Between 1995 and 2004 (the release years of Clueless and Mean Girls respectively) there was a seemingly infinite number of films produced that fell neatly into "teen movie" genre. Some were witty and some were garbage, but they all existed in the strange, specific universe of the turn-of-the-century teenager—a world of mall rats, angsty indie rock, bully jocks, wild keg parties, portable CD players, and lots of clothing from the Gap. 22-year-old British critic Charlie Lyne, who started his film blog Ultra Culture when he was only 16 years old, recently premiered his documentary Beyond Clueless at this year's SXSW. It's a feature-length exploration of the American teen movie phenomenon, a foreign world that Lyne only really knew through repeat viewings of Eurotrip and 10 Things I Hate About You. Though he's candid about some of their obvious flaws, what fascinated Lyne most was the "amazingly complicated stuff hiding in plain sight," and the way these movies made an entire generation of Surge-drinking adolescents warm and fuzzy on the inside. "There was a duality of meaning that we were trying to get at with [Beyond Clueless]," Lyne says, "…this idea that these films could retain a sense of emotional and cosmic significance to you while also being scrutinized."
At this point, he's watched nearly 300 teen films from that decade-long era: every romantic comedy, every unneeded sequel and every muddled high-school thriller. "I got to this point where all my conversational reference points were 20 years out of date or just completely esoteric to everyone else, where I would just be in casual conversation throwing in obscure references to one of the American Pie straight-to-DVD spin off movies and expecting people to be able to follow me." Below, Lyne picks eight of the films featured in Beyond Clueless that you should watch right now, whether you're revisiting for pure nostalgia or you have a sociological interest in this totally random (but sort of magical) period in popular culture. patrick d. mcdermott