12 Realistic Teen Movies You Must Watch Before You Graduate High School

I’m all for watching teen movies about girls who are witches on the DL (The Craft) or teen boys who all miraculously lose their virginity on their last day of school (American Pie), or a chick who has unlimited money, plays matchmaker, and ends up making out with Paul Rudd (Clueless). But I’m always going to have a soft spot for depictions of teen life that have an element of realness to it. You know, something that reflects issues teenagers deal with, without a supernatural element or mandatory lapse of reality.

Luckily, there are some movies that actually feel, you know, legit. You don’t have to ditch all those deliciously ridiculous rom coms, but you should absolutely check out these 12 teen movies before you graduate high school and leave teendom behind forever.


Me And Earl And The Dying Girl

Oh man, after ages of being inundated with nothing but teen stories in dystopian or supernatural universes, the world gave us Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I'm not going to give too much of the plot away, but if you're looking for a movie that focuses on friendship, romance, and terminal diseases in a way that doesn't ooze of disingenuous cheesiness and actually has heart and humor, you should watch this film.

The Diary Of A Teenage Girl

This movie is about a 15-year-old girl who is exploring her sexuality and finding out what it means to be, in her words, a woman. She loses her v-card to her mother's boyfriend, which is definitely cringe worthy for a plethora of reasons, but the movie doesn't approach this incident or our protagonist with condescending nonsense. While its release was banned from teen eyes in the UK, you can definitely find a stream of it online.

Thirteen

Seeing this movie in my early teens was slightly terrifying, but as I got slightly older, I realized that the themes in this movie--manipulative friends, drug use, etc--weren't just movie fodder. What's great about Thirteen is that it shows the quick and steady nature of bowing to peer pressure in a way that doesn't feel preachy or corny. Elements of the movie definitely feel a little dated and reek of the early '00s, but it's still a good watch.

Juno

A movie about teen pregnancy that isn't weirdly preachy? A movie about teen pregnancy that isn't encroached in nothing but angst? A movie about teen pregnancy that is actually...good? Yeah, I know, it's a rare sighting, but Juno fits the bill. Plus, the soundtrack is still a bop.

Just Another Girl On The IRT

Just Another Girl on the IRT tells the story of an outspoken teen girl living in Brooklyn who dreams of graduating high school and going to college. But, of course, some serious drama ensues that might just derail her plans. If you're looking for a movie with a powerful female lead and some serious '90s nostalgia, give this one a whirl. While this indie film is pretty obscure, you can find it on Netflix.

Submarine

While Submarine definitely makes teen romance look a little dreamier than it really is at times, it also explores the awkwardness, uncertainty, and general messiness that comes along with it, too. Throw in some family drama, some laughs, and a killer soundtrack, and you have the recipe for teen movie gold.

Pariah

Pariah is a shamefully underrated movie about a black teenage girl who is starting to slowly become more open about the fact that she's a lesbian (to the chagrin of her family). If you're looking for a movie that'll make you cry and give you hope, this is definitely one to check out.

Pretty in Pink

Most John Hughes movies are teen classics, but this is one of the few that actually feels relatively realistic (aside from the very end, which I won't spoil for you). This opposites attract love story is complicated by class, skeptical friends, and some serious thirst. Yes, it's ultra '80s, but that doesn't distract too much from the story at hand.

Rebel Without A Cause

Arguably one of the original teen movies, Rebel Without A Cause stars short lived (RIP) dreamboat James Dean as a troubled teenager as he goes through the motions of parental drama, romance, and friendship. Yes, it was made in the '50s, so don't expect it to be quite as edgy as some newer teen movies, but the themes of teen angst and disillusionment still resonate no matter what era we're talking about.

Dazed And Confused

One of the best movies about nothing out there. Seriously though, Dazed and Confused takes place over the span of a day in a small Texas town in 1976 on the last day of school. The soundtrack rules, the characters are memorable, the clothes are amazing, and the plot...well, it's mostly non-existent, but that doesn't mean it isn't a fun coming of age movie.

Boyz In The Hood

Most probably wouldn't consider Boys in the Hood a teen movie, but I'm throwing it in here because it is a movie about teens. Sure, the existence teenagers are dealing with in the hood might not be reflective of everyone's teen years, but this film is no fantasy for plenty of people who rely on an education and some big dreams to get them out of some seriously grim living situations. Even if you can't relate, it's still a classic worth watching.

Kids

This gritty 1995 film follows the lives of NYC teenagers as they delve in to the world of sex, drugs, and crime. This definitely isn't for those of you who like a fluffy teen movie, but if you're looking for something that doesn't hold back, check it out.

Which one of these movies are you a fan of? What other movies should be on this list? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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