When a movie can perfectly capture a hyper-specific period in time, it always has a special place in fans' hearts — and that's exactly what A Cinderella Story did for the year 2004. Back then, Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray were two of the biggest names for millennial teens. Throw in chatting on AIM, texting on flip-phones, and a soundtrack full of Jesse McCartney songs, and you've got a time machine to the early aughts. Unfortunately, A Cinderella Story is leaving Netflix in April 2020, so get your rewatches in now before its gone.
As its name suggests, A Cinderella Story is a modern interpretation of the classic Cinderella, but its humor, heart, and cast make it so much more than just a by-the-book retelling. Duff stars as Sam Montgomery, an orphaned high schooler who is bullied both at home by her superficial stepmom and at school by the popular girls. When Sam finds someone else who shares her dream of attending Princeton University via an online instant messaging service, she quickly develops a bond. But what she does not realize is her anonymous chat partner is actually Austin Ames (Murray), the popular quarterback at her school.
It's a cute, somewhat familiar premise for a high school rom-com, but the casting really does take A Cinderella Story to the next level. Both Duff and Murray were at the peak of their buzz when the film came out in 2004. Duff had just finished Lizzie McGuire, and used A Cinderella Story to reintroduce herself to fans as a separate character. Murray was becoming the "it boy" of teen dramas after landing recurring roles on Gilmore Girls and Dawson's Creek — and his first lead role had only just begun on One Tree Hill. There's something so fun about seeing the two big names right when their careers were starting to explode.
The rest of the movie's cast is a goldmine, as well. Regina King was the actor everyone was talking about in 2019 for her lead role in Watchmen, but before she was fighting crime in a mask, King played Sam's coworker and confidante Rhonda. The real scene-stealer, though, is Jennifer Coolidge, who played Sam's self-obsessed stepmom Fiona. Coolidge was already a comedy icon at the time, thanks to her roles in Legally Blonde, American Pie, and Christopher Guest's mockumentaries, but her ridiculous, Botox-loving stepmom character brought a whole new audience into her fandom.
It all adds up to the perfect romantic comedy, filled with nostalgic technology, tons of silly jokes, and two of the most iconic actors falling for one another.
A Cinderella Story will be leaving Netflix on April 30, 2020, so make sure you rewatch it as much as you can to give it a proper sendoff. Once it's gone, you can still watch the movie on Amazon, but you'll have to pay $3.99 for a rental or $12.99 to own it.