Teen Movies of the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and now

Writing by Monique La Terra 

Unforgettable quotes, musical anthems, stylish wardrobes, and enough angst to fuel a high school—“teen movies” have become a genre all their own with many films gaining cult status. Since the 1930s, the innermost thoughts of teenagers have been splashed across cinema screens, but it wasn’t until John Hughes and his eighties Brat Pack that the genre really took off. Every decade is packed with its own lingo, fashion, and soundtracks, but the misunderstood drama of high school teenagers and the themes and issues they deal with stay the same. Watching teen movies is an integral part of growing up, but which of them is the most important and what can they teach us? I’ve collated a list of my favourites from the eighties, nineties, noughties and now but these are only a few of the many great teen movies out there.

The 80s:

If you’ve ever felt a nostalgic twang for eighties USA, then don’t fret, you’re not alone. Between an MTV endorsed playlist and an infinite amount of hairspray and plastic accessories, the decade stands out amongst every other as one that is louder and larger than the rest. But the reason that the decade seems so attractive to those of us born after it ended is perhaps mainly due to the way it was captured by John Hughes. The writer/director is responsible for many cult classics, but the reason that these films are so important is because he was able to accurately depict what it felt like to be a teenager in each one of them. In the world of eighties teen movies, you’ll find convertibles, dancing sequences, and a wardrobe department that insisted every boy wear Chuck Taylors and every girl wear a pink prom dress. In the cast there was almost always a member of The Brat Pack and Molly Ringwald was queen.

Sixteen Candles, 1984

The Breakfast Club, 1985

Pretty in Pink, 1986

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986

The 90s:

Eighties and nineties teen films are polar opposites of each other. The decade that brought us grunge and “The Rachel” also introduced us to a riskier, more grown up version of teen films. Red plastic cups littered movie sets, high school corridors were only accessible in slow motion, and the most popular girl in school was always blonde. The nineties also gave us an onslaught of teen screams and mature themes, but in many films there was an underlying feel of innocence and naivety. Plus, most teen films made in this decade were actually adaptations of plays, novels, and poems written centuries beforehand, which means that schools often study them.

Now and Then, 1995

Clueless, 1995

10 Things I Hate About You, 1999

Never Been Kissed, 1999

The noughties:

In the new millennium, teens movies were steered towards a much younger demographic and the typical teen angst was dialled down. Velour tracksuits were in, as were pop princesses, and because real teenagers often spent hours organising their top 12 Myspace friends, films also began to show characters socialising online. The queens of the noughties were Amanda Bynes, Lindsay Lohan, and Hilary Duff because there was nothing better than seeing your favourite Disney or Nickelodeon star show up on the big screen.

Bring It On, 2000:

The Princess Diaries, 2001:

Mean Girls, 2004

A Cinderella Story, 2004

Juno, 2007


Nowadays teenage films belong less to Disney Channel royalty and more to indie filmmakers who have brought the genre back a few decades to a time when serious issues were addressed and witty dialogue was a must. Typical and predictable storylines have been replaced by complicated ones and as we develop as a society the look and feel of fresh teen films is changing.

Easy A, 2010

Valentine’s Day, 2010

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 2012

Palo Alto, 2013


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