I finally watched Say Anything this week. It’s widely considered an eighties classic and the scene with John Cusak and the boom box is iconic. Going into the film I expected a traditional romantic comedy, but what I watched was some fucked up Daddy’s girl story that lacked humor, wit and a likable protagonist. I never got the sense that Diane was a total outcast and Lloyd never seemed that odd. Hardly star crossed lovers. The whole tax evasion sub plot comes out of left field, and ends in a really disjointed place. I understand it’s sacrilege to rail against Say Anything and pretty much anything Cameron Crowe has done, but after the film’s completion, I thought that this “classic” was just weird and not even worthy of my top ten eighties teen movies. You want ten better flicks? Check it out:
10. Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)
Patrick Duffy before he was McDreamy. A classic plot, predictable story, yet it’s funny and fun and a great ride.
9. Porky’s (1982)
The originator of the eighties raunchy teen comedy. It’s all about the shower scene.
8. Just One of the Guys (1985)
Gender swap? Hot chick? Epic nudity scene? Zabka as the villian? Annoying brother who’s bedroom is plastered with porn? Check, Check, Check. Highly underrated movie.
7. Farris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
One of the most famous films of the eighties that launched Matthew Broderick’s career. The ultimate fantasy: every kid’s dream to skip school and run the city. Some of the scenes are over the top (the parade), but moments like the faking sickness scam and odometer crash are on the money.
6. Breakfast Club (1985)
This one’s on the top for many, but I think it’s slightly overrated. Great cast, love John Hughes, very quotable, but I think the music that played such a huge roll in the film (“Don’t You Forget About Me”) has actually made me like the film less years later. Dawson’s Creek even did a whole tribute episode. There’s no denying it’s impact on pop culture. The Breakfast Club is solid, but not my favorite Hughes film of the eighties.
5. Risky Business (1983)
Everyone knows the fucked out scene with Tom Cruise dancing to a fucked out song in his underwear. But past that one scene, is a really good movie. The ultimate coming-of-age film. Cruise gets laid, finds himself in trouble, has to bail himself out and decide in one weekend what his future will be. The film nails the pressure and expectations of high school. It’s funny, dark, serious, well made, and poignant.
I saw a show once where they said that in the original ending, Joel doesn’t get into Harvard. The studio didn’t like the downer ending so they made the filmmakers change the story so that he gets in. I don’t think the change effects how I feel about the final version, but knowing how the original screenplays ends provides a much better context for the story.
4. Karate Kid (1984)
Pure blasphemy that Will Smith’s kid remade this classic. Daniel Russo and Mr. Miagi are unstoppable. I love that this is a traditional story of the new kid in town just trying to fit in and get the girl. Karate is just the conduit. After this movie, every kid in America was doing the crane kick. Daniel-san was the underdog that could and is impossible to root against. Zabka, the ultimate eighties villain is born.
3. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
I bet that Sean Penn detests his role as Spicoli and refuses to even acknowledge his breakthrough role. Fast Times is the ultimate slice-of-Californian-life picture. Light, fun, hilarious. Girls, cars, the mall, drugs. Let’s not forget about the most famous nude scene of the eighties coupled with one of the first masturbation gags in teen flicks. Pheobe Cates and Judge Reinhold. Forever linked. Director Amy Heckerling is ahead of her time and writer Cameron Crowe doesn’t think too hard for this seminal teen flick.
2. Heathers (1988)
Darker than midnight. “Fuck me gently with a chainsaw.” Maybe my favorite line of the eighties. Heathers makes Mean Girls look like The Little Mermaid. The suicide-centric plot is over the top and insane to think about in today’s PC terms. It’s good to know that Heathers will never be in danger of being remade. It’s perfect just as is.
1. Sixteen Candles (1984)
The concept is simple. A family forgets their daughter’s birthday because their other daughter is getting married. My favorite Molly Ringwald role. She’s vulnerable, cute, funny, real and a joy to watch. Anthony Michael Hall is diesel as the pest. The family, Long Duck Dong, the party, Jake Ryan. Everything is gold. And it’s the little things. The nerds at the dance. The hot ditzy girlfriend. The fiance in the mob. John Hughes is able to channel the angst and emotion and absurdity of high school into a funny and sweet story. Over twenty years later the film is still fresh and relevant.