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The Top 21 Teen Movies of All Time

The Top 21 Teen Movies of All Time

According to most histories, the word “teenager” didn’t become widely used until the 1940s, and according to the Telegraph’s Robbie Collin, they didn’t start making great movies about them until 1953. His list of the top 21 teen movies of all time features two films from that annus teenagerus: “The Wild One,” with Marlon Brando as a Nic Pizzolatto-type rebel, and Summer With Monika” by Ingmar Bergman — not a name you see too often in such contexts. It’s worth nothing that while “Monika” is about actual teenagers, the absence of them as protagonists isn’t a deal-breaker for Collin. “A Hard Day’s Night,” in which the Beatles are well into their 20s, makes the list because it “caught hold of the sparky exuberance of teen culture.”

Collin’s chronological list deprives us of knowing whether he ranks John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club” over Eric Rohmer’s “Pauline at the Beach,” but it does help pinpoint some of the most fertile periods for teenflix, namely the early 1960s and the 1980s. (The 1970s were comparatively barren, which may be why Richard Linklater had to fill in the gaps with “Dazed and Confused” two decades later.) As Collin says in his writeup for “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”: 

The early Eighties was when Hollywood really seized on the teen movie as a marketable commodity, and Amy Heckerling’s film, adapted by Cameron Crowe from his own book, is the smartest and sharpest of the era. At the time, critics despaired at its earthy humour and unglamorous sex, but the film had a chord-striking honesty that couldn’t be found in Porky’s and its imitators, and Crowe’s dialogue snaps like mousetraps.

Indeed it snaps. Here he is on the most recent entry on the list, 2004’s “Mean Girls”

In recent years, the smart American teen movie has threatened to make a comeback, with Drew Barrymore’s “Whip It” and Will Gluck’s “Easy A” moving the genre in a direction of which you suspect Kat Stratford would approve. But both of those films felt possible thanks to “Mean Girls,” written by Tina Fey and starring Lindsay Lohan, in which a home-educated ingénue plunges into the high-school jungle. It’s funny, wise, endlessly quotable and so well observed it stings.

1. “The Wild One”
2. “Summer With Monika”
3. “Rebel Without a Cause”
4. “Cruel Story of Youth”
5. “Il Posto”
6. “A Hard Day’s Night”
7. “Murmur of the Heart”
8. “American Grafitti”
9. “Quadrophenia”
10. “Gregory’s Girl”
11. “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”
12. “Pauline at the Beach”
13. “The Breakfast Club”
14. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”
15. “Boyz N the Hood”
16. “Dazed and Confused”
17. “Clueless”
18. “10 Things I Hate About You”
19. “Battle Royale”
20. “Y Tu Mamá También”
21. “Mean Girls”

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