Zoya Akhtar’s The Archies has become the talk of town from the moment it popped on Netflix. With a lot of vibrant energy and a slew of new Bollywood kids, the musical is being adored by many. There are naysayers who are not particularly happy with the amateurish acting from the cast and the overall naivety of the entire plot, but that only proves The Archies is going to stick around for a while. Hence, we thought it’d be a good idea to conjure a list of films that have a similar vibe. Whether you are digging The Archies or not, at least a few movies from this list should work for you.
Kuch Kuch Hota Hain (1998)
The Archies is not the first time Bollywood has attempted to adapt the popular comics. Twenty-five years ago, a very young Karan Johar thought it would be cool to mold Archie, Betty, and Veronica into Indian college-going youngsters and spin a story around them. So the famous trio became Rahul, Anjali, and Tina, played by two of the most sought-out stars—SRK and Kajol—and a newcomer who would go on to become a star, i.e., none other than Rani Mukherjee.
Of course, Johar played with the promise and expanded it into a story where the teenagers have become adults. He also pulled off a Salman Khan cameo, which worked wonders for the film. I bet you all have watched Kuch Kuch Hota Hain at least once in life, but a re-watch might not be a bad idea if you are fresh out of The Archies. Not to mention, watching Suhana Khan, aka Veronica’s superstar father, play the lead is surely going to be an experience.
La La Land (2016)
No, this film is not about a group of teenagers in a town like Riverdale, but like The Archies, music (and lyrics) plays a huge role in this film. Damien Chazelle, who earlier made the anxiety-inducing musical drama Whiplash (2014), decided to follow up with a story about two passionate artists who fall out of love and go through changes of seasons, all while a beautiful Justin Hurwitz soundtrack works as a character in the narrative. Music is the soul of La La Land, and both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone would surprise you with their fantastic singing. I don’t have to tell you anything about their acting skills, but if you must know, Stone went on to win an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in this movie.
Jagga Jasoos (2017)
It takes a lot of courage to take something as grave as an arms air-dropping case and make a dreamy, swooning musical around it. In 2017, Anurag Basu showed that courage and the result was Jagga Jasoos. At its core, it is actually the story of a son who’s looking for his father. But the way Basu tells the story is absolutely spectacular. Through enchanting imagery and Pritam Chakraborty’s sublime soundtrack, Jagga Jasoos took its audience to places they’d never been before and showed things they’d never seen before in Hindi cinema. Sadly, the three-hour-long splendor didn’t have many takers when it was released and couldn’t quite become a box-office success, which also killed every chance of a sequel that could have been built upon the cliffhanger of a climax. However, over the last six years, Jagga Jasoos has become quite a cult film, which you should probably join after finishing The Archies.
Sixteen Candles (1984)
In many ways, Zoya Akhtar has tried to recreate the innocent, bubblegum milkshake aesthetic of the iconic John Hughes movie Sixteen Candles in The Archies, whether internationally or not. Hailed as probably one of the greatest teen movies ever, Sixteen Candles is the story of Sam, whose sixteenth birthday is forgotten by her own family thanks to the wedding of her egotistic sister, which leaves Sam in great despair. Sam’s romantic life is not going anywhere either, as she has this hopeless crush on this senior, Jake, and she keeps refusing Ted, a geeky teenager who’s really into her. Sixteen Candles was Hughes’ debut and the first of his many movies based on the lives of American teenagers. The movie received a lot of love from both the audience and critics for the way it handled its characters and how realistically they were portrayed on screen. Molly Ringwald, who eventually went on to star in many of Hughes movies, including the iconic The Breakfast Club, which was released just a year later, was particularly praised for her performance as Sam.
The Way He Looks (2014)
The way Zoya Akhtar has reinvented the character of Dilton Doily for The Archies is quite commendable. The queer-spin Zoya has given to the character is actually quite relevant, and this also presents me with the opportunity to consider movies like The Way He Looks for this list. Based on the excellent 2010 short titled I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone, the 2014 feature film focuses on blind queer teenager Leonardo and his best friend Giovana. Things get really tricky when both Leo and Giovana fall for a new student, Gabriel, who arrives at their school.
While the subject matter is something that we have seen many times before (and after), the way director Daniel Riberio does it here with a lot of sensitivity and tenderness is absolutely phenomenal. One wise thing he does is repeat the same trio of actors who played Leo, Giovana, and Gabriel in the short, which was also directed by Riberio. The Way He Looks is mostly flawless, aesthetically pleasing, and has an extremely uplifting, very wholesome climax, which would surely bring a smile to your face, I promise.
Say Anything (1989)
Most of you have probably come across the iconic movie image of John Cussak’s Lloyd Dobler holding a boombox over his head, even if you haven’t managed to see Say Anything yet. An average student with not much of a promising future, Lloyd unexpectedly falls for Diane, the academically brilliant valedictorian of his class. Despite being very different from each other and also hailing from very different kinds of social backgrounds, Lloyd and Diane strike up a relationship. Things are not obviously easy for them, as Diane’s strict father Jim is pretty disapproving of the relationship and writes off Lloyd.
This is another film that has a story that has been told so many times before, but what sets Say Anything apart from every other opposites-attract romance is how director Cameron Crow presents the whole thing to us with extensive usage of smart dialogue and uber-cool music. The boombox scene, of course, highlights the climax and should go down as one of the greatest movie scenes ever, which further cements the cult status of Say Anything. Cussak shares an electrifying chemistry with Ione Skye, who plays Diane, which makes the whole thing a very satisfying and intense experience. His real-life sister, Joan Cussak, plays his on-screen sister.
Rang De Basanti (2006)
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti is undeniably one of the greatest and most celebrated Indian films ever made, but you are probably wondering why it is on this list. Well, I could have just moved on by saying, “Why not?” but in case you’re looking for the argument, here you go. Both The Archies and Rang De Basanti have a group of carefree young people at the heart of them, and both of these groups of people decide to do something about social-political matters that are directly affecting them. Of course, the death of a MiG pilot and the orchestration of blame games by a bunch of corrupt politicians are not at all the same thing as an industrialist trying to destroy a heritage park to build a hotel, but we are talking about ideas here.
There is this myth that the younger generation doesn’t care about anything other than the bubble they live in, and movies like Rang De Basanti and The Archies can be used as a counterargument to that. However, Mehra’s film is broader in terms of scale and much more intense compared to The Archies (and, I dare say, better as well). There are several layers in the very exciting screenplay where the “film within a film” concept has been used in a very unique way, which you will realize when you give this one a watch. The cast, led by Aamir Khan, is very impressive, but the greatest thing about Rang De Basanti is probably its phenomenal soundtrack, created by the legendary A. R. Rahman, which pretty much works as a character in the film.
Licorice Pizza (2021)
Licorice Pizza is only two years old, but ten to fifteen years down the line, it will most likely become a new-age cult. In this Paul Thomas Anderson-directed romantic comedy, we have Pat, played by Cooper Hoffman (son of the legendary late Philip Seymour Hoffman, making a fantastic debut), a buddying filmmaker falling for Alana (played by Alana Haim of the popular rock band Haim), a woman ten years older than him. Set in the San Francisco of the Seventies, Licorice Pizza adopted a very chic and highly entertaining storytelling style while telling a story that does have a teen in the middle but has several intriguing layers that you don’t usually see in teen movies.
The romantic-comedy genre is usually looked down upon by cinephiles, but when a director of Paul Thomas Anderson’s stature attempts to do something within the genre, it automatically receives a lot of brownie points. Anderson has tried his hand at the genre before with the 2002 Adam Sandler film Punch Drunk Love, which was fantastic in its own rights. Of course, Licorice Pizza has a more accessible, straightforward narrative that seemingly blends both teen drama and romantic comedy in a very satisfying experience that should be enjoyed with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Another film coming from the stable of John Hughes that stars Molly Ringwald in the lead? I say why not, because this one is also perfectly suitable for this list. In this Howard Deutch-directed film, Ringwald plays a high school senior with an unemployed father, and John Cryer (yes, you know him as Alan from Two and Half Men) plays her best friend Duckie, who is secretly in love with her. At the school, Andie and Duckie are constantly bullied by a bunch of rich kids, mainly led by Benny and Steff (played by a very young and wild James Spader), who resents Andie for being rejected by her in the past. Things get really tricky for everyone when Steff’s best friend Blane falls for Andie.
For a teen drama circling around a high school teenager, Pretty in Pink comes with a pretty loaded screenplay (written by Hughes) that also focuses on the relationship between Andie and her father Jack as well as Jack’s severely depressive state after losing his wife. Ringwald, Cryer, and everyone else put on a great show as well. The soundtrack of Pretty in Pink further elucidates the entire experience, and it is regarded as one of the finest soundtracks ever to appear in new-age cinema.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)
I decided to close the list with Zoya Akhtar’s most famous film the moment I got the assignment. And I am not forcing things here, as Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara clearly deserves a place here. This is the only film other than The Archies in Akhtar’s career where the theme of friendship and bonding has been explored.
Of course, ZNMD and The Archies are very different films contextually, as the main characters of ZNMD are full-grown adults who are struggling through their lives, unlike the young, carefree teenagers of Riverdale. The setting is also modern, and the dynamics between Arjun, Kabir, and Imran are much more complex than the characters of Archie. Imran’s character, played by Zoya’s real-life brother Farhan (the dialogue writer of The Archies), is the soul of the film and one of the most fascinating fictional characters ever when it comes to Hindi cinema.