While most of us would rather not revisit our teenage years IRL, for some reason we’re inexplicably drawn to hilarious high-school comedies, teen romances and angsty young adult dramas. Whether it’s a tale of first times, prom nights, heartbreak or a tender coming-of-age, we can’t seem to get enough of films about teenagers.
Luckily, when you’re feeling the need for a bit of teenage vicariousness, Netflix has the goods. From sex-crazed films like ‘American Pie’, ‘Easy A’ and ‘Cruel Intentions’, to vampire romp ‘Twilight’ and queer drama ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’, we’ve put together some of the best teen films streaming on Netflix right now. Cheerleader uniforms and varsity jackets at the ready. (Updated 11 June 2019.)
Recommended: the best movies streaming on Netflix right now
Director Ari Sandel
Cast Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne
Mae Whitman has oodles of charm as the down-to-earth lead of this harmlessly predictable high school comedy. Realising she’s known as the ‘duff’, a Designated Ugly Fat Friend guys talk to to get to their hotter mates, she sets about reinventing herself. But a message of acceptance wins out in the end.
Director Vince Marcello
Cast Joey King, Jacob Elordi, Joel Courtney, Molly Ringwald
Starring the ’80s queen of teen Molly Ringwald, this Netflix Original movie follows all the gloriously sweet teen tropes. Best friends Elle and Lee have one rule: no getting involved with each other’s relatives. This gets a little complicated, however, after Elle becomes involved with Noah, Lee’s bad-boy older brother. Sure, it’s all fairly fluffy, but we’re really not complaining.
Director Susan Johnson
Cast Lana Condor, Noah Centineo
To deal with her intense crushes, Lara Jean (Lana Condor) writes secret love letters to the boys she lusts after, which no one is ever meant to see. Of course, these letters end up being sent out and Lara Jean must deal with her feelings, and the implications of the letters, head on.
This Netflix Original movie, based on the book of the same name by Jenny Han, has been praised by all corners of the internet, especially for the performances of Lana Condor and Noah Centineo, who plays love interest Peter Kavinsky. It looks like the romcom is officially back.
Director Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund
Cast Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino
Kids growing up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro have a bit more to worry about than proms and dating. But make no mistake, ‘City of God’ is a teen movie: it’s about growing up, finding yourself and discovering first love. It’s just a bit more violent and truthful than your average coming-of-age flick.
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart
Catherine Hardwicke's stylistic adaptation of the first book in Stephenie Meyer’s teen vampire series is the only one of the five films that’s actually worth watching. The colour pallette – all blues, greys and murky greens – and some excellent location work transport you to Forks, and even the performances aren’t as wooden as they become in later episodes. Sure, it’s a guilty pleasure, but sometimes vampires that sparkle in the sun are exactly what you need.
Director Craig Johnson
Cast Daniel Doheny, Antonio Marziale, Madeline Weinstein
It’s been dubbed Netflix’s take on ‘Love, Simon’, but to dub this cute coming out/coming-of-age story as a knock-off does it an injustice. We follow the titular Alex as he attempts to figure out his sexuality while also in a relationship with his best friend Claire. The introduction of Elliot, an out and proud gay teen who loves The B-52’s, only complicates matters, as does a hallucinogenic frog…
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher Jr.
This tender and gently comic drama about a lesbian teenager dealing with society’s disapproval is part ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, part John Hughes film. Even better it packs an emotional punch and a career-best performance from Chloë Grace Moretz. It’s a film that wears its giant heart on its sleeve, inviting you to bask in the happiness that comes with accepting who you are. Is there a better message than that?
Director Nick Cassavetes
Cast Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams
The, er, literary oeuvre of Nicholas Sparks has been churned into an awful lot of insipid Hollywood schlock – nobody past puberty got misty-eyed over Miley Cyrus in ‘The Last Song’, and surely no one of any age remembers Kevin Costner in ‘Message in a Bottle’.
On the face of it, it’s hard to say why the aggressively sentimental ‘The Notebook’ is any different. But there’s something so earnest about the way this star-crossed teen romance – he’s a common country boy, she’s a beautiful heiress, you do the math – hits its clichéd marks that the film itself takes on the unassailable, idealistic purity of first love. Magic casting, too: here’s where the world’s love affair with Ryan Gosling started, before he got way too cool for this sort of thing.
Director Thom Eberhardt
Cast Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney
This cult teen flick deserves to be far better known. When a passing comet wipes out most of the human population, Californian sisters Regina and Samantha find themselves alone in LA. Their first priority is a free shopping spree, their second is defending themselves against marauding fellow survivors.
Director Greg Mottola
Cast Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart
Movies about nerdy teenage guys pursuing unattainable girls are ten-a-penny, but what sets ‘Adventureland’ apart is its empathetic, intimate script and terrific cast. Jesse Eisenberg plays a young man stuck in a summer job at the local ‘fun’ park, pining for Kristen Stewart’s troubled fellow employee.
Director John Butler
Cast Fionn O'Shea, Nicholas Galitzine, Andrew Scott
This charming indie comedy will resonate with anyone who felt like they didn't fit in during their teens. Set in a all boys boarding school in Ireland where rugby reigns supreme, we meet Ned, the school's outsider. However, after he forges an unlikely friendship with the school's new star player, Conor, things at school start to change, both for better and for worse.
Director: Paul and Chris Weitz Cast: Jason Biggs, Tara Reed, Seann William Scott
Director: Paul and Chris Weitz
Cast: Jason Biggs, Tara Reed, Seann William Scott
Sure, this teen sex comedy about a group of high school boys wanting to lose their virginity definitely wouldn't get made today (what with its skewered sexual politics and questionable approach to consent), but twenty years ago, this movie was responsible for the revival of the teen comedy genre. But even through the lens of 2019, the sheer embarrassment these characters suffer will never not be funny. Oh, and it also ruined warm apple pies for an entire generation.
Director Phil Traill
Cast Felicity Jones, Ed Westwick
Pre-Oscar noms and a role in Star Wars spin-off ‘Rogue One’, Felicity Jones played 19-year-old chalet girl Kim in this silly, entertaining romp. While earning money in the Alps following the death of her mum, Kim meets and falls for a rich client, played by ‘Gossip Girl’ alumnus Ed Westwick. The only problem? He’s engaged to someone else.
Director: Roger Kumble
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon
Feeding into 90s cinema’s predilection for bad teenagers, ‘Cruel Intentions’ is a truly devilish film about the deceptions of a group of wealthy, over-sexed youths and the intersections of sex and power. Loosely based on the French novel ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’, the film made stars of it’s attractive cast, including a very green Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Michelle Gellar, whose scheming is a delicious deviance from the earnestness of ‘Buffy’. It’s honestly one of the most iconic teen films of all time.
Director: Will Gluck
Cast: Emma Stone, Stanley Tucci
When Olive Penderghast (Stone) lies about losing her virginity to a college guy, she gets labelled a ‘dirty skank’ by her peers. Instead of laying low, she embraces her reputation, going as far as to accept payment to say that she slept with some of the boys. However, the burden of her scarlet letter begins to weigh and Olive is left wondering whether honesty might actually be the best policy after all.
Director Stephen Chbosky
Cast Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
Eschewing teen hijinks and the comedic aspects expected from a teen movie, this adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s novel of the same name is a dark but surprisingly uplifting tale of what it’s like to be an introverted outsider in high school. Touching on themes of mental health and abuse, this heartfelt story is bolstered by strong performances from its three leads who help prove that our negative experiences as teenagers don’t last forever.
Director David Wain
Cast Janeane Garofalo, Paul Rudd
The ground rules for twenty-first-century Hollywood comedy were laid by this ridiculous piss-take of summer camp movies. The cast is amazing, with Bradley Cooper making his debut, alongside Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler and Niles from ‘Frasier’ – and the script is deeply silly and consistently hilarious.
Watch it if you liked... ‘Knocked Up’
Director: Josh Boone
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort
This adaptation of John Green’s bestselling 2012 young-adult novel about a teenage girl in love and living with cancer is far from the shameless emotional pummelling it might have been. It finds its own understated way to earn tears, and that’s a tricky thing to pull off given the material.
Director Gurinder Chadha
Cast Georgia Groome, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Louise Rennison’s novels were rude, funny bibles for a generation of teenage girls. Fourteen-year-old schoolgirl Georgia is the heroine of this big-screen adaptation, as she plans a birthday party to impress the cool kids and her crush Robbie – via horrible hair-removal mistakes, cleavage enhancements and a series of painful social faux pas.
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