Certain movies you watch when you're younger and think, "Wow, that was different." You may get it, you may not, but one thing's for sure—they're a step (or twelve) beyond your typical song-and-dance, happy-ending kid stuff. Here, a look at some of the films that changed how we thought about the world then—and look totally different now. (*Adds to Netflix queue*)
Welcome to the Dollhouse was unlike every coming-of-age movie circa 1995 in that it was disturbingly accurate in portraying the injustices of middle school/adolescence. Dawn Weiner is a 7th grader who is unpopular, simultaneously teased/hit on by the school bully, and mocked by others in her grade. After asking why the other girls despise her, she's told—in all 7th grade candor—that it's simply because she's "ugly." There's no happy ending, no swept-off-her-feet moment, no "wow, thank goodness *that* happened" feelings. Re-watching it, you'll immediately think back to your own experiences in middle school—and sigh that we all made it through.
Stealing Beauty is one of those quintessential coming-of-age movies that becomes an instant cult classic—if you grew up at the time, you loved it through and through. If you didn't, well, you could probably take it or leave it. It was this movie that cemented Liv Tyler as the next "It" girl, and teens everywhere were transfixed by her nuanced sexual awakening that was somehow both familiar and new. Watching it now, it takes you away to the moment of discovering sex—in all its fresh, tension-filled, innocent glory.
No one really knew what to make of Kids when it premiered, with some critics dismissing it as exploitative and borderline child pornography and others applauding it as a wake-up call for kids' sexual behavior in the '90s. In fact it still has people scratching their heads. But for many of us, it exposed a side of sex we hadn't seen—where real consequences come from young kids who don't really know what they're doing. But does anyone?
Ghost World follows two high school graduates and best friends who grow up in every sense of the word. It featured protagonists that weren't supremely likeable but endeared themselves to you anyhow. It felt cool. And watching it from this side of the puberty fence, it's about the cruelty you can inflict on others, starting over, and changing from what you always thought you would be. Oh, and fried chicken.
The film, which is set in 1970s rural South, follows the monotonous, difficult trajectories of four altar boys. Together, while collaborating on a comic book, they navigate the typical teenage stuff—girls, booze, pranks—but with some very adult twists. It doesn't always hit the right notes, but in that sense, it mimics growing up pretty perfectly.