If I am being unflinchingly honest with myself, my favorite feel-good movies are, and will always remain, early-2000s girl-power teen flicks. They always feature an ending so cloyingly happy it draws nostalgic tears to my eyes. More often than not, there’s a makeover scene, which, yes, is a bit problematic, but that’s another article. The films always highlight the strong bonds of female friendship. They follow a predictable formula: day-to-day longing, downfall, proving yourself montage (set to a poppy girl band song), finding strength in who you are, resolution. They’re sugary-sweet, cliche, empowering, and comforting.
They also don’t exist anymore. I’m not entirely sure what today’s tweens watch without the array of girl-power rom-com options. Maybe they’re more interested in action flicks, or shows with a little more realism. Maybe they’ve evolved beyond who we were at that age. Or maybe, just maybe, they’re totally missing out.
So pour yourself a glass of rosé, cuddle up with a childhood blanket, and reminisce on the wholesome, iconic nostalgia of your childhood.
1. The Princess Diaries
This movie launched Anne Hathaway into the public radar as a reluctant schoolgirl princess, and we laughed and cheered along with her as she led out all of our wildest fantasies with uncertainty, teen angst, and absolutely no poise. Bonus points for the makeover montage, moody best friend, and Julie Andrews.
2. Freaky Friday
I am, perhaps, a little biased, because this movie defined my childhood. I asked my parents for a red electric guitar for Christmas so I could start a girl band with my friends because I was so inspired by Lindsay Lohan’s guitar playing. This was Lindsay at her peak: angsty, relatable, funny, and with super chunky highlights. Bonus points for the therapy client line: “Today was…better. Then I got up.”
3. Bring It On
This franchise made girls everywhere wish cheerleading were “a thing” at their high schools. It also delved a little into white privilege and racism, which is pretty impressive for a cheerleading movie. Bonus points for the fabulous villain and cheer numbers.
4. 10 Things I Hate About You
This iconic remaking of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt at their most likable, if not their most talented. Also, go back and watch this you guys, because Kat is literally a feminist hero before her time, known for such one-liners as: “I guess in our society being male and an asshole makes you worthy of our time,” and “Romantic? Hemingway? He was an abusive, alcoholic misogynist who squandered half of his life hanging around Picasso trying to nail his leftovers.” I did not appreciate her nearly enough when I first saw this film. Bonus points for all of the dialogue, which is witty, funny, and clever as hell.
5. Raise Your Voice
This movie was underrated then, and it’s underrated now. It’s a tearjerker music-based camp movie about Hillary Duff going to music camp after her brother (and best friend)’s death, and in the process healing and finding out who she is (awww.) Is it objectively good? No, not at all, but that’s not really the point. Bonus points for the unreasonable father and too-cool-for-school aunt character tropes.
6. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
This movie is so chalk-full of girl power it will drown you in friendship bracelets, glitter, and unicorns. It’s also realistic, family-oriented, and sweet. Where else will you watch Rory Gilmore, Serena Van der Woodsen, and Ugly Betty hanging out, anyway? Bonus points for the absolutely heart-wrenching childhood cancer subplot.
7. A Cinderella Story
Hillary Duff is Cinderella, but in high school, and Chad Michael Murray is her jock/poet original Troy Bolton prince. She’s also supposed to be a loser, which is laughable considering her trendy haircut and crop-top sweaters. Bonus points for the locker room encounter: “WAITING FOR YOU IS LIKE WAITING FOR RAIN IN THIS DROUGHT. USELESS AND DISAPPOINTING.”
8. What a Girl Wants
OMG, this is peak Amanda Bynes! She was everything we wanted to be and more with her skinny concept scarfs, low-rise jeans, and down-to-earth vibes. This movie brings us the super-original message of: be yourself. Profound. We know. Bonus points for its dancing scenes and for, of course, Colin Firth in leather pants.
9. New York Minute
The Olsen twins have a few movies for you to pick from, but this one is especially entertaining, as they are a bit older. It’s especially entertaining considering how much they probably wish they weren’t in this movie looking back on it.
10. Ice Princess
Watch Georgina Sparks as an innocent math-geek-turned-inexplicably-professional-ice-skater. Bonus points for the teacher from School of Rock and Hayden Pannetierre, a staple to any teen movie.
Finally, remember this mermaid flick? JoJo and Chanel #1 herself are best friends who befriend a mermaid, and proceed to spy on a boy, dye blue streaks in their hair, and hang out at the beach. You simply cannot GET more wholesome girl-power teen movie than this.