The word “millennial” has become a buzzy term over the past year thanks to online outlets that have supplied readers born between the ‘80s and early-‘00s with an endless supply of nostalgic content that has allowed them — or rather, us — to relive the good and bad of everyone’s younger years. (It’s not just BuzzFeed or Vulture. VH1 has also built a brand on nostalgia with I Love the… and our own online content that has us revisiting our favorite films and albums of a certain age.)
When it comes to one film studio (and brand) that has been a pivotal part of the millennial experience, it’s MTV Films. Founded in 1996, the studio was an offshoot of the music TV channel and has since produced the big screen versions of a number of MTV programs, such as Beavis and Butt-head and Jackass, as well as original hits, such as Save the Last Dance and Napoleon Dynamite.
If there are 15 movies every millennial should watch once, they are the ones on these list.
Presented in alpha-order:
Released in 1999, the film was the original New Year’s Eve as it followed around an ensemble cast of characters on the last night of 1981 in New York City. The film is impressive — if nothing else — for its cast: both Affleck brothers, Dave Chappelle, Scandal’s Guillermo Diaz, Janeane Garofalo, Gaby Hoffman, Kate Hudson, Courtney Love (during her good years), Jay Mohr, Martha Plimpton, Christina Ricci, and Paul Rudd. The film was a minor hit that watches better now as nostalgic fun than its initial run in theaters.
Beavis and Butt-head Do America
One of the studio’s first massive box office hits was the 1996 adaptation of the Mike Judge’s animated series. After waking up to find their TV was stolen, Beavis and Butt-head embark on a road trip of mishaps to retrieve their beloved piece of technology. The adaptation attracted Demi Moore, Bruce Willis and even Dazed and Confused director Richard Linklater to lend their voices to the film and earned a “two thumbs up” from Siskel and Ebert.
Better Luck Tomorrow
After debuting at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, MTV eventually acquired the film and released it in theaters the following year. The movie, about bored Asian American overachievers who enter a world of petty crime, featured John Cho before Harold & Kumar made him a star. The film also introduced fans to Han — a character portrayed by Sung Kang who has since appeared in six of the Fast & Furious franchise films.
Before you roll your eyes at this one take a moment to go back to being an impressionable teen with plenty of spending power in the early-‘00s. Written as a vehicle for Britney Spears foray into acting, the film also starred would-be stars, Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Taryn Manning (Orange Is the New Black). Written by Shonda Rimes, it was her fourth film before she became the hit writer and producer of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and the upcoming How to Get Away with Murder.
An adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s dark comedy, Election was part of a trio of teen flicks — the other two being Cruel Intentions and Pleasantville — that turned Reese Witherspoon into a star. While not a runaway hit, the film often ranks as one of the best comedies of the ‘90s and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.