The 40 Best Teen Movies You’ll Love at Any Age
Whether you're in the mood for an '80s classic or the newest Netflix rom-com, these teen movies will hit the spot
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Teen movies that stand the test of time
Admit it: There’s a part of you that still loves teen movies. How can you not? They’re the ultimate guilty pleasures, and beyond that, the best ones are smart, insightful and, simply put, some of the best movies around. At their heart, these coming-of-age films tap into something universal. We may not have had sparkly vampires running amok in our town or lived in a place that banned dancing, but we did experience the sweetness of first love, the excruciating embarrassment of making a misstep and the fun of those carefree days. In short, these movies have a delicious nostalgia factor, whether we’re watching for the first time or the 50th.
From sweet romantic comedies to high school horror stories (metaphorical and literal!), these are the teen movies you’ll adore no matter how old you are. And this list has something for everyone: There are familiar fan favorites from the ’80s and ’90s, blockbusters, classics, critical darlings and even some buzzy new releases to add to your must-watch schedule. So whether you’re looking for funny movies, slasher flicks or intense dramas, we’ve got the perfect pick for you right here.
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Memorable quote: “As if!” —Cher Horowitz
Believe it or not, critics didn’t love this modern take on Jane Austen’s Emma when it first came out … though audiences strongly disagreed. Popular Beverly Hills high schooler Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) may have been a little too obsessed with her closet, but her matchmaking skills were still better than any 21st-century dating app. The film endures nearly 30 years later for several reasons, like the designer outfits (think: Cher’s signature yellow plaid skirt and blazer) and the way-harsh one-liners (“You are a virgin who can’t drive!”). Also, any Clueless rewatch asks us to ponder the age-old question, “Does Paul Rudd look younger at age 26 or age 53?” You’ve gotta admit—that one is a toughie.
The Breakfast Club
Memorable quote: “I hate it. I hate having to go along with everything my friends say.” —Claire Standish
Five strangers—”a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal”—spend a Saturday detention together in this John Hughes–directed classic. What starts as detention soon becomes an intense group therapy session with the popular kids and the unpopular kids bonding over their empty home lives. But when queen bee Claire (Molly Ringwald) morosely informs math clubber Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) that they won’t still be friends come Monday morning, Brian’s disappointment will tear at your soul. Nearly 40 years after its release, The Breakfast Club‘s critical examination of the high school clique system remains a must-watch. You’ll see more of this dynamic, of course, in some of the best teen TV shows.
Pretty in Pink
Memorable quote: “I just wanna let them know that they didn’t break me.” —Andie Walsh
High school is a minefield for wrong-side-of-the-tracks student Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald), who is regularly ridiculed by her wealthy peers because she’s poor. And things get even trickier when she falls for dreamy “richie” Blane (Andrew McCarthy). You’ll swoon over their budding romance … even as you root for Jon Cryer’s Duckie (Jon Cryer) to somehow win Andie’s heart.
The look and feel of Pretty in Pink—from the linen suits worn by ultimate high school cad Steff (James Spader) and the movie’s killer new-wave soundtrack—put the story squarely in the 1980s. But without giving any spoilers away in case you haven’t seen it, Andie’s decision about prom is a timeless girl-power move.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Memorable quote: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” —Ferris Bueller
It’s pretty hard to find a teenage-movie hero cooler than Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick). Not only does Ferris manage to skip school in spectacular fashion—who else could so smoothly hijack a parade by lip-syncing the Beatles’s cover of “Twist and Shout”?—but he actually gets away with it! Also, who could forget how hard we laughed at Cameron’s impression of Sloane’s dad? Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a good reminder that a charming smile, and a classic movie, never goes out of style.
Memorable quote: “Gretchen, stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen. It’s not going to happen!” —Regina George
In Mean Girls, the previously homeschooled Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) finds herself enmeshed in a world far more dangerous than the African wild: an American high school. And the popular girls, known as the Plastics, led by the terrifying Regina George (Rachel McAdams), are ready to pounce. Screenwriter Tina Fey took our favorite old-school movies about high school cliques and updated them to be more accessible for Gen Z and millennial audiences, including plenty of hilariously cringe-worthy moments and funny movies quotes you’ll be referencing for years, even when you’re a “cool mom.”
Memorable quote: “What is your damage, Heather?” —Veronica Sawyer
The groundbreaking black comedy Heathers pokes fun at the traditional bullies-versus-outcasts trope by turning Westerberg High School into one of the deadliest places on earth. Bored, sadistic newcomer JD (Christian Slater) starts killing the popular kids and, with the help of jaded rich girl Veronica (Winona Ryder), stages the murders as suicides. Suddenly, teenage suicides are the hottest new trend, and the new queen bee, Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty), is even worse than her nasty predecessor. This film kicked off a new movement in the teen-movie genre: much darker takes on the teen experience.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Memorable quote: “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.” —Jeff Spicoli
Fast Times at Ridgemont High established what would become the blueprint for so many of the best movies for teens that followed: an unapologetic and hilarious take on hormonal high schoolers looking for love in all the wrong places and the unavoidable mistakes they make on the road to adulthood. Fast Times also introduced us to Sean Penn as the perpetually stoned Jeff Spicoli, the only high school student with the gall to order a pizza directly to the classroom. And that fantasy sequence featuring a swimsuit-clad Phoebe Cates belongs in the bikini hall of fame. This Cameron Crowe–penned classic is so iconic that the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry back in 2005. While you’re catching up on these classics, check out the best free streaming services you can use to watch them.
Say Anything …
Memorable quote: “I gave her my heart, and she gave me a pen.” —Lloyd Dobler
More than 30 years after its release, Say Anything is still one of the best teen movies thanks to two seriously romantic factors: 1) That iconic image of Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) holding a boombox blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” And 2) Its sweet and hopeful premise: As in, why shouldn’t the kind, albeit underachieving, Lloyd Dobler win the heart of valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye)? No matter how many times you’ve already watched Say Anything, waiting for that fasten-seat-belts light to go “ding” still feels like an eternity. And it’s absolutely still worth the wait.
Bring It On
Memorable quote: “I transferred from Los Angeles. Your school has no gymnastics team—this is a last resort!” —Missy Pantone
We love Bring It On for its send-up of national cheerleading competitions and for teaching us about the beauty of spirit fingers. But what puts it over the top is its examination of systemic racial inequality: Sure, the Toros were national cheerleading champions because they stole routines from the far more talented Clovers. But this was also because the predominantly White Toros—led by Kirsten Dunst’s determined team captain Torrance Shipman—could afford to attend the competitions. The same couldn’t be said for the predominantly Black Clovers. But thanks to the Clovers’ resolute leader Isis, played to perfection by Gabrielle Union, the squad is eventually given their rightful due. Whether you’re Team Toros or Team Clovers, Bring It On is a great excuse to brush up on your jazz hands.
Memorable quote: “Jump back!” —Ren McCormack
Moving to a new town and starting a new school is tough for anyone. But in a town where dancing and rock music are literally outlawed? That’s the last thing angsty teen Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) needed. Fortunately for Ren, he’s caught the eye of the preacher’s equally angsty daughter—and together they’re going to teach this little backwater town how to dance again.
There’s so much to love about Footloose. For starters, it introduced many viewers to Kevin Bacon, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest—and it’s still fun to watch them early in their careers. Plus, the film is chock-full of unforgettable dance numbers, including Ren’s angry warehouse dance, Ren and Willard’s bromantic dance lessons and the long-awaited prom. It’s impossible not to start tapping your feet while watching it.
Memorable quote: “I’m just gonna go ahead and nip this thing in the bud. ‘Cause, you know, they say pregnancy often leads to, you know … an infant.” —Juno Macguff
The hallmark of a great movie is its ability to tackle a serious subject matter and still make the audience laugh. If you cry too, that’s just a bonus. In Juno, an unexpectedly pregnant and adorably precocious teenager (Elliot Page, who nabbed an Oscar nomination for their performance) chooses to give her baby to a wealthy, older couple. But the film doesn’t shy away from the layered nuances that come with an unplanned pregnancy: Even though Juno has a “happy ending,” the roller coaster of emotions that come with it are unavoidable, and you can’t help but feel Juno’s grief when she cries into her best friend’s arms after the birth.
Memorable quote: “You get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more than you have been in … in a very long time. You deserve everything you want.” —Emily Spier
The feel-good Love, Simon makes our list of the best teen movies because it was a major game-changer in cinematic LGBTQ representation: It was the first major studio teen film with a gay protagonist. Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) deals with a lot of familiar high school challenges like bullying and a secret, anonymous love interest, all while navigating his own coming-out journey. Love, Simon also has a lot of heart, and more important, we get to see much-needed support from Simon’s inner circle, including his mom (played with loving tenderness by Jennifer Garner).
Memorable quote: “I want to go where culture is, like New York, or at least Connecticut or New Hampshire, where writers live.” —Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson
Although Lady Bird deals with typical high school fare—sex, dating, yearning for independence—its power lies in the strained relationship between Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf). Director Greta Gerwig doesn’t shy away from the unvarnished truth of parent-child relationships, presenting both of Lady Bird’s parents as flawed human beings. Lady Bird’s dad is unemployed and battling depression, despite trying to keep both facts a secret from his daughter, while her mother fears letting her daughter leave the nest. Watching Marion realize she’s missed her chance to see her daughter off is never not heartbreaking.
Memorable quote: “I am McLovin!” —Fogell (aka McLovin)
Superbad follows high school best friends Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) as they try to meet their two pre-graduation goals: losing their virginity and obtaining alcohol. The film is one of those great teen movies that will still make you laugh out loud 15 years after its release, thanks to moments like Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) inexplicably putting “McLovin” on his fake ID.
It’s also just a blast to watch the now-superstar cast during their early days. Back in 2007, Michael Cera was a teen-film staple, appearing in other hit movies like Juno and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. And who knew that a few short years later, Jonah Hill would be an Oscar nominee for roles in drama movies like Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street?
Memorable quote: “I lost my virginity in what I thought was a park, but … it turned out to be a graveyard, and now the ghost spirits live inside my eggs waiting to be reborn.” —Gigi
Comedy legends like Lisa Kudrow, Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte bring the funny in Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, while Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever bring the funny and the pathos. After four years of good grades and high achievements, best friends Molly (Feldstein) and Amy (Dever) decide to finally let loose the night before graduation. In addition to some hilariously bad decisions, there’s another problem with Molly and Amy letting loose: Their night of debauchery unleashes long-suppressed resentments between the two girls. Is their friendship stronger than one massive fight? You’ll be crying right alongside Molly when this question is answered over a big stack of pancakes.
Memorable quote: “You’re just a toy, Sebastian. A toy I like to play with.” —Kathryn Merteuil
Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s 1782 novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses is perfect material for a teen movie, because, when you think about it, bored, scheming French aristocrats are really no different than bored, scheming wealthy New York high schoolers. In Cruel Intentions, devious step-siblings Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) make a wager over deflowering the virtuous Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon), but neither expects Sebastian to fall in love with his conquest.
When Sebastian surprises Annette at the top of the train station escalator, maybe we’re not as impressed as she is by his actions. But when Sebastian responds that he’s in love, it’s impossible not to swoon right along with her. It’s also impossible not to cackle with glee when Kathryn finally gets her comeuppance. Here are more book-to-movie adaptations you’ll love.
The Hate U Give
Memorable quote: “If you don’t see my Blackness, then you don’t see me.” —Starr Carter
Based on Angie Thomas’s young adult novel of the same name, The Hate U Give is the story of Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), a 16-year-old Black teen who attends a primarily White prep school. Starr knows she lives in two different worlds: When she was 9, her father gave her “the talk,” the difficult yet necessary conversation in Black families about how to deal with the police. At school, she’s the non-confrontational student with White girlfriends and a White boyfriend. But when Starr witnesses the police shooting of her childhood best friend, she’s forced to reckon with her two identities, and suddenly, staying quiet isn’t so easy anymore.
Starr’s evolution from passive student to vocal activist is a watershed moment for the teen-movie genre. And considering the still-timely subject matter, The Hate U Give is still one of the best PG-13 movies to watch right now.
Dazed and Confused
Memorable quote: “Alright, alright, alright.” —David Wooderson
It’s the last day of school in 1976 suburban Texas, and the rising seniors are looking to party—and haze the incoming freshmen. But it’s all in good fun, and by nightfall, the freshmen and seniors are mixing it up at the local pool hall and eventually at the moon tower keg party. While the subject matter of Dazed and Confused is hardly original, the film remains one of the best teen movies thanks to its cast of future Hollywood royalty: Ben Affleck appears as wrathful bully Fred O’Bannion, and Parker Posey is his evil female counterpart Darla. But Dazed and Confused will always be remembered for Matthew McConaughey’s breakout role as David Wooderson, the pathetic 20-something still cruising for underage girls.
The Fault in Our Stars
Memorable quote: “I fell in love with him the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” —Hazel Grace Lancaster
The Fault in Our Stars will likely land on every sad movies list until the end of time, but this tear-jerker is definitely worth the sobs. When teenage cancer patients Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) meet in a support group, we know their love is a race against a ticking clock. Still, they manage to fly to Amsterdam for a whirlwind romantic vacation. Not even a disastrous meeting with Hazel’s favorite author (played to bitter perfection by Willem Dafoe) can destroy the couple’s optimism. That is, until they have to deal with the realities of their diagnoses.
Memorable quote: “We’ll just tell your mother that … we ate it all.” —Jim’s Dad
By 1999, raunchy teen movies had become the norm, making the plot of American Pie pretty predictable (graduating seniors make a pact to lose their virginity). But no one ever looked at an apple pie the same way again after watching horny high schooler Jim (Jason Biggs) got intimate with the freshly baked dessert. The same went for our thoughts on band camp. Two other reasons American Pie continues to make best teen movies lists? Comedy geniuses Eugene Levy (Schitt’s Creek) and Jennifer Coolidge (The White Lotus) show up as Jim’s Dad and Stifler’s Mom, respectively, and they are as funny as ever.
Memorable quote: “We are the weirdos, mister.” —Nancy Downs
Teen movies and horror films are like peanut butter and chocolate—they’re great together. In The Craft, Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney) falls in with a group of outcasts at a Los Angeles Catholic school. The girls embrace witchcraft to retaliate against their bullies, and while it’s initially satisfying to watch the racist, misogynistic students get their comeuppance, the coven’s magic quickly switches from fun to deadly. Still, that climactic fight between “good witch” Sarah and Fairuza Balk’s power-hungry Nancy Downs is one for the ages.
10 Things I Hate About You
Memorable quote: “Romantic? Hemingway? He was an abusive, alcoholic misogynist who squandered half of his life hanging around Picasso trying to nail his leftovers.” —Kat Stratford
A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You shifts the setting from Renaissance-era Italy to—where else?—an American high school. Popular Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) wants to go out with cute new boy Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), but her father won’t let her date until her surly older sister, Kat (Julia Stiles), gets a boyfriend. Will the rebellious Patrick (Heath Ledger) be the one to melt Kat’s frosty heart? If you haven’t seen it yet, we dare you not to swoon during the big serenade to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” which comes complete with a high school marching band as backup.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Memorable quote: “I need you to know that I like you, Peter Kavinsky, and not in a fake way.” —Lara Jean Covey
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a welcome addition to the romantic movies on Netflix genre, especially considering the film spawned two sequels. Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) channels her passion for her high school crushes into secret love letters she keeps locked away in her closet. But when the letters are not-accidentally mailed to their recipients, Lara Jean is forced to confront her feelings—while also entering into a fake relationship with onetime crush Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). As Lara Jean and Peter spend more time together, initially just to mess with Peter’s ex-girlfriend, Lara Jean learns that maybe her feelings didn’t need to be locked away forever.
A Walk to Remember
Memorable quote: “I was getting along with everything fine. I accepted it, and then you happened! I do not need a reason to be angry with God.” —Jamie Sullivan
Decades before Mandy Moore moved audiences to tears on a weekly basis with This Is Us, she honed her chops in A Walk to Remember, based on a Nicholas Sparks novel that will also make you cry. A principled minister’s daughter, Jamie Sullivan (Moore) helps reform local bad boy Landon Carter (Shane West), and the two fall in love. While Jamie has a tragic secret that will prevent a happily-ever-after, that doesn’t stop Landon from trying. There are too many watchable moments in this film to name—and we certainly wouldn’t want to spoil any of them—but you’ll want to rewatch them all … and you’ll ugly-sob every time you do.
The Princess Diaries
Memorable quote: “I don’t want to rule my own country. I just want to pass the 10th grade.” —Mia Thermopolis
High school is hard enough when you’re just a “normal” teenager. Going to high school while also preparing to rule a tiny European country? Now that has the makings of not just a great teen movie but also one of the best royal movies. In The Princess Diaries, gawky San Francisco teen Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) freaks out upon learning from her regal grandmother (Julie Andrews) that she’s actually the princess of Genovia. While we all coveted her ballgown in the final scene, we really fell in love with Mia in that adorable moment when she reacts to the princess news with a decidedly unladylike “Shut up!” But the confidence Mia gains from her newfound role winds up being a much better gift than any tiara.
Memorable quote: “It’s like you’re my own personal brand of heroin.” —Edward Cullen
Between the countless vampire books and vampire movies out there, the evidence is conclusive: Vampires are sexy. So when Twilight exploded onto the scene, it wasn’t surprising that audiences sank their teeth into the forbidden romance between undead “teenager” Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and moody human Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart). We love this movie not just for Edward and Bella’s love story but also for the Cullen family’s charming dedication to family normalcy, with a vampiric twist. What other coven would bond over a supernatural game of baseball? Or cook an entire meal (made with actual food, not blood) for their human guest? While the sequels may be better films, this is the one that started it all.
Memorable quote: “What’s your favorite scary movie?” —Ghostface
Scream is a fascinating meta-exploration of horror-movie clichés: Even though Drew Barrymore’s Casey Becker is brutally murdered in the opening scene, the film is really a satirization of scary-movie tropes, with local teenager Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and her high school pals trying to evade a serial killer. There are plenty of funny moments and memorable lines, but since Scream was directed by slasher-flick auteur Wes Craven, it’s also packed with plenty of twists and scares. And it ended up reinvigorating the horror-film genre and spawning multiple sequels, including the brand-new Scream VI.
Memorable quote: “You know, there’s like a boatload of gangs at this school. This one gang kept wanting me to join because I’m pretty good with a bo staff.” —Napoleon Dynamite
This delightfully awkward film proves that the best teen movies don’t have to take place in Southern California or Shermer, Illinois. (Fun bit of movie trivia: Fictional Shermer was the setting of The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and more.) Preston, Idaho, is the home of Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), and it offers plenty of entertaining activities, such as the Happy Hands Club and the Future Farmers of America. But viewers will love Napoleon’s impromptu dance routine to Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat,” which ends up winning the school presidency for his bestie. The popular kids, with their rendition of the Backstreet Boys’ “Larger Than Life,” never stood a chance.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Memorable quote: “I just want you to know that I was in a bad place before I started high school, and you helped me.” —Charlie
Adapted from the Stephen Chbosky novel of the same name, this film follows high school freshman Charlie (Logan Lerman), who befriends seniors Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller) following his stint at a mental-health facility. Unlike most stereotypical teen movies, The Perks of Being a Wallflower deals with Charlie’s post-traumatic stress disorder, brought on by repressed memories of abuse. But the film still has lighthearted moments that we will never forget, like the joyfully heartwarming scene where wallflower Charlie joins an ecstatic Sam and Patrick on the dance floor during “Come On Eileen.”
The Karate Kid
Memorable quote: “Strike first! Strike hard! No mercy, sir!” —The Cobra Kais
If you’re a fan of Cobra Kai on Netflix, then respect must be paid to the teen movie that started the whole Daniel LaRusso–Johnny Lawrence rivalry in the first place. Back in the early 1980s, New Jersey transplant Daniel (Ralph Macchio) just wanted to ride his bike and date Johnny’s cute ex-girlfriend in peace. But in the San Fernando Valley, if you want something—even if it’s just self-respect—you’d better learn karate. And if you can learn karate from a wise sensei named Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), then, well, you can absolutely call yourself the best around.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Memorable quote: “I’m just not ready to be a mom.” —Autumn
Seventeen-year-old Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) learns she’s pregnant. Due to limited resources and restrictive laws in her home state of Pennsylvania, she travels to New York City for an abortion, along with her supportive cousin Skylar. Flanigan’s performance, specifically during the scenes at the Planned Parenthood clinic, is heart-wrenching. The film also resonates for its unflinching portrayal of limited reproductive rights in this country, especially in light of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in 2022.
Memorable quote: “Teenage girls—we’re psychopaths.” —Eleanor
Hell hath no fury like a teenage girl scorned in this killer black comedy from 2022. Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke play wronged prep school students who join forces to wreak some serious havoc on their tormentors. The film’s standouts include a clever cameo by Kathryn Merteuil herself (Cruel Intentions‘s Sarah Michelle Gellar) as the sharp-tongued prep school headmistress—and a gut-busting scene where the entire senior class trips out on mushrooms. What makes Do Revenge one of the best teen movies on Netflix, though, is that the storyline isn’t so simple as, well, doing revenge. Turns out the victims and the villains aren’t as clear-cut as the trailer would have you believe.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Memorable quote: “How can something that’s supposed to make you feel so complete end up leaving you so empty?” —Bridget
Four childhood friends (Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera, Blake Lively and Alexis Bledel) are about to spend their first summer away from one another. So when they come across a single pair of magical jeans that happen to fit each of them perfectly, the girls decide to share the pants—passing them back and forth, around the world. The traveling pants witness the girls’ happiness and heartbreak, bringing the four friends closer than ever before. And while the entire film is a great watch, America Ferrera’s performance is the true standout.
High School Musical
Memorable quote: “We need to save our show from people who don’t know the difference between a Tony Award and Tony Hawk.” —Sharpay Evans
It’s the OG Disney movie musical that kicked off the juggernaut franchise still going strong today (now as a series on Disney+). After their ski vacation meet-cute, basketball star Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and newly transferred academic decathlete Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) try out for their school’s musical, much to their respective cliques’ chagrin. Fortunately for Troy and Gabriella, the movie‘s conflict remains minimal, because all their pals also enjoy breaking into song and dance on a regular basis. Admit it: You still remember the moves to “We’re All in This Together,” don’t you?
Stand by Me
Memorable quote: “You guys wanna go see a dead body?” —Vern Tessio
In 1959, four boys venture out into the wilderness to locate the body of a local missing teenager. But it’s the bond they form throughout the journey that changes their lives forever, especially the relationship between aspiring writer Gordie LaChance (Wil Wheaton) and his supportive pal Chris Chambers (River Phoenix). The film, based on a Stephen King book, is a bittersweet watch because 16-year-old Phoenix—who died of an overdose in 1993—gives the performance of a lifetime. When Chris comforts a grieving Gordie over his dysfunctional home life, you’ll wish you had a best friend just like that.
The Kissing Booth
Memorable quote: “It’s never great to hear your childhood crush say, ‘It’s super-gross in your pants.'” —Elle Evans
High schooler Elle Evans (Joey King) accidentally jeopardizes her lifelong friendship with bestie Lee Flynn (Joel Courtney) when she kisses her secret crush Noah (Jacob Elordi)—who just happens to be Lee’s older brother. Predictable and uproarious rom-com hijinks ensue, but that doesn’t stop The Kissing Booth and its subsequent sequels from being a welcome addition to the long list of awesomely romantic movies on Netflix. Plus, the film has the ultimate seal of approval from ’80s teen queen Molly Ringwald, who co-stars as Lee and Noah’s mom.
Here on Earth
Memorable quote: “Some people live their whole lives and never fall in love. I lived my life. … I fell in love.” —Samantha Cavanaugh
This one checks all the teen-weepy-movie boxes: a love story, a rich boy vs. poor boy rivalry and a tragic death. After their car race destroys the local diner, prep-school student Kelley (Chris Klein) and townie Jasper (Josh Hartnett) are sentenced to a summer of community service rebuilding the restaurant. Kelley soon falls in love with Jasper’s girlfriend Samantha (Leelee Sobieski), only for their romance to be prematurely halted by a fatal diagnosis. We told you—there will be tears! But Here on Earth gives us two of the cutest teen love story moments ever: Kelley using Sam’s body as a U.S. geography lesson, and Kelley and Sam’s fake baseball-game date.
A Cinderella Story
Memorable quote: “There’s something I’ve always wanted to tell you, and I think you’re ready to hear it. You’re not very pretty, and you’re not very bright. Oh, I’m so glad we had that talk.” —Fiona
This modern retelling of the beloved fairy tale stars Hilary Duff as the Cinderella character. But in this version, she’s an intelligent high schooler named Sam with aspirations of attending Princeton University. While Sam does get her Prince Charming (Chad Michael Murray), she outwits her wicked stepmother Fiona (a scene-stealing Jennifer Coolidge) all on her own. You’ll want to watch A Cinderella Story just to see what Fiona’s very fitting punishment is.
Memorable quote: “But it’s like, being yourself is, like, not changing yourself to impress someone else.” —Kayla Day
Unlike most Hollywood teenager portrayals, Eighth Grade doesn’t even try to sugarcoat how awkward middle school can be. The film’s protagonist, Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) struggles with anxiety, and she copes by publishing motivational YouTube videos, even though they get lost in the social media void. Director Bo Burnham offers a realistic, unpolished look at adolescence, something that’s increasingly rare in the glamorous, unblemished world of teen movies. Although the film doesn’t suggest that teenage anxiety is something that suddenly disappears, Eighth Grade does offer a glimmer of hope toward the end: In an applause-worthy scene, Kayla courageously stands up to mean girl Kennedy (Catherine Oliviere).
Memorable quote: “I’m not giving up on my mom.” —June
Not all thrillers need to involve huge action scenes. Sometimes, the tension can be just as palpable when the protagonist is immersed in an intense Google search. That’s what happens in 2023’s Missing, when teenager June (Storm Reid) turns into a one-person cyber sleuth after her mom (Nia Long) goes missing during a romantic South American getaway. Watching this film, you’ve gotta hand it to June, who becomes a tech-savvy hero, using her digital skills to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and try to save her life with quick-thinking Siri commands. While it’s currently in theaters, it will make its way to a streaming service near you soon.