Teen movies have always played an iconic and memorable role throughout film history, effectively being able to conjure powerful coming-of-age stories from their cast of teenage characters and settings. Teen movies continue to thrive in the modern era of filmmaking, with films like Do Revenge, Booksmart, and Red, White & Royal Blue continuing to show the longevity and timelessness of the genre as a whole.
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However, for every amazing and smash hit teen movie that leaves a massive impression and impact upon the audience, there are also just as many equally enthralling teen movies that didn’t get the time in the spotlight they deserved. Especially with the constant stream of new and exciting films and series being released day after day on every individual streaming service, it only makes sense that a number of great films would fall through the cracks. It’s a shame however, as there are a number of all-time great films that deserve to be in the same conversation with the iconic teen movies of the era.
10 ‘Voyagers’ (2021)
Director: Neil Burger
Image via Lionsgate
Voyagers takes place in a far-off future in which humanity’s survival is at stake, and a group of teenagers who have been bred and created for their intelligence and obedience, are set off on an expedition to colonize a distant planet. However, after the teens discover a number of strange and disturbing secrets surrounding their mission, they defy their training and begin to enact their primitive desires. As the entire ship devolves into chaos, it soon becomes up to a select few teenagers to find it deep within themselves to steer their group into a brighter future.
Voyagers is one of the best teen sci-fi movies in recent memory, and creates its own inventive and creative tale about the dangers of human nature. The film shares a lot of similarities with Lord of the Flies, as it follows a group of teenagers left to their own devices and examines the ensuing chaos from their pure and primal instincts. The film works exceptionally well thanks to its great cast, including a number of great performances from the likes of Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp, Colin Farrell, and Fionn Whitehead.
Release Date April 8, 2021
Director Neil Burger
Cast Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Lily-Rose Melody Depp, Viveik Kalra, Fionn Whitehead
Watch on Peacock
9 ‘Anonymously Yours’ (2021)
Director: María Torres
Anonymously Yours follows the story of classmates Vale and Alex, who miraculously and unintentionally form an anonymous digital friendship after an accidental wrong number text message. As the two continue to bond more and more through their texting, they begin to start crushing on each other, all without realizing that not only have they actually met in real life, but they despise one another.
Anonymously Yours takes a classic secret identity love story and updates it to the digital era seamlessly. The film greatly excels thanks to the realism and genuinity of the relationship at its center, as well as the chemistry that the duo share with each other both online and in person. Vale and Alex especially each have their own stories and evolutions seen over the course of the film, making it all the most satisfying when they are able to be true to themselves and form their once-in-a-lifetime bond.
Watch on Netflix
8 ‘Moxie’ (2021)
Director: Amy Poehler
Image via Netflix
Directed by comedy legend Amy Poehler, Moxie follows the story of a shy 16-year-old student named Vivian who, after being inspired by her mom’s past and a new friend, begins publishing an anonymous magazine that calls out the sexism present at her school. As the magazine soon becomes a massive hit at the school, it becomes a rallying cry for change in their school, yet staying hidden in the dark about being its true author comes with a variety of issues for Vivian.
Moxie is the type of in-your-face rebellious teenage call to arms that fits perfectly with the modern acclimations and desire for societal change that has defined the 21st century. Especially as the younger generations have become the face of these protests and demands for change, Moxie allows itself to get an in-depth look at an interpersonal dilemma surrounding this need for change. Part of what makes the film work so well on its own merits is the character of Lucy, who steals the show in every scene that she’s in and epitomizes the rawness and vulnerability of modern youth.
Release Date March 3, 2021
Director Amy Poehler
Cast J.J. Totah, Marcia Gay Harden, Ike Barinholtz, Josephine Langford, Clark Gregg, Patrick Schwarzenegger
Watch on Netflix
7 ‘You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah’ (2023)
Director: Sammi Cohen
Image via Netflix.
You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah follows the story of long-time BFFs Stacy and Lydia, who have always dreamed of having life-changing and unforgettable bat mitzvahs. However, plans soon go awry when a collection of middle school drama and one incredibly popular boy begin to create a rift between the two best friends, putting their friendship and rite of passage at risk. The duo each attempt to save face and make the best out of their increasingly dire situation, but it proves to be a lost cause as the parties soon erupt into complete chaos.
You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah is a classic yet refreshing story that harkens back to classic BFF stories of old while including its own classic twists and attributes to help it stand on its own. There is a much greater focus on not just the friendship at the center of it all but the intricacies and importance that come from growing up and the gravitas of bat mitzvahs in general. The film is home to a number of great moments and performances across the board, with one notably great supporting performance from Sarah Sherman.
Watch on Netflix
Director: Peter Sollett
Image via Netflix
Metal Lords follow the story of long-time friends and teenage misfits Hunter and Kevin, who have dedicated their high school years to perfecting their musical talents at metal music. With the end goal of becoming legends at the upcoming Battle of the Bands, the duo soon faces an unexpected rift in their friendship when Kevin begins having second thoughts and wants more out of his high school life.
Metal Lords’s greatest strength is one that is shared by the greatest teen movies of all time, being that it’s filled to the brim with heart and charm emanating from every character and interaction. This undeniable honesty and love that the film has for both metal music and the glorious days of youth and self-discovery is what makes the film such a wholesome and satisfying watch. Especially for fans of metal music, or just those who are down to root for the self-declared outcasts, Metal Lords is a rocking good time that has loads of fun throughout the entire runtime.
Watch on Netflix
5 ‘Plan B’ (2021)
Director: Natalie Morales
Image via Hulu
Plan B follows the story of Sunny, a straight-laced high school student who after a failed house party, has a regrettable first sexual encounter that leaves her in complete shock the following morning. Joined by her slacker best friend, Lupe, the duo soon embark on a journey to hunt down a Plan B pill in their short and increasingly terrifying 24-hour window. Their adventure takes them across America’s heartland, where they have a variety of strange encounters with friends and enemies in an attempt to save Sunny’s future.
Plan B features a lot of the greatest aspects from road trip movies and combines them with an ever-present timer to increase tension and raise the stakes. Its simple, yet effective modern premise allows the film to accomplish a great deal in such a short amount of time, with a number of incredible comedic sequences throughout the film making for great highlights. What makes the film stand out and continue to leave an impact however is the genuine and honest friendship between Sunny and Lupe, who between their ups and downs have each other’s backs in a realistic and heartwarming way.
Release Date May 28, 2021
Director Natalie Morales
Cast Kuhoo Verma, Victoria Moroles, Michael Provost, Mason Cook
Runtime 107 minutes
Watch on Hulu
4 ‘The Fallout’ (2021)
Director: Megan Park
The Fallout follows the story of Vada, an everyday teenager who has her life completely upended following a sudden and unexpected tragedy that occurs at her school. In an attempt to cope and deal with her struggles and anxiety following the event, Vada soon finds herself forming a close friendship with classmates Mia and Quinton, whom which she was alongside when the tragedy took place. The trio each are dealing with the wake of the tragedy in their own ways, yet it proves to be incredibly difficult to return to normal in a world that has seemingly changed forever.
The Fallout is an emotional rollercoaster of a film that doesn’t hold back when it comes to its highly realistic and terrifying depictions of PTSD and anxiety in the wake of a major tragedy. It’s a story that is sadly more timely than ever with its story beats and depiction of a mass tragedy and uses the high emotional weight of its topic at hand to tell a powerful and necessary story. Teen movies have always made great gateways for modern topics of discussion and dialogue, and The Fallout is one of the greatest modern examples of being a jumping-off point for more powerful conversations to occur.
Watch on Max
3 ‘Shiva Baby’ (2020)
Director: Emma Seligman
Image via Utopia
Shiva Baby follows the story of college student Danielle (played by Rachel Sennott) who soon finds herself in a precarious predicament when attending a family shiva. She unexpectedly has a number of unwanted encounters with her glowing and ever-successful ex-girlfriend, as well as her secret sugar daddy and his family. The day continues to become more and more of a nightmare for Danielle to navigate as she attempts to make the most out of what might just be the worst scenario possible.
Shiva Baby is a film that is defined by and thrives in the realm of its never-ending stress and uncomfortableness that it places both Danielle and the audience in throughout the movie. The story of Danielle is one that shares a number of similarities with classics like The Graduate, but uses the important distinctions and changes of the 21st century to tell its own terrifying spin of growing up with no end goal in sight. While still accomplishing its task in being a highly stressful and chaotic experience, Shiva Baby still brings the comedy in full force to make for a film that is as funny as it is uncomfortable.
Release Date April 2, 2021
Director Emma Seligman
Cast Rachel Sennott, Fred Melamed, Polly Draper, Molly Gordon
Rating Not Rated
Runtime 77 minutes
Watch on Max
2 ‘Bottoms’ (2023)
Director: Emma Seligman
Image via Orion
Bottoms follows the story of high school outcasts PJ and Josie, who in an attempt to lose their virginities and hook up with the attractive cheerleaders at their school, start a fight club as a way to hang out. The fight club soon gains a great deal of traction as a wide selection of popular and unpopular girls come together to beat each other up in the name of self-defense and women empowerment. As the club grows more and more in popularity, PJ and Josie find themselves in a difficult situation, and have to find a way out before their scheme is uncovered.
Bottoms takes all of the classic conventions and cliches of 80s and 90s teen movies and creates its own hilarious blood-soaked satire and destruction of the genre as a whole. The film doesn’t hold back when it comes to either the high levels of absurdity and violence on display, as well as the genuine and important message of female empowerment and strength in numbers. While critics and audiences fell in love with the film upon its release, the film failed to make a major mark at the box office and is forced to attempt to find success and a larger audience on streaming services.
Two unpopular queer high-school students start a fight club to have sex before graduation.
Release Date August 25, 2023
Director Emma Seligman
Cast Nicholas Galitzine, Ayo Edebiri, Dagmara Dominczyk, Rachel Sennott
Runtime 92 minutes
Rent on Prime Video
1 ‘Shithouse’ (2020)
Director: Cooper Raiff
Shithouse tells the story of lonely college freshman Alex, who has closed himself off from his peers and any number of college experiences for nearly his entire time he’s had at college. Everything soon changes for Alex when he decides to leave his comfort zone and attend a party at Shithouse, a legendary party fraternity where lives are said to be changed on the regular. There, he soon forms a genuine and heartfelt connection with Maggie, and learns a number of valuable lessons that only college could provide.
Shithouse is easily one of the most realistic and well-executed depictions of the anxieties and struggles that come from new college students in the modern era. It’s very easy for audiences to see parts of themselves in both Alex and Maggie, both the positive and heartwarming aspects of their character and relationship and the more toxic and undesirable archetypes of their characters. However, this mix of good and bad only furthers the strengths of Shithouse’s realism and comedy, creating a highly intelligent and powerful experience about the importance of leaving one’s comfort zone and finding yourself on your own terms.
Stream on AMC+
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