Remember what it felt like to be a teenager? When your life was all crushes, parties, and endless possibility? Considering recent times, we wouldn’t be surprised if that all feels particularly hazy right now. But worry not – watching an excellent teen movie will definitely jog your memory!
The ‘teen movie’ genre often isn’t given the credit it deserves. Many people think they’re only for youngsters, and some might even say they’re immature or silly. But, actually, some of the best films of all time have centred on teenagers. The corridors of high-schools and the interior worlds of 16-year-olds can actually be the perfect mediums to explore issues surrounding identity, growing up, love and friendship. It’s a time when everything is so new and exciting, yet also deeply confusing and pretty awkward. And it’s the awkwardness of teenage life that makes it the perfect subject matter for comedy.
Throughout the years, a variety of teen movies have gained huge cult followings among teenagers and fully-grown adults alike. Quotes from some such movies have even become integrated into modern-day parlance; if you’ve ever heard someone shout, “you can’t sit with us!” or “as if!” (with extra emphasis on the “if”) then you’ll know the huge impact these films can have. We can thank Mean Girls and Clueless for these quotable phrases.
So without further ado, we give you the very best teen movies, which are all packed with humour, warmth, loveable characters (and deliciously deplorable ones) and a whole lot of meaning. We recommend you watch one immediately…
The Breakfast Club (1985)
When you hear the song, Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds, do you immediately think of this classic teen movie? You’re not alone. The song plays at the beginning and iconic closing credits of this cult favourite about a group of students from very different cliques who come together during a Saturday detention and gradually break down the barriers that have divided them.
Best line: “When you grow up, your heart dies.”
The Princess Diaries (2001)
It must’ve been every misfit young girl’s fantasy to have a long-lost relative turn up at their doorstep and tell them that they’re actually a princess. And this is exactly what happens to Mia Thermopolis (played brilliantly by Anne Hathaway), a clumsy teen from San Francisco, when she discovers that her grandmother (Julie Andrews – who else?) is actually the queen of fictional land Genovia. Based on the popular book series by Meg Cabot, it’s full of love, humour, and some really sparkly tiaras.
Best line: “The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.”
Mean Girls (2004)
Possibly the most quoted movie of all time, this noughties comedy is full of slogan-worthy lines (‘On Wednesdays we wear pink’, and ‘the limit does not exist’, to name just two of many). Created by comedy genius Tina Fey, it follows Cady (Lindsay Lohan), a ‘home-schooled jungle freak’ who starts high-school for the first time, and has to navigate the scary world of cliques and popularity, while also falling head-over-heels for her crush, Aaron Samuels. Rachel McAdams is brilliant as most-popular-girl-in-school Regina George, while Amanda Seyfried plays ditzy Karen hilariously. There is just nothing wrong with this film. It’s so fetch!
Best line: “Ex-boyfriends are off limits to friends. That’s just, like, the rules of feminism.”
A dark take on the high-school comedy, this iconic film involves cliques, three girls called ‘Heather’, and murder. Starring Winona Ryder in the lead role of Veronica Sawyer, the film has been transformed into a smash-hit musical and recently dominated both Broadway and the West End.
Best line: “Chaos is what killed the dinosaurs, darling.”
The Hate U Give (2018)
Based on the YA novel of the same name, this more serious teen movie once again defies the boundaries of what the genre can be. The story follows Starr Carter, an African-American teenager played by rising star Amandla Stenberg who witnesses the shooting of her best friend by the police, as she tries to stand up for what’s right. It’s timely, educational and immensely powerful.
Best line: “How many of us have to die before y’all get it?”
Lady Bird (2017)
As the creator of the recent adaptation of Little Women, you’ll probably know that everything Greta Gerwig touches turns to gold – especially when the Irish powerhouse actor Saoirse Ronan is involved. Written and directed by Gerwig, the story follows teenage Christine aka Lady Bird (Ronan), through ups and downs in all her closest relationships. Also starring Timothee Chalamet (who played Laurie in Little Women), the movie is critically-acclaimed and has been hailed as one of the most accurate, relatable portrayals of teenage life.
Best line: “It’s not important to be right. It’s only important to be true.”
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
This modern-day take on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is simply brilliant. Cameron (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is desperate to date the gorgeous Bianca, but her strict dad won’t allow her to date anyone until her older sister, the aloof, unpopular Kat (Julia Stiles) starts dating people too. As a result, Cameron decides to pay bad-boy Patrick (masterfully portrayed by the late, great Heath Ledger) to pursue Kat but it’s not long before feelings are involved. The scene where Heath Ledger’s character sings ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ in front of the entire school is undoubtedly one of the most iconic teen movie moments of all time.
Best line: “I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?” “I think you can in Europe.”
Wild Child (2008)
When unruly teen Poppy (Emma Roberts) is shipped off to boarding school in England, she’s furious about having to leave her LA lifestyle behind. Little does she know that amazing friendships and even the possibility of love awaits. It’s warm, funny, and exceptionally British.
Best line: “Looks like we’ve got ourselves a SULA: Sweaty Upper Lip Alert.”
Every few years, it becomes fashionable to wear a matching tartan blazer and mini-skirt. And there’s a reason this style always seems to come back around: rich-girl Cher (played by Alicia Silverstone) has immortalised the ensemble. The film follows Cher as she mentors a less-popular Tai (Brittany Murphy) and also develops feelings for her ex-step brother Josh (Paul Rudd). It’s a modern-day Beverly Hills spin on Jane Austen’s Emma and it has come to represent nineties culture as a whole. As if!
Best line: “Do you prefer fashion victim or ensembly challenged?”
Easy A (2010)
Loosely based on The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (have you noticed modern-day adaptations of classic literature is a common theme?) this movie sees Olive – played by Oscar-winning Emma Stone – climb the social ranks at school after a rumour spreads that she has lost her virginity, when she actually hasn’t. It’s a funny and smart commentary on identity, reputation, and sexuality, and has garnered amazing reviews.
Best line: “This is where the magic happens. And as we all know, by ‘magic’ I mean ‘nothing.'”
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)
A very recent contender is Netflix’s smash hit based on the bestselling book of the same name. It follows shy student Lara-Jean (Lana Condor) who writes private letters to all of her crushes and hides them under her bed. But when her mischievous younger sister decides to send the letters to all their recipients, chaos – and romance (with the heart-throb Peter played by Noah Centineo) – ensues.
Best line: “You’d rather make up a fantasy version of somebody in your head than be with a real person.”
Pitch Perfect (2012)
Aca-scuse me? This musical movie, starring Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow and Rebel Wilson (to name a few) centres on an American college acapella group as they attempt to regain their place as national champions. Featuring brilliant mash-ups of classic pop songs, and some truly hilarious comedic moments, it’s the kind of film you can watch again and again. We love the two sequels too, but nothing beats the original.
Best line: “I’m gonna finish him like a cheesecake!”
17 Again (2009)
Do you ever wish you could go back in time and re-live your high-school glory days? Well, that’s exactly what happens in this heartening romcom. Bitter Mike O’Donnell (played by Friends’s Matthew Perry) is divorced from his teenage sweetheart, Scarlet (Leslie Mann), disconnected from his teenage kids and he hates his job. But then he magically transforms into his younger, more popular, sporty self – played by the gorgeous Zac Efron – and has the opportunity for a do-over.
Best line: “When you’re young everything feels like the end of the world. But it’s not; it’s just the beginning.”
Go Grease lightning! Nothing says coming-of-age classic quite like the musical movie Grease, starring Olivia Newton-John as good-girl Sandy and John Travolta as bad-boy Danny Zuko. Sandy’s emergence wearing those leather trousers, smoking a cigarette, will forever be one of the most iconic moments in movie history.
Best line: “Tell me ‘bout it, stud.”
She’s The Man (2006)
It’s another modern-day Shakespeare – this time based on one of his most famous comedies, The Twelfth Night. Viola (Amanda Bynes) poses as her brother Sabastian so she can make the all-male soccer team at his boarding school while he’s away in London. But then she accidentally falls in love with her roommate Duke (Channing Tatum) and a whole lot of confusion and mistaken identity follows. It’s hilarious and clever, and never gets old.
Best line: “Heels are a male invention designed to make a woman’s butt look smaller. And to make it harder to run away.”
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