Mean Girls (2004)
Tina Fey’s wonderfully observed, acerbic script not only highlights the pitfalls of high-school, but manages to make the experience brilliantly funny. Lindsay Lohan, perfectly cast as Cady, reminds viewers of a time when she was perceived as a truly promising young actress. Cady, a young girl who has only ever experienced homeschooling is thrown into mainstream high school and is quickly seduced by the world of cliques and bitchiness; her transformation from a ‘home-schooled jungle freak’ to ‘queen bee’ is a joy to watch.
Arguably the film that started the idea that high school had a sinister side, Heathers has influenced and still influences other teen films (Mean Girls is surely a diluted version of the Winona Ryder film). Easily the darkest depiction of teen angst on the list here, Heathers, is deliciously daring in its pastiche of teen suicide or rather the attitude such issues generate in others.
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Perhaps the most formulaic of the films featured here, the John Hughes-penned Pretty in Pink may not necessarily be his best film (The Breakfast Club for example is arguably Hughes’s defining feature), but it is surely the most identifiable for impressionable young teen girls. Whilst generations since may have derided Andie for choosing Blane over Duckie, Hughes’s tale of first love is wonderfully heartfelt and ever relevant.
A satirical approach to the politics of high school and another clear descendent of the dark depiction of high school life found in Heathers,Election features a career best performance from Reese Witherspoon. Witherspoon plays the supremely ambitious, single-minded and entirely memorable Tracey Flick, whose determination to win her high school election leads to the eventual wreckage of teacher Matthew Broderick’s career.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
The second John Hughes film featured here (further displaying the pure talent Hughes had for portraying the trials and tribulations of adolescence), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is arguably the most simplistic film here in terms of its central conceit. Ferris, upon waking on a sunny day, decides it’s simply too nice a day to go to school. What follows is surely the dream of each individual who has once desired to play hooky.