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15 Best Teen Movies of All Time, Ranked

From Heathers to The Inbetweeners Movie and Attack the Block to Booksmart, we've created a list of what we think are truly the best teen movies ever made.

Teenagers are not cool. Not even a little bit. The best teen movies, on the other hand, definitely have a veneer of up-to-the-minute class. These films are absolutely crucial to the generation they depict, and, for many, they’re the ultimate chance to see themselves on the big screen.

There are many ways to skin the cat when it comes to the best movies like this. Some serve as wish-fulfillment fantasies, in which relatable teens get to experience things real-world adolescents could never manage – occasionally with the help of musical numbers. These are the best examples of the widely beloved teen genre, featuring awkwardness aplenty, with some of the best rom-coms, catastrophic drama movies, and a housing estate plagued by neon-toothed alien invaders…you know, the typical new movies you encounter as a teen.

Best teen movies - Superbad

15. Superbad (2007)

The grotesque approach to life of the average teenage boy sits right at the heart of everything in Superbad. Jonah Hill’s motormouth performance is toxic male obnoxiousness personified, with Michael Cera’s lovable loser just pulled along for the ride.

It’s a farce of a story in the best possible way, with the plot acting simply as a vehicle to get these guys into increasingly contrived scenarios. More than 15 years on, it stands as arguably the peak of Judd Apatow’s 2000s run of comedy dominance.

And come on, an end credits montage of penis drawings? I don’t want to live in a world in which I stop laughing at that.

Best teen movies - Lady Bird

14. Lady Bird (2017)

Greta Gerwig effortlessly captured the Catholic School experience with this charming and frequently hilarious comedy. Saoirse Ronan and Beanie Feldstein, who will appear again later on this list, are believable as best friends in that they laugh together, love together, and fight together.

Gerwig’s script is as quotable as they come (I use Feldstein’s “it is the titular role” all the time) but is also packed with emotional depth. This movie understands the core thing that makes teen drama so powerful: everything matters when you’re a teenager. Every slight is enormous, every decision life-changing, every friend an all-timer.

Lady Bird creates stakes not by putting the world in peril or by bringing buildings crumbling down. It does it by sending the audience squarely into the mind of a teenager and making us feel every drop of over-cranked emotional perspective. And boy, do we feel it.

Best teen movies - Stand By Me

13. Stand By Me (1986)

Nothing bonds a group of teens together like the excitement of possibly finding a dead body. That’s the idea at the center of Stand By Me, in which director Rob Reiner parlayed his red-hot streak of ’80s filmmaking into a Stephen King adaptation. It’s essentially a movie about four kids walking along railway tracks, but that doesn’t stop it being a masterpiece.

The chemistry between the leads is excellent, with the late River Phoenix exuding cool as the undisputed kingpin of the group. There’s something so joyful and warm-hearted about just watching these kids interact and bond. There aren’t many movies in which the appearance of a dead body is a deliberate anti-climax, but Stand By Me really nails it.

Best teen movies: Napoleon Dynamite

12. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

There are plenty of hilarious coming-of-age teen movies, but none crack us up more than the 2004 riot that is Napoleon Dynamite. One of the best comedy movies that you’ll ever see, Napoleon Dynamite follows the everyday life of an awkward high schooler who ends up befriending the dynamic (yet monotone) transfer student Pedro.

Jon Heder stars in the titular role and is brilliant. From bumbling movements to iconic one-liners and dance moves, you’ll be hooked as you watch multiple dilemmas unfold onscreen. There are class president elections, young love, and, of course, Napoleon doing his chores like feeding his pet llama, Tina.

The mundane is turned into pure fire slapstick, and the awkwardness and cringeworthy memories that we all have of our high school days are put on full display like never before.

Best Teen movies: Megan Fox in Jennifer's Body

11. Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Thanks to one of the most misguided marketing campaigns ever, Jennifer’s Body was dismissed back when it was released in 2009. However, it’s rightfully become a cult classic in recent years, and we here at The Digital Fix think it’s time we admit how Jennifer’s Body is iconic and is one of the best teen movies to ever grace the big screen.

The subversive feminist tale is entertaining storytelling at its best as it unpacks young female relationships, the consequences of violent exploitation, and hilarious one-liners mixed with gore. One day, a subpar indie rock band decides to sacrifice a virgin to the devil in exchange for success, but it turns out their victim wasn’t a virgin per se, and instead, they unleash a man-eating cheerleader onto the world.

This is not only one of the best horror movies to watch on a Friday night, but it is Megan Fox’s best performance to date. Truly, a misunderstood masterpiece.

Best Teen Movies: John Boyega as Moses in Attack the Block

10. Attack the Block (2011)

John Boyega is now best known as one of the faces of the recent trilogy of Star Wars movies, but before he was a turncoat Stormtrooper, he was the lead of Joe Cornish’s Council estate sci-fi thriller. Boyega plays Moses, who leads a gang of thuggish teens right into the midst of an alien invasion. They join forces with a victim they previously mugged (a pre-Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker) in order to fight back against the ape-like creatures who have fallen from the sky.

Cornish conceived one of the best alien movies as an antidote to the “hoodie” moral panic of the noughties and its depictions on the big screen. It feels fresh and authentically youthful throughout, giving the characters real depth and mining comedy from the sparky exchanges between the teenage protagonists.

Anyone who saw the film would certainly have known Boyega was destined for stardom, and he’s set to reprise Moses for a sequel in the near future.

Best Teen Movies: Eighth Grade

9. Eighth Grade (2018)

It seems strange to state that the best big-screen depiction of Gen-Z girls to date was written and directed by a middle-class white man in his late twenties. Comedian Bo Burnham’s debut feature, though, is a deeply sensitive and excruciatingly hilarious journey into the mind of a modern teenager growing up in a world that demands every facet of life be shared online for public consumption.

Unlike many movies on this list, Burnham cast an actual eighth grader as his lead in the shape of Golden Globe nominee Elsie Fisher, who shoulders the film’s unique blend of authentic comedy and relatable cringe with the skill of an actor many times her age. While the likes of Mean Girls and The Inbetweeners might have perfectly resonated with millennial culture, Gen Z now has its first equivalent.

Best Teen Movies: Heathers

8. Heathers (1988)

Not many teen comedies end with an enormous, fatal explosion at a high school, but Michael Lehmann’s pitch-black ’80s tale Heathers is not an average example of the genre. Winona Ryder and Christian Slater are as terrifying as they are captivating as disenfranchised high school students who stage the murders of their classmates as suicides. An acerbic antidote to a decade dominated by the aforementioned Hughes and his sickly-sweet plotting, the film packs a real punch even 30 years later.

As well as helping to cement the careers of both Ryder and the devilishly charismatic Slater, the movie also crafted its own lexicon of catchphrases and unusual slang terms – entirely made up so that the film would never date itself. They’ve since become part of the common vernacular themselves.

Best Teen Movies: American Pie

7. American Pie (1999)

The concept of losing your virginity on prom night is, for some reason, deeply baked into American culture. It’s an idea that reached its zenith with American Pie, in which four Stateside “inbetweeners” make a pact to secure dates to prom with the aim of having sex by the end of the night.

In amongst the bawdy humor and rather questionable gender politics – even some of the best 2000s movies have mostly aged like double cream left on a picnic table in the sun – there’s the genuinely powerful bond between the central characters.

It’s crucial that, by the time prom night comes around, sex has become an entirely secondary concern for them. The story may have started off as the tale of four men – and Seann William Scott’s ever-memorable Stifler – working to correct their lack of sexual success, but it ends with those same characters taking on the next step of their lives as more mature versions of themselves. As ever, the sequels walked back some of this progress.

Best Teen Movies: The Inbetweeners Movie

6. The Inbetweeners Movie (2011)

For teenagers attending British schools at the tail end of the noughties, The Inbetweeners hit about as close to home as it’s possible for any of the best TV series to manage.

Its cast of hopeless teens pursuing sex and booze with comical ineptitude found a perfect sweet spot – the characters were often awful and acted horribly, but they felt entirely real. After the third series brought the show to an end, the boys headed to Malia for a lads’ holiday in this big-screen sequel to their telly adventures.

The movie didn’t reinvent the wheel of the series at all, but the change of scenery allowed for plenty of culture clash opportunities – not least the chance to watch the characters crash and burn with a group of new women in a cavalcade of filthy set pieces and foul-mouthed banter.

But part of the joy of the movie is that it allowed the boys to win, having set aside some of their more egregious flaws in order to become better people – the sort of guys with half a chance at forming proper relationships. At least until the sequel.

Best Teen Movies: Mean Girls

5. Mean Girls (2004)

If quotability and cultural ubiquity are the measure of success, then very few movies of the 21st century can touch Mean Girls. Penned by Tina Fey, the film follows the arrival of a new girl – played by Lindsay Lohan – at a school dominated by the privileged Regina George (Rachel McAdams) and her gang of “Plastics”. Fey’s perceptive writing skewers and criticizes the way girls can often pit themselves against each other rather than lifting each other up.

The comedy movie caught its central cast members at the peak of their powers, with Lohan’s fame just cresting prior to her subsequent tabloid infamy. McAdams and Amanda Seyfried, meanwhile, remain among the most bankable female stars on the planet today. You go, Glenn Coco!

Best Teen Movies: The Breakfast Club

4. The Breakfast Club (1985)

John Hughes dominated the teen movie genre during the 1980s, with films including Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The pinnacle of his oeuvre during this time, though, is The Breakfast Club. By thrusting together five kids from vastly different areas of the high school hierarchy, Hughes sets the table for an exploration of teenage insecurity, power structures, and stereotypes.

The movie harnesses and amplifies the charisma and star wattage of its young actors, who were all key members of the so-called Brat Pack of breakout screen personalities in the 1980s. And, of course, there’s that music-driven finale. The most memorable fist pump in history?

Best teen movies - Booksmart

3. Booksmart (2019)

Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut showed that there’s no requirement for teen movies to be mean-spirited. It focuses on two women who are driven by schoolwork, feminism, and literature without ever pigeonholing them as tragic nerds.

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever are a killer double act as they vow to embrace the entirety of the hedonistic high school experience in just one night, having discovered that the hard-partying classmates they have always jeered are also heading to top colleges.

At its core, Booksmart is a story about female friendship, and although romance does play a part – including a rare and refreshing opportunity for a sex scene between two women to be every bit as awkward as a heterosexual one – it’s always secondary to the bond between Feldstein and Dever. Add to that Billie Lourd as a pampered scene-stealer, and you have the recipe for an instant classic of the art form.

Best Teen Movies: 10 Things I Hate About You

2. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

The Dark Knight won Heath Ledger his posthumous Oscar, and there’s no doubt his take on the Joker is a towering achievement of screen acting. But Ledger’s best performance actually involves him dancing along the seating of a high school football field while belting out a rendition of Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. In this skewed reimagining of Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew, Ledger plays bad boy Patrick Verona, who falls in love with Julia Stiles’s character after initially being paid to date her.

With endlessly quotable dialogue and an ensemble full of excellent performances – Larisa Oleynik and a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt are one of the most adorable couples in teen movie history – 10 Things I Hate About You is one of the best ’90s movies that has a real-time capsule quality. And like all of the best rom-coms, it balances its rapid-fire humor with a vigorous emotional punch – most notably with the titular poem.

They really missed a trick by not releasing the full version of the erotic novel Allison Janney’s character was writing. More than a decade before Fifty Shades of Grey, she was truly ahead of her time.

Best Teen Movies: Grease

1. Grease (1978)

Yes, every “teenager” in the movie is played by an actor who’s around 30 years old. But the best musicals don’t come much more enjoyable than director Randal Kleiser’s ’50s-set dance through the corridors of Rydell High School. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are charismatic and charming as the chalk and cheese couple struggling to express their love through the impenetrable wall of high school posturing.

The songs are bulletproof, and the story is timeless, despite the valid debate that continues to rage around the gender politics of its final scenes. It’s a movie thoroughly embedded in the popular culture landscape through sheer force of energy and effervescence. More than 40 years on, it’s difficult not to still be hopelessly devoted to Grease.

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If you’re looking for more great films, we’ve got a list of all the best drama movies ever made. You can also check out everything we know about the Stranger Things 5 release date and Wednesday season 2 to see what those crazy kids are up to.

I teen movies of the 2000s were definitely your thing, you may also like our feature on why we should bring back camp 2000s movies and you can find out why Lindsay Lohan wanted to play the villain in Mean Girls.