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The ten realest teenage girls in film

The wonderful ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’ shows audiences what adolescent life is really like. Here are ten more examples of true-life girls on screen

By Kate Lloyd

While many comedy movies and romcoms depict teenage girls as clichéd virgins or Queen Bees, new indie comedy-drama ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’ delivers one of the most honest depictions of a teen on screen that we can remember. The film stars Brit actress Bel Powley as 15-year-old Minnie, who comes to terms with her body and her sexuality after having sex with her mum’s boyfriend. 

All of which got us thinking – who are the most believable movie girls? Here are ten who are so true-to-life they’ll leave you cringing in your seat.

1. Janis Ian in ‘Mean Girls’

Film Comedy

In brief: Janis (Lizzy Caplin) and her BFF Damien aka The Coolest People You’ll Ever Meet are the high school loners who guide Cady (Lindsay Lohan) through her first weeks at North Shore High.

Why we love her: She plots revenge against the popular kids, she gets some of the best lines in the movie - ‘Your mom’s chest hair!’ - and, most of all, her socially-awkward-but-straight-talking attitude is uncomfortably true to life. 

Classic quote: ‘Oh, I love seeing teachers outside of school. It's like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs.’

2. Mary Cummings in ‘Saved!’

Film Drama

In brief: Mary (Jena Malone) is a Christian who ends up getting pregnant after sleeping with her closeted boyfriend in a desperate attempt to save him from being gay.

Why we love her: She’s a clever but confused teenager having to make adult decisions, while questioning the world she’s been brought up in. She represents everything growing up is about.

Classic quote: ‘So everything that doesn't fit into some stupid idea of what you think God wants you just try to hide or fix or get rid of? It's just all too much to live up to.’


3. MacKenzie ‘Mac’ Siler in ‘She’s All That’


In brief: Mac (Anna Paquin) is the so-called hero Zach’s self-assured little sister.  While he’s off chatting up nerdy Laney Boggs for a bet, she keeps his moral compass in check.

Why we love her: The female leads of 'She’s All That' are ultimate clichés – the catty popular babe and the nerdy art-dork – but Mac is a sass-queen who doesn’t care about social standing.  It’s thanks to her #realtalk that the movie’s iconic makeover scene isn’t vomit-inducing.

Classic quote: Zach: ‘She kinda blew me off’. Mac: ‘I like her already’.

4. Jesminder ‘Jess’ Bhamra in ‘Bend It Like Beckham’

Film Comedy

In brief: Jess (Parminder Nagra) goes against her Sikh parents' wishes and joins a girls' football team. Then she inadvertently falls for Coach Joe.

Why we love her: Jess is an independent teenager with a lot to deal with: the clash between her Sikh Indian and British backgrounds, the prejudices that come with not fitting in with society's gender norms and the childhood scar she’s self conscious of.

Classic quote: ‘Anyone can cook aloo gobi, but who can bend a ball like Beckham?’


5. Kat Stratford in ‘10 Things I Hate About You’

Film Comedy

In brief: Kat (Julia Stiles) is the meanest girl in school: the ultimate challenge for Patrick (Heath Ledger), who's paid to seduce her. Naturally, he falls at her feet.

Why we love her: With her take-no-prisoners attitude, Kat challenges teachers, her dad, her sister and society. She’s a feminist who’s happy to call out high school bad lads and she dances on tables when Biggie comes on. 

Classic quote: ‘I guess in this society, being male and an asshole makes you worthy of our time.’

6. Viola Hastings in ‘She’s The Man’

Film Comedy

In brief: When her high school girls’ football team gets cut, Viola (Amanda Bynes) pretends to be her own twin brother Sebastian so she can join the team at his boarding school.

Why we love her: She’s on the front line in the fight against gender norms, battling her debutante obsessed mum. She’s precocious. She’s a messy eater. And, the scene where ‘Sebastian’ convinces the boys in his dorm that he uses tampons to stop nosebleeds is straight fire.

Classic quote: ‘And when I close my eyes, I see you for who you truly are, which is UUUG-LAY.’


7. Olive Penderghast in ‘Easy A’

Film Comedy

In brief: After lying about losing her virginity, Olive (Emma Stone) is subjected to scurrilous rumours about her sex life. But rather than deny them, Olive chooses to play along and embrace her new sexy image. 

Why we love her: Not only is Olive super smart and funny, she’s loyal to her friends, helping out a closeted gay mate by pretending to have sex with him at a party.  She’s also sex positive – even though she never actually has sex in the film.

Classic quote: ‘All I could think was, "Great, now I'm a tramp! I'll have to get a lower back tattoo and pierce something not on my face."’

8. Ruby in ‘Kids’


In brief: Ruby (Rosario Dawson) goes with her friend Jennie (Chloe Sevigny) to get an STI test after chatting about sex with a group of friends.

Why we love her: Ruby leads her group of friends as they discuss virginity, unprotected sex, oral sex and STIs in an explicit way that’s more associated with teenage boys on screen. Her trying-to-be-a-grown-up attitude towards sex will remind you of late-night sleepover confessions.  

Classic quote: ‘There's a difference between making love, having sex, and then fucking.’


9. Elin in ‘Show Me Love’


In brief: Elin (Alexandra Dahlstrom) is a bored teenager trying to break out of her small town, whose life changes when she’s dared to kiss the high school nerd.

Why we love her: Did you grow up in a leafy suburb where nothing exciting ever happened? Elin perfectly captures your desperation.  

Classic quote: ‘You know what my nightmare is? That I'll stay in Amal. That I'll never move from here. I'll get kids, a car, a house... all of that. Then my husband will leave for someone younger and I'll be stuck with kids that just scream and nag. It's so fucking meaningless.’

10. All the witches in ‘The Craft’


In brief: Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney) moves to a new Catholic school in LA and hooks up with a group of girls – Bonnie (Neve Campbell), Nancy (Fairuza Balk) and Rochelle (Rachel True) – who are rumoured to be witches.

Why we love them: Okay, we admit the witchcraft part of the movie isn’t all that reflective of the real-life teen experience. But their tight-knit friendship captures all the dynamics of a high school clique: jealousy, power struggles and – above all – alliance against everyone else.

Classic quote: Driver: ‘Watch out for the weirdos, girls’. Nancy: ‘We are the weirdos, mister’.

Read our review of ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’

The Diary Of A Teenage Girl

4 out of 5 stars
Film Drama

In the unofficial ‘Book of Hollywood Double Standards’, only teenage boys are allowed to have sex drives. We’re up to our eyeballs with horny boys, but girls are either all virginally waiting for Mr Right or slutty tramps. So yay for US indie drama ‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’, which breaks the rules with Caitlin Moran-levels of brutal honesty (and funniness). 


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