I came out of Spider-Man: Homecoming feeling pleasantly surprised and refreshed as to its teen movie approach to a super hero film. The portrayal of high schoolers felt more real and less stereotyped than in previous Spider-Man films.
Teen movies are kind of my guilty pleasure, except I don’t feel that guilty about it. I’m a sucker for the coming-of-age genre and teen movies usually fall into this, therefore I watch a lot of them. So here are my personal top ten favourite teen movies:
10. The Art of Getting By (2011)
This movie starts off like it’s going to be an eye-roller about an edgy teen that doesn’t see the point of homework and education, and keeps breaking the rules just for the sake of rebelling. However, I was thoroughly charmed and moved by the path that the movie took. George (Freddie Highmore) ultimately learns and grows in a way that pleased me. I can understand why people might not like this movie; there is a lot of angst and “quirky-ness” and that’s why it’s at the bottom of my list.
9. The Princess Diaries (2001)
I feel like this film has a soft spot in a lot of people’s hearts from my generation. I have countless memories of watching this at sleepovers (both as a child and an adult). Anne Hathaway’s break-out movie and you can see why she won the world over with this funny and endearing performance. It’s a very easy-watching, warm comedy that fills me with nostalgia. It’s lower down on my list because I do find the trope of “OMG she has straight hair now and it turns out she’s been hot this whole time!” a bit dated and cringe.
8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
I saw this film with friends in the cinema and had absolutely no idea what it was going to be about going in. I came out very emotional and impressed. This film has amazing performances and deals with difficult themes in a moving way. However, at times the film can feel a bit too angsty and soap-opera-y. I’m not a fan of the idea that if you’re only a cool, relatable teen if you are super indie and have a pre-approved good music taste – that aspect of the film can be very pretentious. Now this is going to sound oddly specific, but one of my truly favourite things about this movie is the scene in which Charlie (Logan Lerman) calls his sister (Nina Dobrev) as he’s having an emotional break down about his aunt’s death and she goes from the look of ugh-why-is-my-brother-calling-me to “Call the police and send them to my house.” in a split second. The way that the whole sequence is filmed is such a raw and powerful depiction of a panic attack and it really impressed me, so I feel like it deserves a shout out.
7. The Breakfast Club (1985)
John Hughes pioneered the teen movie genre, starting with Sixteen Candles; however, The Breakfast Club is his definitive teen-iest of teen movie with this iconic rag tag group of detention goers discussing their high school struggles. It’s an interesting look at school cliques and the pressures to fall into the stereotypes thrust upon you. The fact that it’s set on this one Saturday detention allows these five characters to get very intense with each other. I also like that the film doesn’t end with the idea that everything is solved and they are ready to revolutionise high school. It’s more that they’ve had a special, one-off, therapeutic experience that no one can take away from them and will remain important in their lives, but is not going change school on Monday. My complaint would be that I hate that John (Judd Nelson) treats Claire (Molly Ringwald) so poorly; he consistently makes digs at her and embarrasses her until she cries, he sexually harasses her, calls her a horrible person. Yet, somehow, this is meant to be charming because he’s a rebel with a tough family life and they get together at the end. I don’t get it and it’s always angered me.
6. Superbad (2007)
Probably the least filtered and least family-friendly teen movie out there, starts of looking like it’s going to be the cliché, sexist trope of high school boys on a mission to get laid before high school is over. However, the film turns this on it’s head and becomes a story of friendship and they learn that this adventure is just because they are going to miss each other, and surprisingly they end up treating their crushes with a lot of respect. There’s a lot of Emma Stone praise coming up, but just to add that this was her first ever movie role and she plays Seth’s (Jonah Hill) crush and she is my hero in this film. I love that she’s known for just having really nice guys as boyfriends, she’s throwing a party and has alcohol there, but doesn’t drink and that’s not taken as a big deal, and she’s just generally charismatic and funny (okay I’m done). The situations they find themselves in are very ridiculous, but somehow relatable. I find the film hilarious and I feel like I don’t even need to mention the iconic character that is McLovin.
5. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Dazed and Confused shows a last day of school in a small town in the 70s and follows two groups of teenagers: those graduating from middle school and entering high school, and those graduating from junior year and entering senior year (final year) of high school. Lots of mayhem ensues including ridiculous rituals that the latter group performs on the former group by tradition. Having had a junior year (lower sixth) graduation, I think this film captures exactly what it’s like: no solid plan of how to celebrate, just endless moving about from different pubs, different people’s houses, different activities, people splitting off and regrouping, running into people throughout the day and letting them know of future plans that maybe you’ll see them at, but maybe not. I can imagine that this was heightened in the 70s with no mobile phones. I love that feel of chill night where you want to do something special, but it ends up being lots of moving around, but then that’s what made the night special. It’s a great love letter to that kind of teen freedom mixed with teen constriction. Also, I love 70s teen depictions; there always seems to be this idea that teens of the 70s thought that the 70s were so lame and the 60s had everything going for it. It’s so sweetly bizarre to think about now that the 70s are seen as so cool and vintage. Overall, it’s a wonderful capsule that presents a very realistic 70s teen life and the fashion is amazing!
4. Footloose (1984)
A Chicago teen with a love of dance moving to a small farm town where dancing is illegal is a very weird premise for a film, but somehow it’s an uplifting and moving story. I can’t really put my finger on why I’m obsessed and totally in love with this movie. It’s sweet and has great dance scenes. It has the teen aspect of dealing with an issue that means the world to them, but, in the real world, is pretty low-stakes. Ren (Kevin Bacon) has nice bromances and romances, and we get to see a young and adorable Sarah Jessica Parker. Just some small town teens wanting to dance the night away… what’s not to love?!
3. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
In my opinion, this is John Hughes’ best and funniest film. What I love so much about this film, in comparison to a film like The Art of Getting By, is that it’s not about this angsty teen that doesn’t care about his future. It’s about a teen that wants to take a one day break to just appreciate the world and have fun in it. It’s taken as a treat that they have to make the most of, rather than a big rebellious statement. A pleasantly delightful performance from Matthew Broderick as the lovable, daring, head-strong Ferris, as well as some brilliant supporting roles. It’s surely impossible to not be charmed by this feel-good film.
2. Easy A (2010)
My love for Emma Stone is huge and it all started with this film. When you watch it, Emma Stone simply shines as Olive the sassy, intelligent, funny and likeable teen. Her performance is the movie and she carries it perfectly. It’s filled with great jokes, elevated by Emma Stone and the rest of the cast’s amazing comic timing. The film can wonderfully go between silly, funny scenes to emotional ones in this absurd and unique storyline that highlights the dynamics of teen culture. The character of Olive is charming and confident enough that her story doesn’t seem inappropriate, but rather vulnerable and touching. To summarise, Emma Stone is perfect to perform this balance between adorkable girl-next-door and sexy with vulnerability. A delightful, funny, charismatic movie.
1. Mean Girls (2004)
A modern day cult classic. No one can tell me they don’t know a line from Mean Girls, it’s just so well written: every line is quotable. Tina Fey is a big hero of mine and I find this sharp script her most impressive achievement. It’s based of the book Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence by Rosalind Wiseman, however, this is a nonfiction book about studies done on teenage girls; there is no story to it. What Tina Fey has brilliantly done is set the film from the perspective of a teenage girl that has never experienced high school and, hence, is observing all these cliques from both the outside (as they are foreign to her) and the inside (as she gets sucked into them). I don’t just love the film for it’s hilarious wit and great performances, it also has a wonderful message at it’s core. It teaches that girls should bring each other up and that “calling each other sluts and whores… just makes it okay for guys to start calling you sluts and whores,” which leads to the overall message that being yourself will make you so much happier and less insecure than trying to be anybody else. Since, in the grand scheme of things, what you wear doesn’t really matter, so stop worrying and stressing because one day you could be hit by a bus.
That’s my top ten teen movies. Feel free to disagree.
By: Freyja Pakarinen