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The Teen Movie Bracket: The Sweet 16 Is Loaded

With a slew of iconic movies facing off against one another, we’re about to find out what truly makes a teen movie great

Ringer illustration

Tied to the 20th anniversary of Bring It On, we hereby dub the next five days Teen Movie Week. Dig up your varsity jacket, pull up to your cafeteria table, and re-live your adolescence as we celebrate the best coming-of-age movies ever made.


How should we judge a teen movie? Is the best teen movie the highest-quality movie that just happens to feature teenage characters? Or is the best teen movie the one that most aptly represents the tenets and tropes of the genre? Is a teen movie measured by the caliber of its storytelling, its characters, and its performances—or is a teen movie measured by how well it ticks off a list of expectations?

It’s worth asking these questions, because in the second round of The Ringer’s Teen Movie Bracket the answers to them seemed to change on a case-by-case basis. In the matchup between 10 Things I Hate About You and Back to the Future, the more widely beloved movie prevailed, even though Back to the Future is inarguably less widely recognized as a teen movie. (Whereas on the other hand, 10 Things is one of the most ideal examples of the genre we have.) However, elsewhere, the much more traditional teen movie Easy A defeated Lady Bird, a movie that nearly won Best Picture a couple of years ago. Maybe a majority of people think Easy A is an all-around better movie, but something tells me that if this were the Best Movie Bracket, Lady Bird would be moving on to the Sweet 16. And then there’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the teen-ish movie making a pretty convincing argument that democracy is just a popularity contest.

To be clear, I’m not judging your judging. We stipulated no voting rubric when we unleashed this bracket into the world—how you cast your vote is your business. (Though, to the Harry Potter fans, maybe chill out?) It’s just interesting that heading into the Sweet 16, we’ve got a hodgepodge of Great Movies That Are Good Teen Movies and Good Movies That Are Great Teen Movies, and seemingly no way of knowing which group will prevail. (Just kidding, obviously Harry Potter is going to prevail.)

Here are Wednesday’s matchups. Remember: You can vote here on the website, on Twitter, and on Instagram every day till 6 p.m. ET. Here’s every matchup in the Sweet 16.

High School Drama

(1) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off vs. (4) Fast Times at Ridgemont High

In the closest matchup of the second round, Fast Times took down Varsity Blues with a 53-47 split of the vote. And now the High School Drama region has turned into the ’80s region—a pretty fitting homage to the decade that turned teen movies into a mainstream fad. For the region’s first Sweet 16 matchup, we’ve got Ferris Bueller versus Fast Times, two varied depictions of the high school experience that both yielded iconic teen characters.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    (1) ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’
    (14636 votes)
  • 24%
    (4) ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’
    (4776 votes)
19412 votes total Vote Now

(6) Back to the Future vs. (2) The Breakfast Club

In one corner there’s Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, the man who invented the skateboard and rock ’n’ roll while also surviving the horrific experience of knowing your mom wants to bone you. In the other corner there’s the motley crew of Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, and Anthony Michael Hall. It’s a long week in 1955 versus a long Saturday in detention; Zemeckis vs. Hughes; Huey Lewis vs. Simple Minds.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    (6) ‘Back to the Future’
    (8301 votes)
  • 57%
    (2) ‘The Breakfast Club’
    (11339 votes)
19640 votes total Vote Now

Teens Are Terrifying

(1) Scream vs. (4) Cruel Intentions

Scream is the movie that set off the teen explosion in the late ’90s, while Cruel Intentions is one of the last vestiges of that explosion. Both have their merits—the meta-comedy of Scream; the flawless soundtrack of Cruel Intentions. Both are wonderfully ’90s (one word: sunglasses). And both are teen classics. There is no wrong pick here.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    (1) ‘Scream’
    (10961 votes)
  • 39%
    (4) ‘Cruel Intentions’
    (7286 votes)
18247 votes total Vote Now

(14) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire vs. (2) Heathers

So far Goblet of Fire has claimed Election and Rushmore as victims—two great movies, albeit ones that have never had massive fan bases. Unfortunately for Heathers, I expect it to fall into that same category. It’s going to take something massive to stop this Hogwarts Express. (But I’d love to be proved wrong!)

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    (14) ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’
    (8517 votes)
  • 54%
    (2) ‘Heathers’
    (10270 votes)
18787 votes total Vote Now

Next Stop: Adulthood

(1) Superbad vs. (5) American Pie

If the first two rounds of voting are any indication, Superbad might be the odds-on favorite to win this whole thing. Through two matchups, Superbad has racked up a ridiculous 94 percent of the vote. Its momentum is undeniable. But American Pie—one of the most commercially successful teen movies ever—will be its first legitimate obstacle. I think.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    (1) ‘Superbad’
    (12782 votes)
  • 34%
    (5) ‘American Pie’
    (6663 votes)
19445 votes total Vote Now

(3) Boyz n the Hood vs. (2) Dazed and Confused

Pound for pound, this is perhaps the hardest decision you’ll have to make this round. Good luck!

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    (3) ‘Boyz n the Hood’
    (5216 votes)
  • 71%
    (2) ‘Dazed and Confused’
    (13094 votes)
18310 votes total Vote Now

What’s Your Damage?

(1) Mean Girls vs. (4) Bring It On

Do you choose Lohan or Dunst? Do you choose one of the greatest teen movie villains ever or one of the greatest teen movie opening scenes ever? Do you choose fetch or spirit fingers? Mathletes or cheerleading? It’s a crime that one of these movies has to lose.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    (1) ‘Mean Girls’
    (15382 votes)
  • 18%
    (4) ‘Bring It On’
    (3601 votes)
18983 votes total Vote Now

(6) Easy A vs. (2) Clueless

What a run for Easy A—first a convincing win over The Virgin Suicides, then an upset victory over Lady Bird. In all, this Teen Movie Bracket has been a story of the heavy hitters separating from the pack: All of the 1- and 2-seeds are still alive, and there are only three movies remaining that were seeded sixth or higher (and one of those is a Harry Potter movie). But Easy A has sneaked into that elite group, and it might be time to start taking this movie more seriously.

Alas, I just can’t. Cher Horowitz looms. Clueless is a pretty reasonable pick to win this whole thing. Easy A has an impossible challenge ahead of it. (As always, Jane Austen > Nathaniel Hawthorne.)

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    (6) ‘Easy A’
    (4763 votes)
  • 74%
    (2) ‘Clueless’
    (13971 votes)
18734 votes total Vote Now

Come back Thursday morning to find out which movies made it to the Elite Eight.

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