>> I'm going to be honest, the criteria for what is a high school or teen film is gonna be very lax here. The story should happen to someone who is a teenager, it must be set in a high school, or other age-appropriate (or inappropriate) locations such as camps, clubs, or alternate dimensions. The notes are based on recurring and intrusive thoughts. As such, it's my opinion, often times poorly constructed and only slightly informed. If one of your favourites is low on the list or mocked, please bare me no bad will. I can't help myself, sometimes I have shit taste. The same goes if I rank something too high. However, you cannot convince me that my top 20 are incorrect. If you don't care about the build-up, feel free to skip to the bottom to see what I rank as the best teen and high school films. Let me know what is missing from the list, what I should watch, or if I wrote something wrong. Add me on Letterboxd if you like. Beware, spoilers!
Let it begin...
70. I did not think I could watch anything worse than The Hot Chick within the realm of teen films. However, I then remembered that I had seen Drive Me Crazy. I could remember nothing. The lead characters had no chemistry, not even a little depth or something that made them sympathetic, and plot...no plot, never mind.
69. Its a bad, bad movie. And its all Rob Schneider's fault. While it was boring and tedious to get through, it still had more memorable moments than Drive Me Crazy. Hildenburg and her boyfriend were cute, and Keecia's mum. You better appreciate your weird mum, Keecia.
68. Anybody but the main girl would have been a more interesting character. The characters still feel a little too cardboard-y for the film to really be any good.
67. Cute concept, but I think the plot was very muddled. Acting did not hold up at all and I felt like everyone was confused about what they should be feeling and expressing. That's my job, get out!
66. If memory serves, there were a few giggles during this one. That's all.
65. What a gorgeous film, yeah? Nothing much else though. I know, it's a staple, its iconic, some may say its even underrated. It was fine, I guess. Couldn't get over the clunky monologue and the iron-strong belief that you can love someone when you don't know them at all this film is dead set on.
64. What the hell, man. Not bad enough to be good. Just goofy, in a non-enjoyable way. I hate SNL.
63. I love Jennifer Coolidge, okay?!
62. Don't do this to me, Keanu. I love you but I don't love this.
61. I love school satire stuff. I love Saved! And The Trotsky. But for some reason, Election did not work for me. Might have been the tedious pacing and the unlikeable characters, though that may be the point and I am uncultured. I know this though.
60. Why was everyone so scummy in this movie? I think I just don't get relationships, but even as a teen I didn't see the point of being dishonest and screwing over your friends for something you don't even really want. Sean Penn was pretty funny though.
59. For me, this was a textbook case of style, no substance. Girls are cute, I know. Emma Watson especially. But it felt like every interaction between them was just painful and an attempt to seem very cool and very deep. I was not cool or deep in high school, so maybe now I'm angry at movie characters.
58. When I was still in high school, maybe fourteen or fifteen, I got into a weird phase of watching depressing and boring films. I had more sophistication then, or something, I don't know. Anyway, Ginger & Rosa was one of them. While the performances were great, as a fourteen year-old middle-aged well-versed and totally uninformed critic I would have to say it made me sad in a bad way and I didn't like it.
57. I was super excited for this one, tried to see it in the cinema and everything. Good that I didn't, though. Didn't like it because of the majorly boring story, everything else was fine.
56. Not enough Irish high school films in the world. Maybe not like this one in particular, but it was tacky and dumb enough that I genuinely enjoyed it. Would not recommend.
55. Back in the day, huh? Anyway, my principal rec'd this for me when I said I wanted to make a short-film about kids who want to burn the school down. Damn, the balls on me.
54. This classic? At the bottom? I know, I'm sorry. But I just didn't enjoy it all because I didn't like the titular character, he's a jerk and his girlfriend is called Sloan. Forgive me, Sloans of the world.
53. When the mum is on a date with the high school boy in her daughters body. Weird. Awesome outfits though.
52. What a mess. Does not overcome the tropes and superficial notions ingrained in teen films.
51. I thought I liked it more than it turns out I did. Just not as fun as I remember it being.
50. I'm not gonna shit on Twilight. Its not that bad. It has moments!
49. Yeah, your mate getting with your brother. Weird, but come on, love is love and so forth. Feels like all the characters overreact and I don't like it!
48. On my first watch, I really liked it. Why? Don't know, because I couldn't sit through the re-watch. The cast was almost likeable but the 2000s illness of pervy and uncomfortable ruined that.
47. Not big on musicals, but this was nice. Could not for the life of me understand the crush the main guy had on the cool girl. Well, she was cool, I suppose.
46. Used to be obsessed with this film. Its so bad. I love it. I was way too into Number Six for a snotty little twelve year old. Like, come on, it's not gonna happen. Not even in your mind...
45. I did not like Emma Roberts. I liked everyone else. The thrift store scene, awesome.
44. How does this guy have the time for all the street racing, crime, and school in Japan? He is not doing his homework. The story is very dumb and the dialogue is dumb, dumb little movie. But car go fast. 2000s flip-phones that could live stream? Hell yes. Han? Very nice.
43. Here is another of one of my many sins. I don't like The Breakfast Club. These little guys are a little toxic, I didn't care for them.
42. I hate the main dude. He's living the life and still, man. I do like Michael Angarano, he's a character.
41. Funny. Can't believe she didn't just cut her hair to commit to the bit. Lame.
40. I think it's actually not bad, just not absurd enough for my liking of Superbad-levels of ridiculous and goofy.
39. I actually like it, it's got great atmosphere and pacing. Everyone looks so cool. But then they fight and it makes me sad.
38. I have no idea why I like this film. I have bad taste. It's so bad, like in a technical sense. The editing is trash and the sound design might make you feel hostile. Its just so dumb, like even the interactions between the characters, and yet I'm still like, okay, this is watchable.
37. Yeah, I prefer Jawbreaker and Clueless to Mean Girls ! I just heard them all compared, but I don't know if that's a hot debate or not. Didn't click with any characters at all and when Janis gets with a guy? What the heck, my dude.
36. Not funny! Not funny at all! Why am I laughing?! Why Adrien Brody grows weed?! Fuck!
35. Technically, not high schoolers...but they are. Hilarious. Love jocks and nerds becoming friends. Peak character development.
34. Brittany Murphy was just so great. How can one person have this much charm?
33. Maybe if the plot was a little better in structure, this would be a masterpiece. But things get kind of lost closer to the end and not enough happens with the characters internally to really get to the good stuff. I know, you must be like, just shut up, you are so annoying, stop trying to say every film needs well-developed characters! Yeah, my bad.
32. Guilty pleasure. 100%. I'm sorry, I know its bad. I just love their little schemes and how things seem to be going well but then they dont. I have been cursed with bad taste.
31. If not for the ending, I would not have enjoyed it as much. Glad it left all the boy drama behind when it did. I too, am tired of Timothy.
30. A teenage therapist? Where was mine? R.I.P, Anton Yelchin, you legend.
29. The part where they scare a little girl in a supermarket with their telekinetic powers. Heh.
28. I liked Veronica but why, Veronica, why did you like JD? He sucks.
27. Probably also a guilty pleasure. Wish there was more Gabrielle Union. A whole film from the perspective of the Clovers.
26. Emma Stone is pretty great but I couldn't stand the best friend, she was a jerk.
25. While the main romance was great, whatever was going on with the sister and Joseph Gordon-Levitt was plain annoying.
24. Obsessed with this movie. Not sure why, its not that good in theory but it just works. The mystery, the alien gore, and the character drama. Awesome.
23. A classic. McLovin, you!
22. Elliot Page was in a lot of teen films. This one was so full of style, I didn't really care if the dialogue was cringe. Fills me with a lot of comfort when the sad songs play. Also kind of funny when grown women bully teenagers, like don't you have better shit to do?
21. Bad adults, an often overlooked and oversimplified feature of the teen film. Done well.
20. Christians, am I right? Not gonna say anything else...Great performance by Natalia Dyer, she has that range. Plus, its funny. Old porn is funny.
19. I though I fever-dreamed the first film, and then fever-dreamed a sequel. I'm a busy person. Though it is silly and nonsensical, it is cool and girly.
18. A good depiction of seemingly petty but common tension between friends. The unhinged kid is great. Thomas Middleditch the pizza guy. I didn't have much summers in the wild, outside the jurisdiction of everyone but who's invited in. Wish there was more.
17. The fever-dream that started it all at Gran's house. It's beautiful. It's foundational. It's my dream to go to a school with people that are bastards.
16. The romance between the leads...finally, a couple with chemistry. Fucking hilarious too. Ex-gay, haha.
15. I love it. A main character that does not have a romance subplot. She's here to be a nuisance and then maybe do gymnastics. Or lead a revolution against sport judges.
14. A high school you can join only if you like beating the shit out of people for political gain while looking like youre in a slightly edgier J-POP band than is standard. My dream. Plus, the main guy takes a beating from a bajillion dudes and doesnt flinch but cries on the curb like a little bitch when a girl calls him an asshole. Best bit.
13. Suprised that no one talks about this film, its very funny. The romantic interest is so cute...French, dark curly hair, skis well, a mechanic for some reason...Lane becomes more likable the less he thinks about his ex too.
12. I once was a self-proclaimed Anderson-head. Sounds so dumb, I'm sorry. I still like a lot of his films but I think I cannot maintain the schedule of being a fan. Still, Rushmore is my third favourite film after Steve Zissou and Moonrise Kingdom. Its because it looks cozy and because Jason Schwartzman is pretty good, huh?
11. Why does it have to end so sad?
10. The cast is like...woah. Brittany Murphy, Kristen Dunst, and Allison Janney. Can't believe people confidently said that girls aren't funny. Where were they when Kristen Dunst's movie mum had a beer can melted to her hand in the hospital after a fire?
9. I love Matt Johnson. Why is he so smart, so great, so funny? Dunno, but watch The Dirties.
8. Technically, the main character is played by Paul Giamatti who is not a teen in the year 2011, I believe. However! The teen is central to the film. I don't know, this one does get waved off often, maybe its not experimental or nuanced enough. But I watch it and while it makes me sad, it makes me feel better too.
7. Comfort movie, dont care what the criticism is. Every scene is perfect, every scene belongs. Wish more boys were like Napoleon talking about drinking whole milk.
6. Art. Christians done right. Sorry. Love the underdog, the outsider...overcoming dumb social norms. Good for them. Watch this.
5. Finally. Finally a main character that is a real human being...hes a weirdo, hes kind, he wants something he can't have, he's hurt. What a film, but nobody talks about it!
4. Though I am not always a fan of multiple perspectives, this is the one. Stories ranked in terms of how much I enjoyed them: The nerds trying to decide what to do and then that guy punches another dude, the kid who is way too young to be there and his little gang wreaking havoc on Ben Affleck, and finally, the main guys and whatever it is they get up to.
3. Though this movie gets called melodramatic and purple-prosy, shut up, critic guys! I mean, maybe it is, its over the top, its trying to be quirky. But it kind of just is...The lead guy doesnt instantly fall in love with the girl with cancer. Their friendship and whatever else they feel is slow and hidden. He doesn't make wild gestures to win her over. I guess what I'm saying is...nothing much, these are just characters that I can see myself in because they are subtle. The ending, its hard, man.
2. Hidden gem. Its everything, the acting, the dialogue, the story. Perfect. High schoolers promoting a communist agenda and disobeying the hierarchy in place at every school? Damn, its more likely than you think.
1. The best kind of high school movie because majority of it is spent skipping high school. Okay, jokes aside, I was left anxious and twisted, and deeply satisfied with this film. Ruth and her aunt don't function as they should according to the people around them. And yeah, sometimes their life is a mess. But I find them comforting and when they can finally get away from it all, I really want to do something like that too. It's quite hard for me to put into words why I value things, so I can't explain how much I like this film without either sounding like a snob or a someone who's only ever seen adjectives (i.e. prior entries on this list). But to whoevers reading, I guess I just want to say this film is important to me in non-explainable ways.
Sources & References
Heart Divider from August August.