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5 Movies You Should Make Your Teen Watch

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There’s something incredibly satisfying about watching your kids swoon over your favorite movies. Sure it’s a little narcissistic (“Clapping at the appropriate times during Mary Poppins shows you’ve inherited my good genes!”) but who doesn’t want to feel like her taste is validated, even if it’s from someone who’ll watch anything as long as you promise them a popsicle?

But sharing movies with my girls as teenagers is a lot more complicated. Suddenly they have "opinions" and "feelings" about things, and getting them to share my enthusiasm for certain films isn’t as easy as putting them in front of a screen and plying them with snacks. But God knows I’ve tried—and here’s how it went:

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1. Grease. We happened on this a few years ago on TV, and they took to it immediately. The clothes, the dancing the music—suddenly they were belting out "Summer Lovin’" everywhere, all the time. (The movie was followed, of course, by my lecture about Sandy’s unnecessary transformation into a "bad girl" in order to get Danny to notice her, to which they answered, “She looked awesome, though.”)

2. Footloose. Well, if they loved Grease, surely my girls would go ca-razy over Kevin Bacon dancing all over town and being all rebellious! Except, they didn’t. I knew there was trouble when they spent the first 10 minutes rolling their eyes, and then when Kevin’s big dance scene came around—where he’s angry and pounding on cars and dancing like he just doesn’t care!—the oldest turns to me and says, “Is he drunk or something? WHY IS HE ACTING LIKE THAT?” I don’t think they even made it to the big, emotional finale.

“I never want to see this movie again.”

3. Love Actually. This might just be my favorite movie of all time, and from the moment when I felt my girls were old enough to understand it, we’ve watched it together every holiday season, and they love it as well. At least, I think they do. Or maybe they’re afraid to say anything because of all my sobbing. (Admit it. You cry during the Emma Thompson/bedroom/Joni Mitchell scene, too.)

4. Four Weddings and a Funeral. I’ve seen this movie 10 times, and dammit, so would my girls. It was hard to find, though, and I finally ended up digging it out of a dollar bin at Amoeba records in Berkeley during our vacation last Christmas. When we got back to our cabin, I excitedly popped it into the DVD player and waited for them to declare it the best movie of all time. As the credits rolled, there was silence (I assumed they were stunned at its brilliance) and then this:

“That movie DROVE ME INSANE.”

“So you approve of that behavior, this guy dumping his bride on her wedding day for this other girl? I HATE THEM BOTH.”

“I never want to see this movie again.”

One viewing down, nine to go!

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5. Jaws. To be honest, it was my husband’s idea to screen this on our movie night, not mine. Though we were both fans, I didn’t think a story about a shark terrorizing a small town would go over well with my teens, and I was preparing myself for endless barbs about the “fake-looking fish” and the absence of any hot guys in the cast. But, surprise! Both girls gave it a big thumbs up, and it began my younger daughter’s love for Steven Spielberg. So their approval shows that, when it comes to teens, sometimes they’ll surprise you and choose Richard Dreyfuss casting a line over Kevin Bacon cutting a rug.

What movies will you make your teen watch?

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