When people who came of age in the 1990s think of movies that defined their adolescence, there’s a canon list that no one would argue the validity of. She’s All That, 10 Things I Hate About You, Empire Records, Cruel Intentions — and of course, Clueless — are all well-loved because they each had something unique going for them that ’90s teens and tweens could easily draw parallels to their own lives from.
But one film that also fits the bill yet tends to get pushed to the wayside is Can’t Hardly Wait, a story about recent high-school graduate Preston Meyers (played by the never-not-likable Ethan Embry) who attends one last blowout bash with the class of 1998 in the hopes of finally winning over the girl of his dreams: Jennifer Love Hewitt‘s homecoming/prom/everything queen, Amanda Beckett.
Spoiler alert: He does.
It’s worth noting that Kurt Vonnegut/Barry Manilow fanboy Preston pseudo-stalked this girl from afar for years after Pop Tart-ignited sparks flew (for him), but rest assured he and the writers somehow found a way to make it not creepy at the end when they have their first-ever real conversation in a train station and, approximately 1 minute later, share their first kiss.
Embry himself joked to PEOPLE in 2014 of his starry-eyed protagonist: “I think that he probably would’ve taken the route of becoming a reclusive alcoholic in the hills of Connecticut, chasing his Django Reinhardt/Kurt Vonnegut to the bottom of a barrel, wondering why things never worked with Amanda.”
Jokes aside, it’s hard to nail down exactly why this movie gets overlooked or ranked toward the bottom of “best of” lists (and it’s understandable in a way, considering its peers), as there are so many reasons why it deserves more recognition. Heck, even the film’s writer/directors Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan stuck a Can’t Hardly Wait Easter egg in the only other film they directed together: 2001’s Josie and the Pussycats, in which if you look closely you’ll see “‘Can’t Hardly Wait’ was underrated … ” scroll across a marquee.
On its 20th anniversary, here are 10 reasons why Can’t Hardly Wait holds its own among other ’90s teen classics.
1. It featured an absolutely stellar ensemble cast.
Like Clueless before it, Can’t Hardly Wait included many different characters with ample screen time who each had their own stories going for them that just happened to intertwine in a kooky way — with a high-school party coolness level that no real-life party has ever been able to obtain.
What’s more? Preston, Amanda, Denise (Lauren Ambrose), Kenny (Seth Green), William (Charlie Korsmo), and Mike (Peter Facinelli) all kind of make up a Breakfast Club of the ’90s. You’ve got the princess (Amanda), the basket case (Denise), the athlete (Mike), the brain (William), the criminal (Kenny, I guess?), and then…Preston. Maybe he’s the principal? He is rather principal-esque.
2. It didn’t screw around with giving you the 411 on everyone right from the get-go.
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