Most people's teenage years were a simmering cesspit of insecurity, dodgy make-overs, questionable music taste and even more questionable romances. And, while all these things make for excellent movie fodder, no decade (in my lifetime, at least) has tackled the plague of teen angst quite like the '90s.
This list is by no means definitive, but for the fresh daisies among us who've yet to delve into the '90s teen movie treasure chest, the below 20 titles provide an excellent starting point.
1. Clueless - 1995
Loosely based on Jane Austen's Emma, Clueless is one of the most infinitely quotable movies of the '90s. Brimming with sass, satire and outfit splendor, you should definitely make time for this absolute gem of a film — and "I hope not sporadically."
2. Mallrats - 1995
From third nipples and a Stan Lee cameo, to women scorned for Sega, Mallrats is a '90s movie masterpiece from the one and only jersey-shirt clad director, Kevin Smith. The cast is littered with majestic creatures such as Jason Lee, Ben Affleck and Shannen Doherty who will show you the ins and outs of handling a break-up in the most awkward of ways.
3. I Know What You Did Last Summer - 1997
If you thought your summer vacation was boring, you might want to thank your lucky stars you weren't burdened with the utter shit stick dealt to Julie James and her pals in I Know What You Did Last Summer. Hunted by a demented fisherman with a hook for a hand, the one lesson to be learned from this '90s movie is to never, ever, open your post.
4. The Craft - 1996
Light as a feather, stiff as a board.
The Craft sparked many a #friendshipgoal feeling long before #friendshipgoals were even a thing. Of course, that is until good girl Robin Tunney has to bind the shit out of one of her Wiccan bezzies before she causes serious harm to everyone involved.
5. The Faculty - 1998
Do you think a person should run unless they're being chased?
No, neither did a pre-hobbit Elijah Wood, but that was before aliens infiltrated his faculty and he was forced to witness a bunch of bizarrities such as a teacher's solitary head crawling across the school carpark, and his crush Deliah's skin crawling with unidentified little beasts.
6. Dazed and Confused - 1993
If your adolescence wasn't spent getting obscenely high and smacking the shit out of junior high kids, then you're welcome to live those moments out vicariously via Dazed and Confused — undoubtably one of the top high-school movies of the '90s, starring Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Matthew McConaughey and Milla Jovovich.
7. 10 Things I Hate About You - 1999
"It's not everyday you find a girl who'll flash someone to get you out of detention."
Another '90s teen movie loosely based on classic literature, 10 Things I Hate About You rose from the ashes of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew like a glorious phoenix in 1999 and it never fails to tickle those nostalgia bones with poetic, Heath Ledger- coated brilliance.
8. Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead - 1991
If your mom said ciao, cya for three months while she went on a romantic vaycay to Australia, I'm sure, like Christina Applegate and her siblings, you'd be pretty stoked too. That is, until you find out mama booked a heinous and ancient babysitter to take care of you in the meantime, and that sitter promptly snuffs it and you're forced to pick up the $$$ in the meantime.
The '90s teen equivalent of Working Girl, the outfits alone in Don't Tell Mom The Babysitters Dead makes this movie all kinds of YES.
9. Empire Records - 1995
Do you dream of working at a record store? Spending your days playing bangin' tracks, wearing what you want and generally winning at laid-back working life? Then 1995 cult classic Empire Records will paint you green with envy. From Rex Manning Day to Liv Tyler's furry baby blue sweater and Renée Zellweger's itsy-bitsy mini-skirts — there's little not to love about this movie beaut.
10. Romy and Michele's High School Reunion - 1997
In this awesome '90s movie, Romy and Michele bust a move that every high school underdog wished they had/would have the balls to pull off at their school reunion: Walking up to that evil clique of mean girls and whipping their asses with something super impressive you've achieved since graduation. Like investing in Post-Its, for example. Their vibe is kind of like the "big mistake, huge" scene in Pretty Woman but with more pastel satin — which, IMO, is no bad thing.
11. Scream - 1996
"Movies don't create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative."
Undoubtably one of the best teen horrors of the '90s is Wes Craven's Scream, a movie which effectively reanimated the corpse of the slasher movie to stalk new prey past the turn of the millennium. Inspiring the masses, the film spawned countless spin-offs and tributes thanks to its major quotability and now iconic characters.
12. Cruel Intentions - 1999
Who didn't aspire to be a little more like the Marcia-fucking-Brady of the Upper East Side after watching Cruel Intentions? From Ryan Phillipe's ass and Witherspoon's twin-sets to its bangin' soundtrack and that kiss, this sexy stomper of a movie is the ultimate in bitchy, brassy brilliance.
13. Wild Things - 1998
The plot of Wild Things essentially circulates around a Miami guidance counselor accused of rape by two female students and, while there are many twists and turns to this excellent '90s thriller, there's one primary reason to watch it. That. Swimming pool. Make-out. Scene.
14. Never Been Kissed - 1999
It doesn't matter how many times you watch this movie, witnessing Drew Barrymore flounce into the school cafeteria clad in white denim and a huge feather boa while promptly chucking chocolate milk all down her front will make you temporarily forget that she's not Josie Grossy anymore!
15. Girl, Interrupted - 1999
Angelina Jolie, Winona Ryder, Brittany Murphy, Elizabeth Moss, Whoopie Goldberg, Clea DuVall and Jared Leto — this should be all you need to know before sticking this movie right in your eyeholes. Based on writer Susanna Kaysen's account of spending 18 months in a '60s mental hospital, Girl, Interrupted is no throwaway chick-flick — it's an excellent and widely praised insight into dealing with mental illness.
16. The Virgin Suicides - 1999
The Virgin Suicides is told from the perspective of a group of teenage boys whose lives hinge on their obsession with the flaxen haired Lisbon sisters, who (after the attempted suicide of their 13-year-old sister) become isolated from society thanks to their over-bearing parents. A heavy subject matter but Sofia Coppola's ethereal wand makes this '90s movie a total treat for the eyes. Helped, of course, by Josh Hartnett's super '70s hairstyle.
17. Welcome To The Dollhouse - 1995
In my opinion, Welcome to the Dollhouse is majorly underrated. Awkward to the max, Heather Matarazzo (The Princess Diaries) stars as Dawn Weiner, a teen who spends her days being teased to the point of cruelty — of course her surname doesn't help — by her classmates and family members. From her bonkers outfits to her blossoming crush, WTTDH is a '90s underdog that deserves way more respect than it gets.
18. Drop Dead Gorgeous - 1999
Before '00s Miss Congeniality was Drop Dead Gorgeous, a beauty pageant movie with a bite. However, rather than terrorist threats, this small-town Minnesota teen queen comedy is plagued by another and far more common fear: overbearing mothers. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards and Amy Adams, the mocu-mentary style in which this bad-taste '90s movie is told makes it all the more delicious.
19. She's All That - 1999
"Am I a fucking bet?!"
Make-overs, prom queens, Freddie Prinze Jr., angsty painting sessions and USHER. This movie couldn't get any more '90s if you smacked it in the face with a platform shoe, tbh. That's why we love it, and exactly why you'll "hoover it."
20. Can't Hardly Wait - 1998
School's out, kids! So, the cast of Can't Hardly Wait do what any self respecting teenager would do — attend a beyond epic house party, and hustle for recognition alongside football stars, cool chicks and the nerdiest of nerds.
Read more: Greatest Movies of 90s