I'm honing in on the quintessential films of the 90's, specifically geared around teenagers, but indulgent for audiences of all ages. You need to understand that if I focused on 90's films alone, the list would be endless. Titanic, Pulp Fiction, Silence of the Lambs - what a phenomenal year for cinema!
A teen film, more precisely a NINETIES teen film, usually includes a plot line focusing around high school, teenagers, shenanigans, coming of age, romance, a personality makeover, and occasionally university students or adults who haven't emotionally been able to leave their high school days behind them.
Here's my top ten list:
She's All That (1999)
This film stars an adorable Freddie Prinze Jr. as a major tool. After being dumped by his popular girlfriend, he's desperate to hold onto the popularity that is slipping between his finger tips. When insisting that he could find any other girl to replace her, his best friend takes him up on the challenge and bets him that he can't. Under the rules of the bet, our protagonist is expected to take dorky and unpopular, Laney Boggs, and turn her into the school's next Prom Queen.
Never Been Kissed (1999)
Much like the name suggests, Drew Barrymore has never been kissed! Josie Geller is a junior copywriter for the Chicago Sun Times and is assigned an article to write about teenage culture. The one catch is that she must pose as a high school student herself, returning to the place that caused her so much trauma. Following a makeover, she infiltrates the popular crowd and even finds some romance along the way.
Empire Records (1995)
Empire Records is an indie music store in Delaware run by Joe and his gang of music savvy teens employed at the store. When news comes out that the store may be sold to a huge chain, all hell breaks loose. It's an endearing movie, watching a bunch of hopeless teens trying to solve a problem.
The Craft (1996)
Sarah is a troubled teen who has a telekinetic ability, so when she moves to a new high school in LA, she's immediately recruited by a group of three wannabe witches to join their clan. Each of the girls have haunting pasts, and after one of their little spells seem to work, they become obsessed with their witchcraft.
Can't Hardly Wait (1998)
At a party celebrating their recent graduation, students from all cliques come together. Artistic Preston is finally hoping to make a move on the girl of his dreams, mega nerd William plans his revenge on the school meathead bully, and wannabe rapper Kenny is eager to lose his virginity gets locked in a bathroom with Preston's friend Denise. Things escalate all throughout the house, as they tend to when you have too many hormonal teenagers in the same house.
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997)
Unambitious best friends Romy and Michele get invited to their upcoming ten year high school reunion. Unimpressed with how their lives have progressed since graduating, Romy being a cashier at a Jaguar dealership and Michele being unemployed, they decide to desperately change their lives with a little exaggeration here and there in order to avoid any ridicule at the reunion.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Based on the Shakespeare play Taming of the Shrew, the complicated romantic web of this movie begins with a baby Joseph Gordon-Levitt who falls in love with popular girl, Bianca Stratford, and has the ambition to ask her out. He's warned that Bianca's widowed father has a firm rule - Bianca cannot date until her older sister Kat starts dating. It's a seemingly impossible rule, as Kat is very academic oriented and ill-tempered. With some scheming between all the young men eager to date frivolous Bianca, they recruit a young Heath Ledger (RIP) to seduce the relentless Kat.
Cruel Intentions (1999)
As part of the wealthy and twisted step-siblings' bet, step-brother Sebastian must succeed in seducing virtuous Annette into sleeping with him, otherwise he has to give his step-sister Kathryn his Jaguar. But as 90's movies often tell us, faking love sometimes has the habit of becoming the real thing. The story line, dark but sexy, is actually based on the novel Les Liasons dangereuses and is the source of many 90's teens sexual awakening.
A dark comedy to say the least. On the morning of her 17th birthday, popular girl Liz Purr is surprised to find her three best friends at the foot of her bed. They playfully kidnap her, throw her into the trunk of the car, tie her up and tape a jawbreaker candy to her mouth. With the intentions of taking her to a secret surprise location, they find that they've...accidentally killed her. With the attempt of covering up their footprints, school nerd, Fern, catches them. To make sure their secret stays safe, they convert Fern into a popular girl just like them.
Perhaps the teen movie of all teen movies, Clueless, as I've written about before, is based on the Jane Austen novel, Emma. Spoiled daddy's girl, Cher Horowitz, takes it onto herself to play matchmaker with the teachers at her high school after being insulted by her step brother calling her shallow and vain. She also takes new girl, Tai under her wing and transforms her into a popular girl. After all the kindness she shows, Cher kind of misses the point, and recalculates everything after things go horribly wrong.
Special Mention: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Over the summer, four friends ran over a fisherman and tossed his dead body into the sea. A year later they receive a letter saying that somebody witnessed what they did...and the kids begin to be haunted by their actions. Can't reveal too much - don't want to ruin the fun of the horror movie ;)