, for one, will never forgive Wilde for her truly gut-punching use of Perfume Genius’ “Slip Away” in the pool scene. — Shannon Connellan, U.K. Editor
Project X, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
— Kulbhushaan Knows (@KulbhushaanR) May 12, 2020
Who are we kidding here? 2004’s Mean Girls elevated the teen movie to a new tier of comedy with Tina Fey’s ingenious script and an all-star cast of SNL mainstays and promising new talent. It deftly portrays a handful of young female relationships without being heavy-handed, packaging its humor, romance, and heart in a delightfully vengeful popularity heist. Mean Girls reminds us that behind every plastic high school exterior is a real person with a lot of feelings who just wants to bake a cake of rainbows and smiles and eat it and be happy!
If you’re a specific subset of millennial, you’ve heard or used a quote from this movie approximately every day for roughly half your life. You celebrate October 3 religiously (by announcing the date to anyone who will listen), your face smells like a foot, and you got kicked out of a family Christmas party for doing the only dance you know to “Jingle Bell Rock.” Mean Girls is not so much a movie as a religion which we are truly blessed to follow, like Regina George’s fashion sense. — Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter
“Bring it on” bc it gave us a beautiful repertory of amazing song tracks, choreographies, high school catfights, and… umm just because Gabrielle Union is the queen in this movie.
— mayoketchup (@mayoketchuup) May 12, 2020
It’s a well-established fact that any film starring Jake Gyllenhaal is an instant, guaranteed classic – but among the multitude of majestic movies that man has acted in, Donnie Darko is one of the very best. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t a film about evil rabbits and time travel more psychological fantasy than teen movie? It’s a fair point. But with its high school setting, adolescent angst, and coming-of-age undercurrent, I’d argue that Richard Kelly’s 2001 cult classic ticks both those boxes.
The film is almost 20 years old now, but it still stands up. It’s a haunting, eerie, funny and moving portrait of a teenager trying to navigate the world of friendships, bullies and first love, while simultaneously suffering nightmarish visions about the end of the world. I still think of the movie whenever I hear Gary Jules and Michael Andrews’ cover of “Mad World,” and I still remember its most famous line: “Every living creature dies alone.” Like the movie, that one’s dark — but it stays with you. — Sam Haysom, Deputy U.K. Editor