9 Teen Movies That Aren’t Mind-Numbingly Shallow

I don’t know about you, but I love teen movies. Yes, even the corny ones or the problematic ones that we’re all way too woke to endorse now. Sometimes there’s comfort in a cliche, and teen movies are full of them. The jock or prep who gets humbled. The geek who is cooler than people have been lead the believe. The queen bee who either ends up having a heart of gold, or pays the price for being a nasty piece of work by movie’s end. The tokens–the one black friend, the one gay dude. Oh, and maybe some goths and skaters thrown in. Every teen movie needs at least some goths and skaters, right?

There’s comfort to be found in these for their tropes; makeovers, revenge plots against the bullies, a dramatic kiss set to music…But sometimes you want to watch a coming of age story with a little more depth. And frankly? You’re not going to find that in at least 80 percent of teen movies. Listen, whether it’s Sixteen Candles or She’s All That, we should all be able to agree that a lot of teen movies are incredibly shallow and are about little more than teenagers being mean to each other with a touch of romance thrown in for 90 minutes. That’s not to say that movies like that can’t be good. I mean, Clueless and Mean Girls are still amazing movies, but they weren’t exactly deep.

Luckily, there are some teen movies out there that are great to watch when you want to check out a coming of age movie that isn’t full of the usual elements of a teen movie. Check out these nine teen movies that aren’t mind-numbingly shallow. And no, that doesn’t mean they’re boring, it just means that they’re about more than having sex and being popular.


Lady Bird

This new indie movie is getting a ton of amazing reviews, which is great considering the fact that it's a coming of age story. It's about a opinionated teen girl--who insists on being called Lady Bird--who is dealing with her overbearing mother and her jobless father on top of school, romance, and friendship. It's sort of sad to say, but how often do you come across teen movies in which the young, female protagonist is actually fiery and bold from the jump? Really think about it. Lady Bird helps fight this gap and it's absolutely worth checking out.

Me And Earl And The Dying Girl

I feel like every movie with dying teens are overly sappy and cringe inducing, emotionally manipulative works of film that just squeeze tears out of you but little else. That's why Me And Earl And The Dying Girl is so great. It takes the terminally-ill-teen trope and actually gives it some heart. Come for the cute friendship moments, stay for the feels.


Saved is one of the most underrated teen movies of the '00s. It's about a religious girl named Mary (heh) whose faith is tested when her boyfriend comes out of the closet. When word gets out, she's ostracized from her super Christian friend group and finds friendship in the token Jewish girl at her school, the edgy, outspoken Cassandra. This satire is absolutely worth watching if you love the drama of teen movies but appreciate something a little different.


What I love about Submarine is that it's not just a rom com. Sure, the protagonist, Oliver, has eyes for Jordana (a girl he knows he has a chance with because she's "moderately unpopular" like him). He's also concerned about his parents' dwindling marriage and a potential affair stirring in the background. It shows that a teenage boy's life isn't just about trying to get laid (though that's obviously part of it too). Plus, I like the fact that this is a romance between two actors who don't look like they're overly attractive Hot Teens like they're on The CW or something. They look like someone who you actually go/went to school with. Oh, and if that's not enough to convince you to watch this...the soundtrack rules.

Diary Of A Teenage Girl

This controversial movie about a teen girl living in '70s San Francisco who has an affair with her mother's boyfriend is...definitely not your average teen movie, right? Despite what you think of those kind of relationships (for the record, we're against them), the protagonist is so endearing and it offers such a refreshing take on sex, maturity, and individuality.

The Edge Of Seventeen

There aren't that many teen movies coming out these days, but The Edge of Seventeen is one of them, and it deserves more love. It's definitely a different kind of teen movie. I mean, it starts off with our protagonist, Nadine, telling a teacher that she planned to kill herself. Yep, it moves away from traditional teen movies from the jump. If you're into dramatic comedies about emotional teens, definitely watch this.


If you want to watch something a lot more gritty than the average teen movie, definitely check out Kids. This '90s movie follows the lives of precocious New York City teens getting up to everything from drugs to sex and everything in-between. Also, the ultra '90s fashion is so amazing to witness, so it's practically worth watching just for that.


Heathers has plenty of the teen movie cliches I mentioned in the intro--mean girls galore--but it turns the trope on its head with its dark comedy format. Without Heathers, there wouldn't be a Jawbreaker, or a Mean Girls, or plenty of teen classics, so give this movie a watch if you haven't already and get familiar with some cinematic roots. Oh, and anything with Winona Ryder in it is worth watching, so that should be reason enough to watch.


You probably weren't drinking, doing drugs, getting your tongue pierced, wearing a visible thong, and trying to initiate a threesome when you were thirteen. And if you aren't thirteen yet, you probably won't do any of those things. But the gals in Thirteen did, and throughout the movie you watch a girl named Evie go from sweet middle schooler to a total bad girl seemingly overnight. This story is dysfunctional AF, but it's worth watching if you want to check out a movie about teenagers that's dark and depressing.

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

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