Note: I originally submitted this article to seed.com (a paying site for writers). The article was rejected for publication on AOL-partnered websites. The topic was up for grabs, so I tried my hand at an attempt to become a published (and paid!) writer. Not content to have anything I write rejected, I am publishing it here, so the world (or at least my visitors) can see what I submitted.
A quick glance at my home video and DVD collection suggests that my tastes are of another time…in fact, you might say I live for the decade of spandex, big hair, and neon. Truth is, over the last decade or so, I have amassed a great collection of eighties movies, specifically comedies.
When I was a fifteen-year-old incoming high school sophomore during the summer of 1998, I watched my first Brat Pack movie, The Breakfast Club, and it geared my interest in other ‘80s teen-oriented movies. And since I wasn’t as savvy with the internet as I am these days, most of my findings came from walking through the local video store and marathon channel-surfing sessions. Hence, I am able to say with confidence that I can name the ten best - make that, totally awesome - teen comedies of the 1980s.
1. Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982) - Hands down, Fast Times at Ridgemont High is my all-time favorite movie, as well as my all-time favorite teen comedy. Set in the fictional Ridgemont High School, Cameron Crowe’s story (who adapted the screenplay from his 1981 book about his experience as an “undercover student” at Claremont High School), revolves around the lives of several teenagers trying to survive the perils of high school, as well as satisfy their budding sexual appetites. Look for up-and-coming actors Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Forest Whitaker, and a young Sean Penn as the beloved stoner/surfer dude Jeff Spicoli.
2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) - Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) is a high school senior who has managed to miss school no less than nine times. When he decides to “fake illness” to get out of school on a beautiful day, his parents buy it and give him permission to stay home. Not content to be latent, so he encourages his hypochondriac friend, Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) and Ferris’ girlfriend, Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) to join him in an eventful day in Chicago. Convinced that Ferris Bueller has been faking his way into sick days, principal Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) decides it is time to take action, and makes his way around Chicago in an attempt to catch Ferris and his group in the act. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off remains, to this day, one of the most important and loved movies in John Hughes’ impressive body of work.
3. How I Got into College (1989) - This Savage Steve Holland movie centers around the lives of several Michigan high school students as they all attempt to get into the fictional Ramsey College in Pennsylvania, struggling through the perils of standardized testing, college interviews, application essays, and crazed football coaches. It stars Anthony Edwards as Kip Hammett (think Gilbert from Revenge of the Nerds, all grown up and slightly less nerdy), Corey Parker as Marlon Browne, a struggling student who is looking to turn everything around and get into Ramsey College so he can continue pursuing class president Jessica Kailo. The film also features a young Lara Flynn Boyle as pretty high school class president Jessica Kailo, who is worried about not standing out enough to get into the college of her dreams. Look for cameos by then-current Saturday Night Live co-stars Phil Hartman and Nora Dunn as money-hungry SAT coaches.
4. Sixteen Candles (1984) - Poor Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald) - in the chaos of her sister’s impending wedding, her family has forgotten her birthday. Samantha cannot believe anyone could forget birthdays, especially grandparents (but after seeing them, no one would be surprised). And if a forgotten birthday isn’t bad enough, Samantha has a crush on senior Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling), whom she believes doesn’t know she even exists. Of course, the only guy who seems to notice her existence is the geeky Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), who will do anything - anything - to prove he has been with a girl (even if it means borrowing Samantha’s underpants). Add in a silly foreign exchange student with an even sillier name, a motley crew of hormone-driven teenage boys clamoring to see a girl’s underpants, an out-of-control house party a la every ‘80s movie you’ve ever seen, and a menstruating bride on muscle relaxers, and you have one of the funniest and most relatable teen comedies of the 1980s.
5. Pretty in Pink (1986) - While not a comedy in its entirety, Pretty in Pink is known for its comic relief courtesy of the silly but lovable Duckie (Jon Cryer). Andie Walsh, a girl from the “wrong side of the tracks,” is a hard-working high schooler trying to fit in among all of the cliques in her high school. She has a crush on Blane McDonough (Andrew McCarthy), a rich preppy who is actually looking for more in life. Despite resistance from both of their separate social circles, Andie and Blane forge a relationship only possible in movies, with an ending that no lover of ‘80s teen films should miss.
6. Revenge of the Nerds (1984) - Gilbert Lowe (Anthony Edwards) and Lewis Skolnick (Robert Carradine) are best friends both heading to Adams College to study computer science. Upon their arrival in the freshman men’s dorms, the rowdy jocks of the Alpha Beta fraternity burn down the dorms. As a result, the freshman are forced to move into the school’s gym until they can obtain other housing or join a fraternity. To their dismay, Lewis and Gilbert are rejected from the fraternities they try to join. So, they attempt to establish a new fraternity chapter…the primarily-African American Lambda Lambda Lambdas (which, coincidentally, was the only fraternity that they did not send a group picture attached to their application). They fix up a house and plan to use their smarts to their advantage to defeat the Alpha Betas at the Greek Games during homecoming. Can they do it?
7. Can’t Buy Me Love (1987) - Did you ever hear the story of the nerdy teenager who paid the popular girl to be his one and only for a month? Then you’ve seen Can’t Buy Me Love (or, as my mom calls it, “The Movie About the Kid on the Riding Lawnmower“). Ronald Miller (the adorable Patrick Dempsey) is ambitiously saving $1000 to buy a telescope, thanks to his summer job mowing the neighborhood lawns. Cindy Mancini (Amanda Peterson) is a popular high school cheerleader with a college boyfriend. An unfortunate incident involving red wine on a white suede outfit leaves Cindy with few options as to how she will replace it. Ronald decides to make her an offer…he’ll pay for the replacement outfit if Cindy will date him for a month. She thinks it is a crazy prospect, but since this is a movie, she agrees to it. And sure enough, over time, Ronald and Cindy find that despite their different lives, they have a special connection. It also has a really cute ending, but I won’t give it away.
8. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) - I know, it’s an unusual choice for a teen comedy, but Bill and Ted was, in essence, a high school movie. Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter) and “Ted” Theodore Logan (Keanu Reeves) are two teenagers living in San Dimas, California, are effectively on the verge failing their high school History class. In the future, Rufus (George Carlin) is planning to take Bill and Ted back in time to give them the ultimate history lesson, via a telephone booth time machine. The two metalheads bring Napoleon Bonaparte, Billy the Kid, Socrates, Sigmund Freud, Ludwig van Beethoven, Ghengis Kahn, Joan of Arc, and Abraham Lincoln to San Dimas for the greatest history project ever.
9. Summer School (1987) - While the main protagonist of this film is People’s Sexiest Man Alive 1986 Mark Harmon, he isn’t one of the teenagers; instead, Harmon plays high school gym teacher Freddy Shoop. Freddy is all set to vacation in Hawaii with his 21-year-old girlfriend, when the English teacher wins the lottery and retires. Freddy is forced to take on the task of teaching a group of underachieving teenagers remedial English…in summer school. His motley crew includes surfer girl Pam (Courtney Thorne-Smith), Larry the male stripper (Ken Olandt), Kevin the football-playing jock (Patrick Labyorteaux), pregnant Rhonda (Shawnee Smith), geeky Alan (Richard Steven Horvitz), dyslexic Denise (Kelly Jo Minter), and horror film-loving Dave and Francis (aka “Chainsaw”) (Gary Riley and Dean Cameron). I still can’t understand why there was a “geek” in the class, but I guess all the high school cliques have to be represented.
10. Heathers (1989) - I absolutely could not round out my list of Top ‘80s Teen Movies without listing one of the more unusual comedies I’ve seen. Heathers stars Winona Ryder as Veronica Sawyer, who joins a clique of three popular girls - all named Heather - at the fictional Westerberg High School in fictional Sherwood, Ohio. Veronica meets bad boy Jason Dean (Christian Slater), and he makes himself known for pulling a gun on two jocks, and firing blanks. Veronica realizes she likes this bad boy and goes against the Heathers, going as far as to “accidentally” kill one of the Heathers with drain cleaner. After several more deaths at their hands, other students begin to copy the deaths of the popular students, all leading up to a big ending that was actually used in favor of a much darker version that its distributor, New World Pictures, deemed too dark for teen audiences. In addition, the film was unsuccessful at the box office, but has proven over the years to be a cult favorite through home video, laserdisc, and DVD releases.
Did your favorite(s) make the list? Did I leave out one of your essential movies? Should this article have been rejected? Drop me a note on my Livejournal page!
Thanks for reading! :-)