“My foot hurts. Can I go to the nurse?” 90s Teen Angst Movies We Love So Much It Hurts, Ugh.
By Meg McCarthy
It was a time when grunge was king, plaid was rad, and Starbucks was just about to go public. Good-bye Bret Michaels, hello Kurt Cobain. Your iPhone did not yet exist, let alone lay claim as your best friend. People had to depend on actual conversation for communication, though the occasional AOL instant message was sent. Everyone under the age of twenty was full of angst. Girls dying their hair black in an effort to look darker and more damaged, guys skateboarding and mosh pitting… Whatever it was, their parents sure as heck didn’t understand. There was something really special, awkward, and slightly nihilistic about being a teenager in the 90’s. Ah yes, the good old days.
Koldcast’s Orange Juice in Bishops Garden is the quintessential 90’s teen show. The series circles around eighteen DC teenagers stirring up trouble, getting hurt, falling in love, and just figuring out their so-called lives. Thing is, it’s smart. The characters aren’t depicted as peppy, know-it-all teens, but rather as self-aware, beautifully vulnerable ones. Orange Juice is full of every 90’s delight you could possibly imagine. Sarah is in a band. There’s no texting, so Alex gets dumped via letter. It’s cool to look like you just rolled out of bed and no one leaves the house without their beanie (hmm… has anything actually changed?). Girls crush on boys with their misplaced feelings and shoulder-length hair. Girls crush on girls too, and that’s okay.
You’re watching Episode 1 of Orange Juice in Bishops Garden, “Orange Crush”
To help us make sense of the hormone-driven 90s of yore, we turned to the decade’s movies set in high schools just like ours, starring teen dreams just as confused about their lives as we were. Did it help? You decide. Did we leave your adolescent bible off the list? Give it to us straight.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
Hands down my favorite 90’s teen movie. Buffy, played by Kristy Swanson, is your typical popular girl. She’s head cheerleader, has a hunky jock boyfriend, and spends her days daydreaming in class. Then it’s off to the mall for some shopping with her girls after school! Buffy’s happy-go-lucky world is turned upside down when she discovers her true calling as a vampire slayer. She trades in her pompoms for wooden stakes and after some persuasion by Donald Sutherland, finally embraces the title. Throughout it all, she tries her darndest to stay normal. It’s that scene between her and Luke Perry that still gives me shivers: “You know, Buffy, you’re not like other girls.” Assuring herself more than him, she replies, “Yes I am.” And then, their first kiss. And THEN, vampires crash the prom. Let’s be honest: there is nothing better than a smoking hot girl kicking ass.
Link to the prom scene – http://t6w.co/UGB
Encino Man (1992)
A list of 90’s movies wouldn’t be complete without an appearance by Pauly Shore. He plays, though not explicitly shown, pothead Stoney. With the help of a Sean Astin, with far less self-confidence than in Rudy, they discover and educate Link, a Cro-Magnon Brendan Fraser, in hopes of achieving a 90s teenager’s holy grail: popularity. Needless to say, hijinks ensue. Oh, and for some reason, Brendan Fraser has superhuman strength. On their mission to teach this missing “Link” a thing or two about 90s counter culture, they find themselves in the process. It’s a beautiful thing.
Link to Wheez the Juice – http://t6w.co/UG3
Empire Records (1995)
Empire Records is about six teens that try to save their precious record store from closing down to a behemoth chain after friggin’ Lucas (Rory Cochrane) recklessly gambles away the store’s rent money. Along the way, hearts and stereotypes are broken, pills are popped, and heads are shaven. My two favorite things about this flick: (1.) The soundtrack quite possibly defines the greatest of 90s music. (2.) Liv Tyler. Girls wanted to be her, and boys wanted to do her. Her sexy innocence was intoxicating. She wore a fuzzy cropped blue sweater with a short plaid skirt and black combat boots. Nothing says 90s fashion like a complete wardrobe mismatch. Preppy cute meets hardcore grunge.
Link to the record store dance – http://t6w.co/UGk
What-ever grunge! Say hello to the ladies of Beverly Hills in this cheeky adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma. Cher was much more sophisticated and chic than your average 90’s teen. Though her rich-girl attitude represented the pinnacle of dumb blondes, she was a generous, sensitive girl just trying to find love and help her friends. Oh, Alicia Silverstone, we never knew ye! Her girlish style frequently included a pair of knee-high socks and cute miniskirt. Clueless introduced a new lingo that quickly caught on with kids across America. I never thought I’d share this, but yes, I remember rocking an “As If” necklace in elementary school.
Link to Violence in the Media – http://t6w.co/UGQ
The Craft (1996)
The Craft circles around four teenage girls who take in newcomer Sarah (Robin Tunney) and decide to dabble in witchcraft. They’re outcasts – closet Goths in Catholic school – who figure “what’s the worst that could happen?” When Sarah comes to her senses and wants out of the circle, her fellow witches make her life a living nightmare with all sorts of interesting dark tricks. The Craft sheds light on the gloomier side of high school and reminds us that Goths are people too!
Link to Nancy Kills Chris – http://t6w.co/UGF
Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)
It is, truly, one of the best teen films of all time. The most popular boy in school, Mike Dexter, has just dumped the hottest girl in school, Amanda Beckett, played by the hottest actress at the time, Jennifer Love Hewitt. Preston Meyers has had a crush on Amanda for what seems like foreverrrrrr, and decides tonight is the night when he finally gets the girl of his dreams. All romance aside, the party is epic. Every clique feels straight out of your own high school. Nerds are getting drunk for the first time after proclaiming, “Don’t drink the beer! The beer has gone bad!” Unlikely pairs come together to find love in the upstairs bathroom, and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s boobs are perfectly pushed up in her little blue tank top. She’s “totally Gwyneth” and the movie is totally timeless.
Link to Amanda’s Intro – http://t6w.co/UGq
Cruel Intentions (1999)
This one introduced us to a new breed of teen: the rich, psycho, nympho kind you never knew you loved to hate. It definitely pushed the envelope of what was acceptable in a “teen” movie. Girl-on-girl make out sessions, cocaine necklaces, and stepsibling incest are just a few of the shockers in this melodrama starring some of the hottest 90’s stars. Ryan Phillippe and Sarah Michelle-Gellar are so bad they’re good, and a pre Legally Blonde Reese Witherspoon proves good morals conquer all. The CW Lineup would never be what it is today without this dark romp to shift that line between inappropriate and sexy.
Link to Are You For Real – http://t6w.co/UGb
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
America, meet Heath Ledger. Heath, meet America. This film, also an adaption of a classic work, Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, introduced us to one of our generation’s most beloved and talented actors, who of course died way too young. The highlight of 10 Things is when Heath serenades a defiant Julia Stiles on the high school bleachers, leaving teenage girls everywhere longing for copycat moves by their pubescent lovesick suitors. The movie combines the age-old drama of dating a girl with a strict dad (the lovable Larry Miller), forbidden teenage love triangles, and falling for the person you least expected.
Link to Heath Sings “Can’t take my eyes off you” – http://t6w.co/UGV
She’s All That (1999)
The bet heard round the world. Zack is not only the most popular guy in school; he’s also super smart. Laney is a dork with a paintbrush, way too artistic to care about being popular. After Zack bets his best friend that he’s got the star power to make anyone prom queen, loser Laney becomes his target. For her, it’s the chance of a lifetime. She’ll get to wear a dress, throw on some makeup, and hang out with the cool kids! Along the way, of course, they will end up falling for one another, reminding all the theater club geeks, chess club dorks, math club nerds – any high school student trying to expand their horizons for that matter – the hope that one day, the popular jock will give them the time of day. Priorities, people.
Link to The Bet – http://t6w.co/UGO
The nineties need not be forgotten! If you’re feeling too centered and need a little teen angst in your life, check out more episodes of Orange Juice at Bishop’s Garden.
Meg McCarthy moved to Los Angeles three years ago after graduating from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. She is somewhat of a triple threat. She acts, directs, and of course, writes. Most recently, Meg has completed her first animated short that she wrote and directed. Most importantly, she is a diehard Al Pacino fan, Whoo-Ah!