Escape from New York
It’s 1997. Manhattan has become a maximum-security prison. And the President of the United States has been captured by a powerful gang lord, just 24 hours before he was due to meet with the Soviets to end World War III. The government sends in mega-criminal Snake Plissken (a never-cooler Kurt Russell) to rescue the President. Dystopian badassery ensues. Director John Carpenter tried to repeat the 24-hours-in-a-ruined-metropolis plot with 1996’s Escape from L.A. The results were not so pretty. — Darren Franich
Dazed and Confused
It’s the last day of high school, and the summer is full of possibilities. For some it’s just more time stuck in a dead-end town, for others it’s one more chance at football glory, and for one creepy yet suave David Wooderson (a scene-stealing Matthew McConaughey) it’s yet another chance to pick up high school girls. Richard Linklater’s 1993 film accurately captures these seemingly average moments of youth, however small they might be, from hazing freshmen (”Air raid!”), to cruisin’ with your friends, drinking in the woods, and yes, getting high. A tribute to the days when having nothing to do but hanging with friends was the most important thing, when rules and choices never stopped you from L-I-V-I-N. — Emily Exton
12 Angry Men
Set almost entirely inside the jury room and taking place in real time, 12 Angry Men has a premise so delicious that it’s been remade many times (most recently in a Russian retelling). But Sidney Lumet’s 1957 film version trumps all others, with a cast full of veteran character actors and Henry Fonda as the lone voice of reason. — D.F.
George Lucas’ teen masterpiece drives home (har har) one of the crucial but generally unspoken truths about adolescence: that everything seems both possible and totally insurmountable all at once. Love is your longtime girlfriend — or is it that mysterious girl you only saw for a moment? Your future begins with college — or are you happy enough right here? These guys are going to be your friends forever — or are you about to walk away from it all? American Graffiti captures the terrifying restlessness and almost paralyzing glee of that summer after high school in a perfect snapshot of one night. — Margaret Lyons
There isn’t a kid in the world who hasn’t walked into their attic on a boring Saturday afternoon hoping to find a treasure map that would jumpstart the greatest day of his or her life — only to be disappointed, of course. But if you can’t be out there eluding a family of outlaws, befriending lovable deformed captives, and searching for a long-dead pirate’s loot, you could always just watch these kids do it. — Sandra Gonzalez
Romance in movies comes in two flavors: comedy (see: Julia Roberts) or melodrama (see: Nicholas Sparks.) And then there’s Richard Linklater’s cinematic duet about young lovers walking and talking around European cities. Which do you prefer: the whimsical Sunrise, which follows an American boy and a French girl as they get to know each other for 24 hours in Vienna? Or the bittersweet Sunset, which follows that same couple in Paris, nine years later, in the 80 tense minutes before his taxi leaves for the airport? Different flavors, same satisfying meal. — D.F.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Ferris Bueller taught an entire generation of truants that cutting class for a day at the mall just wasn’t enough. But taking a mental health day (or nine) is hard work. It takes skill to have an adventure-filled day, dance in a parade, and still be back in your sick bed before mom and dad get home. — Sandra Gonzalez
The Breakfast Club
Five disparate teens on a Saturday tour of detention. Not a lot of action you say? Oh but they learned so much, like the fact that each one was a brain… and an athlete… and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal. And that’s enough for us. — Abby West
Martin Scorsese’s dark comedy sent modest cubicle rat Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) on a series of misadventures in Soho. The girl he set his sights on at the beginning of the night may have ended up dead, and he may have gotten chased by an angry mob and later sealed up in plaster at one point, but Paul made it to work the next morning just slightly worse for wear. — A.W.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s ensemble opus follows a Dickensian array of characters through the San Fernando Valley during one wild and crazy day. How wild and crazy? Frogs rain from the sky. Stupid global warming! — D.F.
Evan (Michael Cera) and Seth (Jonah Hill) are two weeks away from high school graduation. When Seth promises to buy alcohol for a party being thrown by the girl of his dreams, it sends the pair on an all-night suburban odyssey in search of social lubrication. Meanwhile, their friend Fogell (a.k.a. McLovin) spends the night with curiously destructive police officers. So basically, just a typical Friday night. — D.F.
Adventures in Babysitting
Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) and her three charges set off for one wild night in Chi-town, complete with shootouts and stage performances. But no need to fret… everyone got home safe and sound. — A.W.
John Carpenter’s relentlessly influential horror flick starts off with a brief, bloody prologue on Halloween night, 1963. The rest of the film takes place 15 years later, as an escapee from an insane asylum slowly prepares to wreak havoc on a group of sexed-up ’70s teenagers. An infinite array of slasher films have tried (and failed) to recapture the original Halloween‘s moment-to-moment freakiness. — D.F.
Night of the Living Dead
One night in hell, fighting off the undead, watching allies fall to the zombie hordes… terrifying. It also makes for arguably the best zombie movie ever. The whole zombie genre was later memorably spoofed in Shaun of the Dead, another great day-in-the-life zombiefest. — A.W.
Terrorists invade a corporate Christmas party, but they neglect to capture the shoeless off-duty cop with a cowboy fixation. Forget It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story; Die Hard is the action fan’s definitive Yuletide movie. Yippee kai yay, ho ho ho! — D.F.