The first date, prom night, the perfect dress… Teen romances have so many particular elements to their movies that they created a loyal target audience. It has been a while since teen romance movies started to be successful. Different from the usual adult romance movies, these stories have a playfulness component that is intoxicating.
There have been a few iconic teen romance movies throughout film history, like the impossibly dangerous T-birds and the gorgeous Pink Ladies in Grease. Then the 80s happened, bringing even more stories to fall in love with as teen romance movies surged. The secret dance lessons at the summer resort in Dirty Dancing, or the pressure of having your first kiss in John Hughes movies; these stories touched people so deeply that some even remember watching Patrick Swayze by the sound of ‘Time of My Life.’
Then, there was the 90s mania, releasing so many movies belonging to the genre. Cher Horowitz’s iconic two-piece yellow suit is still one of the most popular Halloween costumes. Or the adaptation of the most famous unrequited love story, in Romeo+Juliet. Then there was the 2000s legacy of teen romance, which contained a bevy of Cinderella remakes following the success of Ever After (A Cinderella Story, Another Cinderella Story, Ella Enchanted…).
Teen romance movies have a funny innocence that for various people is reminiscent of a joyful time in their lives. Having so many choices of what to watch can be hard, but whether you’re currently a teen or looking to relive some of those romantic memories, here is a list of the best teen romance movies, ranked.
8 She’s The Man
Inspired by Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, She’s the Man is as funny as it is entertaining. A narrative that tackles gender disparity, societal norms, and even male friendship is set on the soccer field. There are, however, a few scenes and dialogue that didn’t age very well, which is something you should keep in mind watching this movie.
Viola (Amanda Bynes, now doing rap) is the star player on her soccer team. When the female soccer program gets canceled due to budget problems in her university, and her brother pretends he is going to college (when in reality he is traveling to play with his band), Viola sees the solution to her problems. She decides to pretend to be her brother and enrolls in his school, since so many people said how much they look alike. Playing soccer and pretending to be her brother won’t be the only thing in her mind because his roommate is not only handsome but a very nice guy (who happens to be Channing Tatum).
7 To All The Boys I Loved Before
Using one of the most beloved tropes in the genre, fake dating, To All the Boys I Loved Before is the sweet journey of a girl who believes in love and eventually finds it. This movie is the first adaptation of a trilogy of books, all of which got adapted by Netflix. A story about sisterhood and family that also deals with the heartbreak that can come from the loss of a loved one (whatever form that may come), this movie is a must-watch for hopeless romantics. After writing letters to all her crushes, Lara Jean (Lana Condor) hides them in her closet.
However, she didn’t expect her little sister Kitty (who is getting a series of her own) to send the letters. Lara Jean sees no way out than pretending to date one of her crushes, Peter (Noah Centineo), to stop her sister’s boyfriend from confronting her about his letter. A mess from beginning to end, it is impossible to watch this movie without grinning.
6 Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging
Another adaptation from a young adult novel, this is one of the funniest teen romances made in recent decades. Based on the books by Louise Rennison, Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is a very accurate representation of the awkward early teen years. The story follows Georgia, and her group of friends, all of them embarrassing themselves at every chance they get and are deeply eager to be in love with boys – and, of course, kiss them. A movie about friendship and being brave enough to be who we truly are, this narrative is a heartfelt watch, especially for those who remember not being ‘cool’ in those years. And rest assured, Georgia is the opposite of cool.
5 The DUFF
A movie that subverted various stereotypes found in the genre, The DUFF is a serious yet still comedic tale of dating in high school as a misfit. Adapting the story from the young adult novel with the same name, the narrative deals with being a teenager in the technology era and the anxiety it brings. Social pressures and norms are put into check when the protagonist, Bianca (Mae Whitman), is called a DUFF, which means “Designated Ugly Fat Friend.” It sparks a lot of important discussions about what women are perceived and praised for. A movie where the protagonist doesn’t have to change who she is to get the guy at the end is something every teen (and everyone) should watch.
4 Step Up
The movie that generated a series of dance movies, Step Up is always a good one to watch when in need of a teen romance. Filled with ballet dances and hip hop moves, the story that made the two leads, former model Channing Tatum and Jena Dewan, fall in love and get married in real life is already considered a teen romance classic. Step Up has everything that the audience could want from a movie related to dance. After Tyler (Channing Tatum) destroys the basement of a prestigious dance studio, he has to pay for it. He proceeds to do repairs at the school when he meets Nora (Jenna Dewan), a classical ballet dancer who needs a partner. An amazing soundtrack, incredible dance routines, and an impossible love that feels too good not to happen all combined to makes this movie so special.
3 Love, Simon
Love, Simon is based on a novel by Becky Albertalli called Simon X The Homo Sapiens Agenda. This movie is a wholehearted story about a 17-year-old, Simon (Nick Robinson), that has a secret he keeps from everyone around him: he is gay. That gets more complicated once he starts exchanging emails with a boy in his class who is also gay and in the process of coming out of the closet, just like Simon. His journey is accompanied by his close friends and family. The viewer ends the movie believing the world can be a better place when these stories are being produced and loved around the world. A necessary teen romance, Love, Simon opened doors for more LGBTQIA+ stories for teens, having a spin-off series by Hulu called Love, Victor.
2 The Fault in Our Stars
Based on John Green’s 2012 novel, The Fault in Our Stars is a beautiful movie about love and loss. A teen sensation when it came out, the story of two cancer patients, Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus (Ansel Elgort), who fall in love under excruciating odds will make you cry (a few times) during the movie. A story more about life rather than death, the love between these characters will inspire you to travel, fall in love, and search for your true self. With great performances and a soundtrack that will make you cry harder, this movie is a sad tale that nevertheless takes a positive look at unbearable things that happen in life.
1 Ten Things That I Hate About You
The ’90s classic had to be at the top of this list. Another movie inspired by the best playwright that ever lived, Ten Things That I Hate About You, is a take on Shakespeare’s timeless play, The Taming of the Shrew. With an incredible cast, Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Larisa Oleynik and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the leads this movie quickly became a phenomenon amongst teenagers. It is impossible to watch the movie and not root for the characters to be together and, at the same time, not lose who they are on the way (they don’t, don’t worry about it). You will finish the movie rumbling “Can’t Take My Eyes Of You” and wishing Heath Ledger would sing it to you.