Generation X came of age in the shadow of the domineering Baby Boom generation, with an economy falling apart at the seams. And while new technology made the world easier to navigate for this generation of people born between 1965 and 1985, characteristic introspection and a drive to find truth kept many from feeling fully comfortable in the world around them.
Now in their 40s, Generation X has become the parents, business owners, artists, and politicians that drive society. Still focused on the search for identity and integrity in a not-so-pleasant world, they have learned to compromise and focus on self-fulfillment above mass cultural change.
Here are five movies that powered and informed Generation X’s identity:
This ground-breaking film and cultural milestone was really little more than a basic good vs. evil story. For those tagged as Generation X, this was their first mainstream mass exposure to the good guy/bad guy archetypes that would come to inform their collective take on morality. Featuring a ragtag group of deeply flawed, occasionally reluctant heroes pitted against the slick, uniform, and ultra-ambitious Empire, George Lucas’ box office hit and subsequent sequels subconsciously powered a generation’s us vs. them aesthetic.
The Breakfast Club
As they got older and entered into social life via school, Generation X struggled with accepting the simplistic labels attached to who they were and the social segregation that seemed to accompany such labels. John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club is the story of five teenagers, each a caricatured representative of a different clique, forced to spend a Saturday together in detention. By the end of the film, the five discover that they are much more than the stereotyped roles they have been forced to adopt. For Generation X, a group that tends to reject cookie cutter characterization in favor of spirited individualism, The Breakfast Club proved to be a poignant life lesson captured on film.
No stranger to dead end jobs in an increasingly troubled economy, Generation X has spent a good portion of their lives toiling away at jobs well below their level of education and personal ambition. Kevin Smith’s Clerks paints the perfect portrait of playful, inventive individualism slowly being choked to death by the monotony of “real” life. This self-funded movie project, filmed in Smith’s actual workplace, is also an off-the-screen tribute to the Gen X aesthetic for DIY creation and outside-the-box thinking.
This Cameron Crowe movie was made for Gen X and about Gen X during the height of the emergence of Gen X culture. Based in this generation’s cultural landmark city of Seattle and featuring cameos from bands such as Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden, Singles tells the story of young men and women in their early 20s looking for love in the modern, post-AIDS, post-Baby Boom era. Just like Generation X itself, Singles is cynical of society and human nature, but ultimately optimistic about being able to find happiness despite the odds against it.
This David Fincher movie, based on the Chuck Palahniuk novel, takes on the questions of what makes a man and how the individual can keep his identity in an increasingly homogenized corporate society. Through a man-on-man fight club, the protagonist of the story finds salvation and identity, only to realize that the cult surrounding his club is becoming every bit the one-minded conformity mill he hoped to escape. Dealing in the familiar Generation X themes of individualism and the quest for real justice, the story quickly turns into an angry thriller for the disenfranchised.