Pop culture often defines a generation. In recent times movies have been a big part of that definition. The Graduate was a movie that defined the character of the Baby Boomer Generation (born 1943-1960). But what are the movies that define Generation X (born 1961-1981)?
A few months ago I put together a list of “The 10 Best Generation X Movies Ever” and got lots of comments both for an against my choices. I have taken some of those to heart and created a new list of movies. I tried to focus on films that caught the character of Generation X at various stages of life. There are some very recent films that capture the spirit of our mid-life, but I don’t think they are popular enough to really rank on the 10 best yet.
- Breakfast Club – John Hughes (boomer) at his best. All the characters are here. The slacker/stoner, good girl, etc… but each is an individual and all are uncomfortable with being part of anything.
- Swingers – Dating was a minefield for Gen X’ers and this LA based movie has all the embarrassing comedy about the 20-something dating scene. And it introduced the world (or maybe just me) to Vince Vaughn in what was perhaps his funniest role ever (“You’re so money and you don’t even know it!”)
- Fast Times at Ridgemont High – This movie has it all, the jocks, stoners and geeks that made High School in the 70’s such a painful experience. Cameron Crowe does it again (this time as the writer). From Jeff Spicoli (“People on ‘ludes should not drive! “) to Brad Hamilton (“Jeez. Doesn’t anyone fucking knock any more? “) this crew knew how to party. Time to put this one on my Netflix queue again.
- Singles – This list would be nothing without a film from Cameron Crowe (another Boomer who gets Gen X). Life as a 20 something Gen X’er in the center of it all: Seattle during the Grunge movement. I never much liked Curt Kobain, but everyone else seemed to. Pearl Jam has a role the band members of “Citizen Dick”.
- Office Space – This one replaces Reality Bites from my first list. The humor here is darker, closer to Brazil with the pointless job in the massive corporation. Probably every Gen X office worker in the US had heard a real life version of: “We need to talk about your TPS reports.” during their working life.
- Say Anything -Again, Cameron Crowe nails the angst of the young Gen X’er. John Cusack (he’s on this list more than once and I left out “High Fidelity”) is fantastic as the loner trying to find love in a tough world. Go through the Memorable Quotes for this one and it will all come flooding back to you: “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.“
- Reservoir Dogs – This film was not about Gen X’ers, but it was made by Quentin Tarantino (an early X’er) and features some of the key elements of our psyche. The world in the film is brutal and the group that comes together are a bunch of independent mercenaries, willing to collaborate (as long as the get a cool name) but ready to turn on each other at any time. The movie is all about being cool and surviving, both of which define Gen X.
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Okay, I realize this is the second John Hughes film on the list, but the guy really gets Generation X. I wished I could be Ferris and I am not even sure why! He just seemed to make things great wherever he went.
- Fight Club – the book was written by an X’er (Chuck Palahniuk) and it definitely has the feel of the nihilistic world that is unraveling. The closest thing these guys get to community is kicking the crap out of each other. One of my favorite movies of all time, although because of the rules, I can’t talk about it.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer – (quoted from Matthew E who commented on my last post) Didn’t have the depth that the TV show did, but the central concept – out-of-her-depth California teen forced to fight unspeakable evil – was already there.
- Clerks – Ultra-slacker film by the ultra-slacker bunch. I think this one represents X’ers well because of the way it was made. They put the production costs on a credit card and filmed it all with a few buddies. No big studios to help and a “fuck it, who cares” attitude. If that is not Gen X in action, I don’t know what is!
Once again, the list goes to 11, and they are not in any particular order. Any suggestions of films in the last 5 years?
9 thoughts on “The 10 Best Gen X Movies, Revised”
Dave – did you see this? Had you heard??
Reality Bites, Dave!
In the last five years is a great ? — I think of American Beauty for Baby Boomers. I'll give it some thought. I love these lists.
Honorable mention for "St. Elmo's Fire."
@SteveSadlov – Agreed – St. Elmo's Fire is another Gen X classic
@vmk – I had not heard of that film – I will add it to my netflix list!
16 Candles or Pretty in Pink just a tough. But great pick Singles is my number 1.
Curt Kobain? haha um, it's KURT COBAIN. And I definitely think Reality Bites should be included in this list