Getting Reel: Best Cinematic Representations of Being a Teen

Best Cinematic Representations of Being a Teen

5. Superbad

Best Teen Cinematic ExperienceSuperbad plays off of the standard high school teen comedy plot of the last big party before graduation. The film takes place through the experience of three outsiders who may finally have the chance to get with the girls they’ve had crushes on throughout high school. The story is made up of variations of all the most epic stories you heard about (or were a part of) in high school, including fights, drinking, drugs, cops, etc. The understory follows the uncertainty between the two main characters, Seth and Evan, which adds a touch of realism to the film where the characters are struggling with the fact of eventual separation after high school as well as not being able to express that feeling to one another. On top of being a great teen movie it is just a hilarious movie and in my opinion one of the last great raunchy comedies, a genre that just is slowly fading away.

4. Dazed and Confused

Best Teen Cinematic ExperienceRichard Linklater is one of my all time favorite writer/directors, he has an amazing understanding of people which he showcases in all his films; in Dazed and Confused Linklater focuses on the teenage years. I think it’s no secret that this film borrows heavily from George Lucas’ American Graffiti, but that’s in no way a slight to how great this film is. Dazed and Confused focuses (like many teen comedies) on the last day of school and the last big party before summer. What I always found interesting about this film was the dynamic between the characters and the different experiences they go through in high school. This is most clearly displayed with the two lead characters: Randall “Pink” Floyd, a senior torn between the athletes and slackers but with all the confidence that comes from popularity and Mitch Kramer, a freshman hoping to find his niche while avoiding a year of never-ending hazing. We also see how experiences differ between males/females, popular/unpopular, and tough guys/smart guys.

2-3. Sixteen Candles/The Breakfast Club

Best Teen Cinematic ExperienceIt’s hard to include one of these films without including the other, not to mention the rest of John Hughes’ catalogue of teen-centric films. It’s also a struggle to find a writer/director since Hughes (or before for that matter) that has nailed the dichotomy of teen comedy and drama as perfectly as he has. So much could be attributed to these films including being the prototype for female led teen comedies such as Heathers, Clueless, Easy A, etc. Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club are, in a way, two sides of the same coin. Where Sixteen Candles explores the feeling of being alone in your struggles, The Breakfast Club shows that despite people’s differences, everyone has their own hardships. Not only did these two films feature the powerhouse duo of Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall but they also introduced some of the key members of the Brat Pack. There are some fantastic performances here, it really is a shame that so few members of the Brat Pack are still relevant today. Although there are many aspects of both films that don’t hold up that well over time they deal with some real emotions with a perfect mix of comedy and heart.

1.  American Graffiti

Best Teen Cinematic ExperienceGeorge Lucas’ American Graffiti is a classic piece of work and a seminal film in the genre. Looking back on this film, one can see the blueprint of modern teen comedy. It really has it all: a compelling cast of characters each with their own unique and interesting stories, a killer soundtrack that perfectly encapsulates the sounds of the time period and a story that’s full of different adventures, big and small. The writing brilliantly describes where the characters are in their lives without blatantly spelling it out for the audience. Each character rolling around town aimlessly is a beautiful metaphor for being young and having no idea where the next step will take you after high school.

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