This one was prompted by a debate within my Saturday Film Shoot group last term, with the group split 50/50 over whether or not the 90’s produced either great films or terrible films.
As a teenager of the 90’s, I am firmly in the ‘great films’ camp. I remember going to the cinema every week with my friends and there would be a whole host of films that I felt I could relate to… Films about teenagers. (Yes, OK, they were usually American and could drive sports cars and actually weren’t very much like me at all, but at the time, none of this seemed to matter at all). Some of these weren’t even set in the 90’s, but there was a definite surge in films for and about young people.
It felt like a time for teen movies, about everyday teenagers, in a way we don’t much see anymore. Yes, we have these great iconic characters in the form of Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen or Bella Swann, each individually great characters depending on who you’re talking to, but great in a distant, fantastical and also universal way that appeals to audiences both older and younger.
Now, I’m not a particular fan of this film, especially not since it became the second Never Ending Story, but it has to make the list because of the impact it had in the ‘teen’ genre. If you’re a fan of gross-out, then this was where it all started. And it was gross. I remember leaving the cinema on its release thinking “Wow. Just wow.” And I might have laughed, just a little bit.
9. The Faculty
This is a teen sci-fi thriller written by Kevin Williamson (of Dawson’s Creek fame) and directed by Robert Rodriguez. It’s a little bit predictable, but also really funny and does that 90’s postmodern self-referential thing perfectly. And it stars *the* teen heart throb of the late 1990’s, Josh Hartnett.
8. 10 Things I Hate About You
Another film to take a classic and adapt, this film is loosely based on The Taming of the Shrew and sees a young Heath Ledger sing along to a band on the bleachers to win over Julia Stile’s angsty Kat. Yep, this really happens and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt also makes an early appearance, so I think I might have sussed out Christopher Nolan’s casting strategy… 😉
7. Cruel Intentions
Keeping with the trend for classic adaptations, this is a teenage re-telling of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, set on New York’s Upper East Side. In many ways, it’s the precursor to the CW’s long running Gossip Girl, featuring nothing but sex, lies, blackmail and betrayals.
6. The Virgin Suicides
Sophia Coppola’s feature debut, this is a dark drama following the lives of four sisters after the youngest, Cecila, tries to take her own life. A tragic story of isolation and depression, this isn’t for the faint hearted, but is beautifully and subtly shot with warm and tender performances.
5. She’s All That
This was one of the biggest films of 1999, it was the box office number one for several weeks and followed the trend of adapting classic literature into teen drama. Based on Pygmalion, it follows Laney’s makeover to win the heart of deceptively-sensitive Zach.
Another Kevin Williamson film, this one takes a loving inside look at the cliches of horror films, recreating them in a postmodern homage that’s both funny and scary at the same time.
Mike Myer’s hilarious feature film debut, with trademark memorable characters Wayne and Garth of the Wayne’s World TV show. It’s offbeat, funny and quotable, a bit of a 1990’s cult classic.
1. Dazed and Confused
An early film from one of my favourite directors, Rick Linklater, this is a film that just revels in being teenage. It has an amazing before-they-were-famous cast for you to spot and steers away from traditional structure. It’s understated, yet very clever, and you need to watch it.
So, that’s the list! There could be any number of honourable mentions, but hopefully that’s enough of a watch list for now. I hope these films can persuade you that the 1990’s was a great time for cinema. If you’ve got any recommendations from the 1990’s, let me know.