The 10 Best Teen Movies of the 1980s, Ranked


The 1980s was a golden era for teen entertainment. After the success of the media with young musicians, it was only natural that they ventured into one of the biggest moneymaking industries in the world – Hollywood. So it became the norm to package relatable comedy-drama with relatable characters and high school storylines and archetypes.

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This cemented the teen film genre as one of the most popular of the decade. From simple teenage romance and dark satire to time-traveling adventures, the coming-of-age movies of the 1980s offer iconic stories that perfectly encapsulate fans’ youthful spirit.

10 Dirty Dancing is about a summer affair between a young woman and her dance teacher

Dirty dancing

1987 starred Jennifer Gray and Patrick Swayze Dirty dancinga story about a young woman who falls in love with the dance teacher who works at the resort where she is staying with her family. Dirty dancing was directed by sister act Director Emile Ardolino and was praised for its choreography and soundtrack.

After the premiere in Cannes Dirty dancing grossed over $200 million at the box office, far exceeding its small budget of under $5 million. Considered one of the best musical dramas of the year Dirty dancing won Best Original Song for The time of my life at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and Grammys.

9 Say Anything’s boombox scene is one of the best scenes in teen movie history

Say something

After his success with Fast times at Ridgemont HighScreenwriter and director Cameron Crowe wrote the 1989 teenage rom-com, Say something. Say something starred John Cusack and Ione Skye as two high school seniors who fall in love despite their different social groups and ambitions.

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Say something was a critical success, considered one of the best films of the year and praised for its heartwarming comedy and romance. Say something Even received a 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. His most famous scene, with Cusack holding up a boombox in front of Skye’s bedroom, remains one of the most recognizable teen movie scenes of all time.

8th Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure launched Keanu Reeves into stardom

Bill and Ted's excellent adventure

Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure follows Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter as two high school students traveling through time in search of historical figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Billy the Kid and Joan of Arc. Originally written as a comedy stand-up routine, Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure was praised for its comedy and satire on other popular time travel stories of the time.

Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure served as a breakthrough role for Reeves and was both commercially and critically successful. Bill & Teds Popularity led to the production of an entire franchise that includes two sequels (one in 1991 and one in 2020), two TV series, a DC comic and even a few video games.

7 Heathers was a cult film before breaking into the mainstream with several adaptations


When Winona Ryder starred as Veronica Sawyer in 1989 heather, she became a cultural icon for generations to come. The black comedy follows a group of popular girls as they take on a murderous new student, JD (Christian Slater). heather was a box office failure and barely managed to make a third of its $3 million budget.

Hailed as an anti-John Hughes film for its dark and pessimistic tone, it received praise for its satirical portrayal of high school and teenagers. years after its release, heather gained enough popularity to be considered a cult film and is currently one of the most iconic teen films of the 1980s. heather was adapted into a stage musical in 2010 and a critically acclaimed TV series in 2016.

6 Footloose follows a teenager trying to break his town’s ban on dancing


In 1984, Kevin Bacon taught an entire town how to dance Unbound. Written by Fame Copywriter Dean Pitchford, Unbound follows Ren, a native Chicagoan who moves to a small community where dancing has been banned by the local council. Defying this restriction, he falls in love with the minister’s rebellious daughter, Ariel (Lori Singer).

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Despite mostly mixed reviews, Unbound managed to gross 10 times its $8 million budget at the box office and became one of the most iconic musical films of the late twentieth century. Two of his songs, including Kenny Loggins’ number one hit unbound, were nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards.

5 Karate Kid follows the journey of a teenager practicing martial arts

karate kid

Almost ten years after they made history Rockydirector John G. Avildsen returned to the realm of sports films karate kid. in the karate kid, Ralph Macchio plays Daniel, a teenager who begins taking karate classes to defend himself against his bullies. Japanese-American actor Pat Morita starred as his sensei, the now-iconic Mr. Miyagi.

how Rocky, karate kid was a sleeper hit. It was able to spawn a major franchise consisting of three sequels, a 2010 remake starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith, and the 2018 Netflix comedy-drama. Cobra Kai. Morita’s performance, a big standout in karate kid, was rewarded with an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

4 Sixteen Candles marked John Hughes’ debut as a director

Sixteen candles

John Hughes began his reign of the coming-of-age genre in 1984 with Sixteen candleshis directorial debut. Sixteen candles starred Molly Ringwald as Sam Baker, a sophomore whose sixteenth birthday doesn’t go to plan. She must contend with a forgetful family, a huge crush on a popular senior, and a student who doesn’t get a clue.

Ringwald’s performance was widely considered a high point Sixteen candles and earned her a Young Artist Award. Sixteen candles was also praised for its realistic and relatable characters, which would become a staple of John Hughes from then on. A sequel was briefly in the works but was shelved after Hughes’ death in 2009.

3 Back to the Future spawned a franchise that remains popular decades after its original release

Back to the Future

Since its release in 1985, Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future has gone on to become one of the most popular time travel stories in film history, cementing many of its characters and lore into 1980s pop culture. Back to the Future follows Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, a California teenager who finds himself in the past after boarding a time-travelling DeLorean. Christopher Lloyd plays Marty’s ‘mad scientist’ friend Emmett Brown, owner and creator of the DeLorean.

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Not only was Back to the Future the highest-grossing film of the year, but it also launched a highly profitable franchise that includes sequels, various theme park attractions and even a 2020 stage musical.

2 Ferris Bueller’s day off follows a slacker on an enlightening journey through Chicago

Ferris Boller

In a suburb of Chicago, Ferris turns blue tells the story of a high school grad, played by Matthew Broderick, who decides to truant to take a day trip around Chicago. Ferris turns blue was written, directed, and produced by John Hughes, and received a Golden Globes nomination for Broderick’s acting.

Ferris turns blue was praised for its warm-hearted comedy and storytelling techniques, which included the main character breaking the fourth wall several times to explain his thoughts and feelings. 1990 a TV series based on Ferries Bueller’s day off starring Charlie Schlatter and Jennifer Aniston, premiered on NBC and ran for a single season before being cancelled.

1 The Breakfast Club is the 1980s teen drama

The Breakfast Club

Widely regarded as the signature teen film of the 1980s, The Breakfast Club The focus is on five teenagers, each from a different clique. They bond over their similar struggles while in detention together on a Saturday. The ensemble’s main cast became well-known members of the “Brat Pack,” a group of teen idols who starred in the coming-of-age movies of the time.

Contrasting with its relatively low budget of $1 million The Breakfast Club managed to earn over $50 million at the worldwide box office. Like other Hughes films, it was loved for its characters and approach to youth. While The Breakfast Club‘s soundtrack received generally negative reviews, the film’s theme song, ‘Simple Minds’ Don’t you (forget me) was a smash hit on both the local and international charts.

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