101 Greatest Screenplays of the 21st Century (*so far)

While working as Saturday Night Live’s head writer, Tina Fey read Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes—a nonfiction examination of aggressive behavior among teen girls—and pitched SNL producer Lorne Michaels on a movie version. Fey then recalled a period during high school when she judged others as a means of fortifying her self-esteem. Wiseman’s scholarship and Fey’s memories begat Mean Girls, in which adolescent outsider Cady Heron tussles with “The Plastics,” a status-minded clique led by vicious Regina George. Cady ditches real friends when she falls under Regina’s thrall, gets drunk on the power of living atop a high school’s caste system, and finally rediscovers integrity. As Fey told Parade in 2019, “the core of the story is to not lift yourself up by tearing someone else down.” Surrounding that core are offbeat characterizations, indelible gags (“Stop trying to make fetch happen!”), and breathless pacing.