Not every great teen movie is some household name. Movies like The Breakfast Club, Clueless, Bring It On, and Easy A instantly come up in our teen movie lexicon–and for good reason, because they’re great movies–but they’re all massive blockbusters that achieved massive mainstream success. But there are so many other teen narratives that barely got even an ounce of the same attention that a movie like 10 Things I Hate About You did, which is a shame because they deserve to be seen by as many people as possible.
Sure, there have been a few teen indie movies that were breakout hits, like Napoleon Dynamite and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. And there are others that have become cult-classics with age, like Dazed and Confused. But if people are only thinking about that movie when it comes to indie teen coming-of-age stories…then that’s a problem. Expand your movie horizons a bit and check out these 11 teen indie movies you have to see already.
Diary Of A Teenage GirlDiary of a Teenage Girl tells the story of Minnie, a girl living with her mom in San Francisco, 1976. This isn't like your average coming-of-age movie about a teen girl who has a crush on some guy in her class or something. Nope, Minnie has the hots for her mom's new boyfriend, and she ends up having an affair with him behind her mom's back. This movie is edgy, provocative, and controversial...all of which are good reasons to watch.
DopeDope tells the story of a black teen boy named Malcolm who is dealing with the tribulations of growing up in a tough Los Angeles neighborhood while grappling with SATs, college apps, and his not-so-thrilling reputation as a geek at the same time. People love this movie, and it's not hard to see why: It's a breath of fresh air to the typical teen movie. I mean, how many teen movies are out there about young black men? Answer: Very few.
SubmarineThis is one of my favorite movies and I wish more people knew about it. Submarine tells the story of a teen boy named Oliver who is balancing an obsession with preventing his parents from getting a divorce and maintaining a romance with one of his classmates, a mysterious bully named Jordana. This dramedy is beautifully shot and has a great soundtrack to boot, so please check it out! You won't regret it.
KidsIf you're looking for a gritty AF teen movie, Kids is the one to watch. This 1995 film follows the lives of New York City teenagers exploring sex, drugs, and everything in-between in the ultimate concrete jungle.
PariahThere aren't enough movies about young gay kids, and there definitely aren't enough movies about young gay black kids. Pariah provides that in a drama about a teen girl who is growing more comfortable with her identity as a lesbian, but is still apprehensive about the response from her parents and community. This movie is a punch in the gut that will uplift you one second and make you cry the next. But don't let that dissuade you; please, watch it!
BrickCatch a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt in one of the most unique takes on a high school teen movie ever devised. Brick mixes coming-of-age with neo-noir elements to create a film about a teenager who finds out that his ex-girlfriend is being held for ransom, and his desperate attempt to save her. Yeah, this is no She's All That.
Palo AltoIf you've heard of this movie already, it's probably because it was the favorite of seemingly every Tumblr girl back in 2013. This cinematic collection of somewhat aimless short stories follows the lives of three teens as they figure out this whole "growing up" thing. If Emma Roberts' starring role in this movie isn't enough to get you to watch it, at least check it out for the gorgeous aesthetic and the killer soundtrack.
Welcome To The DollhouseThis is the story of a middle school oddball who yearns to be popular. Though she's teased mercillesly by classmates and the school bully, she is determined to make the lead of a high school rock band fall in love with her. This '90s dark comedy that isn't for everyone, but it's worth giving a shot.
Just Another Girl On The IRTThis gem of an indie movie really deserves more love, especially since it's the only movie that the director ever made to date. It tells the story of a fiery black teenage girl growing up in the hood who yearns to be successful without losing herself along the way. Trials and tribulations riddle the story left and right, but it never feels bogged down with petty drama. You can catch it on Netflix.
The Way Way BackIf you want a feel good movie with a little comedy and a little drama, check out The Way Way Back. It's about a teen boy who is forced to spend the summer with his mom and her domineering sson-to-be-step-dad (and future step-sister) at a beach house...and he does not fit in. But his unpopularity isn't the end of the world, because he falls into an unusual friendship with a local water park owner who helps him come into his own. Oh, and he's got a crush on the girl next door, so if you're a sucker for romance, you're covered.
Ghost WorldIf you're a bit of a cynical misanthrope, you'll definitely love Ghost World. This story about two best friends--who just graduated high school--explores the ways that burgeoning adulthood, well, sucks. Like, a lot. If you want a dose of comedy with a side of angst and early '00s charm, definitely check this out.
Which of these movies have you already seen? What other movies should be on this list? Tell us in the comments!