Several years ago, I read an article about “The Breakfast Club” that called it the “first Generation X movie.” And it struck me that they were right. That was really the first movie to vocalize the pressures and anxieties and unique experience of our generation.
That got me thinking about what other movies could be classified as “Generation X” movies. What movies really spoke to those of us born between 1965 and 1984?
Our generation is unique. We were the first generation with divorced parents and the last generation to live under fear of all-out nuclear war. We looked at the Baby Boomers working themselves to death to get more and decided that fulfillment in life was more important than a big house and fancy car. And we were the first generation to fully experience the benefits and the downfalls of the sexual revolution. It’s only fitting that movies were made to speak to our experiences.
So here are my 10 choices (in chronological order) for a Generation X film festival!
1. “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982)
The first big teen movie of the ’80s, it also hit as the first wave of Gen X was in high school. And, of course, it was our first big view of Sean Penn, Forrest Whitaker, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
2. “Sixteen Candles” (1984)
John Hughes begins his mid-’80s teen movie dominance here. While there’s not a lot of exploration of serious issues or concerns here, “Sixteen Candles” did become a Gen X touchstone and gave us our first look at Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and the Cusack siblings (all of whom we’ll see later).
3. “The Breakfast Club” (1985)
Duh. Of course it’s here.
4. “Pretty in Pink” (1986)
The final of Hughes’s “Ringwald Trilogy,” (and, in my opinion, the weakest of the three) “Pretty in Pink” touched a nerve with a lot of Gen X women who couldn’t understand why Andie chose Blaine over Duckie. And, as Molly herself said, “it has a prom,” signifying that high school was about to end for many of the first Gen Xers.
5. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986)
And here, the Gen X movies come back to some of the same themes as “The Breakfast Club:” anxiety of the future, stress over achieving, trying to please parents who don’t understand. And it’s all done in a lighthearted salute to the joys of youth and the city of Chicago. A fitting end to Hughes’s teen movie era.
6. “Heathers” (1988)
So who didn’t love this over the top satire of high school clique culture? And who didn’t want to kill the popular kids from time to time?
7. “Say Anything” (1989)
The first of the Gen X movies to deal with high school graduation and all its accompanying anxieties, “Say Anything” gave us the immortal scene of John Cusack holding the boom box over his head blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” to woo back Ione Skye. And it touched on the Gen X mantra of following your heart above all else.
8. “Reality Bites” (1994)
And, five years later, we had a movie about the aftermath of college graduation and what happens when over-educated and idealistic college students encounter the real world.
Strangely, there doesn’t seem to be a Gen X movie set in college that really stands out. Interesting.
9. Before Sunrise (1995)
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meet on a train and fall madly in love in one night wandering around Vienna before going their separate ways. How does that NOT epitomize Generation X?
10. Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
There was a spate of high school reunion movies in the late ’90s as many Gen Xers hit the reunion milestones. “Romy and Michele” was probably the most successful of them all. It showed the absurdity of carrying that high school baggage with you throughout life…and that just about everyone does it, no matter what they say.
11. Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
John Cusack plays a hitman who goes to his 10-year high school reunion. Hilarity ensues.
So what are your choices for a Gen X film festival?