Updated: Sep 28, 2020
When it comes to 80s teen movies, most are variations on the following tropes:
1. The comedic competition between cliques (jocks vs nerds).
2. Long-shot romances between popular rich kid and middle class wallflower.
3. Wise-ass kid outsmarts bumbling authority figures.
Though they have their own charm and stand up to multiple viewings, they bear that 80s timestamp, and in doing so remain forever stuck in the decade.
Precisely because it is none of the above, the all-time best 80s teen movie is River’s Edge. As a 15 year old, I was captivated by its dark humor and very quotable dialogue. (“Motherfucker! Foodeater!” & “Check’s in the mail!”) Here was a movie that portrayed unlikable and amoral youth - yet didn't demonize them. I always wondered why I cared about the characters so much. If they had gone to my school, I would have most likely shared some common interests (like music) but never would have developed close friendships with them. When I've watched it as an adult, I realize that within the bleak landscape of River's Edge lurks a cautionary tale; one that transcends any pop culture trappings or limitations. We all stand to pay a price for neglecting our children, our schools, and those suffering from mental illness. After all, drug abuse, domestic violence, and other anti-social behaviors are symptoms of the larger disease of indifference. This movie challenges you to feel empathy for people who make terrible choices. If you haven't seen it, you should.