Teenage Angst. One of the most common tropes in film. That feeling of misunderstanding and a lack of belonging. The many emotions that come with being young. It is painfully hard to watch when conveyed poorly, but ever so beautifully relatable if done well. I think, in my opinion, these ten movies get it right. They each do something different, in a way that manages to make them unique and a beautiful portrayal of the many adversities and challenges that accompany being young and the feeling of invincibility or emptiness in a world that constantly pushes back and forth against us. Only few mediums can portray this in a way that resonates and when done right, film is by far my favourite!
1. Lady Bird
Probably one of the most real I have seen a teenager portrayed on film. This is one of my favourite movies and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone, especially if you are a young adult. It captures perfectly the struggle to manage the fine balance between your relationships. Lady Bird is a quirky young adult who is culture obsessed and is fighting a constant battle trying to maintain her relationship with her friends, boyfriends and mother, (who has a strong personality like her daughter, while attempting to keep the family afloat with her relatively low income). The story shows the highs and lows that forge and sustain our relationships. It demonstrates how the way we perceive ourselves and our own situations deeply affects the behaviour we partake in. It deals with heartbreak, love, family, social status and belonging. However, what really shines through is the the humanity portrayed in this film, and the fresh and far more relatable approach to the human condition!
2. The Edge of 17
The Edge of 17, is a movie that manages to use its basic premise to create a beautifully authentic and meaningful story about friendship, love and compromise. It tells the story of Nadine, who has a rough time in high school as it is, with her limited social skills and lack of ability to create new friendships. She leans on her one main friend Krista. It becomes complicated when she catches Krista in bed with her older brother, Darian. As Krista’s relationship with Darian escalates, it puts a strain and complications onto Nadine and Krista’s friendship, forcing Nadine to look elsewhere to find the sense of belonging she craves. This film beautifully teaches us to accept the fact that we cannot choose who we love and sometimes if we truely love someone, we have to accept that we cannot control their lives or who they love either. Sometimes we must step out of our comfort zone to better ourselves and bring in new beautiful friendships and relationships.
3. 10 Things I Hate About You
10 Things, is one of those movies that just makes you wish you were in the 90’s in an American High School. This movie is one that EVERYONE has to at least watch once in their life, if not more than once. It is a simple, charming romance story with more style than it gets credit for. Yes, it is predictable and cliche at times. But does that make watching one of Heath Ledgers most iconic performances any less of an experience? Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all. (If you get that reference I love you)
Juno is one of those feel-good movies that makes you smile as you watch it. With Ellen Page delivering a beautifully authentic performance, you cannot help but fall for this timeless modern classic. It remains a wonderful portrayal of teenage pregnacy and the many challenges and obstacles one must face at school, with the father and in Juno’s case the adoptive parents, as she chooses not to have an abortion. It is a simple movie with a big heart and worth the watch, for any teenager or anyone in general. Plus, it has a wonderfully unique soundtrack that ties in perfectly with the film!
5. Beautiful Boy
My most recent watch of this list and easily one of the most impactful. Beautiful Boy, truely is a beautifully told but heartbreaking story of teenage drug addiction. It truely puts everything in perspective. It is based off the real story of Nicolas Sheff and his meth addiction that threatened to destroy him, but also his family and everyone around him. It is a movie that I feel a lot of teenagers can relate too. Not necessarily to the same extent as Nic (who is played wonderfully by Timothee Chalamet), but even just the social comment it presents regarding the effect of drugs, making it especially relevant to teenage culture in this era. The film, shows how drugs have the ability to both deteriorate someone physically, but also mentally and emotionally. It is storytelling at its most important and poignant. It is the raw truth, and that is what young people need most.
6. Perks of Being a Wallflower
Again, one of my favourite teen angst movies. It is a movie most people say was there first encounter with the topic of suicide and self harm. With strong performances by all the cast, this film really gets to the core of what it means to be young, human, in love and an outcast. It portrays the story of Charlie, who’s lack of social skills lead him to an inability to fit in. That is, until he meets Patrick and Sam, two senior students (step brother and sister) who help him gain confidence and allow him to blossom into his own skin. However, the reality of Sam and Patrick finishing school before him and heading off to college and beyond is daunting and threatens to break Charlie. The story is a roller coaster of emotions, but with a stellar cast, a beautiful soundtrack and an important message about identity, this is a modern classic for any teenager, in my opinion!
Before 13 reasons why, there was cyberbully. Now this recommendation is more for the younger teenagers, as I would prefer to recommend far greater movies on this topic for older teens. However, this was probably my first experience with the topic of suicide. This is one of the most powerful movies I watched during high school and one of the first movies I saw dealing directly with online bullying. It is emotional and shows the nasty aspects of high school, targeting the worldwide epidemic of cyberbullying. The story follows Taylor, who becomes the victim of intense cyberbullying, and her mother who attempts to help her daughter who is becoming increasing distant and depressed. While you can criticise many parts of the movie for stereotyping and while many moments, (such as the end) came off as unrealistic or an oversimplification of a really deep and delicate subject matter, it is powerful nonetheless. Especially for the younger teenage age group growing up in the digital era.
8. Easy A
‘Easy A’ is by far, one of the best school-based movies I have seen. It is easily a cult classic. It details an important message about rumours and how toxic they can be. It also really touches on reputation and how your actions can lead to your reputation being either bad or good, but in the end, all that matters is that you are happy with yourself. The story follows Olive (Emma Stone), who after doing a favour for one friend (pretending to sleep with them for money), becomes the talk of the school, and that one favour soon becomes a regular hobby for her. This is until it begins to get out of hand and Olive begins to realise the implications not only on her finding real love, but on the people around her. It is a really funny and relatable story with Emma Stone as a very likeable lead character, and very much worth taking the time to watch (Of course, that is, if you have not already).
9. Freedom Writers
Surprisingly, I only watched this movie recently and it is such a great film about race and the divide in American. It is also a great film about diversity, acceptance and unity. It is based around a young teacher who is set with the task of teaching a group of teenagers in a predominately African-American and latino neighbourhood. At first, the teenagers show no interest in listening to their ‘white’ new teacher Erin Gruwell. However, a relationship begins to form between the students and teacher as they begin to accept, respect and understand one another. It is an important story of unity and diversity (as I said before) and while it is predictable and isn’t necessarily award winning, it certainly gets its point across and is great for younger audiences to be exposed too.
10. The Way Way Back
One of my personal favourites. This film was probably one of the most unexpected for me. When I watched this movie, I went in with low expectations but was pleasantly surprised. ‘The Way Way Back’ is a relatable, well written and beautifully acted (by the all-star cast) portrayal of youth. It is a raw story of a simple family vacation, with family upheaval, first loves, but at the forefront; a story of a boy who gains the confidence to grow and become more himself than he ever has been. Duncan is shy and an outcast, but finds a new version of himself after meeting Owen (Sam Rockwell) who works at a waterpark and employs Duncan after seeing him alone one day. It is a funny, uplifting and heartwarming film that I highly recommend to anyone! What I found really important about this story was that it didn’t make romance the saviour, but instead an unlikely friendship and finding your own way in the world, amongst the turmoil of the common youth identity crisis.