Writer-director John Hughes was the master of the teen movie in the '80s, scoring hits with The Breakfast Club, Ferris Beuller's Day Off, and Weird Science, and working with a veritable "who's who" of young '80s actors (Matthew Broderick, Kevin Bacon, Robert Downey Jr., John Cusack, Bill Paxton, Charlie Sheen, etc.).
His teen muse, however, was Molly Ringwald. The young redhead was the star of his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, and was the inspiration behind Pretty in Pink, which Hughes' wrote and produced. It's been 30 years since the release of Sixteen Candles and 28 since Pretty in Pink, yet each movie has maintained an audience across the decades. Which one, though, is more relevant if you were seeing it for the first time right now?
Ringwald's Samantha Baker is having a terrible 16th birthday. Her parents forgot it entirely. Her grandparents, who are in town for her sister's wedding, are commenting about her "boobies" and bring along a horndog foreign exchange student (Gedde Watanabe). She's got a freshman geek (Anthony Michael Hall) chasing after her, and in exchange for leaving her alone takes a pair of her panties to show off to the other nerds... for a dollar apiece. Worse than all of the other indignities, though, is the fact that she's totally in love with a senior (Michael Schoeffling) who's dating the most popular girl in school (Haviland Morris).
In other words, it's just about every teen girl's worst nightmare, something that really hasn't changed much in the ensuing years. The film is fanciful and fun, with jokes that are both clever and corny. It's the sort of movie that provides mothers and daughters talking points for everything from love to sex to body image issues. Feeling like you're completely on your own as a teenager and that nobody really cares about or appreciates you is a rite of passage for everyone, as are those first heart-stopping crushes. Youthful insecurity is fairly timeless.
Pretty in Pink
Hughes took a (slightly) more grounded view of a young girl's high school experience in Pink. Ringwald plays Andie, a girl from the poor side of town who makes her own clothes and has to take care of her down-on-his-luck father (Harry Dean Stanton). She works in a music store and hangs out with an eccentric friend named Duckie (Jon Cryer), as she tries to just make it through until she can go to college for fashion design. But then she falls for one of the rich kids (Andrew McCarthy), and has to deal with the very obvious class distinctions that are continually pointed out by his obnoxious friend (James Spader). Unlike the lead in Sixteen Candles, Andie doesn't need recognition from anyone, definitely doesn't want to be pitied ,and is perfectly capable of standing up for herself. She's conscious of Duckie's feelings, but she neither patronizes him nor leads him on. When McCarthy's Blane backs out of their prom date, she goes it alone (and, okay, with a little help from the Duck).
Essentially, Andie is that quiet girl in high school who blossoms in college and doesn’t go to reunions because she's too busy with a great career. It's a little hard to get past the very '80s wardrobe, although it has a killer soundtrack (OMD's "If You Leave" still makes anyone over 40 nostalgic for their own prom). In the end, though, Andie is a realistic teen heroine who, unlike say Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games, navigates through a world that is not terribly different from the present and does it by empowering herself. That's not a bad lesson for any young woman to learn.
Both of the teen classics have relevance to a modern audience in their own way, although the jokiness of Sixteen Candles probably helps it translate a little bit easier. That’s what we think, but now it's your chance. Vote below to tell us which of Hughes' teen comedies has remained more relevant.
20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
Kissing is as much a part of movies as car chases and sarcastic best friends. All kinds of kisses have been captured on film, but there are some more than others that make us swoon as lovers lips join together.
We're taking a look at the most memorable kisses in film from the '80s on, including the Worst Kisses and the Most Perplexing Kisses. Here, however, are the kisses that made our hearts flutter.
Anna and Kristoff, Frozen
"I could kiss you," Kristoff says as he gleefully picks Anna up in the air. We watched the animated pair bond over an adventure to save her sister, Elsa, from the wrath of hostile villagers. The comment leads to a peck on the check that morphs into an embrace. Disney princesses always get their big kiss, but few are as well earned as Anna's.
Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman, While You Were Sleeping
You would expect a couple to have kissed — really kissed, not an under-the-mistletoe peck — prior to getting engaged, but such was not the case for Bullock's Lucy and her true love, Pullman's Jack. Falling in love while she pretended to be the fiancée of his in-a-coma brother, the pair skipped right to the ring after Jack (and his family) realized they couldn't live without Lucy. Sealing a marriage proposal with a kiss has never been sweeter.
Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, The Adjustment Bureau
The movie, about a shadow agency that controls everyone's lives, is a bit of a mess. What can't be denied, however, is the crazy chemistry that exists between Damon's politician and Blunt's mystery woman. Blunt follows Damon into the men's room at the Waldorf Astoria and strikes up a conversation about crashing a wedding. How does that lead to a passionate kiss? Well, what else were they going to do in the bathroom?
Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington, Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino is not known for romance, but in his Western epic, Foxx's Django is driven by only one thing: the desire to save his wife, played by Washington, from the clutches of a nefarious slaveowner. When Foxx finally tracks her down, trapped on a plantation owned by Leonardo DiCaprio's bad guy, we're treated to a slow, sweet, reverberating moment as Washington gradually realizes that her love has come for her. The kiss begins within a chilling silhouette until the camera turns to show the passion of lovers reunited.
Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Cera and Dennings' mixed-up teens actually kiss moments after meeting one another, as Dennings asks him to be her boyfriend for "five minutes" so that she can dupe a rival (who happens to be Cera's ex) into believing she isn't dateless. The real kiss, though, comes later on, as Dennings' Norah takes guitar aficionado Nick to see Electric Lady Studios. One thing leads to another and soon Dennings' impossibly full red lips are working overtime.
Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain
Much has been made over the years about the love scenes shared between Ledger and Gyllenhaal, even leading to a hilarious Jonah Hill rant in Knocked Up about the lack of explicitness. The duo brought a palpable passion to the movie in full, but there is something special about the urgency of the scene wherein Ledger's Ennis sees Gyllenhaal's Jack Twist from his apartment window and rushes to embrace him. As Ennis pushes Jack into a stairwell, the two attack each other like a pair of hungry wolves, throwing caution to the wind. Nearly 10 years later, the scene has lost none of its original impact.
John Cusack and Ione Skye, Say Anything...
Few teen romances have been as influential as Cameron Crowe's story of a high-achiever falling for the earnest slacker that dares to ask her out. As you would expect, there are multiple kisses throughout as the duo fall head over heels, including a particularly sweet embrace in the rain. It's when Skye's Diane Court realizes that she needs Cusack's Lloyd Dobler that takes the cake, though. The fact that she kind of distracted him during a sparring session, causing him to get his nose bashed in by Don "The Dragon" Wilson moments before only adds to the tenderness.
Leondardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, Titanic
Back in 1997, seemingly every woman on the planet wanted to trade places with Winslet's Rose. The romance aboard the doomed ship left movie audiences teary-eyed long after the credits rolled. In the iconic scene, DiCaprio's Jack takes Rose to the railing of the ship and extends her arms outward, making her feel as though she's... well, why not let her famous line tell the story. "I'm flying, Jack!" Rose exclaims, before Winslet turns backwards to let her lips meet DiCaprio's. No matter what happened after, thanks to Celine Dion, we're always assured that their hearts will go on.
Cary Ewles and Robin Wright, The Princess Bride
"Since the invention of the kiss," Peter Falk's narrarator intones in Rob Reiner's much-loved fantasy, "There have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind." Such is the power of the happy ending smooch that Ewles' Westley lays on Wright's Buttercup. For a guy that was "nearly dead" not long before, and a woman almost forced to marry a prince — not to mention that trip through the fire swamp — that seems like a fitting reward.
Molly Ringwald and Michael Schoeffling, Sixteen Candles
Ringwald's Sam had an epically bad birthday. Her family, preoccupied by her sister's impending wedding, forgets that it's even happening and the geeky Farmer Ted (Anthony Michael Hall) has parlayed a pair of her panties into a money-making venture. Worse, she's hopelessly in love with Schoeffling's senior dreamboat, Jake Ryan. As she exits her sister's nuptials and the crowd parts, there is Jake leaning against his sportscar waiting for her. As teen fantasies go, it's a hard one to top. Sam finally gets a birthday cake with the namesake candles and a sweet kiss from Jake to boot. It may have been a bit of a fire hazard, but it sure was romantic.
If Molly Ringwald — be she poor and unpopular or rich and revered — had her eye on some dreamboat, you can bet your letterman jacket that John Hughes would stick the two of 'em together in the end. The pair would share a kiss over a flaming cake or outside their incarcerating high school, just in time for the credits to roll and our eyes to tear up. That's the Hollywood ending. The moreover satisfying, albeit sometimes offensively flimsy, conclusion that brings two physically appealing young white people together. Forever. It doesn't matter how little substance backs their teenage love affair, nor how disturbingly misguided their romance might in fact be (remember Can't Hardly Wait? We're supposed to believe she falls totally in love with her stalker mere hours after her very first inkling that he even exists?), audiences just eat up these glitzy, amorous bonds.
It's a time-tested tradition throughout mainstream cinema. Sure, not all movies opt for the schmaltzy, ice cream finale, vying instead for something bleak, bittersweet, and embedded in realism, but we're moreover guaranteed a presence of that Hollywood send-off throughout the industry's rom-com output. Except, for some reason, when it comes to gay movies. Take Tribeca's G.B.F., a bubbly, colorful, pithy high school comedy, centering on the newly outed student Tanner (Michael J. Willett) and his closeted best friend Brent (Paul Iacono). When Tanner becomes the apple of every popular girl's eye, each of the school's queen bees coveting the glimmering accessory of Gay Best Friend, it puts a strain on his longtime camaraderie with Brent, leading — in classic rom-com fashion — to a fight, then a reconciliation, then a kiss, then an infatuation. And if this were your average heterosexual high school movie, you'd likely wind up with a romantic union to tie the story together and warm the audience's hearts. You'd see an eternal adhesion Tanner and Brenda, or Tanya and Brent. It'd be goofy, neglectful of real world consequences, and surface value ecstasy.
All of that would fit just fine into G.B.F., which, despite being sweet, progressive, and insightful at times, is just your ordinary candy-coated high school romp. But for whatever reason, a Hollywood ending is avoided, despite a very Hollywood beginning and middle. The movie wraps with Tanner and Brent agreeing that they're better as friends, dismissing their obvious attraction to one another (or at the very least, Brent's attraction to Tanner), and carrying on perpetually with their platonic affection.
On the one hand, this is reassuring. At least the movie recognizes something rare for show business: just because these two characters both happen to be gay, that doesn't mean they "belong" together. But in this chewing gum reality of G.B.F., these two lifelong best friends do seem to belong together. At least no less than Molly Ringwald and Michael Schoeffling or Ethan Embry and Jennifer Love Hewitt or Alicia Silverstone and her Paul Rudd step-brother. In movies as bright and brimming as Sixteen Candles, Can't Hardly Wait, and Clueless, the Hollywood ending makes sense — the same can be said for the equally fast-paced and sparkly G.B.F.. So why, then, don't we see the credits roll over a long anticipated Tanner/Brent kiss?
Why, in fact, are we so rarely inclined to see this kind of ending in movies about gay couples? Although the film industry is gradually inviting more films about homosexual relationships toward the mainstream, they all seem to vie for the bleak and bittersweet... or just bitter. The most famous entry to date is Brokeback Mountain, which chronicled the passionate love of cowboys Heath Ledger (who totally ended up with the girl in 10 Things I Hate About You) and Jake Gyllenhaal (who totally ended up with the girl in Bubble Boy... sorry for bringing up Bubble Boy), ripping the enamored men apart and killing the latter prematurely. Following in the same vein, we have romantic dramas like Weekend, A Single Man, Shelter all shoot for sorrow and sobriety. While films like these, about straight and gay romances alike, are imporant and valuable, it feels like something is missing. If there is something to be gained from the endings of Clueless and 10 Things, then there would be something to be gained by a saccharine intertwining of G.B.F.'s heroes.
But that's not what we get, despite all the signs pointing to it as the logical shot for the film's final moments. Is it simply that Hollywood is still afraid of tackling a gay romance under the guise of a mainstream movie? Even when presenting a movie that is about being gay and celebrates open-mindedness and tolerance and disparages objectification, we run into this aversion. And it's frightening — if G.B.F., a movie tailor made for the sort of Kat-and-Patrick wrap-up, is afraid of or otherwise opposed to this kind of closer, then where on Earth are we going to find it?
Sure, you'll find no shortage of filmgoers who can't stand the rom-com genre. It's fake, vapid, superficial. But it's a tradition, and one that seems to make everyone else happy. These movies, in delivering shiny stories as thick as cardboard, foster the belief in true love. They sell romance in the simplest of forms, begging viewers to buy into the mentality, if only to pony up the dough for the next big picture release. But capitalistic intentions aside, the same process should be afforded to same-sex rom-coms. The same sort of flimsy, chocolate-chomping "true love" should be touted in regards to the likes of Tanner and Brent. Gay moviegoers deserve to see themselves in the same light as the Ringwalds and Silverstones, deserve to be fed the same line of Fluffernutter as their straight counterparts. Movies like Can't Hardly Wait, 10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless, and everything by John Hughes might be hokey and ill-fit for realistic expectation, but they serve a purpose: they purport something people want to believe in. And that needs to happen for the G.B.F.s of the world, too.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
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The thought of going back to school over Labor Day weekend could fill just anyone with memories of crippling dread and anxiety. Teachers, riding the bus, and the homework, oh the Humanities homework! Of course while there's nothing sadder than bidding a summer of fun adieu, there was always one shining beacon to make you look forward to the new year: your crush.
The person you'd time your locker visits around; the one whose name you doodled on your notebook; the one the one you watched from afar. Or really afar if your crush was in a movie or on TRL. While we'll always have a place in our hearts for our real-life high school crushes, we here at Hollywood.com have decided it's time to confess our high school pop culture crushes. From boy band heartthrob Nick Lachey to Disney star Christy Carlson Romano, it's time they know, once and for all, our true feelings. No matter how embarrassing they may be.
Aly Semigran: Mine is an obvious one, but I had a deep, unwavering love for Jake Ryan. And Michael Schoeffling, for that matter. (He lived in Pennsylvania, I lived in Pennsylvania. We could have made it work!) Maybe was because the Sixteen Candles character was the embodiment of every popular, dreamy, unattainable guy in high school, but I mostly just chalk it up to the fact that he was just so damn adorable. The plaid shirts! The flipped-up hair! That smile!
Brian Moylan: I always had the hots of Steve Sanders (Ian Ziering) on 90210: Original Recipe. Yes, he was the worst character of the whole Bev High crowd, but there was something about his curly hair and smile that just hit me right in the heart. Oh Steve. I'd make out with you in your trash sports car any day. Kelsea Stahler: Anakin Skywalker, Hayden Christensen edition. Actually. Shaunna Murphy: I'm like 90 percent sure that I bought Pearl Harbor because Josh Hartnett was in it. I fully knew that it was a terrible movie, I was just really into broody stoner types with questionable talent. Matt Patches: Disney's Even Stevens was a bit after my time, but thanks to my younger sister's dedication to the chaste network, I successfully developed a crush on the beautifully dorky Christy Carlson Romano. I'm not actually sure she even played a dorky character on the show. I just know she had braces and I did too. Love. Anna Brand: I crushed Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson) HARD. Even when he frosted his tips. Even when he wore brown vests over patterned polo t-shirts. Even when he tried to fancify button-downs from the local surf shop. It didn't matter, because I was Joey and we were going to be happy together living on the wrong side of the creek. I have no shame in admitting this. Kate Ward: If it's shameful to crush on 98 Degrees-era Nick Lachey, then I don't wanna be shameless. I'd take his wife beaters, spiky coif, and lovelypipes over Justin Timberlake's tight-fitting turtlenecks, ramen hair, and whiney croon any day. Stay out of it, 'NSYC fans. Leanne Aguilera: Dean (Jared Padalecki) from Gilmore Girls. I just can't.... he's just... so many feelings. When he came to the school and Rory yelled "Because I love you, you idiot" and they kissed I was always alt least 27 kinds of jealous Abbey Stone: Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You. When he sang "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" to Julia Stiles on the bleachers, forget about it. Okay readers, it's your turn to 'fess up. Who was your pop culture crush in high school? Whisper it to us in the comments section. [Photo credit: Universal Pictures] More: Worst Teachers in Movies and TV Lena Dunham Confesses Jimmy Fallon Crush to Jimmy Fallon Perks of Being a Wallflower: What We Learned On Set