Top 10 Movies That Define Millennials

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Top 10 Movies That Define Millennials

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
These films speak to a particular generation in the best way possible. For this list, we'll be looking at films that best represent Generation Y, which generally consists of people born between 1981 to 1996. Our countdown includes "Superbad", "Mean Girls", "The Social Network", and more!
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Top 10 Millennial Movies


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Millennial Movies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at films that best represent Generation Y, which generally consists of people born between 1981 to 1996. This doesn’t just pertain to high school comedies, but also films that showcased growing pop culture trends and tech advances.

What’s your go-to millennial flick? Let us know in the comments below!


#10: “Easy A” (2010)


This teen comedy derives its title and premise from “The Scarlet Letter,” although it arguably shares more in common with the works of John Hughes. “Easy A” references films like “The Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” but its mindset is more modern. This is reflected through the film’s framing device, which finds Emma Stone’s Olive addressing her audience via webcam. Due in part to the internet, millennials are more open to broadcasting their feelings and secrets compared to past generations. Olive uses this platform to clear up a lie about her personal life and critique the notion that losing/taking one’s virginity is like winning a “prize.” She also explores how young adults struggle with self-esteem, which can easily influence their public perception.


#9: “Napoleon Dynamite” (2004)


It was an unlikely cultural phenomenon, but for a period in the mid-2000s, everyone under thirty was quoting “Napoleon Dynamite”. Chances are you saw more than one person wearing a “Vote For Pedro” shirt as well. So, why did this comedy click with millennials in particular? The film came out around the same time viral videos really started taking off and its brand of offbeat humor definitely seems like something you’d see on early YouTube. As strange as Napoleon’s world is, it captured a zeitgeist composed of online dating and the Backstreet Boys. The comedy spoke to a generation of nerdy underdogs who were seen as losers in high school, but went on to be extremely successful. Napoleon does kind of look like Mark Zuckerberg...


#8: “Juno” (2007)


There was a time when teen pregnancy was rarely talked about in popular media and when the subject did come up, it usually led to melodrama. By the late 2000s, though, more people started to see teen pregnancy in a progressive light and “Juno” reflected that shifting attitude. A key example is when Juno tells her parents about the bun in her oven. They don’t shame Juno or tell her what to do. They’re caught off guard, but Juno’s parents are generally supportive of her decision to find an adoptive family. The interaction is almost casual, which feels oddly authentic in the 21st century. Diablo Cody’s dialogue, while not exactly accurate to how teenagers speak, also feels very much like a product of Generation Y.



#7: “Spider-Man” (2002)


From blockbusters like “Batman” to Saturday morning cartoons like “X-Men,” superheroes played a major role in shaping Generation Y. The superhero genre was propelled to another level of popularity with 2002’s “Spider-Man,” kicking off multiple trends that remain prevalent even today. Since “Spider-Man” became a pop culture sensation that year, there was not only a newfound appreciation for comic books, but also those who regularly read comic books. Suddenly, the millennials who collected comics in grade school were treated less like dweebs and more like gatekeepers to a whole new world of content. Just as Peter Parker went from zero to hero, many ‘80s and ‘90s kids were emerging from their figurative cocoons as well. Thus, “Spider-Man” connected with millennials in more ways than one.


#6: “Garden State” (2004)


Although this critical darling has seen something of a backlash in recent years, there’s a reason why “Garden State” still resonates with millennials. Zach Braff’s angsty yet artistic direction takes us back to an era when emo culture was materializing. Upon release, many teens and twenty-somethings couldn’t help but see themselves in Braff’s Andrew, a depressed introvert struggling with mental health and prescription drugs. “Garden State” does offer some simple solutions to Andrew’s complicated issues, hence the contemporary criticisms. At its core, though, there is an inspirational message about coming out of one’s shell and finding sunshine even during a rainy day. Sure, the message may not be as profound as it thinks it is, but that doesn’t make people enjoy it any less.


#5: “Mean Girls” (2004)


We had seen the archetype before, but mean girls have changed since the ‘80s and this comedy was among the first to reflect that. Regina George is far from the nicest girl, but like her fellow Plastics, we’re strangely drawn to her charms. She feels less like another cartoon bully and more like somebody every millennial went to high school with. The same can be said about Cady, who demonstrates how easily cliques can change a person. Tina Fey’s screenplay is as witty as it is honest, navigating through teenage drama and its effects on teenage girls of the time in surprisingly insightful ways. Millennials still quote “Mean Girls” years later not only because it’s hilarious, but because it also speaks to their inner teen.



#4: “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” (2010)


It may have bombed at the box office, but “Scott Pilgrim” maintains a passionate following even a decade after its release. Millennials have given the film a second life and we can see why. The movie is wrapped up in nostalgia with visuals inspired by ‘80s video games. Behind the retro aesthetic, there’s a moral about growing as a human being. Scott represents the entitled side of the millennial mindset, lusting after Ramona Flowers while neglecting the feelings of others. Although Scott does get the girl in typical happy ending fashion, he also learns to be a better friend and person in general. Furthermore, he reevaluates his own self-worth, thus achieving self-actualization. While acclaimed from the get-go, “Scott Pilgrim” is wiser than many initially realized.



#3: “Boyhood” (2014)


Filmed over the course of twelve years, “Boyhood” follows Mason Evans Jr. from age six to age eighteen. Just as we see this character mature before our eyes, millennials are bound to have flashbacks to their own childhoods. Richard Linklater’s film touches upon so many of the trends that defined Generation Y, from “Dragon Ball Z,” “Harry Potter,” to Britney Spears. There’s so much more to “Boyhood” than references, however. What it really nails is the experience of growing up in this era and the bonds formed along the way. Mason’s relationships with his hard-working mother, slacker father, and older sister feel too real to be fiction. In the end, the film isn’t really about Mason so much as it’s about every millennial.



#2: “Superbad” (2007)


On the surface, “Superbad” seems like a standard teen comedy about three high school seniors trying to acquire booze and hook up with girls. “Superbad” is every bit as raunchy as its predecessors, but what separates the film from sex comedies of the past is its thoughtfulness. Doing away with some tropes that would be construed as problematic today, “Superbad” has genuine respect for its characters. Gross-out gags and profanity aside, the film is surprisingly progressive in its portrayal of friendship and romance, falling in line with millennial values. It helps that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are both millennials themselves, basing the screenplay on their own experiences growing up. Producer Judd Apatow, while himself not a millennial, understands the generation better than so many others do.


Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Toy Story” (1995)
Every Millennial Grew up with These Toys


“500 Days of Summer” (2009)
The Millennial Equivalent to “Annie Hall”


“American Pie” (1999)
Gen Y’s First Slice of Teen Sex Comey


“Lady Bird” (2017)
Greta Gerwig Truly Gets This Generation


“8 Mile” (2002)
Few Things Scream “Gen Y” Like Eminem & Mom’s Spaghetti



#1: “The Social Network” (2010)


Millennials will commonly be known as the tech-savvy generation and no film better represents this than “The Social Network.” It’s surreal to think that anybody born after 2004 will have no idea what life was like before Facebook. Millennials were at the forefront of its creation, however. David Fincher’s film explores how college dropout Mark Zuckerberg became the youngest self-made billionaire at 23. Where Gordon Gekko defined the baby boomer era, Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Zuckerberg reveals how millennials have risen up as some of the most influential, powerful, and controversial people on the planet. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay plays out in Shakespearean fashion, but with a millennial voice. Touching upon everything from the internet to entitlement, “The Social Network” captures a game-changing moment in time.
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