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15 Timeless Movies Dedicated to the Teen Experience

The Mother Lode

Lady Bird came onto the film scene late in 2017, but its impact was immediately felt, and fans couldn’t help but shout the film’s praises from the mountaintops. The film resonated with audiences because of its very raw, very real look at the mother-daughter dynamic that was at its core, as well as the realistic portrayal of growing up in modern America when you’re part of a working-class family. It was, essentially, a slice of the teen experience in all its murky, uncertain and painfully honest glory.

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But Lady Bird isn’t the only film that feels like it accurately portrays the teen experience. Through various awkward, thrilling, life-defining moments, all wrapped up in various memorable plots, the following films have captured our hearts and minds when it comes to understanding teens and remembering our own teen years. On that note, let’s dig into the archives and highlight some movies that will give you the same nostalgic feel that Lady Bird likely did as they recall those memorable teenage years.

1. Real Women Have Curves

As the title suggests, this film is about embracing your beautiful body in all its glory. It’s is the coming-of-age story of a Mexican-American girl who is exploring her place in the world as she migrates away from her traditional roots to follow her mainstream dreams at Columbia University. It stars a young America Ferrera, who was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for the role.

2. Anywhere but Here

Natalie Portman and Susan Sarandon star as a flawed but lovable mother/daughter duo looking for success in Beverly Hills. Mothers aren’t perfect; some less so than others. But that doesn’t mean the connection between mothers and daughters doesn’t run deep and true.

3. Now and Then

Best friends are the best, especially when you grow up with them. This story follows four young girls as they grow up over one summer and then flashes back and forth to the women reuniting as adults. While the film received only a 24 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes by critics, viewers loved it. They gave it an 84 percent on the site thanks to its relatable, lovable premise and all-star cast.

4. Pretty in Pink

Oh, the hopeless anticipation that is prom night and all the awkwardness and uncertainty that comes with it! Molly Ringwald stars as Andie, a not-so-popular high schooler who is facing some tough decisions ahead of her senior prom. And no, it isn’t just about which guy she should take. It’s more about which social circle she will define for herself and whether she’ll value wealth over true connection. Not only is this film fun to watch, but the soundtrack is also one of the best in movie history.

5. The Virgin Suicides

Fair warning: This film is dark and haunting. The title kind of says it all. This was Sofia Coppola’s directorial feature debut, and it definitely started her career with a bang. The film tells the story of five sisters who are oppressed by their parents in the ’70s. It’s poignant, it’s tragic and it captures the longing teenagers often experience as they push and pull against that boundary between childhood and adulthood.

More: These “Texts From My Teen” Are Even Funnier Than “Texts From Mom”

6. Blue Is the Warmest Color

A young woman discovers desire and explores her sexuality as she falls in love with another young woman, Emma, who happens to have blue hair. A look at the intersection between entering puberty and exploring sexual identity, this French film is raw and deeply intimate to watch. That being said, prepare yourself. This film does not shy away from erotic moments.

7. Girlhood

Another poignant French film, Girlhood tells the story of a young woman who turns to life in a gang when she feels like her options have run out. While she hopes the decision will offer a chance at freedom, it is not as easy as it seems. The film explores the pressures on women and leads the viewer to sympathize with the decisions made, even though we know they’re wrong.

8. Thirteen

Written by a teenage Nikki Reed, the story is a partly autobiographical account of her life at 12 and 13 years old. Suffice to say it was out of control. The film showcases her discovery of sex, drugs and petty crime after befriending another troubled girl. The film received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for its performances and is lauded as a realistic look inside a teen’s downward spiral.

9. Sixteen Candles

Were 16th birthdays ever as grand as we imagined? There’s so much hype around this adolescent milestone that it’s no wonder many girls end up disappointed and lonely on their big day. Enter Molly Ringwald as Samantha in this ’80s classic. Sure, it’s a comedy, and Samantha’s coming-of-age story is fun to watch, but that doesn’t mean this film doesn’t have some big messages about what it is to be a young woman and the trials and tribulations of the teenage years in all their glory.

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Adapted from the novel of the same name, this coming-of-age drama tells the story of socially awkward Charlie. Despite his introverted nature, two older students, Sam and Patrick, become his mentors, ushering Charlie into an age of first love and self-discovery. But there is a darkness underneath it all as Charlie struggles with depression and a tragic secret that too many teens experience in real life.

11. Girlfight

Michelle Rodriguez stars as a tough girl who trains as a boxer against her father’s wishes. The mantra of this film is in line with the “girls can do anything they freaking want” anthem. Of course, with Rodriguez in the lead, being the badass she is, you’ll walk out of this film really feeling it’s true.

13. Fish Tank

Fair warning: This film is messed up, but it’s a necessary look at the reality of some teenage experiences. Sometimes the truth is gritty, and this film handles it with a grace that will live with you long after the credits roll. Fish Tank tells the story of a rebellious girl who finds her passion in dance. The problem? That passion is fueled by her mother’s boyfriend, who also stirs some other passions as the movie progresses.

More: Teaching Your Teenager Responsibility Doesn’t Have to Be Torture

14. Girl in Progress

A young girl comes up with a list of to-dos to reach adulthood since her mother is clearly not up to the task. Of course, the moral of this story is that growing up isn’t always so easy. And it’s never a good idea to rush away from your youth — appreciate it while you’ve got it.

15. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Oh, the love that is this movie. Four friends discover a pair of pants that mysteriously fits them all perfectly. They spend the summer apart but stay in touch by trading the pants along with letters. First love, dreams realized and adventures had all lead to a coming-of-age story that will warm your heart.

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