Teen movies are mostly all about fun, but even the more disturbing, harrowing, and un-nostalgic ones can be fun to rewatch as an adult because you can always remember one thing: You survived. So put on your varsity jacket, grab your Trapper Keeper, and stream these 14 essential teen movies.
Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
Chris Columbus (of Harry Potter, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Home Alone fame) made his directorial debut with this prime example of peak '80s slapstick, whose title pretty much says it all. Our lead babysitter, played by Elisabeth Shue, is also a Chris, and she's stuck taking care of an 8-year-old when her boyfriend stands her up on their anniversary. A comedy of errors ensues, with a car chase, cheating spouses, and teen crushes and runaways, adding up to the perfect high school caper.
Brahman Naman (2016)
Truly, nothing can spice up a school quiz tournament like the quest to lose your virginity. This '80s-set Netflix original sends a Bangalore trio of high school horndogs to Calcutta to win on both counts.
Can't Buy Me Love (1987)
Want a good excuse to see McDreamy before he was McDreamy? Steve Rash's quirky '80s teen comedy will transport you and Patrick Dempsey back to high school, where his nerdy character (a "social leper") pays the most popular girl there (the late Amanda Peterson) $1,000 to be his girlfriend. Along the way, the couple teaches each other important social lessons, experiences great hairdos, and, oh yeah, takes part in this insane and real dance scene. Queue it up.
Give us a minute to defend this one. Crossroads works gloriously as camp, but it's also just plain fun. The script, penned by a pre-Grey's Anatomy Shonda Rhimes, is filled with the type of absurd, sudsy melodrama that would later turn her into the queen of network television, while the non-Britney performances from Zoe Saldana, Taryn Manning, Kim Cattrall, and a wait-what-are-you-doing-here Dan Aykroyd are all way better than they need to be. I mean, do you even love rock 'n' roll, or no?
Dope, about a trio of high school geeks who find themselves swept up in a drug caper, arrived at a moment in the culture when early hip-hop nostalgia is at an all-time high. Boasting a soundtrack that balances classic tracks from A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, and Nas with modern performers A$AP Rocky, Tyga, and others, the 2015 Sundance breakout film overcomes a story that drags a bit down the stretch via engaging performances, notably from Shameik Moore, who plays old-soul teen lead Malcolm, and impeccable music direction (thanks, Pharrell). Like in high school, good taste counts a lot in teen movies -- and Dope has wild style to spare.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
"Nine times." That's both a quote from this John Hughes classic and the answer to the question: "What is the minimum number of times everyone should be required to watch this movie?" Even if you're well out of your school years, Ferris' truant exploits will give you the urge to blow of work and follow the film's tagline: Leisure Rules. Just maybe ask before you "borrow" your friend's vintage Ferrari and set out to make your boss' life a living hell when he tries to call you on your unauthorized day off.
Good Burger (1997)
Welcome to Netflix, home of Good Burger, which you should watch in short order. Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell spun off a popular sketch from Nickelodeon's All That to make this rowdy comedy about teens who spend the summer working at their friendly neighborhood fast-food stand and the Nick slime-worthy gaffes that result from a foul burger-chain rivalry. With cameos from Shaq and Sinbad, French-fry gags, and a brawl over an insanely tasty secret sauce, you'll be snort-laughing milkshake out your nose in the first 10 minutes.
Even if you know every word to "Greased Lightning" and "Summer Nights” by heart -- which you probably do, given that Grease is the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time -- the original high school musical is worth an annual rewatch to remind yourself of the outfits, the songs, and how hot young John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John used to be. Well-a well-a well-a huh!
Like Mean Girls but with murder, this dark '80s cult classic features Winona Ryder and Christian Slater at their peak cool as two young lovers who start bumping off the popular kids in their high school (including a group of pre-Plastics mean girls all named Heather). While the film flopped at the time, the movie seemed pre-destined to be a cult classic, packed as it was with iconic images and lines: Veronica's monocle, the red power scrunchie, the croquet-playing, "What's your damage, Heather!?," and of course, "Fuck me gently with a chainsaw." Years ahead of its time, Heathers was a sharp satire of sickly sweet '80s teen movies, a lethal dose of cinematic Drano that we still can't believe ever got green-lit (and that certainly wouldn't pass muster in today's post-Columbine world).
High School Musical (2006)
The Disney Channel original that put Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens on the map 10 years ago is a total trip today. If you can stand a teen dramedy with a corny-sweet teeny-bopping soundtrack, Troy and Gabriella's budding romance and bucking of the high school hierarchy will warm your frigid heart. Honestly, it's worth watching for a look back at Efron's shaggy man-bangs alone. (Bonus: If you can't get enough saccharine song-and-dance numbers, HSM 2 is streaming on Netflix, too.)
Menace II Society (1993)
Following in the wake of John Singleton's more hopeful Boyz n the Hood, this brooding thriller from the Hughes brothers was an urgent, genre-inflected shot to the heart. Telling the story of Caine Lawson (Tyrin Turner), a teenager in South Central LA, the directors paint a vivid portrait of a young man trapped in a violent, unforgiving world with no options to escape. While some '90s gang dramas were filled with clichés, Menace II Society is an unsentimental and stylishly filmed achievement, a movie that's as rewatchable as it is unsettling.
The uproarious comedy that kicked off Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's writing partnership crams more crude sex jokes than anyone ever thought possible into the heartwarming story of inseparable best friends (Michael Cera and Jonah Hill) on the verge of leaving each other to ship off to college. Factor in some killer party scenes, a then-unknown Emma Stone, and high school horndogs riffing to their hearts' content, and we all want to be McLovin'. Available 2/4
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
A hell of a lot of movies have tried to revive dusty old Shakespeare plays, but few modernize as effectively as this remake of The Taming of the Shrew. At the peak of his heartthrob powers, a pre-Joker Heath Ledger got paid by some horny teens (including a dweeby 3rd Rock-era Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to seduce Julia Stiles' feisty Kat, an undateable feminist keeping her popular sister home from prom. It's a testament to the teen actors' charm, raucous party scenes, and philosophizing about Prada and Skechers that the Bard would hardly recognize it.
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