Teen movies really hit their peak during the '90s. From blood-soaked horror flicks to tearjerking coming-of-age films, from mushy high school romances to sexually awkward gross-out comedies you maybe shouldn't have been watching yet, the films on this list all have one major commonality - popularity! Some of the greatest teen movies of the '90s were the ones aimed at teenage girls, so we're bringing you this list of all the most iconic '90s movies that changed female lives forever.
What were your favorite '90s teen movies growing up? Even if you're not a girly girl, you'll be able to spot some favorites on this list. The perils of popularity, the anxieties of sex and dating, and the dangers of stepping outside the status quo were all subjects these films explored (the relatable stuff, right?). Some '90s movies for teen girls, like But I'm a Cheerleader and Just Another Girl on the I.R.T., even discovered funny, heartfelt ways of exploring important social issues like race and sexual identity.
For the first time, VHS was transitioning into a sell-through market, meaning tapes and DVDs were finally cheap enough for studios to move tens of thousands of copies, rather than just selling to collectors and video stores. If you missed a movie in the theater, you could wait a few months and buy or rent a copy, then take it home and play it on your VCR (or DVD player, if your family was swaggy enough to own one yet). And come on - no '90s sleepover was complete without an hour of pre-party browsing at the local video store to snag a couple of the latest new releases.
Were you more of a Cher or were you more of a Ty? Do you remember the exact moment you first fell in permanent, endless love with Fairuza Balk? Vote below on the '90s teen movies that most defined your teen girl experience!
Based on (of all things) Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You is basically about getting your parents to loosen up and let you start learning to be an adult already. It was also one of Heath Ledger's earliest movies, before he started getting all weird and freaky and doing roles that were serious and sometimes upsetting.
This movie stars Julia Stiles and Larisa Oleynik, who, at the time, was most recognizable as the star of Nickelodeon's weird sci-fi show, The Secret World of Alex Mack. Stiles and Oleynik play two sisters who must navigate the bizarre dating stipulations of their overbearing father in order to respectively date Heath Ledger and the less-impressive Andrew Keegan.
Actors: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gabrielle Union, Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Allison Janney, + more
Directed by: Gil Junger
Rated: PG-13 (USA)
Possibly the most defining teen movie of the '90s, Clueless was as remarkable for its stars' eye-popping wardrobes as it was for its biting and ironic sense of humor. Cher and Dionne are the academically underachieving, socially overachieving stars of an upper-crust Beverly Hills high school.
Though she's a ray of sunshine whenever she's getting her own way, things change for Cher when her newly college-educated stepbrother returns home and starts making her feel guilty about her vapid lifestyle. In typical fashion, a convenient transfer student appears, and Cher decides to take the girl under her wing and improve her life by molding her into a model member of her clique.
Overdressed popularity queens are usually the villains of teen movies. Part of what makes Clueless so funny and sweet is that Cher's intentions remain pure, even if she's a little spoiled, and sometimes gets mentally sidetracked thinking about how fabulous she is. Aside from the usual themes, Clueless is a great movie about the importance of not judging people at first glance.
Actors: Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd, Stacey Dash, Wallace Shawn, + more
Directed by: Amy Heckerling
Rated: PG-13 (USA)
Unlike most films of its ilk, She's All That is a movie about how great conformity is, and how much it totally sucks to be an individual. It also epitomizes the headdesk movie cliche of a "nerdy" female lead being instantly transformed into a knockout by removing her glasses and applying some lip gloss.
Snark aside, She's All That is yet another '90s teen movie about social cliques and the politics of sex and relationships in high school. Rachael Leigh Cook plays Laney, an awkward loner who spends her time away from school painting, doing weird conceptual art performances, and working at a job where she wears a taco hat. Basically, Laney is way too cool and interesting for anyone else at her boring high school to appreciate her.
Her life of wonderment is destroyed, however, when she becomes the subject of unwanted attention from Zack, a popular jock played by Freddie Prinze Jr., who has made a bet with one of his friends about whether or not he can get Laney elected prom queen. Fortunately for her, Laney is receptive to Zack's invasive, cruel, and dishonest scheme, and her life ends up being way better afterward, because she now has a hot boyfriend who looks like Freddie Prinze Jr., as well as a cool new haircut and some barrettes.
Actors: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anna Paquin, Lil' Kim, Usher, Gabrielle Union, + more
Directed by: Robert Iscove
Rated: PG-13 (USA)
Basically a sexual thriller for teenagers, Cruel Intentions was notorious for being dirty and naughty. It contains things like lesbian kissing, verbal references to anal sex, some really overweening cleavage on the part of Sarah Michelle Gellar, and possibly the first ever subplot in a feature film about somebody's nudes getting leaked on the internet.
Based on an 18th-century French novel, Les Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons), Cruel Intentions tells the story of a pair of cynical and overprivileged prep students played by Gellar and Ryan Philippe. Out of boredom and general misanthropy, Philippe bets Gellar that he can seduce an incoming transfer student (these movies are full of transfer students) who recently published an article in a teen magazine about all the reasons why she plans to remain a virgin until marriage.
Actors: Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Tara Reid, Ryan Phillippe, Selma Blair, + more
Directed by: Roger Kumble
Rated: R (USA)