In the past ten years, movies revolving around teens have significantly improved. Sure, I had classics such as “Clueless,” “Mean Girls,” and The “Breakfast Club,” but growing up in the early 2000s, I found there was saturation of bad teen films full of cliches and unoriginal characters. Movies can never quite shake the glamour, but current teen movies are a lot more diverse, authentic, and relatable than they used to be.
Lady Bird (Netflix): Many people may have skipped this 2017 Oscar-nominated film citing it a chick flick, but Greta Gerwig’s lively coming-of-age tale is worth checking out. In 2002 Sacramento, as Christine MacPherson (Saoirse Ronan) attends Catholic high school, and despite her family’s financial worries, she yearns to attend college on the more “exciting” East Coast. The movie follows us through Christine’s senior year, when she insists on being referred to as Lady Bird, as she navigates through relationships with her friends and family. The movie’s soul lies in the relationship between the sarcastic Lady Bird and her stressed-out mother (Laurie Metcalf). This tumultuous mother-daughter duo isn’t always the healthiest (the film opens with Lady Bird jumping out of her mother’s moving car mid-argument). Still, the characters are authentic and complex, supported by excellent performances from Ronan and Metcalf.
Eighth Grade (Hulu): There’s a reason you do not see a lot of movies or television shows that revolve around middle schoolers; not even adults want to relive the awkwardness of the early teen years. Voted “Most Quiet” by her classmates, Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) spends her spare time making motivational Youtube video-that receive few views. Kayla hopes to make friends in her final days of middle school, which she finds difficult due to social anxiety. Kayla’s single father (Josh Hamilton) struggles to bond with her and is frustrated by her attachment to social media. Bo Burnham’s directorial debut is an honest portrayal of the most awkward time in our lives, filled with cringeworthy moments but in the best and most memorable way possible.
The Edge of Seventeen (Netflix): Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is a junior in high school, and she hasn’t been the same since the sudden death of her father when she was thirteen. Her relationship with her mother is strained, and her best-and only,- friend is hooking up with her popular brother. One of the movie’s highlights is the conversations between Nadine and her history teacher, Mr. Bruner (a hilarious Woody Harrelson), who Nadine begins confiding in. Steinfeld is fantastic, frustrating, and heartbreaking as the angsty Nadine. In a comedic sense, the directorial debut of Kelly Fremon Craig feels like a modern-day John Hughes movie while also tackling the difficult process of grieving during adolescent years.
The Spectacular Now (Showtime): Eighteen-year-old Sutter has a talent for being the goofball life of the party, but his lack of life direction weighs on him as he ends his senior year of high school. After getting heartbroken by his ex, the energetic Sutter starts a relationship with Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a brainy and unpopular girl who he meets the morning after a drunken bender. I saw this movie when it first came out thinking it was going to be a cheesy teen romance, but “The Spectacular Now” dives into Sutter’s problems with alcohol, and he and Aimee actually act and talk like teenagers, and nothing about their relationship feels artificial; Teller is reminiscent of John Cusack in “Say Anything,” and Woodley is sweet and likable as Aimee. Set in the backdrop of smalltown Georgia, it’s always refreshing to see a coming of age that doesn’t take place in New York or California.
Licorice Pizza (Playing in Theaters): Contender for many Oscar nominations “Licorice Pizza” tells the story of 15-year-old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman, son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman), a child actor living in the San Fernando Valley in 1973. On his school picture day, Gary strikes up a conversation with a photographer’s assistant, Alana (Alana Haim). “Licorice Pizza” is critically acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson’s (There Will Be Blood, Phantom Thread) first coming of age movie, and it’s a refreshing change of pace from his past films. This movie is less about one event and more about two people growing up. While his career and family circumstances make Gary eager to grow up too fast, 25-year-old Alana seems to be struggling to grow up at all, and somehow these two form a captivating though often troubling friendship. This is the first acting role for both Cooper and Haim, and they both give stellar performances.