Great Teenage Movie Soundtracks

It had to be done…

In 1955 it was Blackboard Jungle that kicked off the entire Rock & Roll era, and although the definition of ‘teenage genre movie’ can vary drastically (it could be arguable that ‘The Graduate‘  (Mrs. Robinson) could even fall into this category). Here in this blog, I’m going to focus on four which I feel genuinely reflect the angst, attitude and overall mood of the time in which they are depicted.  I would recommend each almost solely on the soundtrack itself although ironically each is a classic unto itself (IMHO).

I did not include original soundtrack films like Grease, Hair, or Fame, all of which are certainly classics but as original soundtrack teenage-type flicks (might even throw West Side Story in there) they aren’t exactly what I’m going for in the sense that their soundtracks were more like scores, designed specifically for the movie and in many cases theme-esq.

1. American Graffiti (1973) – With Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford (as well as many others, American Graffiti is my 1950’s pick.  Although the movie is actually set in 1962, it is still the height of the Doo Wop/Rockabilly era and the soundtrack is rich with the original tracks of the time like The Stroll, Rock Around The Clock, Book of Love, The Great Pretender, Barbara Ann, Teen Angel and many many more.  The vintage bonus is Wolfman Jack as the radio DJ announcing it all (I miss that guy) not to mention the cars, the drive-in, the hook ups and most of all the tunes that made the late 50’s and early 60’s come alive.

2.  Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982) – I think this one is my personal favorite.  Although mostly unknowns at the time, over the years ‘Fast Times’ cast has evolved making the film a virtual who’s who of super stars.  Based on the book by Cameron Crowe, Fast Times soundtrack probably features the least big hit songs of the four movies I chose here, but it is seething with music culture (Damone scalping Cheap Trick & Blue Oyster Cult tickets) as well as using classic eighties tracks like ‘We Got The Beat’ in the opening sequence and featuring artists like Led Zeppelin and claiming it to be the perfect ‘make-out’ music, and the even more classic scene with Phoebe… ahhhh Phoebe… and The Cars ‘Moving In Stereo.’  I will never be able to listen to that song again without thinking of Phoebe.  Careful though, alot of drug references so you may want to watch this one when the kids are away (as if you haven’t seen it before).

3. Dazed and Confused (1993) – Like American Graffiti,  this is a movie that takes place in one day/night.  This is an awesome soundtrack if you’re a 1970’s fanatic, and it leans more towards the Rock side than Pop or R&B.  Featuring some rarer artists (at least nowadays) like Nazareth, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Foghat, Peter Frampton, Sweet, Edgar Winter (get the idea?) and the list goes on and on.  Again, cars and music and parties and everything teenager, Dazed and Confused is a ‘must see.’  I wouldn’t suggest it for the kiddies though because – like the seventies – it’s littered with drugs and alcohol… definitely a NC 17 or even R rating on this one.  This one makes Fast Times look like a PG rating.

4. Can’t Hardly Wait (1998) – Well, we covered the sixties, seventies and eighties with the last three, so what better way to top it off than with what I consider – both story and soundtrack-wise – to be the ultimate 1990’s teenage one-nighter, parents out of town party movie.   I don’t think as many people watched this movie as did the previous three, but it’s fun from beginning to end with music from the eighties and nineties (some retro Hip-Hop) like Smashmouth, Creed, White Zombie, Third Eye Blind, RUN D.M.C., Tone Loc, Guns N’ Roses, Blink 182  and Sublime.  It also dips as far back as the 70’s with tunes by The James Gang, Nazareth and Barry Manilow.  Worth watching.

So yeah, that’s my top four.  Yes I know there are more, but overall I think these are the best not only musically but as depictions of the teenage condition.  It’s a shame The Breakfast Club had such a lame soundtrack… otherwise it would have easily made the cut.

-Craig Sumsky

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