Admit it. On Wednesdays, you wear pink. You fight the urge to say “you whore” whenever someone boos, you would seriously consider changing your name to Glen Coco, and sometimes you just have a lot of feelings. No one foresaw it on April 30, 2004 when “Mean Girls” hit theaters, but 10 years later, it reigns supreme as the most quotable movie of the century. But more than that, it is a membership card to a generation. Being able to quote Regina George or Janis Ian off the top of your head marks you as one of the millennial club, giving “Mean Girls” an iconic status few movies have been able to achieve. In honor of its 10th anniversary, we picked three other movies that take place in that most treacherous of jungles—the hallways and hangouts of high school.
“Rebel Without A Cause” (1955)
Cast: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Jim Backus, Ann Doran, Dennis Hopper
Available on Amazon Instant streaming, on iTunes, and on disc from Netflix
It’s hard to say why Jim Stark is angry. Is it the dysfunctional relationship of his parents, his new surroundings, or the pretty girl next door who already has a boyfriend? As “Rebel Without A Cause” unfolds, we learn that it’s all and none of these things. Jim Stark is angry because he is.
Jim, the new boy in town, struggles to adjust to his new life, falls in love with an equally troubled girl, Judy, and befriends a disturbed younger student, Plato. As Jim, James Dean gives the performance of his all-too-brief career, fusing the uncontrollable rage of youth with the mournful vulnerability of a lost soul to tap into the heart of adolescence. In an iconic scene, Jim and Judy “adopt” Plato, pretending to be the parents he never had. It’s a wonderful moment that captures the confusion and absurdity of adolescence. Caught between childhood and adulthood, they mime their future by reaching into the make-believe of the past. We may never have been as angry as Jim and Judy are, but their confusion and pain resonate. Sixty years on, Nicholas Ray’s classic remains one of the most compelling portraits of how difficult—and how angry—growing up can be.
“Dazed and Confused” (1993)
Cast: Jason London, Joey Lauren Adams, Milla Jovovich, Shawn Andrews, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, Sasha Jenson, Marissa Ribisi, Deena Martin, Michelle Burke, Cole Hauser, Christine Harnos, Wiley Wiggins, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Matthew McConaughey
Available on Amazon Instant, iTunes, on disc from Netflix
Richard Linklater’s time-bending ambitions started long before “Before Sunset” or “Boyhood,” as with his second feature the Texan native effortlessly transported audiences back to 1976 for one of his patented rambling, observational films. Linklater follows his rowdy and rambunctious group of teens over the course of one day and one night – but not just ANY one day and one night, no. It’s the last day of school, and the first, sweet hours of summer. For the students of Austin, the impending aimlessness is both liberating and just a little nerve-wracking: rising freshman are learning what it means to be thrust into adolescence, while graduating seniors contemplate whether they are doomed to become Matthew McConaughey (in what remains, even an Oscar later, his signature role). The characters inhabit more or less archetypical high school roles, but the near-total lack of plot makes this feel less like a manipulated world and more a relatable, inhabited one.
Cast: Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Heather Matarazzo, Eva Amurri Martino, Mary Louise Parker
Available on Amazon Instant, iTunes, and streaming on Netflix
Coming out only a month after “Mean Girls” hit theaters, the equally witty (and more scathingly satirical) high school comedy “Saved!” couldn’t quite make it out of Lindsay Lohan’s shadow, grossing only a modest, indie-level-success $10 million. Of course, despite its likable cast of young actors (this was before Culkin started singing about pizza, remember), “Saved!” wasn’t nearly so “audience-friendly” in Hollywood’s eyes – its Christian school setting and tackling of polarizing issues like teen pregnancy, homophobia and religion may have warded off the cinematically unadventurous. But they missed out, as “Saved!” is raunchy, sharp, and touchingly earnest about its characters’ struggles, handling hot-button topics with compassion and hilarity. As high school goes in real life, the emotions flow so loud and large that sometimes you just have to break down laughing.