Coming of angst: the best teen movies

June 13, 2020

There is something about an exceptional coming of age movie that can create a sentiment of both intense nostalgia and a subtle reminder to grow up. The recipe? A confused main character with a witty sidekick who makes a few questionable life choices before discovering what is really important in life, right before they dive into the real world of adolescence and responsibility. Because the end of the school year is the perfect time to reminisce about high school memories, here are my top five teen movies for your viewing.

Hilarity ensues as Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) takes his friends on a dream ditch day; a sightseeing adventure around Chicago.

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

Troublemaker Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) fakes an illness to his parents and enlists his girlfriend, Sloane (Mia Sara) and apprehensive best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) to embark on a wild “ditch day” throughout Chicago. With a principal skeptical of Ferris’s recurring truancy and parents oblivious to their son’s shenanigans, the trio must escape from various close-calls, ranging from dining at the same restaurant that Ferris’s father is eating at to impersonating Sloane’s father on a phone call with their principal.

The chaos they find themselves in can be quite unrealistic at times, but this just adds to the hilarity of the situations. Although recreating the movie in real life would be unattainable, a fun exploration of the city may be enough to feel like you are living a Ferris Bueller lifestyle. This film shines a positive light on the last hoorah before kids realize they must mature, with the underlying themes of Cameron’s battle with mental health showing that sometimes you just need a day off.


“Pretty in Pink”

Starring Molly Ringwald, the 80s “it” girl of coming of age movies, protagonist Andie struggles to fit into the social hierarchy of high school: her out-of-work father, the popular boy who takes an interest in her and her eccentric friend Duckie, who is also in love with her. The love triangle gets more complicated as prom approaches, and Andie wonders if living the life of the popular boy’s girlfriend is all it is cracked up to be.

Though the 1986 film is nearing its 35 year anniversary, the old-school charisma remains relevant. Andie’s outlook on life is quite different from her peers: she is the only one employed in her family and spends most of her time hanging out with her boss who is in her mid-20s. Although she may not celebrate her high school years like typical teenagers, “Pretty in Pink” shows that there are a variety of ways to enjoy adolescence.


“American Pie”

This raunchy comedy follows five friends determined to lose their virginities before they graduate high school. As the clock ticks until they put on their cap and gown, each boy’s story blossoms into a lesson about trust, love and friendship.

The humor is definitely suggestive enough to earn its R-rated label, but I believe this only adds to its appeal. By portraying such an important topic in a comedic light, teens are able to learn from the film, in ways sex education could never have taught them.


“The Edge of Seventeen”

Courtesy of STX Movies
“The Edge of Seventeen” explores serious themes for Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), while including her engaging in playful banter with her teacher (Woody Harrelson).

Best friends Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) and Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) have spent the better part of their lives by each other’s sides. That is, until Nadine discovers Krista in her older brother’s bed. Distraught by the betrayal of her only friend, she seeks companionship in her teacher, as well as a boy that has been crushing on her from afar.

“The Edge of Seventeen” uncovers the ugly truth about loss and mental health issues, showing the hardships adolescents experience as they try to find themselves. Composer Hans Zimmer accompanies the film’s stellar cinematography with a beautiful soundtrack that highlights the highs and lows of Nadine’s junior year.

“Lemonade Mouth”

This Disney Channel original movie that millions of teenagers grew up with teaches valuable lessons about togetherness and friendship. A group of kids from all backgrounds meet in detention, a nod to “The Breakfast Club,” and decide to start a band. As their music takes off, they deal with personal issues, taking comfort in each other’s company and finding love where they least expect it.

Although the film could be considered campy and immature, Disney tackles a variety of coming of age struggles in a sneaky fashion. As we learn that each character has problems at home ranging from an incarcerated father to a poor relationship with a stepmom, “Lemonade Mouth” conveys that everyone is going through something. These scenes are worked in seamlessly while still considering the young audience and keeping it light. Additionally, the soundtrack is phenomenal; to be honest, I listen to “Determinate” on repeat. Thanks to “Lemonade Mouth,” children are able to understand coming of age without seeing the mature content of other films.

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