As an unabashed disciple and noted benefactee of the Soderberghian one-for-me-one-for-them (but-also-kind-of-for-me) filmmaking philosophy, Richard Linklater’s career can seem as bipolar as that of any innovative filmmaker working within a constrictive studio system. In many cases, Linklater’s self-written, rotoscopic experiments hit theaters in the same year as his uninspired adaptations of exploitative investigative journalism, or his too-soon, post-9/11 walkthroughs of New York City with impudent tour-guides-cum-philosophers coincide with his guiltless enablings of Jack Black’s ongoing public rationalization for not being an adult. But reading through a list of the filmmaker’s credentials, one thing becomes abundantly clear: For better or for worse, Linklater is unquestionably resolute in his insistence that boys will be boys.
Abetted by perpetual boy Ethan Hawke in nearly half of his films (if ever there was a boy who will be a boy!), Link’s screenplays are uniform in their male impishness, whether such juvenile masculinity is perceived as charming or toxic, as the adage has been deemed by recent think pieces published by the likes of HuffPo, WashPo, and PsychTo. Even after creating what is undeniably the ultimate cinematic “boy” experience with Boyhood in 2014, Linklater immediately outdid himself with his testosterone-injected follow-up, Everybody Wants Some!! With the quickly approaching release date of Where’d You Go, Bernadette—his first film venturing outside of the Sandlot/Goonies universe—now’s a good time to look back on the boy-canon of Later’s fictions and rank all of his films by just how boys his boys have been.
16. Waking Life (2001)
Who is the boy? Wiley Wiggins’ unconscious
What is the boy’s behavior? Trying to wake up
How boys will this boy be? Hardly boys; there’s nothing particularly endearing or misogynistic about lucid dreaming. A more apt tautology would be that Alex Jones will most definitely be Alex Jones.
15. It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (1988) / Slacker (1990)
Who are the boys? Linklater himself and a series of brainchildren manifest
What is the boys’ behavior? Slacking, but also indulging in the unboymanlike past time of having intellectual thoughts
How boys will these boys be? Not nearly boys enough; sure, electing to goof off in lieu of college and/or entering the workforce is most symptomatic of being boys, but how relatable is their errant philosophizing?
14. Bernie (2011)
Who is the boy? Bernie Tiede, exemplary momma’s boy to an entire community of septuagenarians
What is the boy’s behavior? Goody-two-shoesing his way into a fortune
How boys will this boy be? Vaguely boys; the criminal behavior Bernie resorts to is a little too extreme for a Linklaterian boys certification, and it certainly doesn’t help his case that he goodies way too shodedly up until this point.
13. Last Flag Flying (2017)
Who are the boys? Vietnam vets mourning the death of one of their Iraq-stationed sons
What is the boys’ behavior? Nicholsonian machismo in the face of tragedy; giggling uncontrollably about sex
How boys will these boys be? Residually boys; despite “becoming” “men” back in ’nam, these boys evidently still subscribe to militarily implanted notions of manhood regarding potency, not-crying, and ditching thirty years of personal and spiritual development for the sake of getting back together with the boys.
12. A Scanner Darkly (2006)
Who are the boys? Three good-ol’-boy roommates just trying to get by in the midst of a hallucinogen epidemic
What is the boys’ behavior? Cohabitating in sloppy living quarters, abusing illicit substances, roughhousing, etc.
How boys will these boys be? Relatively boys; while there’s no single characteristic betraying the three male leads’ maturity, their animated jejunity is certainly amplified by these boys actually being fully grown men.
11. The Newton Boys (1998)
Who are the boys? I mean, the Newton Boys
What is the boys’ behavior? Peer-pressuring their kid brother into robbing banks with them
How boys will these boys be? Sufficiently boys; what this film significantly posits within Linklater’s all-too-realistic universe, though, is that boys have been boys for at least a century.
10. SubUrbia (1996)
Who is the boy? Jeff, a disaffected youth in the suburbs of Austin
What is the boy’s behavior? An active inferiority complex in heated debate with his girlfriend’s plan to move to New York (assuming the success of her performance art piece, Burger Manifesto, Part 1: The Dialectical Exposition of Testosterone)
How boys will this boy be? More boys than not; getting angry about the world passing you by while actively avoiding participation is more of a general ’90s-youth attitude than a trait of boyishness, but there’s no denying the patently male odors emanating from the unwashed antihero’s boy-colored hoodie.
9. Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight (1995/2004/2013)
Who is the boy? Jesse, a flirty American abroad who you just know is a troublemaker
What is the boy’s behavior? That thing where a boy teases a girl he likes
How boys will this boy be? Notably boys; his occasional hazing of Céline after nearly twenty years is quite the boyish precedent to set.
8. Fast Food Nation (2006)
Who are the boys? Major US fast-food chains
What is the boys’ behavior? Pranking America by making them eat cowshit in their burgers
How boys will these boys be? Actually pretty boys; as evidenced by the cowshit thing, the fast food industry is sort of depicted as being a part of the fraternity-to-corporation pipeline here. Also, teenage Paul Dano spits on a patty, which is such a boys thing to do.
7. Me and Orson Welles (2008)
Who are the boys? Richard and his adult-theater-kid cohorts
What is the boys’ behavior? Euphemizing their serial prey of female colleagues as “quadruple spacing” them for the sake of a 1930s conservatism (not to mention a PG-13 rating)
How boys will these boys be? Enormously boys; besides Richard and Orson’s vying for alpha status, the theater boys constitute a Shakespearean chorus unsophisticatedly narrating the implicit goings-on of the movie’s archetypal competitive masculinity.
6. Tape (2001)
Who are the boys? Jon and Vince, high school buddies separated for nearly a decade
What is the boys’ behavior? A posthumous kiss-and-tell of a mutual high school sweetheart
How boys will these boys be? Suuuper boys; few things are more boys for two thirty-year-olds to do than prankingly calling an old girlfriend from high school who ultimately shows up and sorts out their respective sloppy lives.
5. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Who are the boys? Lee High School class of ’76
What is the boys’ behavior? Paddling of incoming freshmen; getting older while high school girls remain the same age
How boys will these boys be? Relentlessly boys; though the soundness of the adage is ultimately shaken by the development that girls will evidently also be boys.
4. Boyhood (2014)
Who is the boy? Mason Evans, Jr., all-American millennial boy
What is the boy’s behavior? Jamming pencil sharpeners with rocks, getting introduced to pornography by other boys, throwing saw blades, listening to The Hives, not tolerating Britney, growing up so fast
How boys will this boy be? Incredibly boys; from juvenile curiosity to late-teen angst, Boyhood is a cinematic paragon of boys being boys—that is, unless you’re asking either of Mason’s stepdads.
3. School of Rock (2003)
Who is the boy? Dewey “Jack ‘Angus Young’ Black” Finn
What is the boy’s behavior? Defying nagging authority figures (see: women)
How boys will this boy be? So boys, dude; Finn is already your quintessential Linklater boy, but it’s Mike White (Ned Schneebly)’s screenplay that puts an uncomfortably heavy focus on the disapproving mother figure in every adult female in the movie.
2. Bad News Bears (2005)
Who are the boys? Fledgeling jocks and their complacent, boozing ringleader
What is the boys’ behavior? Baseball
How boys will these boys be? Extremely boys; an authority figure of Boy’s National Pastime loosely based on Billy Bob Thornton’s character in Bad Santa, Coach Morris Buttermaker flatulently preaches boyishness to impressionable youths by imparting all kinds of psychological damage in the form of life lessons.
1. Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
Who are the boys? The 1980-’81 Southeast Texas Cherokees baseball team
What is the boys’ behavior? Relentless competition, copious high-fives, being self-professed guys who’ll do anything to get laid
How boys will these boys be? Unbelievably boys; as their first unofficial team practice devolves into duct-taping freshman to the outfield wall and pelting them with line drives, we as an audience can’t help but shake our heads and exclaim good-naturedly to our surrounding movie-goers, “boys…boys will be boys!” FL