FREAKS AND GEEKS (1999)
Set in Detroit, this oh-so-sadly short-lived (criminally, only 18 episodes in a single season were produced) cult series strikingly evokes existential teenage life in a distinctly early 1980s suburban America. Based around 16-year-old Lindsay Weir and her motley gang of friends "the freaks" and her 14-year-old-brother Sam and his nerdy band of "geeks",
Freaks and Geeks
is one of the most vividly realised depictions of teenage life in 1980s America. Perfectly distilling the quiet angst of not being understood by grown-ups, it is also a brilliant insight into navigating friendship, camaraderie and youthful rebellion.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)
It's no secret the creators of
— the Duffer Brothers — pay homage to the films they loved watching while growing up. In addition to several plot and theme parallels, the poster for series two visually nods to
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
and depicts Will Byers standing at an open door gazing out on to an apocalyptic and fiery crimson sky — a vision that starkly echoes a similar iconic scene in Steven Spielberg's transcendent sci-fi touchstone. A group of scientists investigate peculiar phenomena in an attempt to communicate with alien life. And in a parallel narrative, electrical lineman Roy Neary witnesses an unidentified flying object and becomes obsessed with tracking down extraterrestrial life, much to the concern to those around him. A fantastically evocative mood piece.
RIVER'S EDGE (1987)
The darker and edgier cousin of Stand By Me (also recommended), this is the bleakest teen film of all time with the moodiness turned up to 11. Made during the height of the existential post-Cold War and MTV era, cult classic River's Edge has a chilling and singular atmosphere. When a group of aimless teenaged slackers in nowheresville discover one of them, Samson, has killed their friend Jamie, they are torn between protecting him or going to the police. Difficult family dynamics, kids on bikes, stolen tins of beer, and a killer soundtrack are backed up by outstanding performances from Crispin Glover, Ione Skye, Dennis Hopper and even Keanu Reeves.
UNDER THE SKIN (2013)
Loosely based on the brilliant Michel Faber novel of the same name, Under the Skin is a disturbing but stylish sci-fi thriller with a mesmerising and gauzy eeriness. With shaggy tar-black hair and blood-red lips, Scarlett Johansson plays an unnamed extraterrestrial who comes to Earth in female human form. A frosty alien femme fatale, she cruises the streets of Scotland in a Ford Transit van looking for lone men to prey on. Stopping to ask for directions, she offers a lift to lure each unsuspecting man back to her place with the intent of consuming their flesh. A quietly moody chiller.
THE GOONIES (1985)
A list like this couldn't overlook the rollicking adventure
. Brothers Mikey and Brandon and their group of misfit friends Data, Mouth and Chunk call themselves "the Goonies". Living in the "goondocks" of Oregon, they discover their homes will soon be demolished to make way for a golf course unless sufficient funds are raised to halt construction. The kids discover an ancient Spanish map that promises to lead them to the treasure of the infamous pirate "One-Eyed Willy", so the bunch of outcasts set off of an adventure. Only trouble is, the treasure is located in a cavern whose entrance is under the house of the evil Mama Fratelli, whose nasty sons also have plans to get their hand on the treasure. In tribute to
, the Duffer Brothers cast Sean Astin who played Mikey, as Bob Newby in
, and his line, "What's in here? Pirate treasure?" is a cheeky reference.