They don’t make teen movies like they used to.
I don’t mean that in a “teen movies suck now” way. I mean it in terms of there is quite literally a lack of teen movies nowadays. It’s about quantity, not (necessarily) quality. Back in the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, it was pretty commonplace for a teen movie to come out on the regular. Celebrities made their big breaks as teen heartthrobs, teen movie soundtracks gave us a sneak peak into the musical zeitgeist, and quoting the best movie one-liners became past times. I mean, think about how many Mean Girls lines you can quote off the top of your head. But Mean Girls came out over 10 years ago. Its equally quotable, iconic ’90s teen movie equivalent, Clueless, came out over 20 years ago. And many ’80s teen classics like The Breakfast Club are now over 30 years old. Now, let’s do a little thought exercise: Compare the number of teen movies you know from, say, the ’90s compared to the 2010s.
Let me guess: You can think of way more ’90s teen movies–even if you were barely sentient or even alive in that decade–than you can think of teen movies from the past seven years.
There are a lot of reasonable explanations for this seemingly sudden drop of teen movie relevancy. TV is simply much more popular than movies these days; plus, there are way more teen TV shows these days than there were when teen movies were at their peak in the ’90s and early ’00s. It’s also worth mentioning that the movie industry is going through it these days: They’re more invested in dishing out pricey blockbusters (especially if super heroes are involved) than anything else. Additionally, Millennials and Gen Z-ers are more invested in consuming media like movies via online streaming services than going to the movie theater. Oh, and can we talk about how much it costs to go to a movie now? If you throw a bag of popcorn and a soda into the mix, you’re looking at paying over $20 for 90 minutes of entertainment. Taking all of this into consideration, it’s no surprise that teen movies are falling to the wayside.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any good teen movies these days. In fact, many teen movies now are a lot more original than their 2000s counterparts, and that deserves some serious props. So check out the 13 best teen movies of the decade so far and get familiar with the best of the best.
Easy AThe decade kicked off with a big hit from a then, little known actress named Emma Stone. Easy A came out in 2010 and remains one of the most popular and recognizable teen movies of a generation. It tells the story of a high school student who finds herself at the center of a sex rumor. Instead of succumbing to the stress and anxiety of her new reputation as a "slut," she embraces it and plays the role in an attempt to troll the hell out of everyone. If we're honest, it was one of the first teen movies to call out slut-shaming for what it was: Sexist nonsense.
Me And Earl And The Dying GirlIf you want to watch a movie that will fill you with joy and low key make you want to die, check out Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. It's about an awkward, lonely teen boy named Greg who is forced to befriend a neighbor, Rachel, a childhood friend who is battling cancer. Honestly, she doesn't really want to spend much time with him either, but the two build a friendship and, along with Greg's friend Earl, start to make amateur short films together. Of course, since a character has cancer, you know that there's going to be some serious angst, but don't let that detract you; this movie is well worth the inevitable tears.
The Diary Of A Teenage GirlDiary of a Teenage Girl is based on a graphic novel and tells the story of a teen girl living in 1970s San Francisco who has an affair with her mother's boyfriend. Uh, yeah, heavy, but beyond that squick factor--it was enough to give the movie an explicit rating in the UK--the movie is an exploration of teen girl sexuality without being couched in respectability politics and other BS. It's by far the edgiest movie of the lot, so if you want to watch a movie that's a little bit grittier than your typical teen rom-com, check it out.
SubmarineOne of my absolute favorite teen movies of the decade is Submarine, a British movie about an unpopular, neurotic 15-year-old boy named Oliver who is trying (in vain) to balance his burgeoning relationship with his mysterious classmate, Jordana, and his parents failing marriage. It's sweet, it's funny, it's a little depressing, and incredibly endearing. Plus, the soundtrack by Alex Turner (of Arctic Monkeys fame) absolutely rules.
PariahA movie about a teenage girl who happens to be black and a lesbian? Yes, it exists in the form of a little known indie movie called Pariah. It's about a teen girl named Alike whose dealing with the trials and tribulations of becoming more accepting of her homosexuality and getting more comfortable with the idea of her lesbianism being an open secret. But will her parents accept her? And what happens when she starts to crush on a girl who may just like her back? You'll have to watch it to find out.
Edge Of SeventeenThis charming little comedy-drama didn't get the attention it deserved, and it's absolutely worth watching. It's about a teenage girl named Nadine who confides in a teacher about her plans to commit suicide. Yes, grim, but don't let that turn you off. The performances in this movie are killer and beat the pants off of most teen movie acting, and the story is heartwarming without being mushy. Give it a shot and spread the word about how good it is, seriously.
The To-Do ListThis movie staring Aubrey Plaza as a nerdy high school graduate who wants to explore her sexuality before going to college didn't get the love it deserved, honestly. This movie has it all: it features an endearing teen feminist as the protagonist, it explores sexual exploration in a fun and funny way from a girl's perspective (when that is usually only reserved for guys), and it's set in the '90s so it has a great dose of nostalgia. Sure, it's crude, but so is giving a blow job and having sex for the first time.
The Perks Of Being A WallflowerBased on the book of the same name, Perks became a small phenomenon back when it was released in 2013. I mean, who was able to even log on to Tumblr without seeing a zillion GIFs from this movie about a shy high school freshman with severe depression? If you're a purist about the book, you'll probably find plenty of things to quibble about. But regardless, it's worth a watch.
DopeIf you want to watch a coming-of-age movie that isn't so white, check out Dope. It's about a black teen boy who balances his dream of going to Harvard with the reality of living in a rough section of Los Angeles where dreams seemingly go to die. Throw in some drug dealer drama, young love, and a great soundtrack and you've got a movie that actually acknowledges that young black men have stories to tell too.
Palo AltoThis indie movie starring Emma Roberts became a favorite of indie girls everywhere, thanks to its stellar soundtrack, beautiful cinematography, and storytelling that wasn't steeped in teen movie cliches. If you want to watch a teen movie that's a little different, give this one a shot.
The DuffWhen I first heard that "DUFF" The DUFF stood for "designated ugly fat friend," I immediately thought that this movie was going to be an offensive disaster. But then I realized that the movie was actually dedicated to pointing out just how awful that phrase is and actually told a pretty endearing story about an endearing character that a lot of teen girls can relate to, especially those of us who low key felt like the Ugly Friend™ for most of our lives.
The Fault In Our StarsIf there's one big teen tearjerker of this decade, it's The Fault in Our Stars, based on the bestselling John Green novel of the same name. You would have had to be living under a rock not to hear about this movie about two young cancer patients who fall in love, and whether you liked the movie or not, you can't deny that it's sure to be regarded as a classic teen movie from now on.
Spring BreakersI'm going to be honest: I'm not a big fan of Spring Breakers, but a ton of people are and I appreciate its place in the teen movie canon. It's a romp about young college students who go on a wild spring break, and end up getting roped into a violent world of armed robbery and drug slinging. It's...a lot, but it's aesthetically and anything but boring. People either love or hate this movie, so check it out to find out where you stand.