Now and Then (1995)
Where to even begin with this movie? A lot of people said that this was Stand By Me for girls, but I never saw Stand By Me (blasphemy!), so I don’t really know. What I DO know is that my friends and I watched Now and Then over and over again. For a time, we were the girls in the movie, or so we wished, because they were so bad-ass, but they were also dealing with so many FEELINGS for each other and the world and society and everything else that is REAL. The movie travels back in time from the present (so the ’90s), where four childhood best friends are reuniting in their hometown, to the summer of 1970, when their lives were changed FOREVER. The movie is narrated by the adult version of Sam (Demi Moore in men’s suits and sick li’l round glasses), who as a teenager (Gaby Hoffman) is into supernatural stuff and deals with being pretty much the first girl in her neighborhood whose parents are getting divorced. Teeny (Thora Birch) dreams of becoming a Hollywood star when she grows up, Roberta (Christina Ricci) is the tough tomboy, and Chrissy (Ashleigh Aston Moore) is kinda naive but secretly awesome. At first, they’re trying to save money to buy a treehouse, but this plot is dropped for more exciting things after they have a séance in the cemetery and think they’ve brought back the spirit of a teenager named Dear Johnny. But that’s not all! There’s also near-death experiences (real and fake), girls punching boys, bike rides, underage cigarettes, cute Vietnam vets, high jinks, and first kisses. Basically this movie has everything. It’s totally perfect for sleepovers, especially the scene where their neighborhood tormentors, the Wormers, are skinny-dipping, and the girls steal their clothes, and you get to giggle at boys’ butts. Maybe you won’t do this because you are all mature young women, but that’s pretty much what my friends and I did. ALL THE TIME. Also, baby Rumer Willis is in it, and Janeane Garofalo is a witch. Ugh, this movie is almost perfect. Get to it. —Laia

Paris Is Burning (1990)
If you think Madonna invented voguing, you need to get the fuck out and rent this. In Harlem, during the 1980s, there were these events called balls, a series of contests where participants won prizes and trophies for voguing, performing, and runway-walking. Nothing I can say in this small review will ever come close to describing the amazingness that is the ball. Drag here isn’t so much about dressing like a woman, but rather embodying the persona of anyone (a businessman or military officer or pretty girl or whatever) and being judged on the “realness” of the costume and performance. Oh my god, and then there is the VOGUING. Please rent this movie. It’s the story of people who had to express themselves underground when the white, heterosexual world they lived in made anything else impossible. And it’s amazing. —Hazel

My Girl (1991)
When I was 11, I was Vada Sultenfuss. I rode my bike every day with my best friend, wrote poems about ice cream, wore a mood ring, and wanted to marry Griffin Dunne. Like Vada (Anna Chlumsky), I was also a total tomboy who’d just started the monthly “hemorrhaging,” which was forcing me to confront my femaleness, which meant that I was getting older and would have to deal with difficult, older-people issues soon. Vada is afraid of death and copes by obsessing over it—self-diagnosing herself with illnesses that she doesn’t have, showing friends the dead bodies in her father’s funeral home—but by the end of the movie, she’s forced to confront her fears in a way that makes it impossible for her to be so cavalier. I have so much affection for this character. And oh, the tears! —Amber

My So-Called Life
1994-1995, ABC

(SPOILER ALERTS!) I think My So-Called Life-viewing is synced up among some groups of girls the same way periods are. Last week, my friends and I realized we all watched the “Self-Esteem” episode within the same few days, independently of one another. WHY? WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOU, MY SO-CALLED LIFE? Why did we feel such sudden desperation to watch the scene where Jordan takes Angela’s hand and walks through the hall with her in front of all of his friends? Why does the end of Angela and Rayanne’s friendship make me so sad when, at the same time, I know it’s the only way things could’ve gone? Why is it that the more experience I gain, the more EMOTIONS I FEEL, the more LIFE that I LIVE, the more the “Blister in the Sun” freedom dance looks to me like the most radical thing anyone’s ever done? I don’t know how this show got so many things right, at least for me, but it’s the kind of thing I can’t bring myself to formally review or analyze. Its rightness is beyond equation or format; it is based in Angela’s tendency to constantly rub her face, and that weird xylophone score that sounds like tiny heartbeats, and the graffiti on the bathroom wall. It is like bonding with a friend even though you can’t really explain why the two of you make sense—when there’s that whole other level that’s all eye contact and arbitrary laughter and holding each other because the school day is only halfway done and this lunchroom is too loud and everyone’s so scary and odd. (Favorite quote from the entire series: “People are so strange and so complicated that they’re actually…beautiful. Possibly even me.”) And, because being a teenager is not that dreamy and romantic, MSCL can also be really helpful in times of need. It’s just everything, OK? It is everything. (Warning to first-time viewers: there is only one season. I know. Literally the whole world, except for this show, is an idiot.) (Also, Rookie-related, MSCL-related links you might like: creator Winnie Holzman giving us high school advice, a thing I wrote about Rayanne after the first time I watched the series, and a wonderful piece that Emma S. wrote about Rayanne that convinced me she needed to write for this site.) —Tavi

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)
This documentary might be in my top five of all time. It’s about the competition between Steve Wiebe, a mild-mannered middle school science teacher, and Billy Mitchell, a cocky hot sauce entrepreneur. What do these two men have in common? Well, they’re the best Donkey Kong players in the world, and they’re battling for the top score. Steve is the ultimate nice-guy character while Billy is the ultimate villain—except they’re real people, and winning this one game means everything to them because their reputations (and identities) are at stake. The lengths they go to to try and achieve eight-bit greatness transform not only themselves, but also their families and the gamer circuit. Think I’m being melodramatic? Just wait until you see what happens. —Amy Rose

The Girl Most Likely To… (1973)
During our very first Rookie meeting, last summer, we got to talking about makeover movies. Everyone was naming their favorite ones, and I mentioned this weird and campily wonderful psychological thriller I had seen on TV when I was really little but whose name I couldn’t recall. It starred Stockard Channing, I told everyone, as a fat and ugly girl who is rejected and mocked by everybody because she is fat and ugly. Then she gets into a car accident and has to have extensive plastic surgery, from which she emerges as a beauuuuutiful bombshell. THEN she goes around killing everyone who was mean to her when she was ugly. Everyone froke out and was like “that sounds amazing” and I was like “it was; let me see if I can Google it” and I looked on IMDb and found out not only its name, but also that it was written by…dun dun DUN dun…JOAN RIVERS. Aaaaaaaaaah! That is when we all went insane and had to run around in circles for a while. This movie was made for TV but became such a cult hit that it was released on DVD. And last time I checked (which was this morning), you could also watch the entire thing on YouTube. —Anaheed

Six Feet Under
2001-2005, HBO

The Fisher family is probably more screwed up than yours, but you’ll come to love them almost as much as you do your own. Nate, David, and Claire grew up in a funeral home, and they’re adults with ISSUES. While working through problems with school, work, love, and each other, they see ghosts, get kidnapped, and cry a lot. If that sounds dark, it is—every episode begins with a death—but it can also be hilarious, emotionally educational, and insanely addictive. Over the span of five almost-perfect seasons, the characters become so complex that it’s hard to remember they’re not real. I’ve seen all 63 episodes at least twice, and most Six Feet Under fans are equally obsessive. After years of not being allowed to watch it—you know, all the sex, drugs, and dying—I spent most of my senior year of high school waiting for the next disc to arrive from Netflix. It’s strange to think of a TV series as a deep undertaking, but it’s all worth it for the series finale, which…well, you’ll see. —Joe

Whip It (2009)
In Whip it, a misfit teen (Ellen Page) is stuck in a small, Texas town and pushed to participate in beauty pageants by her mother. She doesn’t know who she is or what she really wants out of life until she joins the Hurl Scouts, a roller derby team, and reinvents herself as Babe Ruthless. Kristen Wiig is Maggie Mayhem, Eve is Rosa Sparks, director Drew Barrymore is Smashley Simpson, Juliette Lewis is Iron Maven, Ari Graynor is Eva Destruction, and stuntwoman extraordinaire Zoë Bell is Bloody Holly. (Um, how badly do you want a roller derby name right now? I think Tina Feytality might be a good one.) The message is be your own hero, a concept so simple and so inspirational that it makes me want to cry. Also, all of the actresses seem like they were having the time of their lives on set, and that energy is incredibly infectious. You’re going to want to join a roller derby team! I want to join a roller derby team! Maybe we could start one together? —Amber

Une femme est une femme (1961)
Anna Karina plays a striptease dancer in a movie that’s basically a love letter from her soon-to-be husband (and legendary director), Jean-Luc Godard. When asked what she’s thinking, she says things like, “I think I exist.” The story is a silly love triangle, and both men are charming in their own way, with pouty lips and perfectly ruffled hair. (Basically everyone involved is a drop-dead-gorgeous style icon.) It’s mostly witty bickering about the differences between men and women, and it’s at once hilarious and too real—and almost sad, because everything they talk about rings so true. It’s not as instantly powerful as French New Wave classics like Breathless or The 400 Blows, but it’s more whimsical, with little song-and-dance numbers, characters that wink at the camera, and swoon-worthy colors. Foolish as she might seem at certain moments, Karina is the real star, and admirably tough: “Why is it always women that suffer?” she asks her half-asshole boyfriend. “Women are, or woman is, the cause of the suffering,” he tells her, to which she shoots back, “Shut your face! Or I’ll slap it until you’ve got no face left.” Let’s just say she gets her way. —Joe

Mad Men
2007 to present, AMC

I hopped on the Mad Men bandwagon really late—like last fall—after all of my friends had already been talking about it for four seasons. Even though I’d heard great things, and the ’60s have always fascinated me, and the fashion on the show looked stellar, I just wasn’t sure I’d actually like the characters. I mean, Don Draper is a womanizer working in advertising, which I thought had to be the world’s most boring profession. But I quickly discovered that even though I don’t really like Don sometimes, I still totally love him. He’s nuanced, and he has this whole secret history. Yes, the fashion is awesome—either I-would-die-to-wear-that awesome, like basically anything in Joan’s closet, or oh-my-god-that’s-terrifying awesome, like Don’s plaid coat from the episode two weeks ago. I find it fascinating to see how creator Matt Weiner incorporates historical events like the Kennedy assassination, Marilyn Monroe’s death, and most recently, Richard Speck’s massacre of eight student nurses in Chicago, and it gives you quite a sense of the role of women during that era. I especially love that Don’s daughter, Sally, was born around the same time as my mom, so it’s kind of a glimpse into what her life was like. It turns out that even advertising—or at least the psychology behind it—is interesting. But the best thing about the show is the characters. There’s Roger, the silver fox; Joan, who basically runs the whole firm; Peggy, who works her way up from secretary to copywriter; and Don’s first wife, Betty, whom I love to hate. (Sally’s totally my favorite. She’s into the Beatles now. You know the rebellion is coming.) Everyone is complex and layered, hiding who they are, or becoming someone else. You watch them change as the world around them changes, and it’s totally addictive. —Stephanie

Do the Right Thing (1989)
Have you ever seen a Spike Lee movie? If you’re looking for a good place to start, this is it. When it first came out in 1989, Do the Right Thing divided critics, and provoked conversations about race and privilege in America. The plot focuses on a community of characters in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, many of whom were based on real people. Mookie (played by Spike himself) works at a local pizza parlor run by an Italian-American named Sal and his racist son. He’s trying to create a stable life for his girlfriend (Rosie Perez) and their baby while, at the same time, negotiating the different worlds of work and home without betraying himself and his loved ones. The story unfolds slowly on the hottest day of the summer, and it almost seems as though nothing much is going to happen until a disagreement at the pizza parlor escalates. Everyone should see this movie, not just because it’s canonical, but because of the complexity of the issues it raises. The awesome soundtrack doesn’t hurt, either. —Amy Rose

Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Boys Don’t Cry is based on the life of Brandon Teena, a transgendered man who was raped and murdered in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1993. Born Teena Brandon, he risked being called a “freak” to transform himself into the man he wanted to be. The movie begins as a love story between Brandon (Hilary Swank) and Lana Tisdel (Chloe Sevigny), but culminates in tragedy, with his friends reacting with hatred and violence when they learn of his secret. I can’t imagine what it’s like to feel as misunderstood as Brandon was, but I was deeply moved by his bravery. This is one of the most devastating movies I’ve ever seen. —Hazel

Igby Goes Down (2002)
Warning: if you see Igby Goes Down as a teenager, you will probably want to move to New York City. Not because the movie makes it look easy, or even totally glamorous, but because the characters talk with speed, wit, and confidence while doing as they please in artist lofts or the shadows of big buildings. It’s a Catcher in the Rye-style story about a screwed-up smart-ass (played by the best Culkin brother, Kieran) whose wake-up calls are extremely harsh. Still, he’s worth rooting for because he slides between stuck-up rich people and grungy downtown types with so much ease and attitude. Women even more self-assured (and/or unpredictable) than he is mess with his head, while adults always let him down, but you get the sense that he’s going to be OK, and you know that you probably will be, too. —Joe

Billy Elliot (2000)
How can you not love this film? An 11-year-old British boy from a mining town falls in love with ballet even though his father wants him to be a boxer. But he has a great friend named Michael, who, in a beautiful scene, confesses that he likes to wear dresses, which Billy thinks is OK. To Billy, dancing feels like “electricity,” and he doesn’t care about being “a man.” Hurrah for stomping (dancing?) on gender normativity. Jamie Bell’s acting tugs at my heartstrings, and his whole experience makes me want to dance. —Tara

Baby It’s You (1983)
I’m a sucker for literally every movie ever made about young star-crossed lovers. Set in the late 1960s, Rosanna Arquette plays Jill, a bored high school student who falls in love with a stylish Italian student known as “the Sheik.” He eventually gets expelled from school while she goes off to college to pursue her dreams of being an actress. As the backdrop of the prim early ’60s gives way to the sexual awakening of the decade, the romance between Jill and the Sheik transforms into something entirely different than what they had in high school. It’s a movie about the calibrations of first love and growing up in a time when pop culture was changing so rapidly that it was completely overwhelming. &#8212Hazel

Just One of the Guys (1985)
What do you get when an aspiring journalist pretends to be a guy in order to be taken more seriously and then falls for a guy who thinks she’s a guy? One of the best ’80s teen movies. I love this one for how thoroughly of that decade it is, from the fashion—so many vests with popped collars—to the stock high school characters, to the fact that Billy Zabka, that jerk from the original Karate Kid movie, plays the jerk here, too! I used to work at a video store, and while I was there, I stole the store’s only copy of Just One of the Guys. Yeah, that’s right, this movie is cool enough to get me to break one of the Ten Commandments/the actual law. —Amber

I Capture the Castle (2003)
Set in the ’30s, I Capture the Castle is based on a book by Dodie Smith about a 17-year-old girl who lives in a crumbling castle with her father (an author suffering from what seems like a permanent case of writer’s block), her eccentric stepmother, and her beautiful older sister, Rose. The family struggles to live off of her father’s past literary success, and Cassandra tries to “capture” her feelings and experiences in her journal. A romantic confused by romance, she is flattered by the attention from the live-in son of their family’s late cook, but finds herself falling for an older, more sophisticated neighbor. In the process, Cassandra learns that it is OK to follow her heart and be who she is. Also, in one scene, she performs spring rites wearing a flower crown. I think she’d be a Rookie reader if she were here today. —Tara

Saved! (2004)
When devout Mary learns that her boyfriend is gay, she has sex with him, “sacrificing” her virginity in the hopes of turning him straight. It obviously doesn’t work, and while he is sent away by his parents to be “cured,” she discovers that she’s pregnant. Mary feels abandoned by Jesus, her formerly unwavering faith is challenged, and as a result, she’s unable to relate to her fundamentalist BFFs/bandmates, the Christian Jewels (the fanatical leader of the group is played frighteningly well here by erstwhile “Candy” singer Mandy Moore). Totally alienated by everyone and everything that used to be so important to her, she takes up with the misfits at her Christian school: wheelchair-bound Roland (Macaulay Culkin) and lone Jewish girl Cassandra (Eva Amurri). All of these serious issues (religious hypocrisy, homophobia, teen pregnancy, mean girls) are translated into this very funny teen comedy (at one point, the school’s principal, Pastor Skip, flips across a stage and tells the kids to “get their Christ on” and “kick it, Jesus-style”). But ultimately, it’s a story about what it’s like to have the beliefs that were handed down to you tested, and how doubt can lead to self-determination. —Amber

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)
During my “week of wonders,” I endure cheeseburger cravings, annoying bloat, and gratuitous crying fits, and I can scarf down a bag of Trader Joe’s Chocolate-Covered Potato Chips in one sitting. Compared with Valerie’s entrance into the wonderful world of menstruation, which includes brushes with vampires, lecherous priests, and other terrifying monsters, my period seems like a DREAM! If this movie already sounds weird as hell to you, that’s because it is! But if you like bizarre, surreal, beautifully shot foreign films from the ’70s, grab some popcorn and a box of tampons and hang out with Val while she has her visit from her monthly friend. —Marie ♦