Your Top Three is a new series here at Movies.com where we choose a topic and you give us your top three picks.
Sundance darling The Spectacular Now is finally hitting theaters this weekend, and the positive buzz remains that this is one of the best -- if not the best -- teen movie since the heyday of John Hughes. It's also being likened to Cameron Crowe's debut, Say Anything. But what exactly constitutes a teen movie anyway? There are some loose rules to the genre that open it up to anything focused on teenage characters. Often the conventions of the teen movie may be confused for or interchanged with the coming-of-age movie.
Well, I tend to make certain distinctions based off the work of Hughes. For me, to qualify as a true teen movie, it must have some scenes set in a high school. It should deal with social-group differences, whether exaggerated and stereotypical or consisting of realistic class and subculture differences. It could be dramatic without any comedy or comedic without any serious drama, but it's best when there's a mix.
Of course, as much as I try to fine tune the definition, there's still a lot of room for overlaps with other genres. For instance, the time-travel sci-fi movies Back to the Future and Bill and Ted's Excellent Journey would appear to count as teen movies. So do the Harry Potter films, eventually. And the range can warrant titles as unalike as Kids, Brick, Can't Hardly Wait, Red Dawn, Twilight, Grease, Only the Young, Dazed and Confused, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift and Donnie Darko, not to mention numerous slasher flicks.
Yes, Hughes is the go-to guy in our minds, but he's not even the only filmmaker to be primarily associated with teen movies. There's also Crowe, who in addition to Say Anything made Almost Famous and wrote Fast Times at Ridgmont High. Savage Steve Holland gave us Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer and How I Got into College. And let's not forget there are tons of foreign teen movies, many of which are like the American variety, such as Submarine, and many of which are not, such as The Class.
Just see the poll results below to see how broad the spectrum of qualification can be -- one person even names The Wizard of Oz!
Here are my top three teen movies not by John Hughes (not that the inclusion would matter):
1. Heathers - One of the most original scripts of all time, both in terms of its dark plot and its inventive dialogue, this satirical yet incredibly not entirely unfamiliar look at the high school popularity game is one of a kind, almost not even worthy of being thrown into a genre.
2. High School - Frederick Wiseman's 1968 documentary is one of the most authentic portraits of teen student life, and not just for the obvious fact that it's a documentary (a number of fiction movies capture a certain essence that no doc could). It's timeless in addition to being a time capsule, and it's a shame most of us that have seen it didn't see it until long after our own teen years were over.
3. Rushmore - Wes Anderson's sophomore feature may be one of the more stylized examples of the genre, yet it's still the one teen movie I strongly identify with as being the most real portrayal of what those years felt like to me. Well, the soundtrack to my life wasn't quite as good.
Your Picks (the top four of which -- becuase they're all tied -- are Heathers, Dazed and Confused, Brick and Say Anything):
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