Do you agree with me when I say that there’s something so deliciously enjoyable about the teen rom-coms of the ’80s,’ 90s? I mean, adolescence is an awkward but lovely stage that movies have addressed many times in very different ways. The representation of reality in films is always strong, emotionally dramatic, and with the same frequency as a real-life experience. In fact, many of these teen films discuss important everyday issues such as bullying, suicide, the intensity of your first real crush, and the need to fit in.
It turns out that going through this stage of early adulthood isn’t nearly as easy as teen movies have us believe… but we can’t help wanting to watch them over and over again. So this time I bring you some of the classics… as if you had forgotten! Make sure you don’t miss #15, #4 and #1!
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Superbad is easily one of Judd Apatow’s finest works that remains a watermark for teenage comedies. In this film, the odyssey to fulfill those teenage dreams is full of incidents: from an encounter with a couple of police officers to an infamous false identification that gives his creditor the dubious unique name of McLovin. Our fan favorite!
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In 1999, American Pie had taken only a few of the many recurring themes of teen comedies —sexual urgency and loss of virginity— to make it the center of the plot. Released in 2007, Superbad goes a little further, with a deeper exploration of friendship, without neglecting other themes such as the need to fit in, alienation and loss of innocence from a hilarious point of view.
#24. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Based on the characters of the 1999 novel by Stephen Chbosky, Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller play three high school students who share similar characteristics but are rejected by society. However, precisely due to the fact that they’re a group of misfits, they face all their problems in safe anonymity, although the road won’t be easy.
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What I like the most about The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) is that it takes place sometime just prior to the end of the last century, before mobiles and social media monopolized teenage communication. Their absence makes the story poignant and strange, and the music is also sensational.
In this indie film, Ellen Page plays an independent teenager who confronts an unplanned pregnancy and the subsequent events that push her into early adulthood full of responsibilities. Director Jason Reitman and author Diablo Cody did an awesome job, and what makes Juno (2007) different from most other teen comedies is the way it treats its characters as human beings who find themselves in situations that are hilarious and dramatic at the same time.
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It’s actually refreshing to watch a film where a script is not made specifically to make us laugh, but also to show good, common people, like you and me, making the best choices they can and taking responsibility for the results of their actions. For those reasons—and so many more!—it deserves to be in this list.
#22. The Craft
If you’ve ever owned a velvet choker or dressed like someone from The Addams Family, chances are you’ve seen this supernatural horror film. The story centers on a group of four outcast teenage girls at a parochial high school who pursue witchcraft for their own but soon encounter negative repercussions proving to be the ruin of one of them and a harsh learning experience for the other three.
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With defiant outfits, the foursome unlocks their supernatural powers and seeks revenge upon a racist classmate, an abusive father, and a male-dominated system. Unlike the current trends of horror, it’s fun and also truthful to the emotional turmoil of being ostracized from a coven. Sound stressful? Relax, it’s only magic.
#21. 13 Going On 30
13 Going on 30 (2004) features Hollywood icon Jennifer Garner who takes the role of a 13-year-old who wishes to be 30 after being bullied around by the popular high school girls. This film has definitely stood the test of time. Recently I’ve rewatched it, and can you guess what it has taught me?
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All in due time. Maybe this is the most valuable lesson in the movie. Jenna is a girl who’s going through adolescence, who has a hard time accepting herself and who wants a better life, to be beautiful, adult and successful. When her wish is magically fulfilled she realizes that the life of adults is not as simple as one could imagine. So the moral is clear: enjoy every stage of your life. Everything comes at the right time.
#20. A Walk To Remember
If you’ve ever watched this teen classic, I’m sure you vividly remember the romance that unfolded between trouble-making cool kid Landon Carter and the daughter of the local minister Jamie Sullivan. But can you believe that 17 years have already come and gone ever since the movie premiered? The brilliance of this romantic drama together with Nicholas Sparks’ talent sure makes me feel nostalgic!
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Even though it’s hopelessly cheesy and that its religious undertones are a bit heavy-handed, Adam Shankman’s film reminds us how valuable life is and that there is always a bright side. It will forever be a classic because of its unique characters and the deep and touching messages that are conveyed throughout the movie.
#19. Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist
This 2008 romantic comedy-drama tells the story of teenagers Nick and Norah, who meet when Norah asks Nick to pretend to be her boyfriend for five minutes. Throughout the night, they try to find their favorite band’s secret show while they search for Norah’s drunken best friend.
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During their night-long adventure, they discover what it is like to connect with someone, to let go of one’s insecurities, to desperately fall in love and to spend a truly unforgettable night with the ones you love. What’s more, the film features hilarious yet candid conversations about sex and relationships. If you’re a Gossip Girl fan, then you’ll definitely enjoy this film!
#18. Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
A prequel to the next film on this list, this film is set in Cuba in 1958 and stars Diego Luna and Romola Garai. Garai takes the role of an American student who must leave with her family to Cuba due to her father’s work. There, she meets a hotel waiter, whom she soon falls in love with, called Javier Suárez. This man teaches her to dance Cuban salsa, and can you guess what happens next?
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Both participate in a national dance contest, which is finally sabotaged by the revolutionaries. Due to the Cuban Revolution, she has to return to the U.S. with her family, leaving her love behind, but not without saying goodbye with a great last dance at La Rosa Negra. This film deals with the classic themes of young love and self-discovery, though with a completely different setting. You can’t miss it!
#17. Dirty Dancing
The iconic dance-romance film Dirty Dancing (1987) is more than three decades old, but that hasn’t stopped it from being one of the most beloved films in history. But do you know what it’s about? While vacationing in the Catskills at a lush resort, a 17-year-old rich girl dubbed “Baby” is lured into the underground lifestyle of the resident staff. When invited to one of their after-hours parties, Baby is captivated by the music and the style of dancing, but also by Johnny Castle, the handsome dance instructor at the resort.
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During the time of its release, not even the actors could have predicted the cultural impact that it had. From the very beginning to the end, the film fills audiences with feel-good vibes. And even though it deals with some serious issues like illegal abortion, it’s almost impossible not to laugh at the closing dance sequence. If you’re already grown up, you may feel a nostalgic twinge inside you when watching the film, since it’ll remind you of summers during your youth.
#16. The Virgin Suicides
The Virgin Suicides is a 1999 film written for the screen and directed by Sofia Coppola. It stars James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, and Josh Hartnett. Based on the 1993 best-selling debut novel of the same name by author Jeffrey Eugenides, the film revolves around the lives of five teenage sisters in a middle-class suburb of Detroit during the late 1970s.
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After the youngest sister makes an initial suicide attempt, her sisters are put under close scrutiny by their parents, eventually being confined to their home, which leads to their increasingly depressive and isolated behavior. Like the novel, the film is told from the perspective of a group of adolescent boys in the neighborhood who are fascinated by these girls.
#15. Back To The Future
Back to the Future is a 1985 science fiction film directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by him and Bob Gale. It stars Michael J. Fox as teenager Marty McFly, who accidentally travels back in time from 1985 to 1955, where he meets his future parents and becomes his mother’s romantic interest. Christopher Lloyd portrays the eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown, inventor of the time-traveling DeLorean, who helps Marty repair history and return to 1985.
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We all remember Marty as a friendly, easygoing but accident-prone guy. He’s loyal to his family and friends, regardless of whether or not he is estranged from them. His major flaw is his pride, which causes him to take unnecessary risks to show others that he isn’t a coward. Without a doubt, the film boasts an amazing soundtrack and brilliant action set-pieces!
#14. The Outsiders
Teen rivalry in a small Southern town sets the stage for this dramatic interpretation of S.E. Hinton’s novel. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this 1983 film tells the story of the ongoing conflict between the Greasers and the Socs in rural Oklahoma. C. Thomas Howell stars as Ponyboy, the youngest of three orphaned boys.
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When Ponyboy and his friend, Ralph Macchi, get into a deadly confrontation one night, the two go on the run from the cops. However, they grow up quickly and soon realize the insignificance of their petty posturing. Matt Dillon stars as the leader of their group and Patrick Swayze appears as Ponyboy’s oldest brother. I’m pretty sure this is the most stacked male cast of any film in history.
#13. Rebel Without A Cause
In 1955, director Nicholas Ray envisioned a film about juvenile delinquents unlike any other in the subgenre. Rather than focusing on poor kids from an inner-city, he envisioned a Romeo and Juliet style tale about affluent teenagers who couldn’t relate to the lives of their parents, and who were looking for an outlet to release their disillusionment and anger.
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Over the years, the film has achieved landmark status for James Dean’s brilliant performance, who after this film became a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement. In 1990, the film was added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry as being deemed “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant“. You can’t miss it!
#12. She’s All That
This romantic comedy is one of the most popular teen films of the late 1990s. Directed by Robert Iscove, the film tapped into the youth market with a simple, yet relatable story. It stars Freddie Prinze Jr., Rachael Leigh Cook, Paul Walker, and Matthew Lillard. I bet this is a movie you’ve watched on an endless loop!
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The story is about a high school student whose snooty girlfriend dumps him for a reality TV star. After that, he befriends an unpopular and unattractive girl, and he makes a bet that he can turn her into the school’s next prom queen. Can you guess what happens next? Obviously, as time passes by, he starts to realize that she’s far more interesting than he gave her credit for, and they end up falling in love.
Wes Craven’s Scream is one of the most iconic horror films ever made. It is credited for reviving the horror genre after a succession of disappointing sequels in the 1980s and early 1990s, which had led many fans and critics to believe that the once creative and lucrative genre was dead.
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Even if you haven’t watched it, you’re probably familiar with the plot: a teenage girl who’s home alone, a telephone call that moves from a sexy banter to a psychotically violent threat, and a girl who is stalked by a killer. But what distinguishes Scream from the rest of the famous teen-slashers is that it’s macabre and funny at the same time!
#10. 10 Things I Hate About You
An adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, the film tells the story of Cameron, a nerdy new student who goes to great lengths to woo Bianca, the prettiest girl in school. However, Bianca’s controlling father won’t allow her to date until her antisocial older sister does. Therefore, Cameron convinces one of the school’s bad boys to date Bianca’s sister. It’s all very messed up, right?
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I don’t know about you, but I feel that this film is indescribably special, maybe because of its numerous hilarious one-liners, many of which are still quoted today. Or maybe it was the soundtrack, filled with heart-wrenching songs that will make you feel a bit nostalgic. Or maybe what made it so special was Heath Ledger’s brilliant performance, who stole our hearts.
#9. Bring It On
Bring It On is a teen comedy film directed by Peyton Reed and written by Jessica Bendinger, starring Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, and Gabrielle Union. Kirsten stars as a cheerleading captain who discovers that her team’s routines were stolen from the squad across town, and scrambles to find a new routine for that year’s competition.
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Basically, it’s a deeply conventional movie that combines two of the most convention-bound genres in existence, since it’s both a sports movie as well as a teenage romantic comedy. However, the fact that a bouncy teenage sports comedy can eve gesture toward serious matters of race and economic inequality is pretty impressive.
#8. Cruel Intentions
Reese Witherspoon will always be remembered as the blonde woman who made us laugh our heads off in Legally Blonde. But her real breakthrough came in 1999 with a supporting role in Cruel Intentions. The plot of the movie hinges on a bet Sarah Michelle Gellar makes with her stepbrother Ryan Phillippe, who goes to the same prep school and is bored by dating Manhattan debutants. She thinks he won’t be able to seduce Reese, the new headmaster’s daughter, before the start of the fall term.
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Some teen movies had already dealt with issues of sexuality before, but this film dives into the intersections of sex, status, and power to redefine how the genre would grapple with it in the future. Besides, the story is just hilarious!
Yeah, believe it or not, this is a high school movie, despite the fact that all of the characters looked like they were 38 years old. This successful 1978 musical film was directed by Randal Kleiser and based on Warren Casey’s and Jim Jacobs’s 1971 musical of the same name about two lovers in a 1950s high school. Passionate romances and heartwrenching breakups mark the lives of this group of teenagers.
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Today it seems that Grease is a film steeped in patriarchal values, about a young woman who finds herself cruelly rejected and mocked by the guy with whom she had a summer fling. However, if we take a deeper look at the film, we’ll see that it conveys legit life lessons.
#6. Say Anything
This 1989 classic was written and directed by Cameron Crowe – in his directorial debut – and starred by John Cusack and Ione Skye. Say Anything follows the romance between a smart and sensitive guy and the class’s valedictorian lady, immediately after their graduation from high school. There’s no doubt that is one of the sweetest movies of all time.
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I’m pretty sure no scene in late 1980s cinema is more iconic than John Cusack holding a boombox over his head with Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes playing in the background, in an attempt to win his girlfriend back. It has certainly cemented itself into popular culture!
#5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
What would happen if we ignored all of our responsibilities for only one day? Well, director John Hughes has the answer: we would stop being so Alan Ruck to be a little more Matthew Broderick, and perhaps our eyes would shine with more intensity. After all, life moves pretty fast.
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In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a popular high school movie released in 1986, Broderick plays the role of a teenage rebel who loves ditching school and bailing on his responsibilities. The director once again points at adults’ incapacity to emphasize with adolescents. After all, they don’t seem to be able to understand the problems, interests, and demands of the newer generations.
Heathers is a 1988 dark comedy film written by Daniel Waters and directed by Michael Lehmann. It stars Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. The film portrays four teenage girls -three of whom are named Heather- in a clique at an Ohio high school. I´m pretty sure many of you remember it by being a dark, cynical, and subversive movie.
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The movie definitely delved into the vicious infighting that underlays high school popularity. Heathers walks the line where petty social transgressions turn into horrifying crimes of vengeance. A toxic love affair, an apparent contagion of suicides at a high school and an attempt by a psychotic teenage villain to blow up the school and kill every pupil in it. After watching the film, you’ll most likely begin to question whether or not the cost of popularity is too steep.
#3. Sixteen Candles
Released in 1984, Sixteen Candles is John Hughes’s first film as director and it stars Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall. It tells the story of an unfortunate young woman’s odyssey after her parents forget her birthday because of her older sister’s wedding.
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This original teen rom-com retains a timeless appeal and wit. It still holds up as a realistic portrayal of love and longing in the time of hormones and high school, and it serves as a guide for young people navigating the world of sex and romance. For sure, it served as an inspiration for the following love movies!
#2. The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club is probably the most famous high school movie of the 20th century. Released in 1985, this film stars Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, John Kapelos, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy, who play five high school students who must serve detention on a Saturday morning. It’s highly unlikely that anyone born in the 70s has seen this movie and hasn’t felt identified, if only partially, with any of its protagonists. Do you remember them?
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They have completely different roles and personalities – such as the athlete, the nerd, the cheerleader. These teenagers live in their world and suddenly find other references, other illusions, other attitudes that attract their attention, that guide them and that encourage them to change and improve themselves. It’s definitely a timeless vision of the adolescent era. Additionally, songs like Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Mind managed to remain in the collective unconscious thanks to this film!
#1. Mean Girls
Since Mean Girls was released in 2004, it’s become arguably the greatest teen comedy of all time. The screenplay was written by Tina Fey and is loosely based on the non-fiction book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, which describes how female high school social cliques operate and the effect they can have on girls. The film itself is a parable about the follies of popularity.
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The film follows a new student as she navigates life at her socially divided high school. She attempts to infiltrate the most popular group in the school, the Plastics, in order to reap revenge for her new friends. But what starts as a plot to foil the Plastics’ popularity turns into a genuine longing for popularity itself. To this day we still love it!