5. Cruel Intentions
Who’s in it: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair
What it’s about: Some people might write off Cruel Intentions as just another sexy ’90s teen flick, but writing it off is a horrible mistake. The psychosexual drama centers on Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe), step-siblings who use sex as a weapon and a twisted game. Kathryn bets Sebastian that he can’t seduce the new headmaster’s daughter, Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon), after the innocent good girl publishes her manifesto in Seventeen magazine. However, Sebastian discovers his connection with Annette could be bigger than the bet.
Why you should watch: Even though sexual politics aren’t a huge theme in The Politician, the Netflix series shares quite a bit of DNA with Cruel Intentions. Both the series and the film hinge on camp to drive the drama and boast characters with moral compasses pointing anywhere but due north. There’s just a slight deviation between Kathryn Merteuil and Payton Hobart, and that’s Payton’s lack of using religious iconography as drug paraphernalia.
In the same vein as The Politician, sexuality is fluid in Cruel Intentions, making the film somewhat ahead of its time for its 1999 release date and a beloved queer cult favorite. Beyond the thematic and tonal similarities shared by both titles, they each understand the importance of a memorable soundtrack cue. You’ll never get Ben Platt’s rendition of “Vienna” out of your mind, just like you’ll always think of Reese Witherspoon driving with a smirk when you hear “Bitter Sweet Symphony.”
Where you can watch: Cruel Intentions isn’t currently available to stream online, though it is available through some premium channels and to rent and purchase.