What is the seminal teen movie of the 80s?

Being born in the mid-80s, I obviously didn’t experience the peak of the John Hughes-style 1980s teen movie genre in person, but I just watched The Breakfast Club with my best friend, who is a child of the era. She claims that this is obviously the defining movie of that generation, but concedes that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off would be a close second.

I personally couldn’t really relate to any of the characters from The Breakfast Club (except maybe the teacher, although she thinks that you lot “will have my guts for garters” for holding that opinion), but would be willing to be educated on the mindset of that 80s teen angst. I realize that the poll options are probably a bit John Hughes-heavy, but the films were provided by my friend. Feel free to add suggestions and comments on the choices and/or my failed appreciation of The Breakfast Club.

Whether or not it is THE teen movie of the decade, Fast Times At Ridgemont High definitely belongs in the poll. It sure beats Flashdance, which is no teen movie. I’d include Back To The Future, too.

Fair enough, that’s actually what my friend said about Flashdance, I personally felt it belonged there, but I guess you’re right…


We obviously did not spend enough time pondering the options - the choices are probably colored through having just watched The Breakfast Club.

Up The Creek

I personally related most to The Breakfast Club, but I selected Sixteen Candles in the poll as I felt that the themes within it probably resonated with the most people (being ignored by your family, just wanting a little attention, dealing with obnoxious family members, etc.) My personal favorites on the list are Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller and Dirty Dancing, though.

I will admit, however, that I find Breakfast Club alternatingly emotionally painful and embarassing to watch as a 41 year old mother of a teenager.

And I’d agree that Fast Times at Ridgemont High should be on the list, even though I didn’t see it until I was an adult.

Where’s Risky Business?

May I just ask, what exactly made you relate to The Breakfast Club? I kind of wanted to root for the nerd, but

wanting to kill yourself because you got an F in shop? Seriously?

Everyone else was just being very… alien to me, I guess. In the pivotal scene with Bender and the teacher (in the closet), I actually almost found myself relating to the teacher…

I was a teen in the 80s, so I decided to rule out anything I hadn’t seen and then thought about which ones my friends and I referred to and quoted and… “The Breakfast Club.”

Finally, somebody else who actually knows of this movie.
Not my choice, but an excellent movie nonetheless. I’m going to cast my vote for Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Things don’t get more seminal than a horny teenager seeing Phoebe Cates emerge from a swinmming pool. Ask Judge Reinhold if you don’t believe me.

I voted “Duh, it’s obviously…” for Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

As much as I love Fast Times at Ridgemont Times, it has to be The Breakfast Club.

Fast Times

Yeah, seems like leaving out Fast Times at Ridgemont High was a glaring oversight on our part, probably caused by the fact that my friend never saw it (and I know diddly squat about 80s teen movies…). She also agrees with Tom Scud that Heathers is a good addition.

ETA: Interestingly, it seems that the decision for either The Breakfast Club or Fast Times/Ferris Bueller goes pretty neatly along gender lines, if I’m reading many of the user names correctly?

Out of your list I’d pick Say Anything…, although my experience was closer to Better Off Dead minus the French foreign exchange student, but the defining 'Eightes teen movie of my young life was, of course, Real Genius. “Was it a dream where you see yourself standing in sort of sun-god robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at you?..Why am I the only one who has that dream?”

BTW, St Elmo’s Fire doesn’t belong on that list as it is definitely not a “teen” movie. Also, it is astonishing that out of the cast, Demi Moore is arguably the most successful (possibly seconded by Rob Lowe). Oh, how the bratty have fallen.

Also, Ferris Bueller is a punk.


Of the choices listed, I voted for Stand by Me, but I would’ve voted for Fast Times at Ridgemont High if that’d been in the running. Heathers was a movie I liked a lot when it came out, but seems a bit cartoony now.

As someone who was a “teen” for much of the 80s, I could not stand the John Hughes movies or the genre at a whole. I could not stand to sit through a movie in which kids wearing impossibly trending clothes like day-glo prints & parachute pants with moussed-up mohawks whined about how they wanted to go to the prom with the jock, but couldn’t because they were part of the ‘dweeb’ clique. These movies made money, so I guess somebody identified with them, but neither I, nor anyone I know seemed remotely like Molly Ringwald, or Anthony Michael Hall, or any of the “Breakfast Club.” Gah!

In the 80s, kids (at least the kids I knew) wore regular jeans, t-shirts & sneakers, and spent a whole lot more time agonizing over how to score a nickel bag or a case of beers than who we were going to the prom with. There was no caste system in hgh school - jocks played D&D & computer geeks smoked pot. Nobody cared to much if people didn’t “understand them.”

The John Hughes genre of movies were even more cynical than the Porky’s variety. They wanted to simultaneously shove a commercialized “teen culture” down our throats (“If you’re a teen, you MUST like hanging out at the mall! You MUST like shitty bands like A-Ha and the Psychedelic Furs”) and at the same time, pretend to “get” teens too (“We understand your problems. We know how you feel! We’re hip!”) They were patronizing, fake bores.

Actually, the movies most kids went to. and arguably related to, were Friday the 13th type slasher flicks. True, these movies offered up the same trite cliche kids in big moussed up hair and parachute pants, but we got to see those kids mercilessly hacked & slashed to death (just as anybody who wore parachute pants deserved.)

The '80s sure would’ve sucked even more if all we had were these movies.

I’m no expert on this decade of teen movies but I’ve always gotten the impression that critics often point to Heathers as the example of this genre in the eighties. As I said, I haven’t seen enough of these titles to agree or disagree.

If anything, Heathers is a dark satire of the 80s teen movie. It was the signal that the genre had officially died and could be openly mocked. But it is the most relentlessly quotable.
Heather’s Swatch! Here, take it Veronica. She always said you couldn’t accessorize for shit.
Why do I read these damn Spy novels? Because you’re an idiot, Dad
Gotta motor If I’m gonna make the funeral

… I could go on

I voted “Pretty in Pink” because of what the music adds. The movie had everything “Sixteen Candles” had, plus OMD and Echo and the Bunnymen. I wore out the soundtrack. On cassette, natch.

Of personal significance, “Say Anything” and “Real Genius” beat it my a mile. But as seminal 80s movies…nah, that dog just don’t hunt. "Say Anything came out in 1989! It was practically the 90s by then (and in fact, the soundtrack signals the arrival of grunge)