Some crushes survive the decades, shifting from adolescent desire into adult thirst. Others are frozen in time like a mosquito in amber. Experiencing swoony teen dream feelings decades later doesn't require a lab full of high-tech equipment or a time machine — it is far simpler than that. The warm nostalgia of revisiting movie favorites from your formative years can reignite different emotions that run the gamut from wistful to horny. It doesn't matter if you no longer see an actor through the same crush-tinted glasses; those old stirrings can easily come flooding back.
Every generation experiences a horror shift with notable standouts. Self-awareness marks the slasher cycle of the '90s that helped cement teen heartthrob status for Skeet Ulrich in Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer's Ryan Phillippe and Freddie Prinze Jr. And while not every single Kevin Williamson-penned story resulted in a top-tier scary movie, his prolific output unleashed crush options aplenty. Covering all bad boy and nice guy bases, a hairstyle managed to say a lot about each of these dudes before they even opened their mouths, from the floppy dirt bangs of Billy Loomis (Ulrich) —that get more greasy after his killer status has been revealed — to the perfectly coiffed messy hero hair sported by Ray (Prinze Jr.). Only one actor looked like he had cut his own locks on his way to stardom, standing out from the rest of the crowd.
Josh Hartnett and his choppy DIY bangs burst onto the horror movie scene — and into my heart — in 1998, starring in Halloween H20 and The Faculty. I was a 16-year-old horror fan (who also loved Dawson's Creek), so Kevin Williamson's material pretty much dominated my viewing habits. Hartnett wasn't my number one crush from a Williamson project — that honor goes to Joshua Jackson — but he was definitely high on the list. My esteemed colleague Carly Lane recently wrote about how Hartnett didn't achieve "peak hotness" until his role on Penny Dreadful, citing his "flowing locks of hair" in her closing argument. And while his hotness definitely persists, nothing quite beats the heady feelings of an early crush — even with questionable bangs.
Playing the role of Laurie Strode's son John — in the first Halloween to star Jamie Lee Curtis since her uncredited voice cameo in the 1982 sequel Season of the Witch — Hartnett gets the same "introducing" credit that Curtis received 20 years before (and Andi Matichak landed in 2018). While this narrative has been wiped from the current Halloween timeline, you cannot erase the impact Hartnett had on the 16-year-old who watched this movie upon release.
The reason I wanted to see Halloween H20 in theaters wasn't that I hadn't seen the first movie beyond the clips used in Scream (yes, I have rectified this grave error). Rather, Michelle Williams was the big draw. Jen was (and still is) my favorite Dawson's Creek character and knowing Williams was in this movie was enough. But before she even came on screen, I was instantly drawn to the guy who was being a dutiful son to his PTSD-suffering mom.
The baggy shirt, undone school tie, and signature ‘90s choker necklace are a style time-capsule that might make you question why we didn't get dressed properly or wear clothes that fit — on the Halloween H20 red carpet, Hartnett's clothes were equally oversized while he nonchalantly sipped on a soda. By the time the MTV Movie Awards rolled around the following year (he was nominated for Breakthrough Male, but lost to James Van Der Beek), his hair was just as uneven and clothes as loose-fitting — you can't see it in the photo below, but he also opted for Chris Pine-approved Birkenstocks. I stan a comfy style king in an era when the baggier the better.
It all adds to the hard to ignore DGAF vibes — both on and off-screen. His lack of attention to his hair is part of its potency. Sure, it looks like he has taken a pair of scissors to his bangs and haphazardly cut, but behind every jagged edge, there is more care than it suggests. Effortlessness is his aesthetic, but a lot of attention to detail goes into a so-called DIY style. Between various Halloween H20 shots, different parts stick out like he can't stop touching it. Living with the ghost of Michael Myers is a lot to deal with so this habit is understandable — this might be a continuity issue but my theory still stands.
Unlike other terrible horror boyfriends — of which there are many — John is attentive and sweet. He leaves flowers and a map to a secret date spot for Molly (Williams) and while they both almost die at the hands of his uncle (a family tree that is severed in the 2018 version), the couple that fights a serial killer together stays together. Instead of playing into the bad boy cliché, he tells a few white lies and skips the school trip so he can hang out with his girlfriend and friends in the nearly abandoned school. He is less wholesome than his mother was at this age, but on any other night, this act of rebellion wouldn't mark too highly on the rogue behavior scale.
Cut to a few months later and Hartnett stars as the quintessential "bad boy who is actually smart and good" high school role in The Faculty. Selling fake IDs and a drug with the unfortunate name of "scat" — this is the 1998 version of Jingle Jangle — is the instant archetype giveaway. He is intelligent but doesn't apply himself. All he needs is the right guidance, and what better reason to step up to the plate than an alien invasion?
Unlike his Halloween character, this school does not require a uniform but Hartnett's costume is no less skater style, and his hair still appears to be do-it-yourself. It is slightly more controlled than his previous venture, but the uneven bangs enter into the teen movie hair hall of fame. This should not be as swoon-worthy as it is — yes, the cheekbones help — but anytime I rewatch either one of these movies it spins me back two decades.
There is also a lot to be said for the simplicity of a dark short-sleeve tee worn on top of a light long one — the less said about shiny pants the better. The outfit Hartnett chose to wear to the Gattaca premiere managed to look very similar to his Faculty costume.
As Zeke in The Faculty, Hartnett gets to play the snarky archetype that Williamson excelled at. The good-looking misfit can often feel like an oxymoron, but the dorky uneven cut adds to this character's charm and outsider status. In some scenes, his cut resembles a doll that a child has taken scissors to without realizing it won't grow back. In other lights, it reminds me of the time I let a friend cut my fringe when my hair was wet — reader, it did not go well.
At the Faculty premiere, he wore another '90s accessory fave that sadly covered up his DIY fringe — maybe he was having a bad hair day? Fashion is cyclical and bucket hats have made a comeback; considering the COVID-19 world we now live in, a do-it-yourself haircut isn't so out of the ordinary.
A year after his horror double feature, he would saunter down another school corridor in the '70s-set The Virgin Suicides wearing an all-together era-appropriate shaggy wig. The blunt bangs clung on at the MTV Movie Awards before the Hollywood blockbuster heartthrob transformation sadly did away with the uneven style. It is impossible to turn the clock back, but teen thirst survives the test of time — even if the haircut doesn't.