What’s To Love?

Chengli Payton '25

Summer is fast approaching, and I can’t think of anything more fun than summer movie night. In this article, I’ll explain ten things that make Ten Things I Hate About You an exceptional film. Additional articles to follow on my summer flic recommendations! 

Disclaimer: Light spoilers ahead! 


One: Nerdy Made Fun

Right off the bat, let’s discuss that one scene we all know and love. A teary-eyed Kat, acted by Julia Stiles, performs a sonnet for heartthrob on and off the set, Heath Ledger. Fun fact— the tears were real, and crying was not part of the script. A+ delivery from Stiles! From that angsty opening scene with the graffiti typeface to the fast-paced witty dialogues, Ten Things I Hate About You toes the line of camp. But thanks to the writers, the witty Shakespeare-influenced dialogue is endearing.


Two: The Wardrobe

For me, the fashion and the wardrobe make the film especially unique. Every character has a signature style, from Bianca’s preppy look to Kat’s lived-in athletic look. Every look screams the nineties, but they’re all spun to fit the actors. The 90s had some debatable fashion choices, and while I wouldn’t personally wear all of the outfits, they truly do make the movie.


Three: The Plot

I’m not a movie critic by any means, but I think a good movie should have a balance of plot, dialogue, and pacing. Ten Things I Hate About You has all of these qualities in abundance. Taking inspiration from Shakespeare’s, The Taming of The Shrew, this film takes inspiration from the best. But kudos to the writers for keeping the film plot fresh and fun. Every time you watch it, you’ll notice something different. 


Four: The Setting

While the setting is arguably not the most important aspect of the movie, I love the Stratford family house. The home is awkwardly large for a single father and his two daughters, but the house tells its own story. I am in awe of how thoughtful set designers are. Prop placement is everything! And as far as high schools go, “Padua High School” is large with very detailed architecture (it has Saint E’s vibes for sure!). You’ll be thrilled to know it is a real high school, Stadium High School, in Washington!


Five: The Soundtrack

The soundtrack in the film adds another element of fun. And it’s not just in the classic Heath Ledger bleachers scene, but also for songs such as “War” by The Cardigans. But “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” which has been covered numerous times, truly encapsulates the special blend of unpolished romance and fun. The whole scene is truly joyous and hilarious with the bumbling cops, Kat’s bemused expressions, and the comical high school band. I wonder what the movie would have been like with another song choice. After all, it was Ledger who proposed “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” For reference, one of the other song choices was slated to be “I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” with the high school band makes the movie so much livelier!


Five: The Actors 

Now, we’ve discussed most of the actors, but their chemistry is the most charming part. It’s no wonder this movie signaled young talent. Cameron, played by Joseph-Gordon Levitt, is a typical all-American boy who’s surprisingly motivated to win over Bianca! And yes, there’s Heath Ledger, who truly shines in this movie. 


Six: The Quotes

Every quote is deeply rooted in nineties culture, but the quotes remain fresh and unique to their actors. One of my favorites from Bianca Stratford is, “There’s a difference between like and love. Because I like my Skechers, but I love my Prada backpack.” Not skipping out on the feminist overtones, this movie is chock-full of strong statements you don’t tend to find in other lighthearted comedies. Kat Stratford takes the audience down an academic road when she says, ​​“Romantic? Hemingway? He was an abusive, alcoholic misogynist who squandered half of his life hanging around Picasso trying to nail his leftovers.” Perhaps shocking, Picasso and Hemingway were contemporaries. But leave it up to Kat to know that and have already formed an opinion! See, that’s what the movie’s all about. Maybe it’s not the generic dialogue we would hear from teenagers, but the actors deliver the lines with so much energy and vibrance you don’t think twice.


Seven: The Tropes

Now, let’s get into the tropes. The whole film revolves around high school life of course, and while the other students function more as an ensemble, the overall cliques are important. Merely five minutes into the movie, we are introduced to the high school scene, and beloved Michael, played by David Krumholtz, takes the audience through groups such as the “Future MBAs,” the “Basic Beautiful People,” and the “Coffee Kids.”

Another trope that stood out to me was the controlling but lovable father figure (who just so happens to be an obstetrician), Walter Stratford, the father of Kat and Bianca. If you’re a rom-com fan, you’ll recognize him as Paolo from The Princess Diaries, sans the Italian accent! For context, teen pregnancy was a huge concern in the 90s and 00s’. You’ll be happy to know that teen pregnancy rates have declined since then– so I’d say the inclusion of the overly concerned father somewhat ages the movie, but it also speaks to its feminist overtones. 

And of course, we’ve got the tried and true sister dynamic. However, the film goes the extra mile to unpack the sisters’ relationship. You can see the motif of sisterhood throughout the whole film, in Kat and Bianca’s words and actions– even down to their wardrobe. 

While I’d say tropes can doom a movie, Ten Things I Hate About You paints these tropes as an integral part of one’s identity. The extras in the ensemble also have so much to unpack, and they function exceptionally well as background characters. Just like with the set design, all of these elements and tropes blend to form the veritable melting pot that is high school.


Eight: The Portrayal of High School Life

Speaking of high school, it feels like there are a billion movies about high school out there. Considering that film has been around for only a hundred years, give or take, it’s shocking how many movies address the high school experience. If you’re reading this and you’ve been in high school, you’ve probably remarked how it is “not like the movies.” The same can be said for Ten Things About You. From the endless Shakespeare allusions to the characters’ seemingly infinite free time, it’s definitely not overly realistic. But that’s the beauty of these types of lighthearted movies. The film is a delightful escape, yet it still lends itself to a realistic setting. I’m positive that every viewer could find a character to relate to.


Nine: The Fun We Need

It is my firm belief that we need more fun, lighthearted movies. While the occasional deeply moving and emotional film does good for the soul, it’s nice to slow down. This film is truly a nostalgic escapade, even if you weren’t alive in 1999. 


Ten: The Takeaways

There are many takeaways from this movie. While the movie stays lighthearted, it still tackles themes very well. Even down to the two sisters’ wardrobe, this constant battle of feminism is evident. If you’ve got time, the movie is free to stream on Tubi TV, or if you have a Disney+ account. So, this summer, if you find yourself wanting a nostalgic release or some laughs, watch Ten Things I Hate About You.