As humans we are inherently attracted to nostalgia, to a better, simpler, easier time. It’s not that we don’t think people back then ever had a bad day. It’s more that we’d like to imagine that even during the worst day of their life, as their boyfriend broke up with them, an hour after losing their job, and while having their car stolen, they still had that air of coolness and reassurance, knowing everything would work out in the end. Not to mention they’d be wearing a killer outfit and have a soundtrack to die for.
Every generation has played favorites with a particular era and, if fashion is any indication, we are currently going through a nineties love fest. Any of the following movies does more than its share of proving we wish we had been part of Generation X, that moment of pure uncertainty and ambiguity where the young people of the time did not know what the future held, what they wanted to be, or how they’d get to accomplish their dreams. All they knew was that they did not want to become their parents or like any adult with broken dreams they had witnessed growing up.
So here are five movies of love, the path to adulthood, and friendships.
This classic Gen-X movie is about a group of recent college graduates navigating the post-grad life. One of the main questions this film poses is how to become successful without having to sell out or give up who you are? It features Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo, Ben Stiller, and Steve Zhan, and the coolest sing-along at a convenience store you’ll ever see.
In this bizarre romantic comedy that, as the title hints, takes place at the mall, two slackers try to win back the girls they love while trying to get away from psycho dudes, in the form of a really young Ben Affleck, security guards, and over protective dads. Instead of having Fairy Godmothers, Jason Lee and Jeremy London find help in the form of Jay and Silent Bob, their friendly neighborhood drug dealers. The cherry on top? It features Gen-X darling, Shannen Doherty.
This film is a treasure for many reasons, but one is for the nostalgia of record stores, the temples of music for outsiders, dreamers, weirdos, and anybody that didn’t fit in. The story centers on the employees of a store in trouble of being turned corporate. But there are plenty of moments of unrequited romance, dealing with depression, being true to yourself, and having the guts to actually try to be who you dreamed you’d be. This movie is definitely owned by the female characters played by Liv Tyler, Robin Tunney, and Renee Zellweger.
Ethan Hawke makes reappearance on the list, this time in one of the most romantic honest films about young love. After a chance meeting with a girl on a train to Vienna, played by Julie Delphy, an American travelling through Europe asks her to see the city with him before he leaves. An entire night of adventure ensues. But it’s not so much about what happens to them. Instead, the film is focused on the conversations and the connection between the two characters.
A film about how sometimes your friends are the only ones who can help you get over what you refuse to get over. Mike, played by Jon Favreu, is constantly fighting himself over what went wrong with the girl who broke up with him. He’s moved from New York to Los Angeles to make it into the business but it seems it’s not just in the romantic department that he needs help with. Trent, Vince Vaughn, keeps doing everything in his power to get his buddy back in the game. In the end, Mike finds out that the only reason he was holding so tight to the memory of his ex is because he was afraid of who he might be without her.
So are the Gen X that different from us? What is it about that moment in time that draws us to them? I mean, aside from the crop tops, maxi dresses over t-shirts, chunky-heeled boots, and loads of flannel? Is it possible that as we search for our place in the world we look to them to see how they made it past economic uncertainty and a society that needs to catch up? Whatever the case, these movies prove there's plenty to be learned from the generation that came before us.