Watching movies as a teenager is a strange process. Not only do the teenage years cover a large swath of time where both personalities and tastes change, but they change so constantly that the idea of “taste” is almost impossible to pin down. All those hormones can result in far more destructive actions than watching stupid movies, but the films teens like are certainly indicative of larger ideas.
This means that what someone likes at age 13 may be drastically different than what he or she enjoys as a 16 year old. Then again, tastes may change so drastically that ages 13 and 19 may almost have the same movie preferences after going through a drastic cycle. Then again, those shifting changes mean that teenagers have the ability to grow their taste and understanding of arts and entertainment at a level that is not quite possible during the childhood years. However, most teens don’t fully understand why they like the things they like, as overwhelming emotions often dictate enjoyment over an understanding of art and personal preferences.
That’s why so many teenagers are drawn to really dumb horror movies and romances. It’s the cheap thrills and emotional heights that translate easily that make them so popular with the younger crowd. However, these movies will most likely not be long-lasting favorites, as their ideas and reasons for enjoyment will most likely not translate to an older audience. Additionally, the films that a person enjoys during his or her early years will most likely fall out of favor during the teens, but may return as personal favorites once this tumultuous time is over.
With all these factors in mind, choosing what were my five favorite movies as a teenager was a difficult process due to the large span of time and fluctuating tastes. But the five selected here give a snapshot of what I enjoyed at different points during the time.
Also, it reveals that I did indeed like terrible movies for a period in my life.
For a look at a happier time with better taste, read My Five Favorite Childhood Movies.
5. The Boondock Saints
Why Did I Like It Then? Seeing as this is all about two brothers shooting up criminals and using a lot of foul language, it was right up my alley as a teen boy. I discovered The Boondock Saints near the end of high school, at a time where I was particularly standoffish and rough around the edges. So what seemed edgy and tough in this film was particularly appealing during that stage of my life. It also had enough style and flash to make me like the film on an artistic level. I had started to really enjoy crime films at this point, as well, which this played a part in. However, my continued exploration of the genre meant that The Boondock Saints was not long for my list of favorites in comparison to well crafted, legitimate crime movies.
How Is It Now? While it’s still enjoyable on some base level, there is no reason why anyone should consider The Boondock Saints as one of their favorite movies. It is shot poorly, has fairly bad writing, is quite cliché, and lacks any real depth. Which means it works wonderfully as a cult classic, but not as an all-time great. Even back when I loved it, part of me knew it was crap. Willem Dafoe’s overacting is embarrassing, the emotional beats are forced, and the message is muddled. But it’s still better than the sequel. Clearly, this did not make my list of The 30 Greatest Crime Films of All Time.
4. Resident Evil
Why Did I Like It Then? Teenagers like horror movies. There’s something about senseless violence and gore that appeals to something incredibly desensitized inside the teenage mind. While each teen may have his or her preferences as to how the viscera are delivered, the general need for death and destruction is there in one form or another. Zombies seemed to be my preferred method at the time, with Resident Evil, Dawn of the Dead, and more being thoroughly enjoyable to my teenage self. For hipster cred, this was all before The Walking Dead made them a mainstream phenomenon. Then again, zombies aren’t exactly profound.
How Is It Now? In a word? Horrible. Seriously, this is a total mess of a movie, making it just one of the many terrible horror films produced in the early 2000s that hooked teen masses. This has all the hallmarks of a movie that really can’t be enjoyed outside of your teenage years: an empty message about the evils of big corporations, bloody violence, and attractive leads. One thing that Resident Evil makes clear is that teenagers often don’t pay attention to quality of dialogue, just flashy scenes and visceral thrills. This is a bad movie by definition. And even though they only went on to make worse entries in the series, Resident Evil still feels like everyone involved had a massive concussion during the production.
Why Did I Like It Then? This was one of the biggest movies to hit the big screen at my young age. While the first X-Men had played on my childhood love of superheroes, the first Spider-Manwas the real deal. Take a beloved character and put him into a legitimately good movie that marks the beginning of the age of superhero blockbusters and you have something that appeals to me both then and now. It also helps that Peter Parker’s angst, unrequited love, and heroic sacrifices are the stuff that tortured teen dreams are made of.
How Is It Now? We finally make our way into higher quality movies. Even after reboots and all sorts of changes to the character, the first Spider-Manfilm is still so much fun. Tobey Maguire is still enjoyable as the hero, Sam Raimi displays a good grasp of the character, and Spider-Man has a deft mixture of the emotionally resonant and the comically cheesy. It’s a tone that reflects much of what Marvel Studios has done with its current Cinematic Universe, but without the sometimes heavy-handed and overbearing larger universe.
2. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Why Did I Like It Then? Other generations had Star Wars and other major series that came out at an influential young age. Since the Star Wars prequels were clearly crap by the time I entered my teenage years, there was nothing that matched the spectacle and enormity of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Having read J.R.R. Tolkien’s books one year prior to the release of The Fellowship of the Ring, I was clearly in the targeted market for these movies. And it was obvious how much I loved each one, as I saw all three movies multiple times in the theater, bought the extended editions, and viewed the year wait between each as torture.
How Is It Now? The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is still the greatest fantasy film series ever made. While fantasy movies made before its release have their own strengths, these movies reached a new and never before seen height and scope. Additionally, the fantasy films made afterward, like the fallible Hobbit Trilogy, tried to match the series’ enormous nature, but not its heart and soul. Even today the series is still making new fans, showing that this will be something that lives on through the generations. All these years later and it’s no wonder why The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is the benchmark for any fantasy film that hits the big screen.
1. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Why Did I Like It Then? When I first saw Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, it was on television in the middle of a weekend and I tuned in at least 30 minutes into the broadcast. But I was immediately hooked. The bold cinematography, tense action scenes, and powerful characters sucked me in and didn’t let go for what was surely more than three hours with commercials. Even without much knowledge or love for the Western genre at the time, there was something about the way The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is constructed that blew past any preconceived notions and teenage taste. Make no mistake, this movie is the clear division between my teenage enjoyment of film and a more mature and holistic approach to watching film.
How Is It Now? After first watching it when I was 17 years old, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is still my favorite movie of all time. I consider this to be a major step into my deeper understanding of film and my hunger to expand my film knowledge. Yes, I still went on to watch and enjoy plenty of terrible movies after declaring this as my favorite film, but my enjoyment of classic movies and more challenging fare was kicked off because of Leone’s masterpiece. Even after coming to love many other movies and understanding far more about film, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly still makes an impact every time I see it.
Honorable Mentions: The Mummy, Sin City, Spider-Man 2, Batman Begins