21 Underrated Teen Movies You Should Revisit
Sure, you've watched "Clueless" and "10 Things I Hate About You" a million times. But there are a lot more great teen movies out there you might have missed. Here's some dramas, indies and comedies you should catch up with.
'My Bodyguard' (1980)
Long before he was finding things shiny on "Firefly," Adam Baldwin was the scariest kid in school. Until one kid (Chris Makepeace) recruits him for protection from the school bully (Matt Dillon, who played more than his share of bad boys back in the day).
'River's Edge' (1986)
Definitely not a wacky teen comedy: In this chilling drama, a disturbed teen (Daniel Roebuck) murders his girlfriend and leaves her body by the river's edge. Among those debating the right thing to do: Keanu Reeves (in one of his best early roles), Ione Skye, and Crispin Glover. Partly based on a similar real-life murder.
'Ghost World' (2001)
What do you do after graduation? If you're cynical hipsters like Rebecca and Enid (Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch), you hang out and play pranks that go awry. This cult black comedy is based on the comic by Daniel Clowes.
'All I Wanna Do' (1998)
In this empowering (and funny) comedy set in 1963, students at an all-girls school fight against it going co-ed. Kirsten Dunst, Gaby Hoffmann, Monica Keena, Heather Matarazzo, and Rachael Leigh Cook star.
Roll Bounce (2005)
A movie about a roller-skating-obsessed teen (Lil Bow Wow) in the '70s? Oh yes. Naturally, the soundtrack is off the hook, and so is the cast, including Meagan Good, Chi McBride and Nick Cannon. Malcolm D. Lee ("The Best Man," "Girls Trip") directed.
Rian Johnson's directorial debut is a noir-ish take on high school, where Joseph Gordon-Levitt is out to solve the murder of his ex-girlfriend. Loaded with hard-boiled lingo and mood for days. It won the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at Sundance. JGL and Johnson later reteamed for the even better "Looper."
'Better Luck Tomorrow' (2002)
Before Justin Lin joined the “Fast and Furious" franchise, he gave us this standout drama about overachieving Asian-American high school students who drift into petty crime. Trivia: MC Hammer helped fund the movie!
'The Way, Way Back' (2013)
Liam James (young Shawn on "Psych"), received a number of accolades for his role as 14-year-old Duncan, who's forced go to on vacation with with his mother (Toni Collette) and her jerky boyfriend (Steve Carrell). A terrific cast and a stellar soundtrack help make this well worth your watch.
'The Namesake' (2007)
First-generation Indian-American Gogol (Kal Penn) resents his family's old world traditions, until he visits India himself. Based on the book of the same name, it was nominated for Best Film at the Gotham Awards.
In this little-seen Sundance indie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of several teens with severe behavioral issues in a juvenile psych ward. His performance as a violent, confused teen marked the end of his days as "that kid from 'Third Rock.'" Co-written by costar Michael Bacall, whose other writing credits include "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" and "Project X."
'Just Another Girl on the I.R.T.' (1992)
Main character Chantel (Ariyan A. Johnson) wants to get out of Brooklyn and become a doctor, but her plans get derailed. The character breaks the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience in this indie that earned Johnson an Independent Spirit Award nomination. Director Leslie Harris was frustrated with mainstream coming-of-age movies and this smart indie is the result.
'Vision Quest' (1985)
If you only know Matthew Modine as the bad guy from "Stranger Things," go back to when he was a high school babe with a crush on an older woman (Linda Fiorentino). And yes, that's future Oscar winner Forest Whitaker as a fellow wrestler. Possibly most famous for its theme song by Madonna, "Crazy For You,” who makes her first film appearance to perform the hit song.
'A Little Romance' (1979)
Forty years ago(!) Diane Lane was a 13-year-old who finds romance in Paris with a French boy her age. And her matchmaker is Laurence Olivier, who helps them abscond to Venice so they can kiss under the Bridge of Sighs (and thus be in love forever). Surely an influence on "Moonrise Kingdom."
Shameik Moore stars as Malcolm, who's so obsessed with old school hip-hop, he writes his college application essay about it. A chance invite to a party from an older girl (Zoe Kravitz), leads to unexpected drama. Kiersey Clemons, Kimberly Elise, and Lakeith Stanfield costar in this (sorry!) very dope film from "Brown Sugar" director Rick Famuyiwa.
If you only know the musical remake (or the stage musical), do a deep dive into John Waters's original camp classic. You can't beat Ricki Lake fighting racism and fat-phobia through dance. Or Divine as her ever-ironing mother.
Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur (in his acting debut) star in this drama about 4 friends in Harlem whose lives are changed forever when one of them gets their hands on a gun. Just as great: The soundtrack, which includes Cypress Hill, Eric B. & Rakim, and Salt-n-Pepa.
'The Flamingo Kid' (1984)
In this endearing Garry Marshall movie set in the '60s, Matt Dillon is a working-class kid who takes a summer job at a beach resort. He has all the charm of Ferris Bueller and enterprise of Tom Cruise's character in "Risky Business." It's as much of an '80s classic as those 2 films, just surprisingly less well known.
'Whip It' (2009)
Ellen Page stars as a 15-year-old who defies her mom (who wants her to do beauty pageants) to become "Babe Ruthless" in roller derbies. The great cast includes Alia Shawkat and Kristen Wiig. And Drew Barrymore, who also directed. Inspired a lot of people to take up roller derby in real life, which is pretty damn impressive.
"A Walk to Remember" isn't Mandy Moore's only pre-"This is Us" role, of course. In this satirical teen comedy set at American Eagle Christian High School, seemingly perfect teens struggle with all-too-real-life issues. Starring Jena Malone, Macaulay Culkin, Eva Amurri, Heather Matarazzo, and Elizabeth Thai.
'Stick It' (2006)
If this set-up -- a rebellious (and lawbreaking) gymnast is forced to rejoin the team -- reminds you of “Bring It On,” that's because it's written and directed by Jessica Bendinger, who wrote our favorite cheerleading movie. If you wanted a Missy (Eliza Dushku) spinoff, this underrated, cheer-worthy film does the job nicely.
'Heaven Help Us' (1985)
We all know Andrew McCarthy from "Pretty in Pink" and "St. Elmo's Fire," but probably missed him (and Kevin Dillon and Mary Stuart Masterson) in this dramedy about a Catholic school in Brooklyn in the '60s. McCarthy said it was his favorite film, calling it "a very lovely movie that twelve people saw."