Last night I caught the end of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which is, undeniably the best of the 80s teen movie flicks. However, most of my students have never seen it, although they've almost all seen most of the John Hughes films, including Ferris Bueller, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. Some of this has to do with what gets played in heavy rotation on cable. The Hughes films are easy to watch, kind of funny, and very flattering towards teenagers. Their whiteness and casual racism are selling points not distractions. Fast Times, however, is a far more complicated film. It's central relationships are flawed and end badly. One of them culminates in an abortion (and the parents aren't told). This is a warts and all view of (a still pretty white) teenage world.
Below please find my favorite 80s teenager films. With a tasty quote from each. Feel free to discuss in comments.
1. Fast Times at Ridgemont High - An exceptional film, regardless of genre. Human and heartbreaking.
2. The Sure Thing - Everybody remembers John Cusack, but this is as much Daphne Zuniga's film. "I have a credit card."
3. Heathers - A dark satire. In a post-school shooting era, it would hit too close to home. "I love my dead gay son."
4. Say Anything - I'm a huge John Cusack fan. (As will become even more apparent). This is one of my favorite movies of all time. "By choice". "I gave her heart and she gave me a pen."
5. Valley Girl - I love this movie as much for the soundtrack as for the plot, which is warmed over Romeo and Juliet. Still, there is a lot more going on in this movie. "If they attack the car save the radio."
Other films that I considered that didn't make the top five.
Risky Business - The movie that made Tom Cruise a star. "I have a trig exam tomorrow and I'm being chased by Guido the Killer Pimp."
Footloose - Kevin Bacon dancing. Lori Singer dancing. Chris Penn dancing, eventually.
Movies that aren't so good that I am irrationally fond of in this genre.
Adventures in Babysitting.- "Nobody gets out of here without singing the blues."
Better off Dead - Another John Cusack vehicle. More notable for individual scenes of surreal brilliance: the Asian guys who learned to speak English by listening to Howard Cosell, Ricky's mom, a French person who is good at auto repair but most importantly a paper boy who is obsessed with his "twooooooo dollars."
The Patrick Dempsey Trilogy - Can't Buy My Love, Loverboy, and Happy Together. Patrick Dempsey ought to dance in all his movies. His extended dance sequence in Happy Together is terrific. Can't Buy Me Love is a bit overrated. My father was enamored of Loverboy and would watch it every time it was on. "Extra anchovies."
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure - "So-crates" And the whole mall sequence.
The Science Movies:
Weird Science - This was the one with Anthony Michael Hall. A lad fantasy. "The family jewels? The family jewels."
Real Genius - Actually put a geeky looking kid in the lead. And tried to make political points at SDI. It didn't really work. No memorable quotes.
UPDATE: Commentators on Facebook mentioned two movies I missed. Wargames, which I loved when it came out, but has not held up well. I find the antiquated technology distracting. The other movie is Vision Quest. Nice little flick. Good Madonna song.
UPDATE 2: How can I forget Gregory's Girl! "That's not how you spell Caracas anyway." "Do you know when you sneeze it comes out your nose 1,000 miles an hour."