What the Movies 'Sixteen Candles,' 'Clueless' and 'Mean Girls' Have in Common

How these films contributed to the rise of the teenage girl.

— -- Three movies spanning three decades — “Sixteen Candles,” “Clueless” and “Mean Girls” — are often pitted against one another when people look back at movies that defined a new generation of teenagers.

Which film was the most quotable? Which had the most lovable heroine or the dreamiest high school jock? These films are bonded not only by their similarities and their popularity but also by the rise of the teen girl.

Before movies like the 1984 classic “Sixteen Candles,” Hollywood had a somewhat complicated relationship with the teenage audience.

“Teen movies and their sexuality were all about boys,” Martha Coolidge, the director of the 1983 movie “Valley Girls,” told ABC News. “And what happened in the ’80s is you did have girls emerge equally as funny, talented people and chosen as subject matter.”

In the 1980s, teen movies made a breakthrough, becoming more of recognized genre.

Hughes, who wrote several ’80s classics — including “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club” — took this idea to the next level by focusing on teenage life and casting age-appropriate actors.

The 1995 surprise hit “Clueless,” loosely based on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel, “Emma,” followed a similar coming-of-age formula from the ’80s films, again told through the teen girl perspective.

Cher was the stereotypical high school popular girl who made it her mission to take the new girl, Tai, played by Brittany Murphy, under her wing. The movie influenced teen culture, style and even the vernacular — “As if!”

Each of these films marked the rise of the teen girl through the decades and left its mark on the culture. Each left a lasting impact on its fans and spawned a devoted following. The films’ impact was felt at the box office as well. Hollywood attracted throngs of young women with these movies that told more realistic stories and had relatable characters.

This shaped a powerful and dynamic demographic of teen girl moviegoers that remains a major force at the box office.