Gen Z’s Guide to 80s Teenage Romance Movies!

Who doesn’t love a good romance film? The 80s defined what movies for teenagers should be: funny, authentic, and full of love. Let’s take a look at the classics!

The 80s were full of feel-good romance movies with John Hughes giving a voice to teens in his timeless 80s classics. Along with other writers, Hughes’ films created some of the biggest stars that still endure today. Although some of the dialogue and slang are dated, these films will keep you entertained. Some of Gen Z’s favorite television shows and movies feature heartthrobs of the 80s so here are some classic 80s films with familiar faces.

Sixteen Candles (1984)

Has your family ever forgotten your birthday? Sam (Molly Ringwald) has anything but a sweet sixteen. Her parents forget her birthday, and she watches the love of her life, Jake (Michael Schoeffling), leave the school dance with someone else. Sam reveals her secret crush on Jake to Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), the school’s biggest nerd. There is just one problem: Sam’s invisible to Jake, and now Ted knows her secret. Written and directed by John Hughes, this film ends with a heartwarming and sweet romantic gesture. It’s a must-watch.

Molly Ringwald might be a familiar face to Gen Z from her recurring role as Archie’s mother, Mary Andrews, in Riverdale. Her Sixteen Candles co-star, Anthony Michaell Hall, also appeared in Riverdale as Felix Featherhead in season 3, episode 4.

Pretty In Pink (1986)

Who doesn’t enjoy a good love triangle? Andie (Molly Ringwald) is an outcast who hangs out with her quirky friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) and longs to be seen by her crush, Blaine (Andrew McCarthy). She must choose between keeping her friendship with Duckie, despite his feelings for her, or dating Blaine, who finally notices her. Can she do both, or must she decide between her two loves?

Once again, Molly Ringwald stars in another John Hughes movie. Gen Z romance buffs might also recognize her from her role as Mrs. Flynn in The Kissing Booth. For those who are more into sci-fi television, you might remember John Cryer from his role as Lex Luther in Supergirl or from his role as the loveable dad and brother Alan Harper in the long-running series Two and a Half Men.

Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

Isn’t it everyone’s dream to ride off into the sunset on a lawnmower? Ronald (Patrick Dempsey) saves cheerleader Cindy (Amanda Peterson) from her mother’s wrath when he offers to pay $1,000 for a new designer dress, but on one condition: she goes out with him. The classic outcast dating a popular student is a common trope in the 80s. Add fake dating to the plot, and things get even more complicated.

Patrick Dempsey is definitely a familiar face among Gen Z with his 11-season run on Grey’s Anatomy and his role in Disney’s Enchanted and, most recently, Disenchanted.

Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Artsy outcast Keith (Eric Stoltz) gets a date with his dream popular girl (Lea Thompson), but her ex-boyfriend Hardy (Craig Sheffer) has other plans for Keith. Meanwhile, Keith’s tomboy best friend Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) develops feelings for Keith. How will the love triangle pan out? Will Keith survive Hardy’s wrath? The only way to find out is to watch!

Gen Z should know Lea Thompson from her roles as Mrs. Burgees in Sierra Burgess is a Loser. She is also the mother of one of Gen Z’s favorites, Zoe Deutch. Molly Hagan has been in numerous Gen Z television shows, including her recurring role as Patricia Coldero in Jane the Virgin. Craig Sheffer also might look familiar from his role as Keith Scott in One Tree Hill and his recurring role as Richard Nixon in American Horror Story.

Say Anything (1989)

Underachiever Lloyd (John Cusack) pines after straight-A student Diane (Ione Skye), and the feelings are mutual. However, her helicopter father (John Mahoney) disapproves of Llyod and does everything he can to keep them apart. Their romance blossoms during the summer before Diane leaves for college, putting yet another obstacle in the way of their love. It has one of the most iconic scenes where Lloyd holds a boombox overhead while blaring Peter Gabriel’s “You Eyes” to get the girl of his dreams.

Gen Z will know Ione Skye from her role as Mrs. Veal in Arrested Development and her most recent role in episode 8 of Netflix’s Beef.

A Tribute to 80s Rom-Coms: Easy A (2010)

The classic rom-com ends with Olive’s (Emma Stone) monologue about how she wants her life to be like an 80s movie. Woodchuck Tod (Penn Badgley) stands outside Olive’s window with a makeshift boombox overhead blasting Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me.” They ride off into the sunset on a lawn mower, fulfilling her 80s dream. Watch this film and see if you can spot all the 80s references!

Everything old becomes new again, and these classic 80s films will surely warm the hearts of Gen Z.

About the Author

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Jessica McCrorie

Jessica McCrorie is a junior at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, studying screenwriting and broadcast journalism. When she’s not writing for AfterBuzz TV or Heal Squad x Maria Menounos, she enjoys exploring her other creative outlets and interests, including filmmaking, reading romance novels, playing guitar, and listening to Taylor Swift.