The 10 Best Teen Movies of all time ---- Issues, Angst and much more

Dec 18, 2005

The Bottom Line Teen films are often meant for teens, but there are a few that stand the test of time to go down as some of the best films.

Through the years, there are plenty of films that have defined a teenage audience and appealed to everyone that happened to be a teenager at the time. Many of these movies directly involved teens, and this list is the 10 that I felt were the best of all time. If there is something to be said about teen movies, it is that it gives you a quick glimpse of our culture through the eyes of teens at the time. There have been a lot of movies covering the range of comedies, horror films, action movies, and of course dramas all centered around the experiences of being a teen. Here are what I feel are the 10 best of all time.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy are 5 students who have all been forced to spend a Saturday of their young lives serving a detention at school. None of them want to be there, but for different reasons, all of them have ended up with the same punishment. Representing a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal, these 5 are all great in their performances of misunderstood teens who don't even understand each other, let alone why they are being punished. Through the duration of the film, we get to learn all about each character, and the hardships that have had in life up to this point. Each one of them grows from the experience, and we are able to go along with them as the learn things about themselves that none of them had wanted to face before. John Hughes (Director) did an extremely great job at showing how cliques work at a school, and that even though they exist, all of the students are basically the same at their cores.

The Karate Kid (1984)

Tired of getting picked on and bullied, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) is shown by Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) that there is more to fighting back than throwing a punch. He teaches the kid all he knows about martial arts, and that the key to everything is to have patience and use the mind rather than the fist. For anyone who ever got picked on in high school, this film was an anthem to being able to strike back not only in the karate ring, but in the minds of those kids who had bullied him before. Macchio is great in the role of an uncoordinated kid who becomes a great student of karate, and along the way picks up a girlfriend in the form of Elisabeth Shue. From an audience standpoint we are standing up cheering that Daniel will succeed in everything that he does, and that leads us up to an exciting climax that anyone who has seen the film will always remember.

American Graffiti (1973)

George Lucas made his splash in the market of movie-making by Directing his own teen movie about cruising the strip in 1962. This is a who's who of hollywood as you see Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, and Harrison Ford just to name a few. These along with other kids make up a group of recent graduates who are cruising the streets before college separates a lot of them from spending this time together. It is one last night where they can all hang out and do the things that they love to do. View it as one last gasp to hold on to youth, and we get a seat front row as they all through their own growing pains, and are forced to deal with the impending dawn. That dawn represents the rest of their lives, and they all one just one last night of fun before the real world hits. Lucas did a great job of showing us this view, and this is still a movie full of themselves that are in the current society as well as back in the 1960's.

Varsity Blues (1999)

Football in Texas. It's not just a game, but a way of life. James Van Der Beek, Amy Smart, Paul Walker, and Scott Caan all star in a movie about a small town in Texas, where high school football is the most important thing in their lives. Only some of these characters want to be more than football players, and in particular Jonathon 'Mox' Moxon (Van Der Beek) who wants to make something of himself, and move off with his girlfriend (played by Amy Smart). Jon Voight plays the coach who will take nothing less than the best that these kids have to offer, and will stop at nothing to force them to play his way, and only his way. This is a really good football movie, but at the heart of it are kids trying to prove to themselves that they are more than just a game, while trying to make identities for themselves. It's funny, it's entertaining, and it depicts a side of Texas football that a lot of people hadn't known about. All in all a great movie, and one I could watch over and over again.

Sixteen Candles (1984)

Sixteen Candles was another one of John Hughes films about the trials that a teenager must go through to be accepted and noticed by the people around them. In this case, a girl named Samantha (Molly Ringwald) is turning 16, and every embarrassing thing that could happen to a person befalls her on a day that she had built up in her mind for years. This was going to be a special day for her, and it turns out that she is the only one that cares so deeply about it. Her sister is getting married, and her whole family seems more pre-occupied with giving her attention than sharing it with Samantha. Her affections for a certain boy aren't being returned, and of course she wants anything for that to happen. The film is surprisingly deep, very funny, and shows us what Anthony Michael Hall can do in a comedic role.

Footloose (1984)

A teen from the big city moves into a small town in the middle of nowhere. He is up with pop culture, and loves to just dance when the mood hits him. Unfortunately, he is in for a surprise when he finds out that his new town has outlawed dancing! Kevin Bacon plays the lead character who thinks that dancing is a way of life, and runs with his idea that everyone in the town should be able to experience just how much fun that dancing is. Not only that, he sees it as a release of the stresses of being a teen, and is not going to take no for an answer. John Lithgow plays the Reverend Shaw Moore, who is behind the ban, and refuses to budge on dancing being outlawed. Sarah Jessica Parker and Lori Singer are other students, who along with Bacon's character are going to put up a fight to host a dance at their high school. A movie about fighting authority, and doing what feels good, Footloose is a great movie about the never ending struggle that teens feel they are battling with adults.

Grease (1978)

It's the 1950's and John Travolta and Olivia Newton John play two teenagers who have had a brief encounter, but now find themselves in different cliques at school after the summer has ended. Back to school, and back to the normal everyday of their lives, they think back fondly on that summer, and spend the rest of the movie trying to court each other. Drag racing, spontaneous musical numbers, and other adventures with this group of high school students are what make this 1978 musical a winner. Rydell High has never seen a year like this, and with the two main characters destined to end up together, the film is an exciting ride from start to finish. The music is great, the story is strong enough to keep you interested, and it shows just how someone might think they need to change who they are to impress someone else in school. Of course there are lessons to be learned from that, and Grease does a great job of making them fun.

Rebel Without A Cause (1955)

The original film about teen angst, Rebel Without a Cause is James Dean at his finest. Jim Stark (Dean) is a lost youth who moves into a new town, and does everything he can to attain attention from the parents he feels just don't understand him. He wants nothing more than to be understood, and all his parents are doing is "tearing him apart." With new friends, and new enemies, being made along the way, the movie turns from a teen trying to find his way to an exciting battle of wits between Jim and the leader of a group of troubled youths. There is a remarkable scene of drag racing at the top of a cliff, and an ending that really shows just how Jim's characters has developed through the duration of the film. Rebel Without a Cause is an interesting character study about teenagers and their problems, as well as being the vehicle that really showed off Dean's acting skills. This is one that cannot be missed.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

One of my personal favorites on the list, a kid finds out that the only way he can date a girl is if he can provide a date for her sister. The only problem is that her sister seems quite evil, and scares away any potential suiters with a facade designed to protect her from getting hurt. Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger star in the role of the boy found to win her over, and the girl who refuses to give him the time of day. The movie is extremely funny, and both of the leads are very strong in their roles. Neither is willing to back down, and it would seem to us that they are the perfect match for each other. We of course want them to succeed, but with the direction that the film is going, it would seem that they are heading for disaster. Funny, endearing, and interesting from beginning till end, 10 Things I Hate About You is a great film about two kids trying to get the other to like their true self.

Pretty In Pink (1986)

Director Howard Deutch comes in with a film written (of course) by John Hughes, about a girl in surroundings over her head, who wants more. Molly Ringwald is back again to play the girl who can't seem to have anything go her way, but at the same time has a friend (Jon Cryer) who would do anything to gain her attention for just a moment. James Spader stars as an evil opposition to the main guy of the film Andrew McCarthy, and both a really good in their roles. Now we must see if a girl from the wrong side of town can fit into a school where behind every door is someone else hoping that you will fail. This is a great film showing the pitfalls of being popular, and that no matter how hard you pursue something, it may have already been there in front of you the entire time.

Honorable Mentions:

Cruel Intentions
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Mean Girls
Dazed and Confused
American Pie

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