14. All I Wanna Do (1998, Sarah Kernochan)
All I Wanna Do (also known as Strike! And The Hairy Bird) tells the history of the D.A.R (Daughters of American Ravioli), a fictional group of students at an all-girl boarding school, that organize a strike against the possible merging with the boys academy. An allegiance to being women and to the strong politics they believe in, six girls form a secret club where they are able to discuss their ambitions and opinions towards various subjects.
When Odette transfers to the school and meets the spunky, intelligent Verena and the promiscuous and rebellious Tinka, who welcome her into the group. There she meets uptight and rigid Abby, Tweety who suffers from bulimia but dreams to be a child psychologist when she is older, and Momo who is pegged as a science nerd.
After getting wind that there is a potential to merge the boys academy with their school and create a co-ed environment, the girls discuss the issue and eventually divide when they don’t all agree that it is a terrible idea. The girls who agree it is wrong plot against the boys and set up a situation where they end up having a bad reputation for “drinking” at their annual dance. The girls who were for it eventually change their minds when members from the boy’s academy torment them, and together the D.A.R work to overthrow the patriarchy.
The friendships between the girls, stems from feminist ideals and politics, and although they are all significantly different and have a stark difference in goals, they believe in change and the effort that is required to make that happen. The film focuses on the beauty and power of female union, and the elements of developing that solidified bond.
15. Heathers (1989, Michael Lehmann)
Heathers is an interesting film in its own right, but especially when talking about female friendship. A dark, comedic film, Heathers finds the humor in typical high school behaviors and relationality of parts between teenagers, but captures the disturbing truth of it all. Like most films that take place inside a high school, the focus is on the power structures within the different cliques.
The top clique of the school is known as the Heathers, which consists of a group of three girls named Heather and one recently added member named Veronica. Heather Chandler is the leader and most popular girl in school, Heather McNamara is a cheerleader but isn’t the smartest of the group and can find herself acting weak willed, Heather Duke is the brains of the three but is extremely insecure and suffers from bulimia, and the newest member Veronica Sawyer is a dark spirited, intelligent, sympathetic girl who becomes popular by association.
The girls are friends but very abusive and negligent to one another beyond being in the same group together. The cruelty is never warranted but always accepted, giving Heather Chandler full reign to continue being a nightmare to everyone in school. These dynamics are exemplified in multiple films that deal with high school or teenage friendships, because fear and insecurity are always the main factors, but it in this film that the harsh reality of how terrible these power structures are put on display.
When Veronica meets J.D. they hit it off and start plotting against the popular kids one by one. J.D. is a rebel and troubled teen who dresses to match his bad boy attitude. He latches onto Veronica’s innate darkness and the two begin a relationship together.
The angst, dysfunction, small town issues, and the importance of trends in high school is exaggerated through the clever dialogue and ridiculous acts that occur within the film, but it is very true to the spirit of high school in any generation. There will always be bullies, rebels, popular groups, jocks, and the misfits, but what this film does is lay out a minor platform of hope that just as those groups can rise to the top, they can quickly fall and someday they will.
16. Ghost World (2001, Terry Zwigoff)
After graduation Enid and Rebecca set out to take control of their lives and leave the world of high school behind them, but when Enid’s diploma is held back due to failing an art class, the pace slows down a bit. Enid is an angsty artist who is socially awkward but quick witted and honest. Rebecca, her best friend, is beautiful and a little more popular with the boys, but she also is more responsible in her decision making and opinions.
Taking place the summer after graduation, the girls come across a personal ad from a guy named Seymour who is looking for a woman he met once. Amused by how pathetic Seymour appears, they decided to arrange a meeting with him as a prank. After a calculated encounter with Seymour to purchase a record from him, Enid begins feeling sympathy towards him and eventually developing a friendship with him.
As she becomes more involved with Seymour, her friendship with Rebecca starts to fall apart and become distant, because Rebecca is making moves to improve her situation and grow up. Rebecca finds a job and an apartment that the two friends can ideally room together in, but when she pressures Enid to take a job at the local movie theater and she is fired after one shift, she quickly changes her mind and the two pull away from each other.
The humor in Ghost World keeps the audience distracted from the sadness of a friendship growing apart and ultimately ending. It’s a tale often told and executed in different ways, but the development of one character versus the other helps create the distance between the two friends that mirrors the real world separation they are experiencing within the film.
Their dynamic is cracked by subtle moments of negligence and deceit, but reflecting on their previous status as friends, they were always supportive, loyal, and attentive to each other, like best friends should.
17. The Sweetest Thing (2002, Roger Kumble)
This film is set as a romantic comedy, but the true love story involves three best friends in their late-20s to early-30s who are also roommates in San Francisco. Christina is a successful designer and a notorious player in the male community, Courtney is the divorce lawyer who takes on the role as the initiator and protector of the other two, and then there is Jane is more reserved and emotional compared to the others.
From the start of the film they are seen comforting and consoling Jane after a recent break up, and immediately drop their original plans to make sure Jane has a good night. Adventures continue as Christina and Courtney set out to find the guy that Christina bumped into at the club. One after another there are obstacles and tests thrown their way, but no matter what, they still have fun and still stick together.
There is a very particular differential from The Sweetest Thing and other friendship films/romantic comedies; the things that occur in the film would normally split up a group of friends, but it actually brings them together. Sex, new relationships, and careers are no match for the triple threat of friends.
18. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013, Abdellatiff Kechiche)
Another film that centers around the critical time of being in high school, Blue is the Warmest Color follows Adele who is introduced as a teenager who is visibly confused about her sexuality as she experiments with a male classmate and is unsatisfied, has a vivid sex dream with a strange woman as the subject, and an odd interaction with a female friend who ends up kisses her and showing minimal interest.
A bit of an introvert, Adele surrounds herself with a group of girls who are constantly nagging her about her personal life and the details involving it. The only source of understanding and acceptance that doesn’t feel manufactured or by association is through her friend Valentin, who is an openly gay male student. After Adele goes out to the gay bars with Valentin, she runs into the mysterious woman in her dreams and sparks up a conversation with the woman.
Emma, an older college level student picks up on the obvious attraction and keeps the conversation going and digs deeper to find more out about Adele. The two eventually start hanging out more and developing a deep attachment to one another. Adele’s high school friends harass her about Emma and torment her with public humiliation about being a lesbian, leading Adele to be kicked out of the group.
The blossoming friendship between Adele and Emma grows with intensity and results in a highly sexual and romantic relationship. Transitioning from friends to lovers, the two still maintain the foundation characteristics of their friendship. They love unconditionally, intrigue each other, inspire one another, learn from each other, and always remain passionate.
The basis of friends first drives the narrative through multiple years in their relationship including breakups, reunions, disappointments, etc. That dynamic is what propels the beautiful story of Blue is the Warmest Color and is what keeps their pure, genuine love alive regardless of the situation or status of their relationship.
19. Mean Girls (2004, Mark Waters)
A significantly more mild version of Heathers, Mean Girls focuses on the cruelty between girls in high school. Rumor spreading, clique wars, rejection, and plenty of other terrible things are all the daily activities of most teenage girls, but especially the head group known as the Plastics.
The writers of a malicious “Burn Book”, the Plastics rule the school by instilling fear into the other girls. The superiority complex invested in the three girls, Regina, Gretchen, and Karen immediately distances the rest of the female body of students, including some faculty.
Their dynamic is clear cut: Regina is the leader, whereas Gretchen and Karen are her faithful followers. When the group invites new student Cady into their group, a shift in power occurs creating an immense amount of tension. As Cady aligns herself with the outcasts and plots to overthrow Regina as a revenge ploy, the relationships within the Plastics start to become strained and messy.
This change in behavior and reception of Regina s over into the school’s dynamic which creates even more anxiety in Regina. What Mean Girls captures that most high school films fall short of is the various perspectives of individuals from the different tiers of popularity. Rather than brush over the lower level girls, the film gives them an opportunity to speak about their position and the pain they’ve endured from the cruelty.
It also shows that the power and the meanness doesn’t just sit at the top, because the other girls in the school are just as guilty in the jealousy, deceit, bitchiness, and participation in treating each other poorly. Female friendship is complicated and hard to understand, especially in teenage girls, but Mean Girls uses clever writing, great acting, and real problems to reveal to audience members the truth of it all.
20. The Hot Chick (2002, Tom Brady)
Think Freaky Friday but raunchier and totally out of the blue involving two strangers and you’ve got the Hot Chick. The reason this film is great to analyze female friendship is the dynamic between Jessica and her three close friends, especially when it becomes apparent that she needs them. A cheesy comedy with stock Rob Schneider comedy, The Hot Chick actually provides a great understanding of teenage friendships between girls and the importance of respecting one another in that core group.
Jessica’s character is your stereotypical mean girl who seemingly has it all, and with that persona she is the head of her cheerleading squad and the leader of her pack of four friends. Her three friends April, Keecia, and Lulu are her shopping buddies, party pals, and stepping stones to making it further on top.
April considers Jessica her best friend and the history they have together spans over approximately a decade. However, no matter how devoted to their friend the girls are, they still have some animosity towards her since she usually neglects their feelings.
When Jessica has a freak switch of bodies with a criminal named Clive, she is put into a position that requires all the support she can get from her friends. After convincing the girls that she’s really Jessica, they work to find out how this could happen, in the true friend fashion. Recruiting help from two girls Jessica tormented when she was in her natural form, Jessica starts to value everyone around her and develop a sense of how terrible she was towards people.
It strengthens her relationship with all of the girls, her boyfriend, and her family when she returns back to her body and has a revelation that she needs to become a better person. The friendships become mutually supportive, considerate, and ideal after the events of the movie, which still follows the linear narrative of most high school films where the mean girl/guy has some catastrophic event happen to them and through the help of their friends, they become a better person.
Author Bio: Michelle is a passionate cinephile who enjoys films with strong narratives and a great soundtrack. Films that involve complex relationships, infinite sadness, and raw truths are the best in her book. She is always talking about cinema and living for the magic of movies.