I blame John Hughes (bless his wounded, dark, departed soul) for my inexplicable fondness for teen movies. He had me at “hot beef injection.” After that, I embraced his movies with all the zeal that a weird, slightly morbid, terminally misunderstood high school pariah could. “The Breakfast Club,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Pretty in Pink” — all these films stand up today as well as they did more than 20 years ago. These are smart movies about teen-agers, not “teen movies.”
And Hughes, above anyone else, taught me to appreciate the value of a really great line, especially when spoken with that particular brand of defeatist teen sarcasm, disdain, poignancy or unexpected stunning insight. So inspired was I that I created a list — it’s five or 10, but an odd number just the same — of such lines I’ve seen in high school movies over the years. Some are classics, some are more recent, some fall somewhere in-between the two poles. Enjoy, and offer up your suggestions…
15. “Courtney, this is not a democracy, it’s a cheerocracy. I’m sorry, but I’m overruling you” (Torrance Shipman, “Bring It On) — Even if you hate cheerleading, there’s no denying that “Bring It On” trotted out a whole mess-o-barbs like this beauty. It’s hard not to love a movie with that kind of clear-sighted quippery.
14. “All my memories from high school are from tonight” (Denis Cooverman, “I Love You, Beth Cooper”) — Does this adaptation of Larry Doyle’s book deserve to have a line here? Based on the strength of this one line (the kind of wistful thing we all wish we’d said), my answer is “yes yes, Hell yes.”
13. “Good morning, Mr. M. Looks like you could use a cupcake!” (Tracy Flick, “Election”) — The A-grabbing overachiever is a staple in movies about teens, but rarely is that character as nuanced, precocious or mercenary as Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon’s best work, I’d say).
12. “What is it with this chick? She have beer-flavored nipples or something?” (Patrick Verona, “10 Things I Hate about You”) — Heath Ledger had range beyond supervillains and gay cowboys. Witness his most enjoyable turn as Patrick Verona, a bad boy possessed of a wit as sharp as his manly jawline.
11. “I’m off like a dirty shirt” (Duckie, “Pretty in Pink”) — Any girl who tells you she didn’t love Jon Cryer as the hyperkinetic, big-hearted free spirit nicknamed Duckie is a plain ole’ liar … or the kind of girl one shouldn’t associate with, anyway.
10. “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age” (Wooderson, “Dazed and Confused”) — Who doesn’t remember that drawling loser, closing in on 30, who haunted high school football games hoping to score? Matthew McConaughey is that guy — only hotter and infinitely cooler.
9. “Searching for a boy in high school is as useless as searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie” (Cher Horowitz, “Clueless”) — People don’t give “Clueless” credit for being the incisive, witty, satirical look at high school that it was. Lines like this make me wish I could unwatch Amy Heckerling’s gem so I could rediscover it.
8. “Donger’s here for five hours, and he’s got somebody. I live here my whole life, and I’m like a disease” (Samantha Baker, “Sixteen Candles”) — Remember that fear, so specific to the ages of 15-16, that you’d never find love? I’d wager that it’s universal, and nobody taught us that more than Samantha.
7. “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all” (Andrew Clark, “The Breakfast Club”) — Hughes always did love to encourage us to let our awkwardness flower. When A-crowd wrestler Andrew finally let his out, it felt like a small miracle.
6. “I gave her my heart. She gave me a pen” (Lloyd Dobler, “Say Anything…”) — Oh, the pain, the agony, the pure horrifying angst of true first love encapsulated so neatly into 10 words! That Cameron Crowe, he knew a thing or two about dialogue.
5. “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine” (Spicoli, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”) — Spicoli is the burnout we all knew in high school, but he was something of a philosopher, too. May we all heed these pearls of stoner wisdom.
4. “Don’t go mistaking paradise for a pair of long legs” (Watts, “Some Kind of Wonderful”) — Hughes’ ability to reduce big truths into one-liners is legendary, and this is a prime example because it captures the wisdom and plaintive angst of unrequited love.
3. “I’m still here, asshole!” (Angus Bethune, “Angus”) — A fierce battle cry for all of us who never screwed up the courage to stare down our high school tormentors. Three cheers for smart fat kid Angus, who said what so many of us could not.
2. “How would you like to have a sexual encounter so intense it could conceivably change your political views?” (Gib, “The Sure Thing”) — Everyone has a favorite John Cusack line. This is mine, and I am unwavering in my devotion to it.
1. “Dear Diary, my teen-angst bullshit now has a body count” (Veronica, “Heathers”) — In the way of smart, sharp, observant comedies about teen-agers, nothing beats “Heathers,” a perfect satire of the dark tensions that underwrite teen social interactions.
Filed under: List-o-matic Tagged: | 10 Things I Hate about You, Angus, Bring It On, Clueless, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Heathers, Pretty in Pink, Say Anything..., Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful, The Breakfast Club, The Craft, The Sure Thing