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 411mania » Movies » Columns

The 411 Movies Top 5 08.02.13 - The Top 5 Teen Movies
Posted by Shawn S. Lealos on 08.02.2013

Welcome to Week 385 of the Movie Zone Top 5. My name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world.

The 411mania writers were given the following instructions: The Way Way Back finally got its wide release last week and has been getting good reviews. This week lets look at teen movies - meaning movies that focus on the life of a teenager or group of teenagers. Lets keep this with high school aged kids and avoid pre-teens. Stuff like Dazed and Confused, Fast Times, and so forth. Lets also try to avoid college movies (this includes movies like Adventureland, since he was a college graduate)


Bryan Kristopowitz

Honorable Mentions: The Breakfast Club (1985), She's All That (1999), Sixteen Candles (1984), The Last American Virgin (1982), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), American Pie (1999)

5. Not Another Teen Movie (2001)

Not Another Teen Movie is probably the last great spoof movie. It manages to make fun of recent movies, like Varsity Blues, She's All That (NATM spoofs the plot of this movie), American Pie, and a host of others, but it also manages to make fun of various movies from the 1980's. And it's all funny. There isn't a slow moment in its running time, unlike the last batch of spoof movies. I'm surprised that Not Another Teen Movie doesn't get more respect.


4. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Sort of the ultimate teen fantasy, Ferris Bueller is all about goofing off and not getting caught. That's what all teens, in one sense or another, want to do. So Ferris, brilliantly played by Mathew Broderick, decides to play sick and not go to school. Of course, Principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), Bueller's arch nemesis, wants to get rid of Bueller because he just doesn't take school seriously. He's been absent more times than any other student. So Ferris must be destroyed. So the movie is all about Ferris and his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) fucking around all day in Chicago, with Ed Rooney in sort of hot pursuit (you know he's in hot pursuit because of his clip on sunglasses). Still funny twenty five plus years later.


3. Better Off Dead... (1985)

When I think of John Cusack, more often than not I think of this movie (it's either this or Con Air and, on occasion, High Fidelity). Cusack's Lane Meyer isn't quite a slacker, but he doesn't quite know what he wants (well, what he really wants). His girlfriend Beth just dumped him, he's suicidal, he thinks he doesn't have anything to live for, and yet he keeps screwing up when it comes to actually committing suicide. He really must have something to live for. So Lane goes through the motions every day, hanging out with his doofus pal Charles (Curtis "Booger" Armstrong, in his second best role), going to his shitty job at the hamburger joint run by Porky ("You wash your hands on your own time!"), attempting to street race with the weird Japanese guys, and, when he has the time, skiing. When Lane meets Monique, a foreign exchange student staying with a neighbor, things start to look up, but it takes Lane until the end to really figure out what he wants (he wants Monique and he wants to live).

My God, this movie has so many great, iconic moments it's ridiculous. "I want my two dollars!," the space shuttle made in the garage, Ricky the neighbor and his nasal spray, "It's a damn shame when people be throwing away a perfectly good white boy like that," the muscle car in the yard, and, of course, Lane's father, "Mellow off!," and on and on. Savage Steve Holland is brilliant.


2. The Hollywood Knights (1980)

The Hollywood Knights is sort of a raunchy version of George Lucas' American Graffiti. If you take Graffiti's 1960's car cruising stuff and latch on a bunch of lewd sex jokes you end up with The Hollywood Knights. That's simplifying things, yes, but it's the best way to explain what the movie is about. It has its serious moments, with Tony Danza's Duke having relationship issues with his girlfriend Suzie (Michelle Pfeiffer), the whole Jimmy Shine going to Vietnam thing, and the eventual end of Tubby's Drive-In, the Beverly Hills teen hangout that's set to be demolished the day after Halloween 1965. Why is it being demolished? Because a bunch of rich old people, scared to death of what the young generation at the time represents, wants the drive-in gone (they call it a "social disease"). Of course, since this is a comedy, all of that serious stuff is balanced with a heavy dose of sex jokes, funny pranks (pretty much any scene featuring Robert Wuhl's Newbomb Turk), nudity, and two asshole cops (Gailard Sartain's Officer Bimbeau is one of the biggest assholes in movie history. "You little sonofabitch!"). If you've never seen this movie, do yourself a favor and check it out. It's worth seeing. I watch it every Halloween.


1. Porky's (1982)

Porky's, written and directed by the great Bob Clark, is essentially the teen sex comedy that all other teen sex comedies try to be. Both nostalgic and timeless at the same time (Clark managed to do that twice in his career), Porky's deals with a group of high school guys trying to lose their virginity by going to the local bordello. The trip to the bordello doesn't exactly work out (the guys get robbed and dropped in the drink), and for the rest of the movie it's all about getting even with the bordello owner Porky, the sheriff (a brilliant Alex Karras) and, well, losing their virginity in some other way. Because, ultimately, isn't that what high school all about? Will probably never be surpassed. People will be watching this movie 100 years from now.

Shawn S. Lealos

5. The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

About 10 years ago, I discovered that there was actually a very talented member of the Culkin family when Kieran Culkin starred in two amazing indie movies: Igby Goes Down and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys. That first movie won Kieran a ton of awards and was a great movie in and of itself, but I actually rank Altar Boys a little higher on my list of favorites. Basically Emile Hirsch stars as the lead character here and Culkin is one of his three running buddies, all students at a strict Catholic school ran with an iron fist my Jodie Foster's Sister Assumpta. Jena Malone is also here as a love interest. What makes this movie amazing is that the boys live through their trials and tribulations by also living in a fantasy world, that happens to be animated by Todd McFarlane. The movie is unlike just about anything you have seen and is a great addition to any DVD library.

4. Dazed and Confused

You know, I was torn between a number of movies. I will say here that I loved Fast Times, Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller, but out of all those, Dazed and Confused reigns supreme. The movie is a "day in the life" film with the day being the final one of the school year and the life being the students, both older ones and the younger ones being initiated with paddling and humiliation. The cast is extraordinary, with Matthew McConaughey perfect as the older guy who can't grow up, Ben Affleck the dumb meathead, Jason London in his only great role, as a supporting cast that included Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Milla Jovovich, Parker Posey, Marissa Ribisi, Cole Hauser and Joey Lauren Adams. The movie was just about perfect.

3. Pump Up the Volume

You know, most people would put Heathers in this spot, but when it comes to Christian Slater teen moves, I have a real soft spot for Pump up the Volume. In the movie, Slater starts a pirate FM radio station and becomes one of the most popular broadcasts in a quiet suburb of Phoenix. The school administrators and parents don't like it because he says what is one his mind, regardless of social norms, and plays music deemed "dangerous" by the uptight community. However, when the FCC starts to close in on his signal and some classmates start to act out in response to his words, the police join the chase and everyone wants him charged with everything the "good kids" did while under his control. It was a great movie that really spoke to me when it was released and remains a great look at teenage rebellion for a new generation (at the time).

2. Donnie Darko

I don't care what anyone else says, Donnie Darko is a damn near brilliant independent sci-fi teen movie. It is also one of Jake Gyllenhaal's best roles and offered great supporting roles from Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary McDonnell and Jena Malone. The story is a twisted fairy tale with Donnie Darko realizing that he is not supposed to exist anymore and understand that he had to leave or the entire world could end up crushed in time. That is all great, but the acting was superb, the mystery was well weaved and the entire movie exuded a coolness factor that causes me to still stop and watch it today anytime I see it on. 12 years later, and I still love Donnie Darko.

1. Brick

More people need to know about Brick, the film that made both director Rian Johnson and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars. If you liked Looper, watch the superior Brick, because this is where it all began. Levitt is a teenager in a school full of people who talk in a slang lingo that is completely pulled from the old Film Noir movies and hard core detective novels by Dashiell Hammett. When his girlfriend (Lost's Emilie de Ravin) ends up dead in a ditch, he sets out to figure out who killed her, which leads him to the high school's drug kingpin (Lukas Haas), gets him beaten up by the high school's heavy (Noah Fleiss) and forces him to cross paths with the Femme Fatale (Nora Zehetner). The movie is one of the smartest, slickest and coolest teen movies you will ever see.


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