Know this: if you ever dare tell me that 10 Things I Hate About You isn’t a perfect movie, I will literally fight you. Based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You follows Kat and Bianca Stratford as they navigate their overprotective father’s latest rule: the bubbly Bianca can’t go on a date until the tempestuous, sharp-tongued Kat does. What they don’t realize is that several of the boys at Padua High School have hatched an elaborate scheme to get both girls out of the house and into their hearts. 10 Things I Hate About You has everything that all the great ‘90s teen flicks have: an all-star cast (including the American introduction of the late, great Heath Ledger), a Shakespearean premise (all the best ones do), and absolutely incredible dialogue (“Who needs affection when I have blind hatred?” comes to mind). With all this in mind, we have ten things to love about 10 Things I Hate About You to celebrate twenty years of this perfect movie’s existence.
10. The Movie’s Shakespearean Roots
10 Things I Hate About You comes is part of a long line of Shakespeare-inspired teen movies, meaning that it already has a leg up in the plot department. As the English teacher Mr. Morgan says, “I know Shakespeare’s a dead white guy, but he knows his shit. So we can overlook that.” Besides using key plot and character elements of The Taming of the Shrew (ditching some of the more problematic ones in the process), 10 Things pays homage to the works of Shakespeare in their naming conventions–Kat and Bianca Stratford get their names from Shakespearean counterparts Katherine and Bianca Stratford, Patrick’s last name is Verona in honor of his counterpart’s birthplace, and the high school is Padua after the play’s setting.
9. The Surprisingly Important Role Letters to Cleo Plays in the Story
Could you get more ‘90s than having Letters to Cleo not only make an appearance, but be part of the story’s actual plot? No, you can’t. The movie gets bonus points for managing to include Save Ferris as well.
8. Ms. Perky
Allison Janney is flawless in every single role that she plays, but her role as Ms. Perky, Padua’s guidance counselor and aspiring erotica writer really takes the cake. As a small role as an adult side character in a teen rom-com, it’d be easy to just fall by the wayside, but she steals the few scenes she’s in–and impressive feat, considering those scenes are with the effortlessly charming Heath Ledger and the magnetic Julia Stiles.
7. Mr. Morgan’s Total and Complete Honesty with His English Class
He’s not there to be the moral center of the school, or to be a mentor to the movie’s heroes. He’s there to call his students out on their shit–for instance, when he tells Kat, “I know how difficult it must be for you to overcome all those years of upper middle-class suburban oppression. Must be tough. But the next time you storm the PTA crusading for better… lunch meat, or whatever it is you white girls complain about, ask them WHY they can’t buy a book written by a black man!” or when he tells Joey, “Some day, you’re gonna get bitch slapped and I’m not gonna do a thing to stop it.” Bonus: he occasionally raps Shakespeare sonnets when the time calls for it. Mr. Morgan: the hero we all deserve.
6. Mr. Stratford’s One-Liners
Mr. Stratford may be a little intense when it comes to protecting his children, but it doesn’t keep him from being the funniest part of the whole movie. For example, when Chastity claims that what she and Bianca are trying to go to is “just a party,” and he replies, “And hell is just a sauna.” Mr. Stratford belongs in the Movie Parent Hall of Fame for his quips alone.
5. The sheer amount of money Joey loses throughout this movie
Not only does he continually pay Patrick to take out Kat out on dates, but he bets on his own success in his quest to have sex with Bianca–something that he ultimately fails at. Sorry, Joey. Hope you get another nosespray ad to shoot.
4. The Scene Where Patrick and Kat Kiss for the First Time
After Kat flashes her soccer coach to get Patrick out of detention, the pair paddle boat over to a balloon paintball place to playfully smash paint into each other’s hair. It’s an adorably perfect scene that ends in their first kiss, set to the dulcet tones of Semisonic’s “F.N.T.,” a song that deserves way more attention than it gets.
3. Patrick Verona
Patrick Verona is the ultimate bad boy with a heart of gold—and also the perfect match for Kat. People are just as intimidated by him, and he couldn’t care less about what they think. He makes the ultimate rom-com karaoke move when he sings Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” with marching band in the middle of Kat’s soccer practice, all while on the run from the school’s security guards. He’s effortlessly charming, sexy, and refuses to kiss Kat while she’s drunk after the party, making a great point about consent in an otherwise hilarious film. While the whole accepting-money-from-Joey-to-take-out-Kat thing would normally count as a major strike against him, he ends up funneling all of the money into surprises for Kat–including getting her favorite artist to perform at their prom, and buying her a guitar. Honestly, his only flaw is that he thinks that angry girl rock means “chicks who can’t play their instruments,” and I like to think that he gets over that eventually.
2. Surprise: Bianca Doesn’t Need Saving
At the start of the movie, Bianca is positioned as the slightly vapid, popular foil to Kat’s prickly loner vibe. She’s the pawn in Joey, Cameron, and Michael’s complicated game, a girl who’s treated as a gullible prize at every turn. In the end, it turns out that Bianca is stronger and more self aware than anyone else around her, which makes it extremely satisfying to watch her punch Joey in the face for what he does to Kat, Cameron, and most importantly, herself.
From the opening notes of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” Kat Stratford is unforgettable. She doesn’t care what her classmates think, she only pursues her own interests, and most importantly, she’s angry at the world–specifically at the patriarchy. “I guess in this society, being male and an ASSHOLE makes you worthy of our time,” she announces to her English class upon being forced to deal with Hemingway. Has there ever been a teen movie character be so perfectly angry since Katarina Stratford? The success of 10 Things I Hate About You hinges on its treatment of Kat, and the fact that it flips The Taming of the Shrew on its head; Patrick doesn’t change Kat, he just proves that people will love her for exactly who she is, anger and all. This rejection of one of the most annoying teen movie tropes allows the “unlikable” female character, an unapologetic feminist and ornery high school senior, to be the heroine of a rom-com–and deservedly so.