Not every teen movie is considered appropriate for the average teen to watch. That is, according to movie rating organizations like the MPAA (Motion Picture Association Of America). The MPAA have been the subject of controversy since its inception in 1922, especially with the criticism that its more strict about a film’s language and sex content than its violence. How many violent PG-13 movies have you seen? A movie with a few F-bombs and a flash of boobies gets an R-rating. Teen classic Dazed and Confused is rated R for foul language and pot smoking. Meanwhile, Taken–a movie with never-ending violence and human sex trafficking–is rated PG-13.
How does that make any sense?
It’s usually content like language and sexuality that leads some of the best teen movies to be deemed inappropriate for anyone under the age of 17-years-old. And while there are plenty of R-rated movies about teens that are straight up risque and lewd, there are plenty of others that are poignant and inspiring. So check out this list of 13 R-rated teen movies that every teen should see, even if they aren’t allowed to. From the gross out comedies to the tearjerkers that keep it real, there’s a little something on this list for everyone’s taste.
ThirteenThirteen is a drama about a 13-year-old girl whose relationship with her mother becomes strained after she makes a new friend at school and falls into her world of sex, drugs, and crime. Given the aforementioned, er, themes and the fact that all this is happening to young teens, its R-rating isn't too hard to believe. But as someone who watched this movie when I too was 13-years-old, I can safely say that I wasn't scarred for life. You won't be either.
HeathersHeathers is the ultimate dark teen comedy with a lot more violence and profanity than its teen movie peers. But hey, it leaves a strong legacy which is reason enough to watch, aside from the fact that it stars Winona Ryder. Frankly, Regina George of Mean Girls fame wouldn't even exist if movies like Heathers didn't.
PariahPariah, a film about a teenage lesbian who is trying to feel more at home with her identity, is rated R for nudity and language. That said, the nudity is brief and the language really isn't that bad. If American culture wasn't so prudish about boobs, maybe it would be rated-PG-13. Maybe more teenagers could have seen it if it was, especially ones who needed to see a coming-of-age story about someone who is queer like they are, but couldn't without an adult present.
KidsHere's a funny story about Kids. Director Larry Clarke wanted this 1995 movie about NYC teens and their exploration with sex and drugs to be rated R. Why? He knew teens would want to see it, and since they couldn't without an adult, he figured it would be an educational experience if teens saw the film with their parents. You know, like it would prompt important conversations. Well, the MPAA didn't care and went on to give it an NC-17 rating, which is so explicit that most theaters don't even show movies with that rating. It eventually went on to be released unrated instead.
DopeHow many movies about black teenagers are out there? Yep, I'll wait. Uh, exactly. Dope is a movie about a black boy and his "geeky" friends who have big dreams, despite living in a crime-heavy Los Angeles neighborhood. Why does this coming-of-age story have an R-rating? Mostly, the language. But there's a bit of nudity and violence thrown in there too. But this is definitely a movie that people shouldn't just be watching if they're 17-years-old and older, especially black teens who rarely see themselves or their stories in television or film.
Dazed And ConfusedAs I said in the intro, Dazed and Confused is probably one of the most tame R-rated movies ever. There's some bad language and pot smoking...that's literally it. Should it be restricted to viewers over the age of 17 for that? I don't think so. If watching teenagers smoke pot and say the F-word doesn't make your head explode, definitely check out this coming-of-age cult classic. It's set on the last day of school in a small town in Texas back in 1976; the characters are memorable, the soundtrack slaps, and the clothes are amazing.
Diary Of A Teenage GirlDiary of a Teenage Girl is a movie about a 15-year-old girl who develops a sexual relationship with her mom's boyfriend. Yep, definitely a little too bold for the traditional PG-13 teen movie. But it's still something that teenagers should see, because it is an interesting portrayal of teen sexuality. It caused controversy back in 2015 upon release in the UK because was rated 18 by the BBFC (British Board Of Film Classification). That meant that literally nobody under the age of 18 was allowed to see it in the movies, even if accompanied by an adult. Teens literally couldn't see a film about teenagers.
The Breakfast ClubIs it possible to exit your teen years without watching The Breakfast Club? Maybe, but I don't know many who have managed to do that. The language of this movie and brief pot use is what puts this movie in the R-rated category. Otherwise, this film about a group of students of totally different social standing being stuck together during Saturday detention is too much of a movie classic to avoid. It's responsible to so many parodies, and it's probably the most well known of all of John Hughes '80s teen films (next to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sixteen Candles, and Pretty in Pink).
Cruel IntentionsSexual dialogue and foul language abound in this melodramatic AF teen drama, but honestly? It's worth watching if you want a laugh and a dose of '90s fashion. Get a group of your friends to watch this and I promise you'll have a good time.
The CraftThe Craft is a cult classic that explores both the light and dark side of teenage girl gangs, desire, and magic. Yes, literal magic. It definitely has some dark imagery and bad language, but the fact that it is rated-R is actually a bit of a surprise. I feel like there are scarier scenes in a PG-13 action movie.
American PieIs American Pie a great, gripping, coming of age film? No. It's a movie with poop and vagina jokes. In fact, its R-rating is pretty damn warranted. But it's one of those movies that you kind of have to see because it's such a classic in the teen sex comedy genre. Oh, and the soundtrack is low key good.
SuperbadIf you're looking for something lewd and crude, then Superbad is worth watching. Also, worth noting that this 2007 blockbuster is one of the first millennial relevant teen sex movies. It's a new classic, and it'll probably make you laugh at least a few times.
ScreamThe iconic '90s teen horror movie, Scream, is worth watching for the cultural relevance alone. It sparked an entire spoof franchise (Scary Movie) and is lampooned on television all the time. Plus, while it looks like a slasher flick on the surface, it's actually a pretty clever satire of the teen slasher flick genre.
What other R-rated teen movies should be on this list? Tell us in the comments!