Five Essential… Misfit Movies

Simon Moore selects his Five Essential Misfit Movies…

So called because they feature (and appeal to) misfits of all ages. Why not ‘Teen Movies’? Reeks a bit of Disneyfication to me. Brings to mind the ruthless, sickeningly effective demographic hunting tactics of High School Musical or the Twilight saga. There’s no place for such non-smutty nonsense here. No cool kids allowed. This list is all about the films that chronicle and champion our geeks and freaks, full of beans and pent-up bluster. You know, the interesting kids.

You may have noticed that John Hughes is taking a back seat on this list. Why? Well, consider that Hughesy could easily populate this list all by himself; it wouldn’t allow for much in the way of variety. In fact, he already has a list to himself, compiled by my colleague Alex Williams elsewhere in the “Essentials…” archives. Look it up. In the meantime, let’s crank the angst up to eleven and let rip on those five essential misfit movies…

5. Juno (2007, dir. Jason Reitman)
Juno Poster
Juno MacGuff is up the duff. That is to say, she has a bun in the oven. In a family way, even. Not knocked up, though. That’s Katherine Heigl, in another film not appearing on this list. Juno (Ellen Page) tackles this situation with surprising courage and a healthy dollop of witty remarks. Seriously, Juno might as well be Humphrey Bogart trapped in a 16 year old girl’s body.

Quite selflessly, she decides not to abort the baby, but to donate it to a couple who really want a child but can’t get one the usual way. This couple happens to be Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman, who round out an exceptional supporting cast including J.K. Simmons as the straight-talking dad, Allison Janey the mighty step-mum and Michael Cera carving out a niche of his own as the clueless boyfriend. Juno is seriously funny, in both senses of both those words. Watch out for pork swords, orange tic-tacs and blue spew.

4. Some Kind of Wonderful (1987, dir. Howard Deutch)
Some Kind of Wonderful poster
John Hughes writes the ultimate love letter to teenage misfits, high school love triangles and Rolling Stones slash fic. Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), a tomboy drummer, is best friends with Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz), an oddball artist/mechanic, who’s just got an unlikely date with the gorgeous Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson), a young lady extensively easy on the eyes. To shamelessly quote from Keith’s sister, “…any fool can get into a college. Only a precious few may say the same about Amanda Jones.”

Watts thought she was happy just being friends, but this sudden and sexy turn of events prompts an earth-shattering revelation – she’s in love with Keith, and the dopey greasemonkey doesn’t even know it. Sparks fly between Keith and Watts, caught in the lost, hesitant mood of two people who thought they knew everything about each other. As an added bonus, count on John Hughes’ impressive musical taste to provide a stunning alternative ’80s soundtrack.

3. Rebel Without A Cause (1955, dir. Nicholas Ray)
Rebel Without A Cause poster
Jim Stark (James Dean) is being torn apart. His parents (domineering and spineless by degrees) squabble and bicker and neglect him. He’s threatened and tormented at his new school, getting into knife fights and high-speed car chases and seeing the inside of a police precinct on a regular basis. Then he meets the other outcasts, Judy (Natalie Wood) and Plato (Sal Mineo), both cast adrift in the brutal high school social scene.

Dean, then 24 years old, doesn’t just let youthful looks and costume department do the work of convincing us he’s a teenager. He slouches. He mumbles. He’s deadly sincere about what he says and does. He plays Stark with laconic intensity – an angry young man lashing out at everything around him. Hanging out with Judy and Plato, he soon finds that he’s become a father figure himself. Looked up to. Admired. Emulated. Can he handle it?

2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010, dir. Edgar Wright)
Scott Pilgrim vs the World poster
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) lives almost entirely in a world of his own. He plays bass guitar in a garage band with his friends. He dates a fangirl high-schooler. Life is pretty much a video game for Scott, with power-ups, experience points and boss fights. When he meets the mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the girl of his dreams, his over-active imagination chooses to deal with her (considerable) emotional baggage by personally fighting and defeating her seven evil exes.

Adapted with great affection and 8-bit finesse from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s original comics, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World sees Edgar Wright at the height of his powers, telling a story of love, loss and that nagging feeling at the back of the mind of young men and women in their early twenties, waiting for their adult lives to press the start button.

1. The Goonies (1985, dir. Richard Donner)
The Goonies poster
The ultimate misfit movie, full fit to bursting with crooks, maps and devilish booby traps. A motley crew of kids find a treasure map that could just save their neighbourhood from being redeveloped into a golf course. They’re inventors, idealists, tall story tellers, braver and smarter and better by far than the crooks and accountants standing in their way. Goonies, after all, never say die.

Donner sees to it that the laughs come quick and clever, hitting you crabwise, charming you and beguiling you with the adventures of Mikey, Brand, Mouth, Chunk, Data, Andy and Stef. As mad as they sound and then some, they talk and swear and fight as only thirteen and fourteen year olds can, or will.

There are a great many things that deserve to be written about The Goonies – Joe Pantoliano’s rogue toupé, the inimitable Sloth, Chunk’s infamous Truffle Shuffle – but that takes up valuable time that’s better spent watching the film, falling hilariously, helplessly in love with it.

Honourable Mentions…

Whip It (2009) – Ellen Page develops a passion for the wild, dangerous world of Texas roller derby. Also, the wild, dangerous world of boys.

Brick (2005) – The hard-boiled detective story comes to the modern high school as loner Joseph Gordon-Levitt investigates the murder of his ex-girlfriend.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008) – Michael Cera and Kat Dennings scour New York for their favourite band’s secret show, trying to discover whether they share something more than musical tastes.

Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your comments on the list…

Simon Moore is a budding screenwriter, passionate about films both current and classic. He has a strong comedy leaning with an inexplicable affection for 80s montages and movies that you can’t quite work out on the first viewing.

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  • Pyronaut

    I’m really glad to see Scott Pilgrim on the list (really under-appreciated), but if any film deserves to beat it, I’m glad it was Goonies.

  • Pyronaut

    I'm really glad to see Scott Pilgrim on the list (really under-appreciated), but if any film deserves to beat it, I'm glad it was Goonies.