Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald)
Maybe the most beloved teenage girl in movie history, Molly Ringwald made herself immortal in a trilogy of John Hughes movies with misunderstood heroines. But before Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club, came her most indelible character: the forgotten birthday girl of Sixteen Candles. Samantha’s only a sophomore, so she may be too young to recognize that, in high school, absolutely everyone feels like a misfit, even Jake Ryan, the popular senior on whom she harbors a secret crush. But that ability of Ringwald’s to tap into universal teen alienation made her an ideal Everyteen, one boys and girls alike could identify with.
Of course, she does so not with the tortured angst of a James Dean but with a comic exasperation all her own. Her Samantha feels like the lone sane person in a circus of lunatics, which is also a feeling every teen recognizes. No wonder she’s astonished when Jake, of all people, sees past her anonymity and recognizes her as a person of depth and character. Still, Jake is more a prize than a person, a reward to Samantha for enduring a particularly humiliating day of teenage girlhood. Just getting through those embarrassments is victory enough, and every high school comedy heroine who’s taken it even a step further (from Lindsay Lohan’s Cady Heron in Mean Girls to Emma Stone’s Olive Penderghast in Easy A) owed Ringwald’s Samantha a debt of thanks.