1. the cell phone
2. the personal computer
3. the ‘coming of age’ teen movie
Now stop it. I saw that face. Don't you dare scoff at #3. Sure, I admit the other two were a bit more monumental and, yes, there were a couple of teen flicks before the Eighties. But in the 1980s, teen angst transformed filmmaking. I kid you not.
As someone who grew up during that time, I had to ask myself, “Self, what are the most iconic teen movies of the 1980s?” But this question proved too big to be answered by one woman. I needed guidance -- guidance from others of my generation. So I slapped together an internet poll and asked those who were teens in the eighties to step forward and vote. Over (the square root of) 2500 people participated, each of the selecting their top three picks for “the most iconic 1980s teen flick.” The key word was ‘iconic,’ a.k.a. representative of the eighties, which means they weren’t asked to pick their favorites. E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark had to take a hike. Still, I gotta say, all of these movies are frickin’ cool. Dare I say ‘rad’ or ‘wicked?’
So now you’re wondering, why is this important to you? Because your mom more than likely spent a few of her teenaged years in the Eighties. To fully know the beast, you must understand it. Watch these movies and you’ll get a taste of what it was like while she was growing up. Kind of. I mean, come on, these are movies. But still, you get the idea.
So with that being said, allow me to present…
The Top Ten Most “Iconic” Teen Flicks of the 1980s:
Of course we should start this list off with the king of the 1980s teen movie, John Cusak. He ruled the screen as the adolescent everyman unlucky in love. In this case, when his girlfriend dumps him for a more popular A-hole, he thinks he’s ‘better off dead’ – until he comes up with a ridiculous plan to win her back. Teen angst has never been so hilarious.
Yep. Another John Cusak film, though with a little less funny and a little more feeling. This time, he falls for the school’s sweet, rich and beautiful valedictorian, and her dad’s not too happy about it. Her dad, however, is also a crook. This movie inspired legions of boys to one day, possibly, if they ever had the guts, stand outside a girl’s window with a boom box over their head and blare a romantic song. Classic.
“Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” You said it, Patrick. Though set in the sixties, this drama earns iconic eighties status on its beautifully depicted struggle toward adulthood – and awesome dance scenes. Featuring Jennifer Grey as a privileged teenager on a long summer vacation and Patrick Swayze as her dance instructor from the ‘other side of the tracks,’ this movie has a whole lotta dancing and even more heart as she rebels against the world as taught by her father. Moving stuff (pun intended).
Okay, you’ve met the king of eighties teen flicks. Now it’s time to meet the queen, Molly Ringwald. She plays a poor girl trying to date a rich guy, and both of their social circles aren’t too happy about it. This movie gives a great glimpse of the 1980s high school cliques – not just their mindsets but their tragic fashion sense, too.
Who knew you could learn so much about the 1980s from a movie mostly set in the 1950s? That’s the genius of this time-travelling tale. Michael J. Fox, an Eighties icon all his own, plays teenager Marty McFly, who stumbles back to the Fifties only to be hit on by his own mom. Now, before he can get back home, he’s got to get his parents together first, forcing him to deal with their own teen issues. If he fails, he won’t be born. How’s that for inspiration?
Molly Ringwald strikes again. In this comedy, her parents get so caught up in her sister’s wedding they forget her sixteenth birthday. More misery is added when she not only has a crush on the most popular guy in school, but the geekiest one has a crush on her. Add some crazy grandparents, a goofy foreign exchange student, and an over-the-top party, and you’ve got one hilarious movie.
This film is not only iconic, but also features one of the most knocked-off scenes in movie history: Tom Cruise dancing to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll" in his undies. When his character’s parents leave for the weekend, he decides to let loose a little. When a call girl enters the picture, it doesn’t take long for things to get waaaaay out of control, putting everything he cares about into jeopardy.
Duuuuude! Though this film focuses on teenagers looking for love in southern California, stoner Jeff Spicoli (played by Sean Penn) steals the show as a stoned-out surfer dude in constant battle with Mr. Hand, a high school teacher convinced that every kid is on drugs. Hysterical.
You can’t help but love Matthew Broderick as the high school student who cuts class with style. On this particularly glorious day, he takes his perennially morose best friend and knock-out girlfriend to Chicago for day they’ll never forget. All the while, his furious sister and suspicious principal do their best to foil his plans. Not just a great teen movie, but a great movie, period.
Number One? There could really be no other. Just look at the premise alone: Five high school students from five different cliques spend an entire Saturday in school detention only to discover they have more in common than they realize. The cast of characters? Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Esteviz, Ally Sheedy, and Judd Nelson. Those names might not mean much to you, but to my generation they were part of the “Brat Pack,” a group of young actors who dominated teen movies. This movie is classic 1980s – the good, bad and ugly. Plus the soundtrack is still way cool.
So there you have it, the Eighties wrapped up in a bow. If you have a spare moment, watch a flick or two. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll have a cow. And you might understand your mom just a little bit more...maybe.
All movie posters found at http://www.imdb.com