The Last American Virgin 1980

Back to School

10 Underrated ’80s Teen Movies You Need to See

Go back to high school with The Breakfast Club, Footloose and more during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Cannon Film/ Everett Collection.

The 1980s saw the rise of cable television and the fall of the Soviet Union, but you can make a case that it’s also the decade where the teen movie really came into its own. Whether you were once a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess or a criminal, we can all relate to ’80s teen movies. But as much as we love John Hughes, there were some great teen movies from the Atari decade that had huge laughs and a few life lessons that didn’t come from the mind of the great and soulful teen whisperer. Before you flashback with IFC’s ’80s Weekend, check out these 10 underrated teen movies that deserve to be seen.

10. The Last American Virgin

The success of the hilariously raunchy Porky’s jump-started the R-Rated teen comedy genre, and no movie captures the way-too-harsh reality of being a sex-crazed and hormone filled teen like 1982’s The Last American Virgin.

Starring Diane Franklin of Better Off Dead and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure fame, The Last American Virgin has a gritty look and a cast of young actors who could’ve come straight from a Devo concert or roller rink. This movie is the greatest PSA for teen abstinence ever made as our hero Gary (Lawrence Monoson) and his pals go through some raw and un-sexy attempts to lose their virginity, including an awkward encounter with a prostitute that would never be confused for Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

The Last American Virgin is mostly remembered today for having the saddest ending ever for a teen comedy that also has Oingo Boingo on the soundtrack. It’s right up there with the ending to Old Yeller, except it’s Gary’s heart that gets shot to pieces by his jerk friend Rick (Steve Antin) and the girl he thought he loved.


9. Hiding Out

The 1987 high school comedy Hiding Out gave Jon Cryer the chance to play an adult after immortalizing himself in teen moviedom as Duckie in Pretty in Pink. Except here he plays a twenty-something stock broker forced to pose as a teenager in order to hide out from the Mob. It helps that when he shaves off his beard, he’s got a baby face and convinces his nephew Patrick (an even more baby faced Keith Coogan) to hide the fact that he’s living in the upstairs bedroom from his aunt.

Cryer’s Andrew Morenski becomes the impulsively named “Maxwell Hauser” and proceeds to have a much more popular high school experience the second time around. He develops a kinship with the adorably sweet Ryan (Mystic Pizza‘s Annabeth Gish) and ends up running for Class President, which isn’t the best way to keep a low profile. Cryer and Gish have a sweet chemistry together and Coogan’s Andrew has some funny moments trying to fit in with the cool guys at school.

If you’re looking for an ’80s blast complete with a roller rink date and a soundtrack that includes everything from the Johnny Rotten band Public Image Ltd. to Pretty Poison’s pop gem “Catch Me (I’m Falling),” then you’d be wise to spend a night in with Hiding Out.


8. Little Darlings

Featuring ’70s child stars Kristy McNichol and Tatum O’Neal as rival 15-year-olds coming of age at summer camp, 1980’s Little Darlings is like a feature length “After school special” that’ll leave you feeling as good as its soft rock soundtrack. McNichol is Angel (don’t let the name fool you), the rough-around-the edges tomboy who’s new to the camp. O’Neal plays Ferris Whitney, the girl seemingly born with a silver spoon in her mouth. All the girls in their bunk are likeable and funny and the story revolves around a bet Angel and Ferris make to see who loses their virginity first.(No easy feat at an all-girls camp.)

Little Darlings is the movie that every parent should have their teenage daughter watch, as the emotions Angel and Ferris go through are far more raw and real than the ones depicted in glossy modern teen dramas. Retro cameo alert: In addition to Matt Dillon in an early heartthrob role, look for a very young (and very blonde) Cynthia Nixon as one of the girls in the bunk who are all not quite ready for adulthood.


7. My Bodyguard

Before Matt Dillon solidified his teen idol status as the cool, unstable brother figure greaser in The Outsiders, he terrorized Chris Makepeace as a bully in My Bodyguard. Makepeace, who you may remember as the homesick camper in Meatballs, could’ve used Bill Murray in this film as he plays a kid whose dad (Martin Mull) becomes a manager at a Chicago hotel, forcing young Clifford Peache to become the new kid at school.

With a name like Clifford Peache, it’s no wonder he becomes a target for Matt Dillon’s Moody who likes to shake down the smaller kids for lunch money. Basically the Mafia boss of the school, Moody offers Clifford protection from another teen named Linderman (Adam Baldwin), who rumor has it killed his own brother. In a fun twist, Clifford befriends Linderman and tries to get him to be his bodyguard against Moody.

Baldwin (no relation to Alec) is great in his film debut as the titular bodyguard, and the casting of Ruth Gordon (Harold and Maude) as Clifford’s cantankerous grandma helps give My Bodyguard its quirky hidden gem status. (Keep an eye out for a young Joan Cusack as the geeky Shelley.)


6. River’s Edge

In the dark 1986 drama River’s Edge, the kids live in a stoned haze and run wild while the parents all seem to be more messed up than they are. The story revolves around how a group of teens react when one of their friends, Samson (Daniel Roebuck, delivering a truly creepy performance), kills a young woman for no apparent reason. Matt (Keanu Reeves) and Clarissa (Ione Skye) try to come to terms with what their friend has done while Layne (Crispin Glover, bringing a Nic Cage level of over-the-top intensity) tries to cover up the murder.

You know a movie is dark when it has Dennis Hopper playing a crazed Vietnam Vet who’s a little too attached to a blow up doll and he’s not even the creepiest character. That award belongs to Matt’s little brother Tim (Joshua John Miller), who gives one of the all-time creepiest/funniest child actor performances as a punk kid who doesn’t just fall in with the wrong crowd but is the wrong crowd. Tim’s crazy eyes, along with everything Crispin Glover does, helps make River’s Edge a cult classic.


5. Vision Quest

Forget the Rocky movies — if you were a teenage boy in the ’80s, Vision Quest was the movie that had you doing push-ups in your living room. When Louden Swain (Matthew Modine) decides to drop over 20 pounds to wrestle an immovable object/cyborg of a state champion rival, he takes on the biggest challenge of his life and slowly wins the trust of his teammates and coach.

Featuring Linda Fiorentino as the older woman that Louden falls for, Vision Quest is a movie about how what you can accomplish in six minutes can change your life. It’s also a pure shot of ’80s awesomeness with Michael Shoeffling, aka Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles, sporting a Mohawk and The Material Girl herself performing “Crazy for You” at a club.


4. Heaven Help Us

Welcome to St. Basil’s, a Catholic school where they preach discipline and patience — except patience is a paddle wielded by Brother Constance (Jay Patterson), a sadistic priest dedicated to instilling his will and spoiling any fun had at the all-boys school. In 1965 Brooklyn, Michael Dunn (Andrew McCarthy) quickly learns that it’s not so much fun being the newbie at a strict Catholic school, until he reluctantly becomes friends with Kevin Dillon’s wise-cracking Rooney.

The gang — which includes Caesar (Malcome Danare), a know-it-all nerd who carries a laminated note to get him out of any gym related activities — end up breaking the rules and engaging in teenage shenanigans in their quest to meet girls. McCarthy’s Dunn is the heart of the movie as he recently lost his parents and meets Danni (Mary Stuart Masterson), a girl who runs the local soda shop and cares for her depressed father.

Masterson exudes approachable cool, and shares some sweet moments with McCarthy. Look for The Princess Bride‘s Wallace Shawn as a priest who gives a lecture on the evils of “lussst.”


3. The Legend of Billie Jean

Teenage boys in the ’80s may have had Heather Locklear’s poster on their wall, but they dreamed of Helen Slater as Billie Jean. Slater stars as a Texas girl who lives in a trailer park with her mother and her brother Binx (played by a young Christian Slater) and dreams of living in Vermont. When spoiled and cocky Hubie (Barry Tubb) hits on Billie Jean and steals Binx’s scooter, it sets off a chain of events that leads to Billie Jean, Binx and their friends becoming fugitives.

Billie Jean lives up to her outlaw name as she becomes famous and helps people she meets while on the run. At one point, Billie Jean cuts her hair to look like Joan of Arc and also conveniently looks a lot like a blonde Pat Benatar, whose song “Invincible” is played throughout the film. Billie memorably says the line “Fair is Fair,” but it’s not fair that The Legend of Billie Jean isn’t legendary in its own right.


2. The Hollywood Knights

The Hollywood Knights might’ve been riding on the ’60s revival coattails that American Graffiti, but the George Lucas classic didn’t have a scene where prankster Newbomb Turk (Robert Wuhl) farts “Volare” into a microphone at a school dance. This classic scene of teenage shenanigans is just one of numerous Animal House-style moments that have lived on in the memories of anyone who stayed up to watch The Hollywood Knights on late night cable in the ’80s.

Newbomb is the goofball of The Knights, a car gang with a longstanding tradition of annoying the stuffy Beverly Hills Resident’s Association. The gang of teenage misfits causes havoc for the snobs who shut down the Knights’ hangout, Tubby’s Drive-In. It doesn’t get more ’80s than a film where a young Michelle Pfeiffer makes out with Tony Danza and Fran “The Nanny” Drescher turns up as a young fan of Newbomb’s antics.


1. The Flamingo Kid

Directed by the late, great comedy master Gary Marshall, The Flamingo Kid is one of the most likeable and underrated films of the ’80s. Matt Dillon breaks out of the tough teen mold as Jeffrey Willis, a kid who just graduated high school in 1960s Brooklyn and gets a job working at a posh Long Island Beach club that his upper middle class friends belong to.

A classic fish out of water (or fish out of Brooklyn) story ensues when wide-eyed Jeffrey meets a flashy car salesman (Richard Creena) who shows him a life his working class father doesn’t understand. Jeffrey’s not just another kid from Brooklyn — he also happens to be a world-class gin rummy player, and when he gets a chance at joining the big game, he makes the right choice at the table and in life. Give this one a shot and you’ll be rooting for “The Flamingo Kid” to say “Sweet Ginger Brown.”

Catch The Breakfast Club, Footloose and Fast Times at Ridgemont High during IFC’s ’80s Weekend! For more classic films you need to see, check out our list of underrated ’80s comedies

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Rocky IV Paulie Robot

Mr. Roboto

5 Reasons Rocky IV Is Too Rotten to Miss

Catch Rocky IV Friday at 8P during IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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Photo Credit: MGM/UA/YouTube

When Rocky IV was released in 1985, the critics were not kind. (While it wasn’t around back then, the film’s 39% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes speaks for itself.) Less of a movie than a jingoistic music video starring a robot and a steroid-addled, monosyllabic Russian baddie, Rocky IV is a far cry from the Italian Stallion’s humble origins.

Still, more than any movie ever made, it exemplifies the whole “so bad its good” genre. This movie was made for us, the great-unwashed masses of the 1980s, who loved the band Survivor and hated those Commie bastards. Before you catch Rocky IV on IFC’s Rotten Fridays, let’s take a look at some moments that make this flick a “too rotten to miss” classic.

5. That Opening Shot

Rocky IV
United Artists

It takes all of 30 seconds for the audience to know they’re in for one ridiculous rollercoaster ride through a Cold War conniption fit of good vs. evil. Gone is the subtle tone and grounded reality of the first Rocky. In its place we see two gloves, one emblazoned with the American flag, the other with the Soviets’, hurtling toward each other. When they collide, sparks fly, and we witness an explosion decades in the making.

In case the symbolism is too subtle for you, director/writer/star Sylvester Stallone is trying to hint that this movie will be the clash of civilizations we’d all been waiting for, but instead of nuclear bombs, a humble palooka from the streets would be duking it out in the ring with the ultimate representation of coldhearted Communism. If it were up to us, this opening shot would’ve won Best Picture all by itself.


4. So Many Montages

Rocky IV has a running time of 91 minutes and 20 seconds. Its eight montages (yes, EIGHT) run a total of 29 minutes and 10 seconds. That is one third of the movie solely dedicated to montages. (Considering Stallone’s contempt for all things Soviet, we have to wonder if he knows it was a dirty Ruskie who invented the montage.)

During one of the many, many montages, director Stallone actually flashes back to a scene that had happened a minute and half prior, creating the impression that he might actually flashback to the montage we were just watching in the same montage. Stallone clearly loves a good montage set to an inspirational ’80s song, and so do we. Which brings us to…


3. A Soundtrack Full of Pumped Up ’80s Jams

Speaking of montages, they are set to the score of some of the cheesiest hits from the mid-’80s. For once, we’re spared tracks from Frank Stallone, with Stallone replacing his rocker brother with synth-y singles from Survivor, John Cafferty and Kenny Loggins. And of course, Robert Tepper, possessor of an ’80s mullet that could topple empires, crooning “No Easy Way Out.” The music in this movie is one step away from being a parody of the music in this movie. If you ever want to know what cocaine can do to the human mind, just listen to this soundtrack.


2. Rocky Ends the Cold War

Rocky IV speech
United Artists

In one of the most misguided, self-congratulatory, and immediately dated moments in cinema history, good ol’ galoot Rocky Balboa single-handedly ended the Cold War four years before the Berlin Wall came down.

To quote the Italian Stallion himself: “In here…there were two guys… killing each other. But I guess that’s better than millions. What I’m trying to say is… if I can change… and you can change…everybody can change!” And just like that the Soviet public, generals and even the Premier himself rose to their feet in applause, realizing what fools they’d been. This guy beat Mr. T for Heaven’s sake. He knows what he’s talking about!


1. Paulie’s Robot

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath and really consider this for a moment. Rocky IV has a robot butler in it. A movie franchise that began back in 1976 exploring the gritty reality of a bum fighter trying to prove himself somehow limped along long enough to turn into a weak Short Circuit rip-off in which an alcoholic mooch with a history of domestic abuse now gets his coffee served to him by a robot. A robot that he has programmed with a “sultry” lady voice!

Stallone was inspired to include the real life robot Sico in Rocky IV because of the work it did to help autistic children like his son Seargeoh. That’s all very moving, but doesn’t explain why he decided to write a scene where Paulie dubs poor Sico “the love of my life.” It’s a testament to Rocky IV‘s “too rotten to miss” status that Paulie’s robot girlfriend/personal servant isn’t even the craziest thing that happens to Rock and the gang.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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Swimming To Cambodia Spalding Gray

Gray's Anatomy

Everything You Need to Know About the Movie That Inspired “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”

Brand new Documentary Now! airs Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom Pictures

This week Documentary Now! spotlights a master monologist with “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything.” Before you tune in at 10P this Wednesday on IFC, check out our guide to Swimming to Cambodia, the 1987 film that captured writer/performer Spalding Gray’s acclaimed one-person show.

Spalding Gray 101

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures

Actor and renowned monologist Spalding Gray spent two years on stage perfecting his Obie Award-winning “Swimming to Cambodia” monologue. In it, Gray tells the story of his eight weeks in Southeast Asia while shooting the 1984 Academy Award-winning movie The Killing Fields. He had a small role, but the experience gave him several anecdotes about hanging out with the film crew and experiencing the local culture, all while searching for “the perfect moment.”

Directed by the Silence of the Lambs Guy

Hannibal Lecter
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Demme took Gray’s two-night, four hour performance and crafted it down to 85 minutes. His use of dramatic lighting, stylish camerawork and a score by performance artist Laurie Anderson was praised by critics and earned the film a cult following. No stranger to groundbreaking docs, Demme also directed the 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, which Documentary Now! pays tribute to in this season’s episode “Final Transmission.”

All about the Voices

While it may have been a one-man show, Gray created a repertoire of characters all with distinctive accents. (He portrayed conversations between himself and others just by turning his head.) Our favorite impressions are of his demanding girlfriend Renee and Ivan Strasberg, the South African director of photography on The Killing Fields who, as depicted by Gray, sounds a bit like a Jamaican surfer.

The Original Cranky New Yorker

In one memorable scene, Gray rants about how his noisy upstairs artist neighbors are driving him and Renee crazy. Even in the mid-’80s, there were New Yorkers complaining that the city wasn’t what it used to be.

Show and Tell

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures/YouTube

A big fan of visual aids, Gray used pull-down maps to illustrate his travels. This helped to bring Swimming to Cambodia to life, since he’s basically sitting at a desk the entire time.

Inspired One-Person Shows

Gray’s groundbreaking performances in Swimming and other documentaries like Monster in a Box and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Gray’s Anatomy (about Gray’s struggle with a rare eye condition) paved the way for future one-person shows. (We wouldn’t have everything from Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” to Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me” without him.) Even Doc Now! star Fred Armisen got into the one-person show act for his recent SNL monologue.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Spalding Gray when “Parker Gail: Location Is Everything” premieres Wednesday, September 28th at 10P on IFC. 

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Rocky IV Stallone Lundgren

Burning Heart

10 Reasons Why Rocky IV Is the Ultimate Rocky Movie

Catch an all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC.

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Photo Credit: United Artists/Everett Collection

Sure, most people love the first Rocky for its heart, gripping boxing scenes and the classic training montage. Or, you might love Creed for being both a return-to-form and a new exploration of the Rocky mythology. Maybe the thrill of seeing Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the same movie makes Rocky III your top pick. Well, sorry, you’re wrong: Rocky IV is the greatest of all the “Italian Stallion”‘s movies.

Before you watch the all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC (with Rocky IV airing at 8P as part of Rotten Fridays), check out a few reasons to appreciate the fourth installment as the king of the series.

1. The Greatest Opening Ever

How many openings are able to sum up the entire conflict of the film in less than a minute and without a single line of dialogue? And how many of those movies have exploding boxing gloves? Just try to watch the opening sequence above and not be completely psyched for the pumped-up flick to come.


2. Montages!

We all know that the best part of any sports movie is the montage, and Rocky IV doesn’t give you one measly montage. There’s a recap of the previous films montage, a getting to Russia Montage, two training montages and an ending fight montage. That’s five montages! There’s probably a montage of montages snuck in there, too.


3. There’s a Full James Brown Musical Number

This movie is so packed with memorable moments, it’s easy to forget one of the first things that happens in the film: Apollo comes out to fight Drago dressed as a shirtless Uncle Sam, while James Brown and a full band play “Living in America.” To drive home the number’s patriotism, there are dancers in tuxedos and top hats, weird unitards and bowler caps, and bedazzled showgirls with headpieces for miles. Oh, and don’t forget the giant tentacled dragon statue on the stage. This is how every boxing match should start. Heck, this is how we always want to enter a room.


4. The Soundtrack

The Rocky IV soundtrack doesn’t just feature James Brown — it has rock anthems galore, all of which make you immediately want to hit the gym. From “Heart’s on Fire” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to “Sweetest Victory” by Touch to multiple Survivor jams, you’ll get pumped and stay pumped. Even the instrumental score rocks! Sure, sometimes it sounds like it was made on a kids Casio, but this soundtrack never quits and — to quote Robert Tepper — never takes the easy way out.


5. Abs!

Rocky IV weights

Every Rocky movie shows off Stallone’s incredible physique, but Rocky IV really ups the game. Not only do we get Dolph Lundgren mostly shirtless looking like a man machine, but we get a wide variety of scenes of Stallone doing impossible tasks. Stallone’s crazy dragon fly crunches, aka a thing no human should be able to do, automatically take this movie to the top.


6. Two words: Ivan Drago

Ivan Drago
United Artists

Not only does Rocky IV explore the global conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, but it encapsulates all of our fears of the Cold War in one perfect villain. Ivan Drago only trains with machines and science and looks like he stepped out of an Aryan Nations recruitment poster. He also only responds in short, cold phrases like “If he dies, he dies,” or “I must break you.” There’s never been a villain who we so clearly want to get the crap beat out of than Ivan Drago.


7. Rocky Makes Chores Look Badass

Rocky saw
United Artists

Rocky doesn’t need to be hooked up to machines to become the perfect fighter. All he needs are huge tires and some outdoor chores to do. No one’s ever looked cooler chopping wood and using tractor parts. Half of his training is lifting an old wagon, probably to fix a broken axle. If anything, this film inspires us to take care of that gardening work we’ve been neglecting.


8. Rocky’s Beard

Rocky IV Beard

Stallone’s beard game is truly on point in Rocky IV. And this isn’t some “I forgot to shave, here’s a little stubble” look. No, we get full out, lumberjack-style beard action. Does any other Rocky movie have our hero looking like an old Russian aristocrat? Another point for Rocky IV.


9. There’s a robot!

Again, there’s so much to Rocky IV, you probably forgot about the robot. Well, Rocky has some money now and he’s not going to spend it on frivolous things for himself. He’s going to buy Paulie a robot! The best part of this scene is how truly disturbed Paulie is by this new technology until he gives it a sexy lady voice.


10. Rocky Ends the Cold War

If you’re still not convinced that Rocky IV is the greatest, answer this question: Does any other Rocky movie bring peace between the US and Russia?

By the end of the film, Rocky rises up to beat the seemingly undefeatable Drago. He fights so well, that even the Russians begin to appreciate his skills. Then, instead of using his victory to prove America’s superiority, he gives a rousing speech of “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change!” The whole crowd goes wild, including all of the Russian government, who we assume give up Communism immediately based solely on Rocky’s words. Stallone’s call for international reconciliation through brutal fighting and a variety of montages makes this if not one of the greatest films of all time, certainly the greatest Rocky of them all.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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