This weekend, as you search for a movie to watch, you can either go out to the theater or stay home and pick one of approximately 14 billion options available on streaming over a variety of services, be it Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, On Demand, or other sites. Every Friday, Vulture tries to make life easier by narrowing it down to a handful of heartily recommended options. This week, inspired by Vulture’s 100 Pop-Culture Things That Make You a Millennial, we’re recommending more movies that helped define the generation, including a mind-bending indie, a teen-comedy classic, a whimsical foreign flick, and a movie that should have belonged to the Gen-X crowd.
Millennials dream big. It might provoke other generations into penning mile-long takedowns once a month, but it can’t be helped — they’re a generation with the whole world available at their fingertips, and they want it now.
You feel that rush of possibility watching Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s romantic drama Amélie. The director transforms Paris into even more of a dreamlike fantasy world than it already is with glowing amber cinematography and a classic cinema feel. (Millennials love them some vintage anything.) Besides functioning as “Baby’s First Foreign Film,” Amélie fanned the flames of individuality. Audrey Tautou’s titular character is an eccentric, compassionate, curious person. Amélie is basically a Manic Pixie Dream Girl without a soul-searching man to trivialize her. She explores, she imagines, she recognizes her flaws, she falls in love, and she blossoms. She gives hope to people who want to dream big. (Watch it on Hulu and Amazon Prime)
Wet Hot American Summer
Wet Hot made a paltry $295,000 when it arrived in theaters in 2001. It’s currently settled in at a 31 percent rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes. And yet it’s beloved by many a millennial, discovered later through endless repeats on Comedy Central. The real target of David Wain and Michael Showalter’s camp spoof may not have clicked with the audience that later embraced it — although Meatballs was on heavy Comedy Central rotation around that time, too — but its alternative comedy style eventually thrived in its natural setting: the Internet. The movie was critically slammed as dumb while knowing full well that it was dumb. Like this classic Showalter line: “When I was at camp, my favorite activity was always arts and crafts. Or, as we used to call it, arts and farts and crafts.” Wet Hot’s weirdest gags, from Paul Rudd’s lazy walk to a talking soup can, continue to play because the movie now exists in a landscape of alternative comedy, one that the movie actually helped establish. (Watch it on Netflix)
Can’t Hardly Wait
Can’t Hardly Wait may be the ultimate nineties movie. Released in 1998, it was already nostalgic for the decade that was then drawing to a close — classic millennial fodder. Although it was only a few years out from Clueless and Clarissa Explains It All, it still wisely used cameos from Donald Faison and Melissa Joan Hart for their kitsch value. The soundtrack, the fashions, even the characters themselves — Seth Green as a hip-hop appropriator, Lauren Ambrose as the Daria stand-in — all encapsulate the time period perfectly. The creators took a page from the John Hughes playbook but updated it for the kids who would graduate high school from the year 2000 and up. Fun game to play: See how many Eve 6 songs appear within the first fifteen minutes. Okay, it’s two. (Watch it on Netflix)
Richard Kelly’s sci-fi mind-bender combined teen angst and string theory. It paired brooding Jake Gyllenhaal and a guy in a rabbit costume that looked inspired by every Hot Topic T-shirt design ever. It had a killer soundtrack with tunes from eighties bands, like Joy Division and Echo & the Bunnymen, that the culturally hungry were destined to love. Sitting down to watch Donnie Darko — because, again, no one caught it when it played in theaters — was like being handed a mix tape with a set of riddles for liner notes. (Watch it on Netflix)