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Tina Fey is so fetch! Before 30 Rocking our world, she wrote and costarred in this smart school comedy about the laws of the adolescent jungle. LiLo plays Cady Heron, an Africa-raised teen whose transfer to a Chicago high school pits her against catty stylistas called "The Plastics" (Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert, Amanda Seyfried). Though based on the nonfiction bestseller Queen Bees and Wannabes, Mean Girls owes a major debt to Michael Lehmann's sharper-toothed Heathers.
Wear your Coke-bottle glasses and watch the geeks inherit the Earth! At Adams College, dweeby freshmen Lewis (Robert Carradine) and Gilbert (Anthony Edwards) fight back against the bullying jocks of Alpha Beta. Forming their own frat chapter, the misfits and their friends (including pre-thirtysomething Timothy Busfield) use their tech smarts to compete in the annual Greek Games. Would you believe Nerds inspired three sequels? That's a lot of revenge.
Though dismissed by critics in 1982, Fast Times acquired cult status over the years, thanks in part to its cast of up-and-comers. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold and other soon-famous folks fill the school halls and shopping malls, while Sean Penn is beyond gnarly as perpetually stoned surfer dude Jeff Spicoli. Plus, you can't beat the New Wave soundtrack, with tubular tunes by The Go-Gos, The Cars and Oingo Boingo.
Haven't seen this ink-black comedy? Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?? "The Heathers"—a clique of pretty, bitchy princesses—rule the school by bullying and humiliating their socially awkward classmates. They're such pillowcases! Reluctant Heathers member Veronica (Winona Ryder) goes rogue when she and rebellious J.D. (Christian Slater in full Jack Nicholson mode) murder several abusive students and make it look like suicide. You'll totally die for this quotable classic.
What happens when you put a jock, a nerd, a princess, a criminal and a basket case in detention together? Discuss. And they do—all day long. By baring their souls, the troubled teens rip off the labels that they (and adults) have put on each other. Part comedy, part drama and part adolescent therapy session, this '80s fave is one of writer/director John Hughes' best films. As Simple Minds sings on the soundtrack, "Don't You Forget About Me." How could we?
Leave Clueless off our list? As if! Writer/director Amy Heckerling (who also helmed Fast Times at Ridgemont High) gives Jane Austen's Emma a Beverly Hills 90210 twist. Alicia Silversone plays pampered fashionista Cher, who helps those less fortunate, including hot mess Tai (Brittany Murphy), by playing matchmaker and makeover consultant. All the while, she searches for her own perfect boyfriend. Anything but clueless, the movie is a sunny-funny spoof of teen life, social status and high school drama. Or, like, whatever.
Reese Witherspoon takes on Ferris Bueller--or, rather, Matthew Broderick, as burned-out civics teacher Jim McAllister. Witherspoon plays perky honors student Tracy Flick, who runs unopposed for student body president until McAllister conspires against the annoying over-achiever. This sharp satire gets our vote, not only for its wicked sense of humor but also its insightful sociopolitical commentary. Pick Flick!
The movie that taught us to carpe diem, Dead Poets Society stars Robin Williams in non-manic mode as an unconventional English teacher at a stuffy, all-male prep school. He encourages his students (including Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard) to think for themselves—gasp!—but when tragedy strikes, the teach takes the blame. This inspiring and heartbreaking drama scored Oscar noms for Best Picture, Director (Peter Weir), and Actor (Williams), and won one for Tom Schulman's original screenplay.
The "teenagers" at Rydell High may look 30 years old, but this exuberant adaptation of the '50s-set musical is still the one that we want—ooh, ooh, ooh, honey. Bad boy Danny (John Travolta) and virginal Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) enjoy some "Summer Lovin'," but then high school cliques like the T-Birds and Pink Ladies threaten to tear them apart. Grease proved it is the word by becoming the highest-grossing movie musical in U.S. history. We're hopelessly devoted.
Toga! Toga! Toga! A hilarious celebration of booze-soaked debauchery and anarchy, Animal House was the prototype for the modern teen and frat-house comedy, inspiring flicks from Porky's to American Pie to Old School and others. At Faber College in 1962, the party-loving boys of Delta House, led by John Belushi's Bluto, take revenge on Dean Wormer (John Vernon) when he gets them kicked off campus. We've been having food fights, spitting out "zits," and dancing to "Shout" ever since!