Teen movies have been an essential part of a healthy cinematic diet for decades. From Rebel Without a Cause and The Blackboard Jungle in the '50s, to the Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello beach pictures of the '60s, to Grease and American Graffiti in the '70s, to the John Hughes comedies of the '80s, teen movies have always played an important role. They give young audiences a sense that someone understands their generation's particular concerns. They make great date nights, too.
The 1990s produced their fair share of popular teen flicks -- Can't Hardly Wait, American Pie, and Dazed and Confused chief among them. It was a rocky period for movies of this type, though. Those John Hughes works, specifically The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, set the bar so high that a lot of '90s teen movies struggled to capture that same level of insight. As a result, the decade produced at least as many misfires as successes.
With that in mind, we've assembled 25 teen movies from the 1990s that tried, and failed, to tap into what adolescents of the era wanted to see reflected onscreen. There are no obscure titles here, no tiny indie releases that only played in a few theaters. Each of these films was given a nationwide release, bolstered by a substantial advertising campaign. If you were old enough to go to the movies, you were certainly aware of their existence. In every case, they wanted to hit the bullseye with the target demographic, only to come up short.
Here are 25 Forgettable ’90s Teen Movies Only Superfans Remember.
25 Return to the Blue Lagoon
In 1980, The Blue Lagoon made Brooke Shields a star. For some unknown reason, it took eleven years for Hollywood to make a sequel to that box office smash.
Return to the Blue Lagoon has the exact same premise -- two adolescents get stranded on a desert island, where they begin to experience the power of love and engage in certain mature activities. The primary difference is that the lead actress is the pre-Resident Evil Milla Jovovich.
Sporting an unimpressive 0% at Rotten Tomatoes, the movie offers more of the same, but to much lesser effect.
24 Camp Nowhere
In the '90s, Disney had a division called Hollywood Pictures, whose logo was a sphinx. It turned out so many bad movies that a popular joke among rival studios was, "If it's the sphinx, it stinks."
Camp Nowhere is a perfect example of why that joke existed.
Christopher Lloyd stars in this dopey comedy as an irresponsible drama teacher who helps a group of kids start their own summer camp, where the entire concept of "rules" quickly goes out the window. There have been some good camp comedies, but Camp Nowhere has no wit, just a lot of lame slapstick humor -- and a very young Jessica Alba in a small role.
23 The Basketball Diaries
Jim Carroll's memoir The Basketball Diaries is a harrowing tale of how the author, as a high school basketball star, developed a hardcore substance abuse problem that nearly destroyed him.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Carroll in the film adaptation.
Despite giving a performance that largely received critical acclaim, DiCaprio couldn't save the movie from harsh reviews.
A common refrain was that it felt like the picture was inadvertently sensationalizing addiction rather than depicting it realistically. The main character's ultimate redemption was also accused of being unconvincing.
As for audiences, they sensed The Basketball Diaries was a downer and stayed away.
22 Pump Up the Volume
Pump Up the Volume stars Christian Slater as a teenager who uses his pirate radio station to rail against the authority figures in his town and at his high school. Samantha Mathis co-stars as the fellow student who figures out his secret identity.
The movie actually has a worthwhile message about the power of finding your voice, yet that message is buried beneath moments of extreme melodrama. Slater also received criticism for doing what appears to be a full-on Jack Nicholson imitation throughout.
It's safe to say that Pump Up the Volume hasn't aged well.
The idea of creating a pirate radio station is obsolete in this day of social media and podcasting.
21 Toy Soldiers
Toy Soldiers is kind of a ripoff of Red Dawn, which may have been part of the reason why it never made much of an impact. The story takes place at an elite prep school. When criminals overtake the academic establishment, it's up to a gang of feisty students to fight back.
The producers thought the cast of rising young actors, including Sean Astin and Wil Wheaton, would carry it to box office success. Unfortunately, scenes that were supposed to be exciting come off rather silly, as Toy Soldiers fails to convince us that these teens are really capable of foiling hardcore criminal lowlifes.
20 Drive Me Crazy
After achieving tremendous success on television with Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Melissa Joan Hart was eager to prove she had the right stuff to make it on movie screens, as well. Her cinematic debut as a leading lady was Drive Me Crazy.
Hart plays a heartbroken teenager whose dream guy fails to ask her to the prom.
She then enlists offbeat neighbor, played Adrian Grenier, to take her instead. He agrees, in order to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. Sparks unexpectedly fly between them.
Drive Me Crazy doesn't have the most original plot, and it says nothing new about adolescent romance. No wonder it made a speedy in-and-out from cinemas.
19 Cool as Ice
Vanilla Ice was briefly a big deal in the early '90s thanks to his ubiquitous hit song "Ice Ice Baby". He was so big, in fact, that Universal Pictures crafted a movie called Cool as Ice around him.
He plays a motorcycle-riding rapper romancing a girl whose family is in the Witness Protection Program. When corrupt cops track them down, he tries to save her.
Cool as Ice suffered some unexpected bad luck. It takes a while to make a movie, and Vanilla Ice was largely a flash in the pan. By the time the film limped into theaters, his career was already on a downslide.
18 The Faculty
On paper, The Faculty seemed like a can't-miss proposition. Director Robert Rodriguez was hot off El Mariachi and From Dusk Till Dawn, while writer Kevin Williamson was the toast of Hollywood, thanks to his script for Scream.
The film had an impressive cast, including Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, Salma Hayek, and Jordana Brewster.
The issue was the plot, which involves a group of high school students who come to believe their teachers are aliens. The Faculty doesn't capitalize on the full potential of that premise, which led to middling reviews and so-so box office.
17 All I Wanna Do
All I Wanna Do is a good movie with a 67% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Unfortunately, some behind-the-scenes issues have kept it from gaining the attention many people feel it deserves.
The film has had multiple titles and multiple releases.
It was filmed under the name The Hairy Bird, but was minimally released twice in North America in 1997 as Strike! and once again in 2000 as All I Wanna Do.
Inconsistent titling and a bizarre release pattern caused this coming-of-age story that features Kirsten Dunst, Gaby Hoffmann, and Rachael Leigh Cook to fall between the cracks.
16 The Baby-Sitters Club
The Baby-Sitters Club is based on the wildly popular book series by Ann M. Martin. It focuses a group of teen girls who attempt to earn some money by opening up their own daycare camp for children. Along the way, they endure personal dramas, ranging from diabetes to estranged fathers.
Despite the popularity of the novels, the movie couldn't muster up much business. A common criticism was that there were too many characters, meaning that it was difficult to give each of them their full due in 94 minutes.
It's also possible that the fan base was simply too busy reading the books to bother with the film adaptation.
15 Wild America
Wild America was definitely aimed at teen girls.
It starred Devon Sawa, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and Scott Bairstow, all of whom were teen heartthrobs in the '90s.
What a strange film to put them in, though.
Loosely based on the story of wildlife documentarian Marty Stouffer, the film tracks three brothers as they travel across the United States to capture footage of various animals.
Critics found Wild America a little shallow and a little too concerned with catering to the teenybopper crowd. The target audience, meanwhile, seemed uninterested in the period setting and nature photography subject matter.
14 Idle Hands
Idle Hands attempts the tricky feat of mixing horror and comedy. This sort of thing can be done, although it's not easy. By most accounts, the film couldn't pull it off.
Devon Sawa plays a guy whose right hand becomes possessed. It then goes on a rampage, gruesomely eliminating anyone it doesn't like.
Mixing genres requires hitting just the right balance.
Idle Hands never figures out how to do that. You're not always sure whether to laugh or be horrified by way characters meet their ends. Another contributing factor is that the idea of a hand run amok quickly wears out its welcome.
13 Mystery Date
Mystery Date has to rank as one of the most bizarre teen-centered romantic-comedies ever made.
Ethan Hawke plays Tom, a guy who manages to land a date with his dream girl, Geena (Teri Polo). He even gets to drive his brother's fancy sports car in an effort to impress her. After cops pull him over and discover two bodies in the trunk, the young would-be lovers find themselves on the run.
The reason why Mystery Date failed to make a lasting impression is that it can't fully decide whether to be a romance or an action picture. In trying to be both, it ends up being neither of them particularly well.
12 Class Act
The rappers known as Kid 'N Play successfully transitioned from records to movies with their 1990 comedy House Party. It was smart and funny, with a fresh point of view on adolescent desires. On the flip side of the coin, they also made 1992's Class Act, which is neither smart nor funny, and which has nothing of value to say.
The two play high school students -- one a brain, the other a troublemaker -- who are forced to live each other's experiences when their school records get mixed up.
What follows is an uninspired identity-switching comedy, the central joke of which wears thin almost immediately.
Long before he became Pete Campbell on Mad Men, Vincent Kartheiser starred in a virtually unwatchable teen thriller called Masterminds.
A group of criminals, led by Patrick Stewart, hold the students at a fancy private school hostage.
Kartheiser plays Ozzie, a rebellious computer hacker who leads the charge to fight them off.
If you've seen this film, you're in the minority. On its opening weekend in 1997, Masterminds landed in 17th place, just barely beaten out by the tenth weekend of the Julia Roberts romantic comedy My Best Friend's Wedding.
Business was so bad, Masterminds was pulled from theaters almost immediately. The total gross was just $1.8 million.
10 Meet the Deedles
Paul Walker became a star with The Fast and the Furious. Prior to that, he had a starring role in Disney's Meet the Deedles. He and Steve Van Wormer play surfer dudes who -- through a complicated and unlikely series of events -- end up being mistaken for Yellowstone park rangers. In this guise, they do battle with a disgruntled ex-ranger (Dennis Hopper) who plans to harm the national park.
Meet the Deedles opened in March of 1998, and hardly anyone turned out to see it. In fact, a 20th anniversary re-release of Grease came out that same weekend and earned six times what this movie did.
Airborne is a movie that attempted to capitalize on the rollerblading craze. Shane McDermott plays a California kid transplanted to Ohio. He uses his skating skills to woo a pretty girl and foil the high school hockey team, which is comprised of bullies. Seth Green co-stars as his cousin.
Fads generally don't make for good movies, a fact that Airborne makes painfully clear.
While rollerblading might be fun in real life, it's thin subject matter for a 90-minute film. The story's assertion that being a good skater can solve all your problems is also ridiculous.
8 Mannequin Two: On the Move
Mannequin was a surprise box office hit in 1987. Despite the unwillingness of stars Andrew McCarthy and Kim Cattrall to return, a sequel was produced four years later.
Mannequin Two: On the Move ended up a colossal flop. Despite costing just $13 million to make, it only grossed $3.7 million in North America.
The plot is a virtual Xerox copy of the original's. The only difference is that the new mannequin is played by Kristy Swanson, and she's in her frozen state because of a curse placed on her by an evil queen 1,000 years prior. William Ragsdale portrays the window-dresser who wakes her up and falls in love with her.
7 Mad Love
You have to give Mad Love credit for one thing -- it addresses a subject seldom tackled in teen cinema. In this romantic drama, Chris O'Donnell and Drew Barrymore fall hard for one another. Just when you think they're all set up for a "happily ever after," it's revealed that she has serious mental health issues, which he misguidedly believes he can fix.
Although the movie has its defenders, most agree that Mad Love, despite its good intentions, is a bit too melodramatic. It's possible the filmmakers laid it on thick to help teen audiences gain an understanding of mental illness. Then again, the fans might have preferred a more lightweight story with these stars.
6 Disturbing Behavior
Katie Holmes shook off her wholesome "girl next door" image in a big way with 1998's Disturbing Behavior, playing a hard-edged high schooler with tattoos and piercings. She attracts the notice of new kid in town, played by James Marsden. Together, they uncover a conspiracy to turn teenagers into artificially "perfect" citizens.
Disturbing Behavior has developed a cult following over the years, but it was a dud at the time.
The movie had the misfortune to open the exact same weekend as Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. Blockbusters Armageddon and There's Something About Mary were also capturing the lion's share of public interest, leaving edgy Holmes in the dust.
5 The Program
The Program is a look at the pressures of playing college football. James Caan stars as a coach who will do anything to win. Omar Epps and Craig Sheffer are two of his best players.
Tragedy helped seal this movie's fate.
Right after it opened, several young people around the country were injured or perished after imitating a stunt Sheffer's character performs -- one that involves lying down in the middle of the road as cars speed by.
The studio responded by editing the sequence out and sending new prints to theaters. By then, though, The Program was already tarnished.
4 Excess Baggage
Alicia Silverstone was so popular after the release of Clueless that Sony Pictures signed her to a multi-picture development deal. The first of her films, Excess Baggage, was such a turkey that it brought the deal to a screeching halt.
She plays a mischievous teen who fakes her own abduction in an effort to get her distracted father's attention. Benicio Del Toro is a crook who steals the car whose trunk she's pretending to be captive in. Now an inadvertent abductor, he has to figure out what to do with the girl.
Excess Baggage was so unfunny and so contrived that Silverstone got nominated for a Razzie as Worst Actress.
3 Light It Up
Light It Up was supposed to make Usher as big a movie star as he was a music star. Needless to say, that didn't happen. His first effort as a leading man came and went without much fanfare.
The plot spotlights a cop who gets shot and the students who hold him hostage in an effort to get the conditions of their school improved.
You can't deny that Light It Up tries really hard to say something important about the poor condition of inner city schools. However, the heavy-handed tone does it no favors.
Usher's leading man debut earned just under $6 million domestically.
2 My Boyfriend's Back
My Boyfriend's Back tells the story of Johnny. He has a crush on the most beautiful girl in school, Missy. In an effort to impress her, he arranges for the store where she works to be robbed so he can rush in and "save" her.
The plan doesn't go well, with Johnny being fatally wounded. That doesn't stop his love for Missy. He somehow rises from the grave to take her to the prom, which she promised as he was drawing his last breath.
My Boyfriend's Back was roundly ignored by the public.
It earned a dismal $3 million at the box office. It might have fared better today, given the current popularity of zombie tales.
1 Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael
Winona Ryder starred in two very acclaimed '80s teen movies -- Lucas and Heathers. The '90s weren't as kind to her in regard to the genre, as Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael proves.
She plays the improbably named Dinky Bossetti, an Ohio girl who believes a famous Hollywood actress hailing from her small town might be her mother. Dinky plans to get some answers when it's announced that the actress will be returning to the area.
Although Ryder received good notices for her performance, not much else about Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael worked for critics or audiences. It disappeared from theaters after two weeks.
How many of these '90s teen movies do you remember? Tell us in the comments.