Favorite Teen Romance Movies

Jenna’s recent blog on teen romance novels reminded me of another teen love: The teen romance movie. It seemed like the 80s and 90s were full of high school romantic adventures. These days those simpler tales have been replaced by renditions of vampires and werewolves such as in Twilight, witches as in Beautiful Creatures or angels like in City of Bones. But I am a sucker for the old boy meets girl and they fall into first love. Here are a few of my favorites.

Romeo and Juliet (1968)

The original teen love story, complete with endless angst., this is hands down my favorite film version of the classic tale of the Montagues and Capulets. The leads are lovely and do an outstanding job of capturing the myriad of emotions felt by the characters. What truly sets the film apart is the song What is a Youth by Nino Rota. It haunted me for days after the first time I saw the film.

Quarterback Princess (1983)

Moving from Canada to America has meant experiencing some big changes for Tami Maida. The biggest? That American football doesn’t include girls. She tries out for the team anyway and surprises most by earning a spot. Everyone may be against her but she not only wins over her critics but catches the heart of one of her fellow students as well. This film has a great buddy scene where the guys on her team buy her a dress for the dance.

Sixteen Candles (1984)

The film that launched several careers, this story centers around Samantha’s sixteenth birthday and the numerous humiliations she faces on her way to her HEA. What I loved about this movie is that it captured a common experience and turned it into something memorable. Who hasn’t had a crush on the most popular guy in school or some other out of our league hero? Watching Jake realize that treasure sometimes comes in a quiet package was wonderful and very romantic.

Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

Before Patrick Dempsey was Dr. Dreamy he was a nerdy outcast looking to buy his way into popularity. High school “It” girl Cindy is in desperate need of money and agrees to his plan to pretend to be his girlfriend and boost his image. There are some tough moments before each of them figures out what they really want from life and love.

Say Anything (1989)

He’s an underachiever with a heart of gold. She’s an overachiever with a controlling dad. When Lloyd and Diane hook up the summer after senior year they learn just what it means to grow up, fall in love and face difficult life choices.

Clueless (1995)

One of my favorite teen romance movies, this gentle and fun update of Jane Austen’s Emma is an absolute gem. Sweet but rather silly high school princess Cher begins her matchmaking career by matching two teachers determined to give her less than stellar grades. Their successful union makes her a high school hero as the grading curve is positively influenced (in the student’s favor) by their happy hearts. The buzz from her success has Cher finding partners for all her friends, with occasionally hilarious results.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Great music, great acting and a wonderful story make this send up of The Taming of the Shrew a true classic. Cameron wants Bianca but she can’t date until Kat does. And Kat is one nasty, angry, angsty teen. Enter Patrick, a boy who has more violent rumors swirling around him than cheerleaders have pom-poms. A ridiculously complicated matchmaking scheme has Patrick and Kat treading the course to true love. Adore the scene with the paint ball fight.

She’s All That (1999)

When high school jock and all around cool guy Zack Tyler is dumped by his popular girlfriend he bets his buddies he can make any girl into prom queen material. Enter Laney Boggs, social zero who is average on just about every level but her art. Can love survive a dishonest and shaky start? Just thinking about the graduation cap scene brings a smile to my face.

Hairspray (2007)

This wonderful version of the classic musical stars John Travolta and Zac Efron, who sing and dance their hearts out while telling us a tale of unlikely high school hookups. Pleasantly plump teenager Tracy Turnblad loves to dance. But it seems several people plan to get in the way of that dream. Especially if it includes winning the heart of Link Larkin, the coolest guy in school. Great tunes, terrific dance numbers and a gentle and beautiful message about love crossing the barriers of size and color make this one a must see.

Easy A (2010)

Clean cut scholar Olive has always played by the rules. But using the high school rumor mill to help a friend shows her just how nasty being the target of gossip can be. Can she overcome a bad reputation to win the boy of her dreams? I still get a giggle from the boy who tried to pay her off with a discount at Bath and Body Works.

Of course this is just a very small sampling of the teen movies that have captured my heart over the years Which ones have captured yours?

- Maggie Boyd

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45 Responses to Favorite Teen Romance Movies

  1. LeeF says:

    I missed most of these movies, especially the ones in the 80′s (little too old) but really enjoyed Emma and Hairspray. Don’t know if this is actually considered a teen romance but loved That Thing You Do (1996) with Tom Hanks. I had a huge crush on Robby Benson in the 70′s so One on One, Jeremy and Ode to Billy Joe are all guilty pleasure. I still have the One on One soundtrack (on vinyl!) that I play once in awhile. Going back even further, my sister and I can quote dialogue from Gidget and Gidget Goes Hawaiian since we watched them on TV every time they came on.

    • maggie b. says:

      I think That Thing You Do definitely counts. I love that one myself. I had forgotten about the Gidget films but weren’t those great? Moon Doggie forever!

      Robbie Benson and One on One. Swoon! I am impressed you still have the vinyl.

      • Christine says:

        Oh Gidget! I still watch that every time it shows up on TCM. Was there anyone dreamier than James Darren? I love him singing the “Gidget” song to the concussed Sandra Dee in the beach hut. I find it strains credulity that all those surfer guys wouldn’t notice immediately how adorable “The Gidge” is but I enjoy the glimpse of a pre-Batgirl Yvonne Craig and a time when being rounder not skinnier was the preferred female shape!

    • Christine says:

      I loved Robbie Benson back in the day but my movie of choice was “Ice Castles”- I’ve lost count of how many times I have watched this. I remember being really pleased that he was the voice of the Beast in Disney’s Beauty and The Beast because I had such fond feelings for him in the “olden days”as a kid.

  2. LeeB. says:

    I’ve seen Easy A, which was quite good, and of course Say Anything. Also really enjoyed What a Girl Wants with Amanda Bynes and Colin Firth and which was set in London. To me, the teen romance was okay but Colin Firth was the main attraction.

  3. Wendy says:

    You listed almost all the movies I would have if someone asked me “what are your favorite teen romances”? Ella Enchanted is about teens and it has romance, but it’s a fairy tale. Still, I loved it. I also liked the romantic elements in Saved!.

  4. Leigh says:

    It has been too long since I have seen a teenage romance movie! I remember Clueless and Mean Girls and Princess Diaries but that is about it. I did a search and these are the top box office grossing pictures. Of course Twilight is number one.

    The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Sum.
    2 The Twilight Saga: New Moon Sum.
    3 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 LG/S
    4 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1
    5 Twilight Sum.
    6 Save the Last Dance
    7 Step Up
    8 She’s All That
    9 A Cinderella Story
    10 Romeo + Juliet
    11 A Walk to Remember
    12 Pretty in Pink
    13 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 14 10 T
    14 Ten Things I Hate About You
    17 Endless Love
    18 Beastly
    19 Can’t Hardly Wait
    20 Sixteen Candles

    • maggie b. says:

      I have seen quite a few of these. I loved the books for Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and Beastly and just can’t stand the thought of seeing the movies. I’m afraid of having the delight I felt in the books ruined. I haven’t seen Step Up, have only seen bits and pieces of A Cinderella Story, and have yet to see Endless Love or Can’t Hardly Wait.

      I think it says I’m pretty much a teen movie junkie though in that I have seen so many. And I can’t believe Pretty in Pink outranks Sixteen Candles. I can remember Sixteen Candles being this huge deal and don’t remember Pretty in Pink being that popular.

    • PatAAR says:

      Save the Last Dance and Step Up are great if you like movies about dancing which I do.

      • maggie b. says:

        I did see Save the Last Dance and liked it. I want to see Step Up. Looks like it is turning into a rainy weekend here, I might just stream it Saturday or Sunday.

  5. LeeF says:

    I forgot to mention I love The Breakfast Club.

  6. AARJenna says:

    I love teen movies! I was lucky enough to be the right age for all of the John Hughes films of the 80s, but to this day I still love to go see current films aimed at teens.

    Some of my favorites:
    1. Some Kind of Wonderful – to me the most overlooked/underappreciated of John Hughes’ entire filmography. The kiss between Keith and Watts is my favorite on screen kiss ever!

    2. A Walk to Remember – agree with Leigh above. Probably the only Nicholas Sparks movie I actually don’t find melodramatic or manipulative.

    3. Step Up 2 – unlike Leigh, I like the second Step Up movie better than the first.

    4. Pump Up the Volume – love a young and angry Christian Slater.

    5. She’s the Man – Amanda Bynes at her most hilarious, and the way I choose to think of her.

    6. I’m going to call all of the Harry Potter movies from Goblet of Fire on through Deathly Hallows 2 as “teen” movies because I loved the relationships between Harry, Ron and Hermione.

    7. The Breakfast Club – probably the textbook example of the perfect Teen movie

    8. Clueless – second the vote for this.

    Okay, and true confession time, but I might possibly be the only person on the planet who didn’t love “Say Anything”. Sure, John Cusack was adorable. But I hated Ione Skye with a passion, and I just didn’t find it to be all that. Different strokes!

    • maggie b. says:

      She’s the Man is a really great movie. And I can remember enjoying Pump Up the Volume. Christian Slater at his angstiest. A Walk to Remember almost made my list – its sad but so poignant and meaningful.

      I am ashamed to say I have never seen Some Kind of Wonderful. It’s on my netflix queue and I swear I will see it soon.

    • April says:

      I love Some Kind of Wonderful –got to be my favorite teen romance

  7. Sandlynn says:

    First off, I want to say, I loved “That Thing You Do.” Great movie.

    Sticking to teen romance and not to just really great teen films, I would include:

    Splendor in the Grass
    The Truth About Spring
    A Summer Place

    Leaving that aside though, I have to plug the following teen-centric movies that don’t really have romance at their core:

    I Wanna Hold Your Hand
    To Sir, With Love
    The Trouble With Angels
    American Graffiti
    Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

    • Elysa says:

      I love A Summer Place! Someone also mentioned Ode to Billy Joe, and the while I don’t get the attraction to Robby Benson (until I found out he is the Beast) I love that movie too. I think Little Darlings was a great one too.

    • maggie b. says:

      I love To Sir, With Love and I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Haley Mills is brilliant in The Trouble with Angels. The scene where she and the mother superior are making the dress is so amazing. My husband is a huge Ferris Bueller fan. I liked it okay but don’t have the love for it he does.

      The Truth About Spring is another great Haley Mills movie. I haven’t done A Summer Place, Grease, Juno or Splendor in the Grass. I have seen bits and pieces of each but never sat down and watched all the way through. On my to do list.

      • Sandlynn says:

        Yes, even though she hasn’t done much lately, Hayley Mills was a superb actress and there were many poignant moments in both The Trouble with Angels and The Truth About Spring.

        Not a teen film, but one about a young, British couple who have just gotten married and face “interesting” intimate problems is “The Family Way.” Very good, little known film.

        As for the other films, one just has to keep in mind that A Summer Place and Splendor in the Grass are movies of their times — with enormous hangups about sex and especially female sexuality.

        Oh … just thought of another film, although not sure whether all the characters were supposed to be teens: Mystic Pizza.

        • Katie (kat) says:

          I love Haley Mills. Of course, I loved the original Parent Trap but does anybody else remember Parent Trap III & Parent Trap Hawaiin Honeymoon with an adult Haley Mills & Barry Bostwick and triplets as his teenage daughters? I wasn’t in love with Parent Trap II but III was a lot of fun.

    • Christine says:

      I love both “The Trouble With Angels” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”- two great choices you don’t see very often anymore. I don’t think any movie sums up that teenage fan experience like “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”
      “The Trouble With Angels” is such a moving and sweet film.

    • LeeF says:

      You have touched on so many more of my all time favorites- especially The Truth about Spring.

  8. Maria D. says:

    I have seen all but two of the movies on your list – didn’t see Can’t Buy Me Love or Easy A. I’m also surprised that Pretty in Pink outranks Sixteen Candles – I think that people forget that originally the film had a sad ending and that is was changed just before release (originally the girl didn’t get the guy – she walked away from him and led a successful life without him). Save the Last Dance is a favorite of mine and I think showcases the crossing of both social and economic types too (she’s white from working class folk and he’s black from the hood), plus the music and dance moves are great. I saw Endless Love when it first came out (with a friend) and we both pretty much felt the same way about it – we just didn’t get the obsession as good – especially with everything that happened as a result….it kind of makes me think of the “stalker” syndrome because he became so obsessed with her – and her family was completely insane!

    • maggie b. says:

      I thought Pretty in Pink was sad even with the changed ending. I didn’t like Andrew McCarthy in this one but did like him St. Elmo’s Fire, Mannequin and Weekend at Bernies. I think it was the creepy best friend played by James Spader but I was like, how could anyone halfway decent even think about hanging out with that loser???

      • Christine says:

        Yes “Pretty In Pink” had a sad feeling to the whole movie. Even the changed ending wasn’t enough to lift it up for me. I felt sorry for her Dad and his inability to get over the wife’s leaving. It was a whole different tone than any other John Hughes teen movie where parents were often clueless but they always seemed to be well meaning. Blaine was such a weak character it was impossible for me to be happy with Andie ending up with him. Compared to the (surprisingly) sweet Jake Ryan of “Sixteen Candles” who defies the popular crowd to court Samantha with a birthday cake on his dining room table (and the return of her undies!) Blaine was a big blah. Plus I thought the dress Andie made was hideous (even back in the year it was released). She would have been better off wearing Annie Pott’s old prom dress as it was instead of chopping it up to make that monstrosity.

      • AARJenna says:

        Yeah, I didn’t like Andrew McCarthy in PIP either. Not that I wanted Andie to end up with Duckie (per Hughes’ original ending) but Blaine was kind of a dishrag hero.

  9. Nathalie T says:

    I love John Hughes’s movies. Favorite one? Pretty in Pink.

  10. Karen W. says:

    I’m another huge fan of the John Hughes movies. Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, Sixteen Candles.

    I also had a huge crush on Robbie Benson in the ’70′s and my best friend and I just melted over the movie “Jeremy.” We were so young and heartbroken about the teen lovers.

    Also, does anyone else remember the Molly Ringwald teen pregnancy movie “For Keeps?” I loved that one too.

    • AARJenna says:

      Yes!! I loved ‘For Keeps”. I think I’ve seen it a dozen times. I love that people always got their last name wrong, and the cops called Molly Ringwald’s characer “Mrs. Boobawitz”, which I call people whose last names I can’t pronounce (privately – not to their faces!). Great movie although in a way it does kind of glamorize teen pregnancy because of the happy ending where everything works out perfectly.

  11. Marianne McA says:

    ’10 things I hate about you’ might be my favourite, but ‘Get Over It’ is also a comfort watch in our house.
    And in the so-bad-it’s-good category, the Prince & Me franchise: not the first, because Julia Stiles is always watchable – but by the time they get to the third, it’s so nonsensical that we always enjoy ourselves watching it.

    If we’re allowed not-movies, but still 80s/90s teen romance, Linda & Spike from the TV series Press Gang – my daughter was rewatching these this week, and I can always be sucked into watching them one more time.

    • Sandlynn says:

      I love The Prince and Me, but only the Julia Stiles one. I can’t even get myself to watch the messes that were made after that. It would destroy the story I created in my head since *she* wasn’t a part of the “sequels.”

  12. LeeF says:

    Gotta say- this whole thread makes me feel like a teenage romance movie fan girl! Squeeeeee!!!

  13. Aida says:

    I loved the times when the main conflict in teen romances is having the guy like you back. In reality, the world of teenagers today seem much more complicated and the questions they grapple with would have driven me insane when I was their age. For example: 1. Does the guy(s) I just hooked up with (translation: had-sex-without-commitment-with) really like me?, 2. How do I deal with those Internet bullies who just posted nude photos of me on Facebook?, 3. My mom just got married to husband number 3 and his kids are such jerks except for ___ who I like but wouldn’t notice me even if I sent him a nude photo.

    Okay enough of depressing stuff.

    My favorite teen romances:

    1. 10 Things I hate About You — because of Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger, among other things

    2. Clueless – if we think about it, Cher was a virgin and/but(?) she was popular

    3. Some Kind of Wonderful – a classic!

    4. The Princess Diaries Part I and II – I love Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. I loved part II just because Chris Pine was sooo cute!

    5. American Pie — I don’t know if it can be called a “romance” technically but I just loved the story of Jason Biggs and Allyson Hannigan’s characters.

    6. Romeo and Juliet – the Franco Zeffirelli version.

    7. She’s the Man — Amanda Bynes impersonating a boy was just so funny!

  14. Katie (kat) says:

    Sorry, not necessairly romances but just movies I loved when I was teenager (and in a few instances a few years younger than that)

    1) Breakfast Club – I saw it when I was a teenager when it first came out and loved, loved, loved it. I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of the song and Judd Nelson, regardless of what happened later with this career. I loved Ally Sheedy’s character – the basket case. Still do.

    2) Say Anything – didn’t everyone have a crush on John Cusack?

    “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”

    3) Better Off Dead – I freaking love this movie! It makes me happy!

    4) Little Darlings – I remember wanting to see this really bad when I was little. It was a movie I probably was too young to see but that is what made it soo good, Kristy McNichol was such a dang good actress and that movie wasn’t just fluff. Her character had to deal with losing her virginity and that not being such a great thing.

    5) The Outsiders – I loved Ralph Macchio’s character (such a kind person), the names (PonyBoy, Sodapop, Cherry) and the Stevie Wonder song. That was back when I thought Rob Lowe was so hot (LOL, what the heck was I thinking).

    6) 16 Candles – Molly Ringwald was perfect in that movie.

    7) Pretty in Pink – It has its faults but I love Duckie, Annie Pott’s wardrobe, Andrew McCarthy has always been a fav and I loved the computer flirtation and, most importantly, James Spader is in the dang movie (sigh).

    8) Ferris Buller’s Day Off – so much fun

    9) Some Kind of Wonderful – Mary Stuart Masterson was the best thing about that movie

    College years

    1) St. Elmo’s Fire – saw this one at a drive-in (remember those, lol) and have been a Mare Winningham fan ever since

    2) Breaking Away – such a good movie and I’m a Hoosier.

    3) Oxford Blues – again, way back when I thought Rob Lowe was attractive

    4) Class – first time I saw Andrew McCarthy & Rob Lowe

    And 2 more:

    Lost Boys – Keifer Sutherland as a vampire really worked for me and I loved the music

    The Pirate Movie – Kristy McNicol & Christopher Atkins singing just makes me happy. It’s silly but I was a kid when I first saw it and it holds a special place in my heart.

    • maggie b. says:

      The line in the Lost Boys about the blood sucking Brady Bunch was hilarious. Love that film.

    • AARJenna says:

      I loved “The Pirate Movie”! When my kids were little, that’s a DVD that they loved to watch because the music was so catchy (they didn’t get any of the sexual innuendo). It’s so unbelievably cheesy and just plain bad, but so much fun.

      And I keep waiting for “Little Darlings” to get released on DVD. I’m dying to watch that movie again but you can’t find it anywhere.

  15. Katie (kat) says:

    Oh man, how could I forget Footloose. Teenagers fighting for their right to dance. :)

  16. Katie (kat) says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m not a teenager anymore but I’ve found today’s teen movies like Mean Girls & The Perks of Being a Wallflower really annoying.

    Mean Girls, imho, was just stupid and I don’t think I liked one single character in that movie. I really hate it when they have unpopular kids being desperate to be popular. Why can’t they ever show “nerds’ who like who they are and realize what jerks popular kids can be like Freaks and Geeks. I freaking love the episode when the guys confront the coach about always letting the same jocks pick the teams and always cause them to be chosen last. God, I loved that show!

    I really hate storylines showing mean, nasty characters being lumped in with the regular people. Glee, I’m talking about you here. The show started out as a story about underdogs but when you lump in characters like Kitty (Quinn & Santana fall under this category but I guess they grew on me), all the cheerleader & jocks and all the perfect looking people it becomes a bad joke. Revenge of the Nerds was quilty of that crap.

    Perks of Being a Wallflower took itself way too seriously and I’ve never been in love with precoccious teens. That movie felt very contrived pretentious.

    I would like to Easy A because I like Emma Stone. Her and Jennifer Lawerence are two of my favorite young actresses.

    I forgot a movie I loved when I was youger called My Bodyguard and that makes me think about Meatballs. It just doesn’t mater. It just doesn’t matter. :)


  17. maggie b. says:

    Can’t believe I forgot Bring It On. Cheerocracy, OMG!

  18. Joane says:

    ‘Ten things I hate…’ is one of my favourite teen movies of all times.
    And has anybody mentioned ‘Before Sunrise’ (1995) with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy? I really loved it! So romantic but perhaps not with a typical HEA.

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