When I was a #cool #teen, it was a more hopeful time, pre-9/11 and pre-recession and pre-taking-your-shoes-off-at-airports. It's no wonder that the dominant teen movie genre of the day was light, fun sex joke-heavy comedies involving romantic pratfalls and climactic scenes at school dances. The prom-com, if you will. But in recent years, the pendulum has swung, and another genre of teen cinema has surpassed the prom-com in visibility: the Sad Teen Death Movie.
The Sad Teen Death Movie is by no means a new genre; it's long existed as counterweight to the Happy Teen Prom Com. Teens love sadsturbating almost as much as they like masturbating, and they have for decades. Hormones, man.
But now, after years of playing quiet second fiddle to its sparklier cousin, the Sad Teen Death Movie is making a comeback with two strong sadsturbatory entries dropping this year — The Fault in our Stars, which is based on a Young Adult novel where basically all of the main characters have cancer, and If I Stay, based on a YA novel wherein a teen's entire family dies in a car accident. Sad stuff! But is it the saddest? Let's hold these forthcoming films up to the tear stained yardstick of their Sad Teen Death Movie predecessors.
Because the Sad Teen Death movie has clear genre-defining hallmarks — teens or barely-not-teens fall in love, Someone Important Dies (probably of cancer), misunderstanding, hormonal melodrama that is unrelateable to anyone who isn't a teenager — it makes sense to rank them not by how good the actual movie is, but by how much a given Sad Teen film adheres to the tropes.
Warning: if you haven't read the books or watched these films and you care about this sort of thing, HERE BE SPOILERS.
Who is in love?: LeeLee Sobieski and Chris Klein
Are they opposites? He's a wealthy bad boy, she's the goody two-shoes restaurant owner's daughter.
Where do they meet? When he wrecks her dad's store and has to perform community service.
Who is against them? Everyone.
Who dies? She does. Also, his mom does.
Of what? Surprise cancer. And his mom commits suicide.
Plus side: He learns lessons about himself.
Sadsturbatory rating: 2 wasted hours of your life. This movie sucks!
Who is in love?: Rachel Bilson and Tom Sturridge
Are they opposites? They used to be best friends but then he grew up to be a "vagabond street performer" who juggles and busks for money. She grew up normal, but surly.
Where do they meet? As children, they were best friends. As adults, they meet again after what seems like awhile and then he's like, hey I've been stalking you this whole time. And she's like whoa buddy too much.
Who is against them? Her boyfriend and the guy she was having an affair with on her boyfriend. Uh oh!
Who dies? His parents, her dad, her side piece.
Of what? His parents died in a train accident (?!) and her dad dies of cancer and her side piece dies of her boyfriend murdering him.
Plus side: Her boyfriend killing her side piece gets both dudes out of the way so she can be with the weird juggling stalker dude. Yayyyyy!
Sadsturbatory rating: 1 bowl of marijuana because this movie is ridiculous.
Who is in love?: Dakota Fanning and Jeremy Irvine
Are they opposites? He's more of a plot device.
Where do they meet? They live next door to each other.
Who is against them? Time! She's got terminal cancer!
Who dies? She does. She's got terminal cancer!
Of what? Terminal cancer!
Plus side: She fulfills many of the goals on her bucket list, including falling in love. Meanwhile, he now has both a dead mom and a dead girlfriend.
Sadsturbatory rating: 3 Kleenex, 1 Prozac
Who is in love?: Elisabeth Harnois and Jesse McCartney
Are they opposites? He's a mysterious bad boy with a "live in the moment" outlook on life, she's the goody two-shoes nationally ranked tennis player about to go to a fancy college.
Where do they meet? They're forced to be lab partners and at first they do not like it!
Who is against them? He is.
Who dies? He does.
Of what? Cancer. Also his mom is dead. And his best friend died of cancer.
Plus side: She ends up getting shitty at tennis and taking on his personality after he dies, basically. Real empowering stuff.
Sadsturbatory rating: 1 thrown remote control, 2 Prozac.
Who is in love?: Gabriella Wilde and Alex Pettyfer aka Non-Channing Tatum Magic Mike Dude
Are they opposites? She's a shy, rich good girl bound for Brown University, he's a rebellious bad boy who works as a valet.
Where do they meet? They went to high school together but for some ungodly reason she did not notice him until he straight up tells her.
Who is against them? eVeRyOnE
Who dies? Her brother, but before the film. Also her house burns down.
Of what? Cancer.
Plus side: They end up together because teen love is real.
Sadsturbatory rating: 3 Kleenex, but only because I wish so much that Alex Pettyfer were a better actor.
Who is in love?: Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum
Are they opposites? She's a flighty spring breaker, he's in the Army.
Where do they meet? On spring break in 2001, he rescues her purse and they have a week of fun partying and stuff. But then: 9/11.
Who is against them? Osama bin Laden and the tough life of a military man.
Who dies? His dad and her husband.
Of what? Stroke. And cancer.
Plus side: Cancer is a positive plot twist in this case; her husband dying of cancer frees her up to get back with her original boyfriend. Viewers were kind of rooting for cancer this whole time. You monsters.
Sadsturbatory rating: 3 Kleenex, 1 Prozac, 4 singings of the "Star Spangled Banner"
Who is in love?: Reese Witherspoon and Jason L0ndon
Are they opposites? He's an older neighbor boy, she's a 14-year-old girl.
Where do they meet? Swimming in the nude.
Who is against them? Her sister, who falls for Jason London after the two meet.
Who dies? He does.
Of what? Farming accident.
Plus side: Two sisters don't end up destroying their relationship over a teen crush.
Sadsturbatory rating: 2 Kleenexes, 1 Prozac
Who is in love?: Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty
Are they opposites? She's a goody two-shoes daughter of the middle class, he's a rich playboy who just wants to do teen sex.
Where do they meet? Their hometown.
Who is against them? His family, and the Madonna/whore dichotomy.
Who dies? Neither of them, but she's literally driven insane by trying to have sex with him and being rebuffed and then being almost date raped by one of his friends.
What about minor characters? His sister dies and his dad commits suicide.
Plus side: Neither of the main characters die. Just stay alive resigned to less-than-electric normalcy.
Sadsturbatory rating: 1 kleenex, 1 glass of wine, 2 hours Googling old pictures of hot Warren Beatty.
Who is in love?: Zac Efron and Amanda Crew
Are they opposites? They're both really into sailing. He has a sailing scholarship to Stanford University. If you sail you most likely do not need a scholarship. This is a ridiculous plot point.
Where do they meet? In a cemetery, where she is mourning her dead dad.
Who is against them? His brother, who is a ghost who insists he must play baseball with the dead brother every night.
Who dies? His brother, her father, his paramedic friend, and she almost does.
Of what? Car accident, indeterminate disease, cancer, boat accident.
Plus side: His ghost brother turns into a shooting star and shows him where her boat accident has left her. And they end up together.
Sadsturbatory rating: 4 Kleenexes, 1 Prozac
Who is in love?: Robert Pattinson (whose character is named Tyler because of course) and Emilie de Ravin
Are they opposites? He's a Bad Boy with an anger problem, she's a goody two-shoes cop's daughter who is afraid of everything.
Where do they meet? NYU
Who is against them? Her cop dad, who Robert Pattinson once punched in the face. And decorum, which until 2010 pretty much staved off a ton of films that use 9/11 as Way By Which Characters Learn Lessons About Themselves.
Who dies? He does.
Of what? 9/11
Plus side: Uh, she gets over her fear of taking the subway?
Sadsturbatory rating: 4 Prozac.
Starring: Mandy Moore, Shane West
Are they opposites? He's a popoular Bad Boy with no goals, she's the goody two-shoes minister's daughter with no friends.
Where do they meet? While rehearsing for a school play.
Who is against them? His cool friends, her lame family.
Who dies? She does.
Of what? Leukemia.
Plus side: He ends up finding great academic success at college and gets accepted to medical school. Bully for him.
Sadsturbatory rating: 2 Kleenexes, 1 Prozac, 3 Hail Marys
Who is in love?: Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth (RIP IRL GUYS)
Are they opposites? She's a rebellious music prodigy who REFUSES TO GO TO JUILLIARD because she HATES HER DAD, he's a popular cool kid who all the ladies wanna bone.
Where do they meet? He crashes into her at a volleyball match and spills a strawberry shake on her (2 separate incidents).
Who is against them? Geography!
Who dies? Twist! Neither of them. Her dad does.
Of what? Non-twist. Cancer.
Plus side: Miley decides to go to Juilliard and he transfers to Columbia like it's just an easy thing quick thing that teens focused on their relationships do to stay together.
Sadsturbatory rating: 2 Kleenexes, 3 listens to "Party in the USA"
Who is in love?: Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams
Are they opposites? He's an underprivileged bad boy, she's the goody two-shoes rich guy's daughter with a headstrong snotty streak.
Where do they meet? A carnival
Who is against them? Her lame family.
Who dies? They both do, but they're old when it happens.
Of what? In their sleep together on her nursing home bed.
Plus side: LOVE IS REAL YOU GUYS! WHO YOU HAVE A CRUSH ON WHEN YOU'RE A KID IS YOUR SOUL MATE 4 EVER.
Sadsturbatory rating: 1 Kleenex, 2 glasses of white wine, 3 hours of perusing your high school boyfriend's new wife's facebook page.
Who is in love?: Chloë Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley
Are they opposites? Yes.
Where do they meet? School.
Who is against them? Circumstance and their divergent musical paths. Also she's in a coma for most of the movie.
Who dies? Her entire family.
Of what? Car crash.
Plus side: The book's basic message is "being alive is ultimately better than being dead even if being alive kind of sucks." So that's positive, I guess.
Sadsturbatory rating: One entire Kleenex box, one entire bottle of white wine
Who is in love?: Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer
Are they opposites? She's Puerto Rican and affiliated with the "Sharks;" he is Italian and affiliated with the "Jets." And when you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way.
Where do they meet? New York City
Who is against them? SOCIETY.
Who dies? He does.
Of what? Gun.
Plus side: Both sides of the dispute learn a lesson and as a result there is no more violence in New York City ever again.
Sadsturbatory rating: 4 Kleenexes, 34123848 shower singalongs, 2 new roommates
Who is in love?: Ali MacGraw, Ryan O'Neal
Where do they meet? Harvard
Are they opposites? He's super rich, she's super poor.
Who is against them? His rich family.
Who dies? The poor one.
Of what? Unspecified cancer, but probably leukemia.
Plus side: He makes up with his rich father, sort of.
Sadsturbatory rating: 3 Kleenexes, 2 Prozac, 1 quick Google of Ryan O'Neal in the present day to remind you that even if she'd lived he would have just ended up being a jerk.
Who is in love?: Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort
Who has cancer? Everyone.
Where do they meet? A support group for people who have cancer.
Who dies? He does. But we all know she will, too.
Of what? Cancer
Plus side: Their mutual favorite author starts writing books again and they both get to have sex with each other once. Really strong funeral.
Sadsturbatory rating: 5 Kleenexes, 4 Prozac. This is shaping up to be the ultimate in sadsackery for a whole new generation of teens.
Who is in love?: Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio
Are they opposites? He was a Montague, she was a Capulet. Could I make it any more obvious?
Where do they meet? 1595
Who is against them? Everyone.
Who dies? They both do.
Of what? Melodrama and dizzying Baz Luhrmann camera work.
Plus side: Both of their families are like, whoa, maybe we shouldn't hate each other so much now that our kids are dead.
Sadsturbatory rating: 2 Kleenex, 3 Hours of 90's nostalgia
Image by Jim Cooke.