Before cell phones, social media, and the World Wide Web had taken over the world, there was the 80’s. While coming of age stories have become a gag worthy flavor of the week affair, the 80’s were rife with fantastic movies that reflected the hopes and dreams of young Americans trying to find their place in a polarized world as they pushed to challenge conventional/traditional attitudes. It was the era of rebels that is most accurately reflected by the films of their time. If nothing else, they are phenomenal movies that everyone should see, but more and more millennials have not. While there are dozens of options to choose from, here are my top three picks.
Footloose, released in 1984, is the movie that put a young and awkward looking Kevin Bacon on the map. The film takes place in Midwestern small town where the local minister, in an oh so puritan fashion, has used his influence to ban all dancing and rock music, because he believes it is the work of the devil. Enter Kevin Bacon’s character, a teenage dancer from Chicago who is more than a little peeved at the communal ban of pretty much any art that isn’t approved by the local ministry, which he becomes aware of after the police pull him over for playing rock music while driving. Add the fact that he has fallen for the tyrannical minister’s daughter, who isn’t as “pure” as her father believes to begin with, and you have all the ingredients for an entertaining coming of age story. Setting aside the movies mass choreographed dance scenes that serve as a hat tip to classics, such as Grease, the film reflects a generations desire to break aware from religious ideologies that serve no purpose other than to control the thoughts, actions and artistic influences of young people desperately pushing for the freedom to find and express themselves. Adding to the movies laughable circumstances is that fact that they are listening to upbeat dance music that could barely be considered rock by any standard. If nothing else, the film’s over the top displays of athleticism and nostalgic attitudes make the film genuinely entertaining.
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The Breakfast Club
If you remember the various antagonistic cliques from high school and the awkward tension of having to interact with other groups in class and forced social functions, then you will definitely relate to The Breakfast Club. The 1985 film is about five teenagers from different cliques who are forced to attend Saturday detention in their high school library. The group of misfits consist of the popular pretty girl, the school Jock, the awkward bookworm, the emo social outcast and a rebellious troublemaker. While the five of them seemingly have nothing in the common and do nothing more than get on each other’s nerves in the beginning, as their day of mutual punishment and boredom progresses, the group begins to bond and share each other’s darkest secrets with one another. What begins as five people who hate each other, blossoms into the kind of friendships that can last a lifetime. The smart and hysterical film ultimately serves as a lesson that no matter how different people seem to be, they are all facing some kind of hardship and ultimately have more in common than they are different.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
At some point, everyone’s tried to ditch school or work by faking a sickness, but there is always that nagging voice in the back of our heads that is terrified of being caught. But have no fear, because in addition to being one of the funniest movies of all time, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off goes out of its way to give you step by step instructions on how to play hooky and get away with it. The 1986 movie is about Ferris, a high school student who convinces his gullible parents that he is too sick to go to school and then gets his gorgeous girlfriend and emotionally repressed best friend to skip school and go on a joyride through Chicago. Throughout the film, the cohort narrowly miss getting caught in their various delinquent acts by parents, siblings and a maniacal principle who is hell-bent on expelling Ferris from school. Coupled with the main character constantly breaking the fourth wall to give the audience pointers on ditching responsibilities, the film is a hilarious coming of age film that explores the insecurities associated with being a young person in suburban America.