10 Lessons From '80s Teen Movies

Here's what we learned from gems like 'Sixteen Candles' and 'Pretty in Pink'.

When it comes to teen movies, there was nothing quite like the 1980’s. With John Hughes at the helm of many of the most iconic teen movies EVER, it was a decade that certainly delivered when it came to teen drama, teen love, sex, and everything in between. One can only hope that there will be a decade someday in the future that will fill the void that we currently have when it comes to teen movies, but I don’t think that’s possible.

Because teen movies are geared toward teens, it only makes sense that there should be a lesson learned in each one. To be honest, being a teenager is no easy task, so it’s important to get as many lessons under your belt so you can sail somewhat smoothly into adulthood. Since that’s the case, here are 10 lessons from ‘80s teen movies that you should probably take to heart.

1. Sixteen Candles: We all have (or had) a Jake Ryan.

In 1984’s Sixteen Candles, we not only get John Hughes’ comedic take on the perils of high school again, but we’re also reminded of just how much it sucks to be in love with someone who doesn’t even know you exist. Whether it’s a crush on some Jake Ryan caliber jock in high school or the quiet, shy beauty a few desks away at your present job, we’ve all dealt with the pain of having a crush. However, if we’re lucky, we’ll wake up in a John Hughes film, and that crush will come for us when we’re all dressed up for our sister’s wedding.

2. The Breakfast Club: No matter which crowd you belong to in high school, we’re all pretty much a mess.

10 Lessons From '80s Teen Movies

In 1985, John Hughes released a movie with somewhat of a novel idea in regards to cliques. Although other teen movies acknowledged that there are indeed different social circles in high school, none them really tackled the fact that even within those seemingly perfect worlds, everyone is dealing with the same crap – it's high school after all. The Breakfast Club was a refreshing take on what it means to be a teenager in America and how for all our differences, we’re totally the same.

3. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: If you’re going to play hooky, go big or go home.

10 Lessons From '80s Teen Movies

Aside from being part myth and part legend in his high school, Ferris Bueller is the king of making the most of a day off. Not only does he know how to fake sick like a pro (lick your palms, moan, and wail), but he also knows that if it’s your last day off until graduation, you need to make the most of it. You need to be on top of a float in a parade and “borrow” your best friend’s dad’s 1961 Ferrari GT California.

4. Say Anything: Be wary of who you give your heart to.

Although – spoiler alert – Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court do end up together, Diane kind of gives Lloyd the runaround. For example, as Lloyd so eloquently puts it: “I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen,” which, let’s be honest, isn’t a very fair exchange. Granted, Diane does have a lot going on, with her dad going to jail and all that stuff, but it’s f*cking Lloyd Dobler, man! You land a man like that, in a world full of jerky guys, you take care not to be reckless with his heart and you don’t let him go.

5. Some Kind of Wonderful: More often than not your soulmate is in front of you the whole time.

Oh, John Hughes… once again, you gave us butterflies with Some Kind of Wonderful! In this 1987 movie, Watts is in love with her best friend Keith, but Keith has a thing for popular girl Amanda Jones. Caught in an awkward situation and a moment of weakness, Amanda agrees to go out with Keith, which of course, hurts Watts. Fast forward about 60 minutes and Amanda realizes that being popular is overrated, Keith gets it through his thick skull that Watts is the girl for him, and off they walk into the night – soulmates forever and ever. Well, I’m assuming it’s forever and ever; it is a John Hughes movie after all.

6. Heathers: Your best friend is sometimes your worst enemy.

10 Lessons From '80s Teen Movies

Although it isn’t often thrown into the same 1980’s teen movies as the John Hughes films, Heathers, which was released in 1988, has teens and takes place in the ‘80s, so… it works. However, this cult classic, in all this amazing dialogue and scathing wit, is far darker than pretty much all of the teen movies to come out the ‘80s. Instead of learning about love, we learn that sometimes you need to kill your best friend in order to find peace in the world. Or, at the very least, if murder isn’t your scene (and it probably shouldn’t be), you should cut toxic people from your life —stat.

7. Less Than Zero: You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves.

With Less Than Zero, we have another dark teen movie. It was written by Bret Easton Ellis, the man behind American Psycho, so it’s no surprise. In this movie we have three best friends: Clay, Blair, and Julian, all of whom who come from insanely wealthy families in LA. But shortly after high school, things start to go to hell as the three go in different directions, most notably Julian (played perfectly by Robert Downey Jr.), who gets heavily involved in drugs. Although Blair and Clay try to save Julian from himself, they end up banging their heads against the wall, as they learn that you just can’t help those who don’t want to make the effort to help themselves. In fact, you just lose them all together.

8. Pretty in Pink: Don’t let the richies at your school get you down.

10 Lessons From '80s Teen Movies

Personally, I think Pretty in Pink is the best teen movie to come out of the ‘80s. We have the outcast Andie (played by Molly Ringwald) who’s from the wrong side of the tracks (and works at a record store called Trax!), a bunch of snotty rich kids, Jon Cryer in his most memorable role, and an amazing soundtrack. What we also have is Blane (Andrew McCarthy) falling in love with Andie, but succumbing to the peer pressures of his rich friends, ditching her right before prom, then forcing her to go solo, because she wants to let them know that they “didn’t break her.” So there, richies! Andie, one; richies, zero.

9. Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Teenage sex is nothing to write home about.  

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is great on a few levels, one of which being just how many future stars are in it: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nicholas Cage, Forest Whitaker, and a bunch more. Another place where it’s great is that it shows not just how complicated relationships are in high school, but just how sexually confusing it all is, too. It also broaches the subject of abortion, which for 1982, was a pretty big deal.

10. Footloose: Dance for those who can’t!

10 Lessons From '80s Teen Movies

Fun fact: Footloose, the 1984 movie about a Chicago kid who moves to a Texas town where dancing is against the law, is based on a true story. No joke! Up until 1980 in Elmore City, Oklahoma, a town which is predominately Southern Baptist, dancing was banned. All dancing. As in if you wiggled with a little bit of joy because your favorite song came on the jukebox, you got into some serious trouble. So, while there are many lessons to be learned from Footloose, like how Kevin Bacon’s jeans are unfairly too tight, the major lesson is if you can dance, you should always dance and dance for those who aren’t allowed to do so.