What started it all...well, kinda
If you are from my generation (all you twenty-somethings), than your parents or older siblings have made you watch The Breakfast Club (1985) (named #1 in Entertainment Weekly's "The 50 Best High School Movies"), Pretty in Pink (1986), Sixteen Candles (1984) or Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986). Some of you may not have considered these teen flicks because...well they're old now, but you must face the truth and embrace the past. It was the era of Molly Ringwald and John Hughes, a man that got audience buzz and critical acclaim with these movies. Before him, teen films were classified as beach party films like Gidget (1959). He was the first director of teen film to explore real teen issues like sex, drugs, abuse, suicide, cliques, and alienation in high schools.
The problem is: I'm not sure if it's because it's set in the 80's, but everything is cheesier (of course, the hair and clothes don't exactly help). And if you don't like Molly Ringwald, I suggest you pick a different genre for this time period, because she was in everything. I love The Breakfast Club, but the teen angst and cross-clique bonding is a little much for my generation of teenage drug overdose, alcohol poisoning, teenage pregnancy, bullying and murder, though if you can come to the table with an open mind than there is a lot to gain.
Must-see: Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club because I am not alone in believing it is seriously a right of passage. And you might just want to skim through Pretty in Pink for James Spader alone.
Ah, the good o'l days: For all of their cheesiness, the acting is better, the writing is better and they strived for deeper storylines with more substance unlike a lot of what is put out currently.
This is the genre that can get away with almost anything and still remains the most popular of teen films. There are girl versions and guy versions though the main audience is the teenage consumer, and guess what, it works. Though, funnily enough, this may be the one genre where the romantic comedy holds a higher critical status and, in my opinion, makes more interesting films. Teen rom-coms are basically adult rom-coms featuring teenage stock characters (the popular crowd, the geeks, cheerleaders, jocks, the girl next door, the stoner kid, etc.) and at least one scene at the prom.
Watch out for: Many versions of the same movie over and over again, overage casting, under par acting, offensive stereotypes, hyper-sexualized teen girls, and disgusting bawdy humour.
Why you should still see them: They are the only films out there that directly relate (sometimes barely) to the teenage experience and don't we all want to see movies about ourselves? Plus, other will talk about them and you'll be out of the loop. That's no fun.
Bright spots in the darkness: Check out Drama Queen for a fairly good top 5 list. On top of that, my personal recommendations would be The Princess Diaries (2001, but stay away from the sequel) and Clueless (1995) though stay tuned for what I call, "a better alternative".
The chickiest and possibly the chic-est in the teen film genre. Like the romantic drama (coming soon), there is usually an element of tragedy that has its roots in the classic structure of Romeo and Juliet, arguably, the archetypal teen romance. Teen drama is the same only it is not restricted to a romantic storyline, or what would usually be classified as a chick flick, like Dead Poet's Society (1989), Almost Famous (2000) and The Virgin Suicides (1999). These movies are more likely to have critical acclaim but not necessarily box office hits which mirror the adult versions.
The problem is: The cheese factor, of course. It's also harder to believe a love story between teenagers than between adults so it falls back on tragedy to gain the emotional attachment of the audience (see Crazy/Beautiful , How to Deal ). The acting is usually better than in comedies but is still under par and while the storylines are deeper, the writing isn't always better.
I would still recommend: A Walk to Remember (2002) to any chick flick lover despite all the sappiness. And for a good twist on this sub-genre, check out films like Twilight (2008) and then read my post on it.
Upcoming Teen Flicks: On April 17th, Zac Efron makes his post-High School Musical debut in 17 Again. I am extremely tempted to see this movie for the hilarious Matthew Perry and Leslie Mann (remember, her husband is Judd Apatow) but if Efron is actually funny than it could possibly be decent. Also on July 10th, I Love You, Beth Cooper (featuring Heroes star Hayden Panettiere) about the bonding between popular cheerleaders and nerds.