14 '90s Movies That Got High School Totally Right
Let's all take a moment to breathe after Stacey Dash's super weird moment at the Oscars on Sunday night. After being introduced by host Chris Rock, Dash jokingly took to the stage as the Academy's new "Director of the Minority Outreach Program." The Fox anchor laughed as she wished everyone a happy Black History Month and proclaimed that she "can't wait to help [her] people." Chrissy Teigen's reaction said it all; it's hard for many people, especially those who grew up knowing Dash as Dionne from the classic '90s movie Clueless , to see her in this new, unfortunate light.
Yet while Dash herself might seem pretty out of touch with reality, her 1995 role as Dionne Davenport resonated with teenagers and elevated the film to cult-status. Clueless is just one of 14 movies from the '90s that nailed the high school experience to a T — the decade is full of sweaty, awkward, brace-faced films that got what it meant to be a high school student totally right. So keep your memories of Dash untarnished and look back at some of the best '90s high school movies that got the experience completely right.
1. Never Been Kissed
Drew Barrymore plays undercover journalist Josie Geller, a Chicago Sun-Times writer tasked with an investigative piece on teenagers. A former nerd with a bit of an inferiority complex, Josie goes blonde and buys a ton of sweet, late-'90s stretchy clothes (with feathers!), and enlists her brother Rob to give her lessons in cool — sound familiar? Then there's Josie's struggles as she enrolls in a nearby high school and tries to access the popular crew, all while making eyes at her English teacher (Michael Vartan). With its constant referencing of As You Like It, Kissed is part of the awesome Shakespeare-on-film resurgence that happened right before the end of the millennium, and totally nails high school.
2. 10 Things I Hate About You
It's a story that's older than dirt, full of rejection, stubbornness, and romance, but the stress of high school, the gross reality of dealing with parental rules while dating as a teenager, and an iconic soundtrack freshen up the narrative like two swipes of Teen Spirit and make 10 Things relatable. Bonus: How cute is baby-faced Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Let me count the ways.
3. Dazed And Confused
Richard Linklater's odyssey about a group of friend's last day of high school might take place in 1976, but its spirit is distinctly '90s. Full of kisses, keggers, and last-minute confessions, Dazed sweetly captures the moments of panic that come with end of high school without skipping a joke.
4. Romy And Michele's High School Reunion
Two best friends from high school, now in their late-20s, aren't exactly living out their dream lives and form a big, ol' lie to take back to their 10-year reunion. Romy and Michele act out the strange regression many of us feel when facing our old classmates.
Alexander Payne's dark comedy about a feud between an overachiever (Reese Witherspoon) and a pathetic teacher (Matthew Broderick) might feel uncanny to anyone who felt like that one professor just had it out for them.
6. The Virgin Suicides
If you grew up in a small town, you might get what it's like to go a high school where everyone knows each other's dirty laundry. Based on Jeffrey Eugenides' novel of the same name, Sofia Coppola's drama stars Kirsten Dunst as one of the five Lisbon sisters. Raised by devout Catholic parents, the daughters are kept at a distance from their community and become the subject of fascination among their classmates before taking their own lives.
The first of Jason Schwartzman and Wes Anderson's movies together, Rushmore chronicles the mess of being a young creative at a straight-laced institution. This film also marked the dawn of Bill Murray's second career and saved us all from a world without his movies.
8. American Beauty
While not a teen comedy, Beauty is a telling period piece about life at the end of the '90s. Through the perspective of Jane (Thora Birch), it empathetically captures the frequent unhappiness of parent and child relationships in high school and the desire to escape suburbia.
9. But, I'm A Cheerleader
Before Orange is the New Black, Natasha Lyonne starred as Megan Bloomfield, a blonde cheerleader who checks off the entire list of must-haves for teenage perfection. Her parents are worried she might be a lesbian, however, and frantically send her off to a conversion therapy boot camp, where she falls in love with another "camper." With one of John Waters' muses, Mink Stole, playing the role of Megan's mother, it's a campy treat for any of us who tried talking to our folks about PFLAG.
If anything, Heathers tells the truth about high school: some mean girls are so horrible that you just want to kill them (even if you don't actually go through with it), and high school romance can bring out the absolute worst in people.
11. American Pie
There are 99 problems with this movie, but its horrifying depiction of new sexual exploration isn't one.
Cher and Winona play a close mother-daughter duo with reversed roles; the teenager is responsible and pious while the mom is flighty and footloose. Without this movie, Rory and Lorelai might never have existed.
13. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Yes, there was a movie before there was a TV show. This horror-action-comedy-everything expresses the risks involved with being a bold teenage girl and set the stage for Sarah Michelle Gellar to swoop in.
It would be a crime to ignore the movie's contributions to the teen film canon. Thanks, Alicia Silverstone, for giving us Cher and some fly '90s fashion; Clueless' depictions of friendship and sexuality still feel true today.
Thanks to these movies, you can re-live the best and worst of high school anytime you want.
images: Giphy; Paramount