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Forget Mean Girls, Here's Eight Teen Movies You Need to Watch


Foreword by Thomas Giblin (he/him) | Entertainment Editor

Words by Nabeelah Khan (she/her) and Kathryn Knightbridge (she/her) | Contributing Writers

The teen movie genre is a cinematic darling. The genre evolves as we do, magnifying modern youth culture's changing landscape. Genre favourites like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Dazed And Confused, and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower capture the hopes, dreams, fears and horrors of being a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. There's a pressure to fit in, discover one's identity, come of age, fall in love, and rebel.

The teen movie genre is interwoven with many other genres, like sci-fi, sports, thriller and horror. The possibilities are endless. With the genre encompassing the breadth of adolescent life, there's a movie for you whether you are a jock, geek, diva or outcast. Try the list below; you might discover one that speaks to you.

Sing Street is set in Dublin in the 1980s, a decade defined by mass unemployment, continuous immigration, and the ongoing shadow of The Troubles.15-year-old Conor endeavours to break free from his turbulent family life by forming a band. Amidst this journey, he strives to adapt to his new school and peers while attempting to catch the eye of a mysterious girl he fancies. The film captures adolescent angst, the discovery of self (and style), and navigating tricky relationships. The stellar soundtrack includes iconic hits from The Cure and Duran Duran, along with original catchy tunes from the Sing Street band such as “The Riddle Of The Model” and “Up”. 

Although Sing Street is quintessential of the standard coming-of-age movie - Nerdy, shy boy tries to shoot his shot at the hot chick - what sets this film apart is its Irish charm and heartfelt demeanour. 

High school teacher Miss Stevens (Lily Rabe) escorts a group of students to a drama competition. As Stevens grapples with her grief following the loss of her mother, we witness her forming unexpected bonds with her students, each struggling with their own insecurities. 

Miss Stevens forms a particularly strong bond with Billy (Timothee Chalamet), who is a troubled teen who also feels outcast and lonely. As the pair find solace in each other's isolation and attempt to make each other happy, Billy shows clear affection for Miss Stevens which is unrequited. Don't worry–they don't pull an age-inappropriate Ezra and Aria.

A young, pre-Call Me By Your Name Timothee Chalamet carries this movie with so much emotion and sincerity that you'll want to join him, jumping up and down on the bed, yelling, "Don't be sad!" 

This coming-of-age story touches on themes of self-discovery, compassion, and the universal longing for connection. Miss Stevens is authentic, vulnerable and precisely what a teen movie needs to be.

Eccentric high school student Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is ambitious, but has terrible grades. While involved in numerous extracurricular activities, including a presidency in Rushmore Academy's beekeeping club and the fencing team captain, Max falls into academic probation. 

Max quickly becomes infatuated with the new teacher, Miss Cross (Olivia Williams), when she arrives at Rushmore. His awkward crush leads him to battle his affection for her against a wealthy industrialist, Herman Blume (Bill Murray).

Wes Anderson's second feature film is told through a mature lens, dipping out of the typical teen movie formulae. The off-beat comedy still manages to be touching, even while dealing with obsession, masculine rivalry, and a taboo love interest. Max’s character is entitled,  jealous, and at times a little shit - reminding audiences of the character traits that accompany being a teen in high school. 

Best friends Enid and Rebecca spend their first summer out of high school wasting time in their small-town neighbourhood. Enid has no plans for herself, reflecting adolescence's self-destructive impulse, while Rebecca approaches the new phase of her life with realistic expectations. When Enid takes a liking to older loner Seymour (played brilliantly by Steve Buscemi), the girl's friendships diverge due to different priorities. 

The girls’ friendship was built on them being social outcasts through their teenage years. It’s only once they’ve graduated that Rebecca wants to go out into the world, while Enid fails to see any plan for herself. The film feels relatable for many fresh out-of-high school graduates, as Enid captures that post-high school malaise and aimlessness we all seem to go through, along with the fear of growing up. Enid being haunted by this directionless feeling, is a familiar experience that lingered with me after graduating high school. 

Ghost World is complex, witty and dry; the dark comedy captures the cynical wit of the late 90s and early 00s (a la Daria). The film is complete with childish antics, a reluctance to grow up, and the uncertainty of how to live your life in a world where you feel like you don't fit in. Ghost World hits all the right spots for an end-of-summer reality check before hitting the books again. 

Kathryn Knightbridge (@katstails on Letterboxd):

This classic 90s ensemble film gave me lofty expectations when I started uni and went looking for a part-time job. Sad to say these kinds of niche, intimate workplaces are few and far between. This isn't the case, however, in Empire Records, a film centred on a group of young misfits fighting to protect their independent store from being bought out by a bigger company and sticking it to the man.

You'll recognise a young Liv Tyler (The Lord of the Rings) in one of her earliest roles as future Harvard alumni Corey Mason, as well as Renée Zellweger (Bridget Jones's Diary), who plays her friend and colleague Gina. Who truly shines is Debra, a Florence Pugh circa Met Gala '23 look-alike struggling with depression and self-harm. Yet, as the movie plays out, it becomes apparent that each kid has their own troubles. Troubles that their boss, Joe, is incredibly patient dealing with.

As Deb says to Corey after an emotional breakdown, "So I guess nobody really has it together." It's a love letter to the music and freedom of those who grew up in the '90s, but if you're not a Gen X baby like me, don't worry; you'll still love it. The film sports a fantastic soundtrack with everything from The Cranberries, Gin Blossoms and Dire Straits to The Martinis and Duran Duran.

Out of all my picks, this one truly captures the awkwardness of girlhood, from accidentally shaving her eyebrow off to stuffing her bra with toilet paper. The film, directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham), follows fourteen-year-old Georgia and her best friend Jas determined in their pursuit of becoming women. It's about learning the art of kissing and how to keep your friendship when it comes to boys. Two boys in particular - one performed by a young Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass, Godzilla), a musician named Robbie, who Georgia lovingly refers to as her "sex-god boyfriend."

The film is filled to the brim with deliciously bonkers 2000s British slang that will forever live in my head. It imprinted on me so much that perhaps it isn't a coincidence that, at my most unforgiving moments, my high school-ex was quietly referred to as discount Robbie.

This indie comedy stars fifteen-year-old Welsh schoolboy Oliver Tate–a dark storm cloud in a duffle coat. Oliver (Craig Roberts, The Fundamentals of Caring) fancies himself a spy to the adults around him, especially his own parents. His other pastimes include both light arson and maladaptive daydreaming. In the first act, we find him undergoing a romantic relationship with his classmate Jordana, played by Yasmin Paige. In the second, we see him attempt to juggle between being "the best boyfriend in the whole world" and trying to save his parents' struggling marriage.

This film is Richard Ayoade's (The IT Crowd) film debut as director, well known for his particular sense of humour and mannerisms. Perhaps these are what made him feel so connected to Joe Dunthorne's novel of the same name, from which he adapted the film. The similarities between his and Oliver's demeanour are, after all, noticeable. Ayoade, who before this directed the concert film Arctic Monkeys at the Apollo, somehow formed the magic pairing that combines his script with the dulcet tones of lead man Alex Turner in his only solo body of music to date - without which , this film would not be the same.

This film often gets compared to the much more famous The Fault in Our Stars, presumably because they both feature young people suffering from cancer. What really connects them is the idea of what it means to truly live - a question that our main protagonist, Greg, comes to answer throughout the film.

Greg is all our innermost insecure thoughts as a teenager made into human form. Self-deprecating, witty, and incredibly sharp, he saves his most acerbic remarks for himself. They land so well that he's utterly convinced no one could ever like him. Only when he's urged by his mother to befriend a girl named Rachel (Olivia Cooke, House of the Dragon) does he learn to let people in.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is moving, funny, full of heart and features wonderful supporting roles. In particular, Greg's friend Earl and comedy favourite Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) as Greg's eccentric dad. The last twenty minutes will leave you feeling personally victimised by Brian Eno's song "The Big Ship."


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