Before he freaked us the f-ck out as the Joker, Heath Ledger got his start as the long-haired teen heartthrob in this teen flick version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. The convoluted plot isn't worth re-hashing in full, but let's just say by the time the prom comes around, the two totally-in-love leads are at each other's throats. So when Boston alt-rockers Letters to Cleo—the prom house band—start playing Nick Lowe's "Cruel to Be Kind," it's a perfectly fitting song for the occasion.
This is easily the weirdest prom scene in movie history, and no, we're not forgetting Carrie. Michael J. Fox's titular teen wolf shows up to his high school prom in an all-white tux (classy move!) and because he's good at b-ball, he's the hit of the party. In fact, he's so popular that all the rest of his class starts imitating him, despite the fact that he's no more of a dancer than someone flailing around bed having night terrors. Hey, it was the Reagan Era! Crazy things were happening and in the grand scheme of things, this was less confounding than many of the decade's WTF moments.
Hate on the Twilight series all you want, but the prom scene in the first movie is a surprisingly touching sequence. As Bella pleads with Edward to turn her into a vampire—she tells him, "Every second I get closer to dying," which is dark stuff for a teen flick—Iron & Wine's melancholy "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" plays in the background. Actress Kristen Stewart was the one who suggested the indie singer-songwriter for the scene, and it made such an impression on fans of the series that the filmmakers brought it back as the background music when these two finally tie the knot in the fourth film. I would have said "spoiler alert," except that the people who care about Twilight have probably watched that wedding scene about 20 times.
How many high school prom scenes find future Oscar fave Sean Penn storming the stage and screaming out "Woolly Bully" while stoned out of his mind? Seeing Penn play pothead Jeff Spicoli is one of the many pleasures of pioneering teen flick Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and the New Wave-meets-Buddy Holly band playing the movie's prom is another highlight. Sadly, this scene is too awesome for YouTube to contain it. That's why the video below is as blank as the generation that produced Fast Times.
Footloose has one of cinema's all-time epic prom scenes. Why? Because for Kevin Bacon and these kids, it ain't just a dance—it's the first dance their town has seen in ages thanks to a law prohibiting dancing and rock music (yes, suspension of disbelief is important with this film). But try listening to that Kenny Loggins jam and not cutting loose—it's damn near impossible. The 1984 version of Footloose is the classic but the 2011 remake did an admirable job recapturing the dweeby energy that made the final prom dance such a delight, so enjoy the two prom dances intercut together below.
Whether or not you find the ending of John Hughes' 1986 rom-com satisfying (why didn't she end up with Duckie?!), you gotta respect the prom scene. Molly Ringwald is, obviously, pretty in pink and Jon Cryer looks slick as hell in his tux. Throw in the synth-pop romantic perfection of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's "If You Leave" and you have a standard-setting teen flick prom scene.
The most understated, hysterical teen prom scene out there is from Napoleon Dynamite. Despite busting some inimitably sick moves earlier in the film, the title character is wooden and awkward at the prom finale. He gets a dance with the girl but moves her around the dancefloor with all the grace of a mannequin—and no, we're not talking the sexy-as-hell Kim Cattrall kind. Alphaville's sappy ballad "Forever Young" provides the perfect soundtrack to this hilariously awkward scene of suppressed hormones.
10 Things I Hate About You was the '90s take on Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, but She's All That was the era's retelling of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. Now we're not saying this is the better film, but this prom sequence SMOKES the competition because it's presided over by the best DJ any high school could ever have: Usher!! The R&B smoothie drops Fatboy Slim on the students (who surprisingly know how to dance in unison) and urges the crowd to "split like the Red Sea." Usher + "Rockafeller Skank" + Left-field Bible Reference = Best Prom Scene Ever.