8 Best Teen Films Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors

Watching A Silent Voice, sensitive viewers will likely feel repulsion toward the main character, Shoya Ishida — and maybe you should, for the awful things he did as a kid. You might even feel the urge to jump into your screen and protect Shouko Nishimiya, the deaf girl who is new at school. A beautifully crafted anime, the story captures a high-school bully’s remorse and despair as he tries to redeem himself from past wrongdoing, demonstrating that even the cruelest among us can become vulnerable to feelings of shame and regret. While it is heart wrenching, the story is also full of hope, showing how to ask for forgiveness, as well as how to give it. Beyond the great script, animation, colours, and scoring, each shot of A Silent Voice is a masterpiece in and of itself.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aoi Yuki, Kensho Ono, Mayu Matsuoka, Megumi Han, Miyu Irino, Naoko Yamada, Saori Hayami, Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Yoshitoki Oima, Yui Ishikawa, Yuki Kaneko

Director: Naoko Yamada

Rating: Not Rated

Director Crystal Moselle based Skate Kitchen on NYC’s eponymous crew of young female skateboarders, who actually play fictionalized versions of themselves here. That real-life casting lends the film a documentary-esque quality: the girls’ bantering chemistry and die-hard loyalty feel warmly authentic, and the movie would be well worth a watch just to bask in this vibe alone.

The Skate Kitchen girls are an eclectic bunch, but what’s so refreshing — and therapeutic — about the film is that they’re also deeply, instinctively empathetic. These misfits don’t just tolerate but celebrate one another’s uniqueness and respect their differing boundaries (the way the girls and the movie treat shyness as a feature rather than a flaw to be resolved is particularly moving). What’s more, in its own low-key way, Skate Kitchen is an inspirational watch for its portrait of young women building the sanctuary they need themselves — not just in a largely male subculture but on a broader canvas, too. Rather than skulk anxiously on the sidelines, the girls use skating to carve out a space of their own in New York, a way to make the big, scary city feel warm and intimate. Amidst all the steezy ollies and clean rail grinds, these might just be the greatest tricks they pull off.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ajani Russell, Darlene Violette, Dede Lovelace, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Hisham Tawfiq, Jaden Smith, Javier Nunez, John Palumbo, Kabrina Adams, Kobi Frumer, Nico Hiraga, Nina Moran, Rachelle Vinberg, Samuel Smith, Tashiana Washington, Taylor Gray, Thaddeus Daniels, Tom Bruno

Director: Crystal Moselle

A wonderful, witty teen comedy—possibly the best the genre has known in a long time! In a powerhouse performance, Hailee Steinfeld plays Nadine, a high school junior at peak angst and awkwardness. Her roller coaster journey through family, friends, lovers, or lack thereof, gives her that all-too-common impression for people her age that life is unbearable. Things get more complicated when Nadine's dad passes and her only friend hooks up with an unexpected person. Her temperament and humor will help her see past her demons to understand what's important in life, putting you in privileged spectator mode to this highly smart and exciting coming-of-age story.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexander Calvert, Ava Grace Cooper, Blake Jenner, Chris Shields, Christian Lagasse, Christian Michael Cooper, Daniel Bacon, Eric Keenleyside, Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto, Jena Skodje, Katie Stuart, Kavandeep Hayre, Kelly Fremon Craig, Kirsten Robek, Kyra Sedgwick, Laine MacNeil, Laura Ward, Lauren K. Robek, Lina Renna, Lyle Reginald, Meredith Monroe, Nesta Cooper, Woody Harrelson

Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

Rating: R

, 2015

At the same time a fun, crazy, and meaningful movie about Malcom and his friends, high school teenagers and proud geeks who suddenly find themselves immersed in the underground LA drug scene. It's a 2015 Superbad meets Boyz in the Hood. But in its essence it mostly resembles another beautiful film, Juno, in the way it evolves around a character played perfectly who you get to know, agree and disagree with, and ultimately learn from and relate to. Above all it's an outright enjoyable film, a smart one too, with a great soundtrack to boot.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: A$AP Rocky, Alex Urbom, Allen Maldonado, Amin Joseph, Ashton Moio, Benjamin Levy Aguilar, Blake Anderson, Bruce Beatty, Chanel Iman, Christopher Glenn, De'Aundre Bonds, Emmanuel Manzanares, Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Marinas, Josh Meyer, Julian Brand, Keith Stanfield, Kiersey Clemons, Kimberly Elise, Lakeith Stanfield, Larnell Stovall, Lidia Porto, Michael Flores, Milton T.J. Taylor, Mimi Michaels, Quincy Brown, Rakim Mayers, Rick Famuyiwa, Rick Fox, Ricky Harris, Roger Guenveur Smith, Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Tyga, Vince Staples, Zoe Kravitz

Director: Rick Famuyiwa

Rating: R

This lovely comedy-romance from Ireland is about a closeted gay teen and his lesbian schoolmate who pretend to be in a relationship to avoid being bullied at their school.

This premise makes Dating Amber an original story in a genre in which that's increasingly rare. This is added to the setting, in 1995 rural Ireland, which is executed to gorgeous perfection in everything from the clothes to the music. 

Dating Amber ends up being more coming-of-age than a comedy-romance. It's a tale of friendship and self-acceptance.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ally Ni Chiarain, Anastasia Blake, Arian Nik, Art Campion, Barry Ward, Corey Millar, Emma Willis, Eva O'Connor, Evan O'Connor, Fionn O'Shea, Fionn O'Shea, Ian O'Reilly, Ian O'Reilly, Karl Rice, Lauryn Canny, Lola Petticrew, Peter Campion, Sharon Horgan, Shauna Higgins, Simone Kirby, Tara Flynn

Director: David Freyne

The Way He Looks revolves around Leonardo, a blind teenager, as he navigates the complexities of high school life and explores his budding feelings for Gabriel, a new classmate. The chemistry between the characters feels genuine, and the slow-burning romance between Leonardo and Gabriel unfolds with a sense of tenderness and vulnerability. Director Daniel Ribeiro crafted a comfortable watching experience and a true slice-of-life story that doesn't divulge more than this sliver of time in these teens' lives. Director Daniel Ribeiro's debut is a hopeful take on a queer, disabled romance that feels natural, sensitive, and refreshing.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Bárbara Pereira, Daniel Ribeiro, Eucir de Souza, Fábio Audi, Ghilherme Lobo, Guga Auricchio, Isabela Guasco, Júlio Machado, Lúcia Romano, Matheus Abreu, Naruna Costa, Pedro Carvalho, Selma Egrei, Tess Amorim, Tess Coelho, Victor Filgueiras

Director: Daniel Ribeiro

Rating: Not Rated

, 2019

It’s rare now to hear the phrase “girl power” without being immediately suspicious of its intentions, reduced as it were to cheesy adspeak and empty platitudes. But in the case of Rocks—a movie helmed by a predominantly female crew and co-written by the teenage cast themselves—the slogan fits. There is power in this type of girlhood: open, collaborative, and supportive, and that’s just what happens off-screen. 

On-screen, what unfolds is even more complex and beautiful. As Rocks struggles to take care of her younger brother all on her own, as she’s forced to grow up and face ethical dilemmas normally reserved for adults, she is backed unwaveringly by her friends Sumaya, Agnes, Yawa, Khadijah, and Sabina. It's their specific bond, unsentimental but deeply considerate and loyal, that keeps the film as solid and grounded as the title suggests.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Afi Okaidja, Anastasia Dymitrow, Aneta Piotrowska, Bukky Bakray, Curtis Walker, D’angelou Osei Kissiedu, D'angelou Osei Kissiedu, Kaine Zajaz, Kate Isitt, Kosar Ali, Layo-Christina Akinlude, Mohammad Amiri, Ruby Stokes, Sarah Niles, Shaneigha-Monik Greyson, Sharon D. Clarke, Shola Adewusi, Tawheda Begum, Tina Chiang, Umit Ulgen

Director: Sarah Gavron

Rating: TV-MA

It looks like something you’ve already seen before: a student genius turns a simple high school cheating scheme into a full-blown, high-stakes heist. But layered with great acting, taut writing, and sharp observations about the ways in which education (and society in general) fails its students, Bad Genius turns a familiar premise into something genuinely exciting and impressively affecting. It’s everything you want a caper movie to be: smart and thrilling, with almost no moment to breathe, and of course, peppered with characters you can’t help but root and be nervous and excited for. 

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aokbab Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Chanon Santinatornkul, Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Ego Mikitas, Eisaya Hosuwan, Kanjana Vinaipanid, Nopawat Likitwong, Pasin Kuansataporn, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Sarinrat Thomas, Suquan Bulakul, Teeradon Supapunpinyo, Thaneth Warakulnukroh, Valerie Bentson, Vittawin Veeravidhayanant

Director: Nattawut Poonpiriya

Rating: PG-13, TV-MA