A Cinematic Education
Oh boy, the teenage years. What an awful, wonderful, terrible terrible time. If you’re a teenager yourself and you’re looking to get started with watching great movies, we’re happy to have you here.
It can be tough to break through to more *serious* well-made movies after growing up with mainstream fare. It can also be difficult to find the kinds of movies that you’ll truly enjoy.
Maybe you’ll be into body horror, or cinema verite, or even weird art house movies that we tend to talk about here on Glitterati Lobotomy.
We’ve put together a short list of movies every teenager should watch, either in preparation for college or just as a way to sample many different genres from different time periods.
In the meantime, let’s get to the movies, all of which can be easily found via VOD services and/or streaming sites. Get some friends together or spend a night in getting your cinematic education on its way.
Fight Club – 1999
David Fincher is a talented guy. If nothing else, his movies (and occasionally TV shows) look great. They have their own very specific style and with his opus Fight Club, he was one of the first filmmakers to truly combine CG and live-action footage successfully for a unique moviegoing experience.
The movie is based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, and overall it’s a tale of disillusionment with the real world vs. expectations from childhood and media.
Edward Norton turns in a fantastic performance as a boring guy who just wants to buy the next IKEA accessory to complete his picture-perfect apartment.
Long story short, he gets involved with an underground fighting ring/terrorist organization.
We don’t want to spoil the movie so we’ll just say: watch it, now. It just might open a door to some strange little movies.
Network – 1976
It took me a long time to find Network. Directed by Sidney Lumet, this film is an absolute bombshell. It starts out very tense then ups the ante again and again and again and then the movie’s over.
There’s so much yelling here, but it’s all great. Every major character gets a long monologue where they explain something vital about themselves or the world itself.
Network is more than 40 years old, and yet it’s 100% relevant to the modern day sociopolitical landscape.
It’s a movie about how media and entertainment can sometimes be more important than the truth and human life itself.
This movie will make you angry in the best way possible, maybe even to the point where you’ll want to deliver a big long speech of your own.
2001: A Space Odyssey – 1968
Maybe you’ve already heard of this movie. It’s the kind of thing that young film geeks latch onto and talk about a lot at parties, confusing everyone.
Stanley Kubrick was one of the greatest film directors in the history of the art form. And every one of his movies will reward you for watching it.
2001, however, is definitely challenging. It’s trying to do many different things, all while asking questions about the nature of existence and how technology can imprison us (both literally and figuratively).
Above all else, this movie teaches an important lesson about art and, well, life: not everything can be understood. You can spend your life wondering about the big questions and never really come up with satisfying answers.
Another great benefit of watching 2001 is the fact that you’ll be able to talk to other people about it. One of the greatest aspects of watching movies is discussing them with smart people. Offer up your own interpretation and listen to what other people think.
No one is wrong and no one is right, at least when it comes to what 2001 really means. Don’t get mad; just enjoy it.
Taxi Driver – 1976
Let’s take a moment to think about movies from your childhood. Chances are, many of them had very clear-cut characters. There were good guys and bad guys, and we knew who we wanted to win.
Well, unfortunately, the real world isn’t quite as cut and dry. At least not usually. Almost everyone is a little bit bad, a little bit good, and many people lose sight of how their actions affect other people, maybe even people they’ve never met.
Taxi Driver is a movie about trying to do the right thing, even when it seems kind of pointless. It’s violent, very violent. And it feels real the entire time, despite the temporal distance.
This is Martin Scorsese at his best: showing strong characters trying to do what they think is best, perhaps becoming villains in the process.
There’s also an excellent story about Scorsese’s last-minute edit to the film that helped it get a wide release. (Let me know in the comments if that would be of interest to you guys.)
Pulp Fiction – 1994
Tarantino tends to popular with teenagers, maybe because he was pretty young when he made his first couple movies. He supposedly had the script to Reservoir Dogs written by the time he was 26. Pretty wild, considering he was just a guy who watched a bunch of movies.
But Pulp Fiction was the movie where his style was solidified, and he hasn’t really strayed from that path ever since.
It’s nonlinear storytelling at its best, where the emotional moments ring true, even if you don’t quite know what’s going on.
The dialogue alone is worth the price of admission. Every character is likable, even the awful ones.
And let’s not forget that Pulp Fiction is just so much fun to watch. It’s a serious movie saying serious things in the most entertaining way possible.
Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance – 2014
Plenty of people missed this one when it was in theaters back in 2014, and that’s understandable. From the trailer, it was hard to tell exactly what this movie was, and it sort of looked like a comedy.
And it is a comedy, mostly, but it’s also a deeply dramatic story about a guy trying to convince himself that his life is worth living, and that he has something to offer to the world.
Then, of course, there’s the style and technical splendor of the movie, which rubs elbows with true classics like Children of Men, Citizen Kane, and almost any Spielberg movie ever made.
Birdman is a way into art house movies that are actually enjoyable, rather than sullen, boring, and overly cerebral.