In the economic prosperity of the 1980s, when the western world favored the introduction of shopping malls and large chains on its main local streets, youth culture flourished and gradually imposed popular media.
This led to the true golden age of teen movies inside and outside of America. Here, the genre themes that linger in the present all begin to emerge: love, longing, friendships, and underdogs. The moviegoers of Letterboxd spoke and, through their ratings, created this must-have canon of ’80s coming-of-age movies.
ten Christiane F. (1981) – 3.78/5 – Not currently available for streaming
This German biographical film about a Berlin teenager who falls in love with a drug dealer features music and an on-screen appearance by musical legend David Bowie.
The film is an autobiographical book adaptation of the real-life protagonist and is notable for its visceral, gritty depiction of hard drug use and sex trafficking. Those particularly sensitive to these subjects may want to skip this film, but others should buckle up for a gripping cinematic experience with a legendary soundtrack.
9 Heathers (1989) – 3.82/5 – Stream on Pluto TV
This ’80s classic centers on a teenage girl (Winona Ryder) who, with the help of her brooding boyfriend (Christian Slater), causes a series of deaths in their high school working class clique.
The film has seen a number of popularity gains thanks to social media trends like Tumblr and TikTok. It has since inspired an award-winning rock musical that has been performed internationally. Between the suspense and the cutting quotes in Heathersthe only pick that’s missing from the original film is a musical number or two.
8 The Breakfast Club (1985) – 3.82/5 – Stream on FuboTV and Amazon Prime
Another staple of the teen movie canon, this movie worked doubly to forever cement and shatter high school archetypes in pop culture. These are, of course, the Jock, the Princess, the Nerd and the Rebel.
The breakfast club is one of the most iconic pieces of John Hughes’ filmography, which more or less shaped the humor and aesthetic of the 80s. If they weren’t influential at the time (and they were were), they would still be responsible for creating the fond memories and designs of the decade that persist today. Not to mention he has one of the most unpredictable enemy arcs ever shown on screen.
7 To Our Loves (1983) – 3.85/5 – Stream On Kanopy
This French film from internationally acclaimed director Maurice Pialat tells the story of a teenage girl who has sex with many partners to avoid her troubled home life, but is unable to experience love.
Richard Brody of New York Times says the film “paints the teenage world as a painful microcosm of the adult world, where a sophisticated and unforgiving sense of play collides with a still immature and utterly skinned vulnerability”. It’s interesting to look through a contemporary lens at the culture around sex that first emerged in the years following the sexual revolution of the late ’60s, but has only gradually become mainstream since.
6 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – 3.94/5 – Stream on Hulu & Roku
Set in the economic prosperity and happy normalcy of the suburbs of the 80s, this film persists as one of the most entertaining teen films to date. In it, a charismatic high school student, Ferris (Matthew Brodrick), decides to skip class and enlist his best friend and girlfriend on a day of adventures.
The film features an outstanding performance by Succession star, Alan Ruck. And almost everything about Ferris Bueller’s day off still holds up today – a rarity for popular films of yesteryear when viewed through a contemporary lens. This cheerful and timeless classic has an undeniable charm that stands the test of time.
5 Time to Live and Time to Die (1985) – 3.98/5 – Stream on Amazon Prime
This hidden gem from acclaimed Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien is a semi-biographical film about the filmmaker’s teenage years in turbulent 1960s Taiwan.
This movie has the perfect balance of heartwarming young romance, touching family drama, and political intrigue. It may be a slow burn, but some of the best movies are. The humid setting and poignant stillness will put viewers in a trance. The time to live is part of the first wave of Taiwanese New Wave films, a film movement that spanned the early 1980s to the early 2000s.
4 Boyfriends and Girlfriends (1987) – 3.99/5 – Stream on Metrograph
Boyfriends and girlfriends is a touching story of intertwined teen romances from the mind of Eric Rohmer, a prominent director of the French New Wave film movement.
For fans of romance dramas and couple-swapping like Gossip Girl, this film is a must. It combines the light-hearted tone and romance of French comedy with the intertwining storylines of American teen dramas. It is also known by the original French title, my friend’s friendwhich can translate to My Girlfriend’s Boyfriendan alternative title for the film.
3 Stand By Me (1986) – 4.12/5 – Streamer on Netflix
This iconic staple of the American coming-of-age canon centers on a group of young boys who discover a body while playing in the woods. Fittingly, the movie is based on a Stephen King short story called “The Body.”
It’s one of the few movies on the list that focuses on young kids completing their early teens, as opposed to high school teens. A major strength of the film, therefore, is the stellar performances given by all of the child actors playing the main characters, including Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame and the end of the Phoenix River.
2 Dead Poets Society (1989) – 4.18/5 – Stream on Amazon Prime
In this modern classic, the late comedic actor Robin Williams demonstrates his versatility in the dramatic role of John Keating, a new English teacher at a strict boys’ prep school who engages and inspires his students through his passion for literature. and the exterior. box teaching style.
The brotherly camaraderie displayed in Dead Poets Society is known to bring even the most stoic of men to tears. For fans of English literature, Robin Williams, and coming-of-age stories, he can’t be beat. It’s a staple of ’80s cinema that reflected the era’s desire to breathe new life into American traditions, which had become relatively stable in the rising mobile class of the rising mobile country.
1 Back to the Future (1985) – 4.20/5 – Stream on Hulu
This sci-fi masterpiece centers on an average teenager with a mad scientist best friend who accidentally sends him back to the 1950s, where he must make sure his parents fall in love in order to save the future existence of himself and his siblings.
It should not be surprising that Back to the future tops the list. It’s an 80s staple, incorporating the sci-fi hype Star wars trilogy with the sentimental sequence and ironic humor of John Hughes’ teen films like ferris Bueller’s day off and The breakfast club. Anyone who hasn’t seen it yet is missing a key touchstone of American media and culture.