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High School English: Essential Teen Movies Based on Literature

We’re not going to talk about THAT movie. You know, the one where Kirsten Dunst shoots Angel-Boy from X-Men: Last Stand in the leg with a bow and arrow. AND Shane West has a British accent. AND Colin Hanks makes you fall in love with him all over again. No, some teen literature adaptations are meant to be forgotten (in spite of their jazzy musical numbers). There are a rare few, however, that are worthy of fangirling and uncountable re-watches. They are the films that make you swoon while still managing to play around cleverly with their source material.

1. 10 Things I Hate About You: This is the best of the best. (Heath Ledger’s serenade in the stadium? Oh my gosh, how can you not melt into a puddle?) Taming the Shrew might be this film’s source material, but this film is smart and full of 90’s girl power. Kat, the heroine, is a Sylvia-Plath-reading, butt-kicking lady–who doesn’t so much need to be tamed as understood. Heath Ledger is the scary tough hunk who sets out to woo her for financial gain. . .but ends up falling in love along the way. The romance is sweet. The aforementioned serenade is the highlight, but the paintball scene is adorable too. The supporting cast is filled with memorable faces, including an erotica writing Allison Janney and baby Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

2. She’s the Man: I’ve always loved the cross dressing aspect of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s oh-so-much fun with a heaping dollop of sexual confusion. Like with the play, Twelfth Night, you have to suspend your disbelief here because, no, Amanda Bynes does not look like a high school boy. Once you can get past that, however, the fun begins. To play soccer, Viola takes her brother’s place at an all-boys’ school. She doesn’t intend to fall in love with her teammate, but who can blame her for falling head over heels for a young Channing Tatum? Things, of course, get complicated when Viola (dressed as Sebastian) agrees to help him woo his crush. His crush falls for Viola and a madcap road to romance ensues for all. There are a lot of little things in this movie that make it hilarious (the tampon scenes, awkward and inappropriate hugs, and Eunice), but, of course, it has one major thing going for it: Channing Tatum.

3. Clueless: Emma in Beverly Hills. Sigh. I remember when this movie came out. All the little girls on my street had Cher dolls (expect for me). Clueless was a bit of a cultural phenomena at the time, but I was not to be a part of it until I reached college. The first time I watched this movie, I was unimpressed, but then I watched it again and again and again. I’m basically in love with it now. Who can help but adore Paul Rudd as Mr. Knightley? Also, I’m constantly impressed at how close of an adaptation of Emma it is. The movie is just perfect, and it’s a great filler for in-between all those re-watches of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma.

4. Easy A: You wouldn’t think that The Scarlet Letter would make a good teen movie, but it totally does. Emma Stone plays Olive—a young woman who trades in her spotless reputation for some cash. This film addresses slut-shaming and gossip and hypocrisy. Basically, it’s about a lot of the same things as The Scarlet Letter (only it has the added bonus of having tons of John Hughes references). The ending on the lawn mower is the perfect culmination for this throwback movie with timely themes. I love The Scarlet Letter, but it’s kinda sort of nice that Olive gets a happily-ever-after-for-now ending rather that a hole in the ground.

Perhaps, you might be thinking that She’s All That (an adaptation of Pygmalion) should have been included on my little list. I’m sorry, but I won’t willfully recommend a Freddie Prince Jr. movie. It’s there if you want to watch it, but I refuse to wax semi-eloquently about it. Good day.

You can read more from Melissa Prange on her blog.

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