NME looks back at the greatest high school movies of the '90s
We look back at some of the best teen films from the ’90s. Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr, Paul Walker, Reese Witherspoon and Neve Campbell all make appearances – some of them twice. Is your favourite in there?
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Our list of the great ’90s teen films begins with this memorable coming of age tale from Boyhood director Richard Linklater. Set in Austin, Texas in 1976, Dazed and Confused casts a nostalgic glance at the previous generation’s high-school experience and helped to launch the careers of Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck.
Amy Heckerling’s all-time teen classic takes the premise of Jane Austen’s Emma and relocates it to an LA high school run by Alicia Silverstone’s social butterfly Cher Horowitz. Twenty years on, Clueless remains smart, stylish and stuffed with super-quotable lines like: “He does dress better than I do, what would I bring to the relationship?”
Sure, Scream is a slasher classic whose knowing humour reinvigorated the horror genre in the mid-’90s. But it’s also a great teen flick centered on Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott, a high school student being pursued by an enigmatic killer known as Ghostface. The kids of Woodsboro High were still being terrorised 15 years later in 2011’s Scream 4.
The Craft (1996)
This cult horror movie is like Mean Girls with magic spells: it follows a clique of high schoolers who discover the secrets of witchcraft but don’t always use them wisely. Neve Campbell shines as Bonnie, a coven member with low self-esteem, but it’s ’90s teen flick favourite Faruiza Balk who steals the show, playing an unhinged teen witch called Nancy.
Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)
The best scenes in teen movies tend to be party scenes, writer-directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont reasoned, so they set this comedy entirely at a high school graduation party. The result is a fresh, funny and fast-paced romp boosted by a fantastic ensemble cast including Jennifer Love Hewitt, Seth Green and Six Feet Under‘s Lauren Ambrose.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew gets a modern-day makeover in this superior teen comedy starring Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger. She’s the proud nonconformist who “sneers at the idiocy of teen social life”; he’s the sexy rebel who gradually wins her over. It’s still sharp now – and poignant too in the light of Ledger’s untimely death.
She’s All That (1999)
This update of the old Pygmalion/My Fair Lady transformation tale is predictable – Rachael Leigh Cook’s geeky outcast Laney Boggs is obviously going to be hot when she takes off her glasses – but it’s also funny and endearing. Freddie Prinze Jr, Anna Paquin, Usher and the late Paul Walker round off a great teen movie cast.
This brilliant film from Oscar-winning writer-director Alexander Payne follows a high school election in suburban Nebraska. Reese Witherspoon’s ruthless Tracy Flick is running for class president, but Matthew Broderick’s teacher is desperate to stop her. A smart fusion of classic teen comedy and political satire, it’s the ‘honors student’ of high school films.
Cruel Intentions (1999)
This steamy teen drama transfers the infectious scheming of classic French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses to an upmarket New York high school populated with beautiful people like Sarah Michelle Gellar, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair and Ryan Phillipe. Sexy, witty and actually pretty nasty, it’s the most badass teen movie of the ’90s.
American Pie (1999)
We all remember that scene involving a warm apple pie, but when American Pie isn’t being disgusting, it’s actually pretty sweet: Jason Biggs’ Jim may get caught with his appendage inside a fresh-baked pastry, but his dad agrees to keep the embarrassing incident a secret from his mum. Then again, it also introduced us to the term ‘MILF’.
10 Teen Films From The 00s That Are Still Amazing Today
NME has also compiled a list of great teen films from the ’00s, featuring everything from Mean Girls to Juno, and Bring It On to Superbad. Check it out here.