It’s difficult to imagine any other point in your life being as tumultuous and insane as the time you spend in your teenage years. You experience a wide range of emotions, and many of them appear for the first time in your life: the sadness of heartbreak, the pain of loneliness, the frustration that comes with longing for the future, but at the same time, wanting to remain young. Many directors have challenged themselves to manifest films that display the complexities of adolescence. And although some of failed and only created a one-dimensional look at teenagers (depending on stereotypes and overused storylines), many have succeeded at the task of capturing youth in a raw and authentic manner. Here are movies that will help navigate your way through the hardships of being a teenager, but will also allow you to recognize the utter beauty of being young.
Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
Known for being one of the first films that approached teenagers in an honest and sympathetic light, Rebel Without A Cause remains vital and relevant in our culture today. James Dean stars in this iconic film as Jim Stark, a troubled yet misunderstood individual. It depicts him moving to a new town, fighting to gain acceptance from his peers, confronting his parents due to their constant bickering and falling in love. Despite the initial release of the film being decades ago, it is timeless as teenagers from now and then can find their lives being paralleled in Stark’s. He represents both the joy and suffering that are vivid within adolescence, while taking you on a cinematic journey of drag races, drunken mishaps and generational conflicts.
Palo Alto (2013):
Gia Coppola’s directorial debut does not shy away from addressing topics that are on the minds of many teenagers: sex, alcohol, virginity, and most importantly, discovering who you are. The film shows a variety of characters and the issues that arise in their adolescence. Teddy (Jack Kilmer) finds himself crushing on April (Emma Roberts) but encounters trouble when attempting to form a relationship with her. His best friend is Fred (Nat Wolff), a chaotic individual known for his destructive behaviour. Because of this, Teddy’s authoritive figures beg him to end his friendship with Fred as they believe he is nothing but a negative influence. While this is all transpiring, April babysits the child of Mr. B (James Franco). As he is initially just her soccer coach, they gain feelings for each other that end up sparking a strangely toxic bond. Palo Alto is a multifaceted take on adolescence as each teenager battles through similar yet unique obstacles.
The media is notorious for presenting pregnant teenagers in a negative way. Juno, however, does not feed into that narrative constantly thrown in our faces by MTV. Starring Ellen Page as the title character, the film displays a young woman who finds out that she got pregnant by her long-time friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). After rejecting the idea of abortion, Juno looks through the newspaper and finds a couple wanting to adopt who she believes will be excellent parents: Mark and Vanessa Loring (played by Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner). The two end up being exact opposites of each other: Vanessa is eager to be a mother while Mark feels as if he isn’t ready for the task of fatherhood. This results in their marriage dissolving, causing Juno to question what love really is and if it truly exists. Juno also comes to terms with her feelings for Paulie that she struggled with before. Although some have criticized the film for apparently having “pro-choice themes,” it is rather a brilliant portrayal of an intelligent teenager who is flawed but has a grasp of who she is and what she wants.