People who are a part of Gen X (1965-1980) are still being overlooked. Their cohorts are 42 to 57 years old, firmly ensconced in middle age, and still flying under the radar – which is just the way they like it. Generation X continues to exhibit their best “whatever dude” attitudes about life while quietly just going about their business and getting things done. It does not help things that Gen X is by far the smallest generation – there are nearly 71 million Boomers, 72 million Millennials, and 67 million GenZers. Meanwhile, GenX clocks in at just 62 million members.
Still, the world can thank Gen X for a lot of things – Google, eBay, PayPal, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Tesla, SpaceX, and Dell, just to name a handful, were all created / founded by GenXers. Known as the middle child generation due to their placement between the louder Boomers and Millennials, Gen Xers were the original latch-key kids.
People wonder why Gen X is so angsty but for those who are part of the generation, the answer is clear. The lives of those in Gen X have seen high divorce rates or two working parents, the threat of nuclear war, AIDS before life-saving medications, rising crime, the inflation of the 1980s, the recession of the 1990s (as many were just graduating from high school or college), and the first and second dot-com / NASDAQ crashes. Considering the past couple of decades, between the ’08 financial crash, the Coronavirus, and the Iraq War, the entire adulthood of GenXers has been one big pessimistic clusterf * ck.
GenX is the first generation to not improve upon their life situations in comparison to the generation preceding them. Never ask a GenXer why they resort to cynicism, angst, and anger (it should be obvious based on what they lived through). Instead, watch these excellent movies that depict various forms of GenX anxiety wonderfully.
9 Mall Rats
Director Kevin Smith is one of the best Gen X filmmakers and his 1995 comedy Mall Rats explored the very Gen X phenomenon of the shopping mall as the center of social activity. The film is the second film in Smith’s View Askewniverse after 1994’s Clerks. Mall Rats takes place on the day before the activity in Clerks. The film starred Smith as Silent Bob alongside Jason Lee, Jeremy London, Shannen Doherty, Claire Forlani, Ben Affleck, and Joey Lauren Adams. In the film, TS (London) and his bestie Brodie (Lee) go to the mall after their girlfriends broke up with them. TS ‘girlfriend Brandi (Forlani) appeared on a dating game show produced by her father and shot at the mall. Brodie’s girlfriend Rene (Doherty) has started dating Shannon (Affleck) a slimy store manager. TS and Brodie are determined to sabotage the dating show.
8 Pump Up The Volume
Christian Slater, one of the best and original Gen X poster boys, plays rebellious teen Mark, who runs a pirate radio station in 1990’s Pump Up The Volume. In typical Gen X style, Mark is introverted, insightful, and misunderstood. Broadcasting via shortwave radio as “Hard Harry,” he rants against society and the injustices and hypocrisies he sees. He keeps his real identity a secret until a classmate (Samantha Mathis) figures him out. In the meantime, the principal of his high school is determined to shut Mark’s station down.
7 Party Girl
1995’s Party Girl is notable for being the first movie to premiere on the internet. Gen X legend Parker Posey starred as Mary, a free spirit who prefers to sleep by day and spend her nights either throwing house parties or dancing in nightclubs. She gets arrested for throwing an underground rave and her godmother bails her out of jail. In order to repay her, Mary goes to work for her godmother as a clerk at the library where she works. After smoking a joint, Mary is inspired to learn the Dewey Decimal System. She eventually is fired for having sex in the library with a Lebanese street vendor and turns to selling her vintage couture clothing to pay her rent. Party Girl is exactly as fun as it sounds.
6 Empire Records
Empire Records is a 1995 film about one memorable day in a record store where the employees band together to try and stop the store from being acquired by a big chain record store company while learning about each other as the day goes on. This theme played over and over again in GenX 90s movies as local book and record stores IRL were being converted into bland corporate outposts. The film stars Liv Tyler, Renee Zellwegger, Robin Tunney, Debi Mazur, Rory Cochrane, Johnny Whitworth, and Maxwell Caulfield.
5 Chasing Amy
Chasing Amy was released in 1997 and is the third film in director Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse. The film starred Ben Affleck as Holden and Jason Lee as Banky. They are lifelong best friends and comic book artists. They meet Alyssa Jones (played by Joey Lauren Adams) at a convention where they are promoting their comic book Bluntman and Chronic. Alyssa is a lesbian, but that does not stop Holden from falling for her. They end up sleeping together. Banky grows to resent the friendship between Holden and Alyssa and tries to break them apart by revealing she had a threesome with two guys. Holden becomes butt hurt because he thought he was the only man she’d slept with and complications play out. Chasing Amy is well known as probably the most (or only) genuine and emotionally demonstrative film of Smith’s career, and the one where Silent Bob brilliantly raises his voice.
There was a period of time in the mid-1990s when swing music and swing dancing was the hottest thing around. The 1996 movie Swingers came out at the height of this movement and perfectly captured the vibe of Los Angeles at that specific time as well as the lives of unemployed aspiring actors in their 20s and their social lives and quest for hookups. The film was written by and starred future MCU director Jon Favreau alongside Vince Vaughn, Heather Graham, and Ron Livingston. Swingers was a massive hit and helped Favreau, Vaughn, Graham, and Livingston launch their careers.
3 Grosse Pointe Blank
No movie quite portrayed Gen X’s nihilistic cynicism with a nonetheless hopeful spark as well as 1997’s Grosse Point Blank. John Cusack starred as Martin Blank, an assassin for hire who returns to his hometown of Grosse Pointe, Michigan for his 10-year high school reunion. He runs into his old flame Debi Newberry (Minnie Driver), who he stood up for the prom, never to be seen again – until he rolls back into town for the reunion. Joan Cusack hilariously plays Martin’s loyal secretary who sets up a local hit for him, who turns out to be Debi’s father. Martin’s competition (a delightfully incongruous Dan Aykroyd) is also there to kill the same man.
2 Reality Bites
Reality Bites was released in 1994 and perfectly portrayed the collective quarter-life crisis Gen X was having at the time. Winona Ryder played Lelaina, who is making a documentary about herself and her friends as they try to find their way into careers and relationships in the years immediately post-college. Janeane Garofalo played retail clerk Vickie, who tries to find meaning through a string of one-night stands. Steve Zahn played Sammy, who is struggling to figure out how to come out to his parents. Ethan Hawke played Troy, who is having an existential crisis and can not decide whether he loves or hates Lelaina. Ben Stiller directed the film and played older yuppie Michael, who gets into a relationship with Lelaina in this classic look at generational angst.
Singles is a 1992 film written, directed, and produced by Cameron Crowe. As such, it has a perfect soundtrack anchored by the haunting composition of Seasons from the late Chris Cornell and featuring appearances in the film from Cornell and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder. Singles stars Bridget Fonda, Matt Dillon, Campbell Scott, and Kyra Sedgwick as young Gen Xers living in Seattle as the grunge rock movement gains in popularity. Most of the characters live in the same apartment building that features “Singles” apartments. The film explores the love lives of two couples and how they interact with their friends and their relationships. Known as the essential document of the ‘grunge’ era, it’s also one of the ultimate Gen X films.