The Best Teen Romance Movies to Make You All Kinds of Sappy


Photo credit: Easy A

Photo credit: Easy A

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Let’s take a trip down memory lane, all the way back to your 13th birthday. *shudders* You’re about to embark on the roller-coaster ride that is being a teenager. Little do you know that a whole lotta changes are headed your way, including puberty, your first crush (probably unrequited, let’s be honest), your first kiss, utter embarrassment thanks to your parents’ general existence, hormones, new friends, and overwhelming fear. Of course, you roll your eyes and scoff when mom and dad try to warn you about all this. I know what’s coming you think to yourself. I’ve seen the movies.

Lol, to be a naive lil bb! Even though you probably realized pretty quickly that real life is verrrryyyy different than the movies (still waiting for my crush to stand on my lawn and serenade me while holding a boombox, HBU?), watching romantic movies set in high school remains a delightfully nostalgic, heartwarming, and escapist way to pass the time—especially as an adult. And may I just join you in saying some of my very favorite films are teen romances. I will not apologies!

With this list, I am by no means suggesting you relive your high school experience. I would never do that to you! Instead, I’m recommending you turn to this classic genre whenever you need a pick-me-up. From iconic hits like Pretty in Pink and footloose to cheesy-but-goodies like High School Musical and The Last Song to the Netflix newbies like the To All the Boys series and The Kissing Boothenjoy the very best teen romance movies of all time.

Easy A

If you like Emma Stone and Penn Badgley (which, why wouldn’t you??), then obviously you want to watch them as flirty high schoolers. Oh, and also, this is a modern-day spin on The Scarlet Letter and way more interesting than the book you had to read in actual HS.

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Fear Street

Yes, this is definitely a horror movie first, but the secret romance between Deena and Sam (who’s closeted, since this is the ’90s) is intensely worth it. FYI, this is part of a trilogy, so you’re gonna have to devote a bunch of hours to figuring out what happens to these two. (But they’re really fun hours, so.)

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Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging

An oldie but a goodie, this comedy centers around your fears about never, ever getting a boyfriend as a literal 14-year-old (relatable!). It’s a bit of its time, but the ridiculous tween drama will immediately take you back to that age—without actually having to be a teen again. Phew.

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The Princess Diaries

I’m gonna submit my hottest take on this list and say that the sequel, with certified hottie Chris Pine, is the superior romance. i know!! Don’t @ me. But you can’t beat a fun love triangle with your BFF’s brother having a secret crush on you. It’s science.

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Five Feet Apart

I mean, this movie is a walking cliche, but ~who cares~ when you can look at Cole Sprouse for the entire runtime? Haley Lu Richardson plays Stella, a teen with cystic fibrosis who has to stay—you guessed it—five feet from Sprouse’s Will (who has the same disease), so they don’t literally kill each other.

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Your Name.

This Japanese animated film features two teens who fall in love (and body swap!) over space and time. It also features an absolute gut-punch of a twist (no spoilers!), but that honestly makes it way more fascinating and watchable.

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Ice Princess

Aw, Michelle Trachtenberg! This cult fave is all about a gal who uses science (lol) to figure out how to be good at ice skating (LOL) and also has a budding romance with a friend’s brother (stop me if you’ve heard that one before).

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Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Good music alert!! In a single night, Nick and Norah pine over exes, search for missing friends, look for a secret concert, and totally, totally, realize they have amazing chemistry. fluffy and enjoyable.

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Save the Last Dance

Former ballet dancer learns to love her craft again thanks to a hot, supportive classmate—truly how every dance movie should be. It’s a bit clunky, especially around their interracial relationship, but stay for the fun music and hot dance scenes.

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The Kissing Booth

The off-screen drama on this was ~almost~ wilder than the on-screen premise, but not quite: Girl participates in kissing booth as part of a fundraiser (!!) in which she kisses the hottest guy in school and her long- term crush. Romantic Entanglements! They ensue!

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Alex Strangelove

This is a “refreshingly adult” take on teen romance and coming to terms with your sexuality, but there’s also just some fun romantic triangle action here. Alex tries to figure out who he likes more. Is it his BFF? Or his new crush????

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The Half of It

Hello love triangles, you’re very welcome on this list! This is a modern spin on Cyrano de Bergerac (again, way more interesting here) with Ellie and her new pal Paul crushing on the same girl—with Ellie writing love letters ash Paul.

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Spider Man: Homecoming

Yea, yea, I know this is a superhero movie. But you will really appreciate the romance between Peter and MJ (Tom Holland and Zendaya, real-life couple) that is hinted at in this movie and gets a lot more intense over the next two films.

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The Fault in Our Stars

The “sick teens” trope is a semi-common one, but this is probably the most famous and successful example. Hazel and Gus bond over their respective illnesses, then fall in love. If you haven’t watched this film, um, just bring tissues. k?

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Clueless

Ahhh, Cher. Granted, it’s very obvious that some of these “teens” are in their 20s. But this remake of Emma-but-make-it-high school is an absolute icon of film. Ignore the fact that Cher basically falls in love with her sort-of stepbrother and just enjoy a young and hot Paul Rudd.

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Grease

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John singing and dancing their lil high school hearts out is, like, the purest form of teen romantic cinema. Travolta plays Danny Zuko, a cool-guy-greaser who falls in love with good girl Sandy Olsson (Newton-John) over the summer, only to learn come fall that they actually attend the same high school. Their summer love is put to the test due to the standard high school BS of cliques and social hierarchy. You know the drill.

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The Last Song

Of course, this tear-jerking, heart-wrenching love story made the list. I mean, don’t even get me started on the fact that Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth literally fell in love on set while filming the adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel. Ronnie + Will forever. ❤️

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

The coming-of-age movie that puts Lana Condor and Noah Centineo on the map, Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, is a whole lot of charming fun no matter how old you are. Lara Jean (Condor) processes her crushes by pouring her heart out in letters that she never intends to send. But when these letters mysteriously get into her crushes’ hands—including those of regulation hottie Peter Kavinsky (Centineo)—Lara Jean is forced to overcome her shyness and acknowledge her feelings head-on. (FYI, the sequels aren’t bad if you’re dying for more!)

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Step Up

Another movie that sparked a real-life romance, Step Up is where the young Jenna Dewan and Channing Tatum fell in love. Coincidentally, it’s also the movie where everyone and their mom got the hots for Channing Tatum, his dance moves, and his abs. A prima-ballerina good girl meets a breakdancing bad boy, and what do ya know, their bodies were *made* to dance with each other.

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High School Musical

We can’t talk about Teen Romance™ without mentioning Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez. Watching high school music, featuring Zac Efron’s heart-stealing babyface, and memorizing all the songs is a rite of passage. The pop bops alone (“Breaking Free?” “Get’cha Head in the Game?” “Stick to the Status Quo?” Seriously, I could go on) will leave a lasting impression on your heart.

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10 Things I Hate About You

Can charming new kid Patrick (Heath Ledger) woo the prickly Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles)… who happens to be passionately against trivial things like love? Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrewthis cult fave is like a who’s-who of late ’90s starskeep your eyes peeled for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik, Andrew Keegan, and Gabrielle Union.

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Dirty Dancing

Falling for the cool dude with the moves while at a boring summer resort with your family = somewhat of a cliche. But it’s Patrick Swayze, so I don’t blame Baby. Known for its superb soundtrack and highly quotable “corner” line, this 1987 film also tackled heavier topics, such as illegal abortion and class inequality.

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A Cinderella Story

A 2004 version of the Disney classic, A Cinderella Story stars both Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray in their primes (ie, peak Lizzie McGuire and peak Lucas Scott, respectively). Ignore the 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (rude)—you’re not here for a cinematic masterpiece; you’re here to watch a fairy tale unfold via the early aughts internet, and Jennifer Coolidge plays the evil stepmother.

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Love, Simon

Navigating high school is hardly ever smooth sailing—especially if you’re trying to figure out your sexuality. Simon (Nick Robertson) finds himself both falling in love with a mysterious classmate online (yay!) and trying to keep his blackmailer happy, lest he get outed to the whole school (eek!). Based on Becky Albertalli’s novel simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agendathe movie received a ton of positive reviews from critics and praise for being one of the first mainstream films to address gay teen romance.

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Pretty in Pink

John Hughes, a legend in the teen romance space, is the brains behind the megahits Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as well as the 1986 cult classic Pretty in Pink. Starring Hughes darling Molly Ringwald, this one’s about (surprise, surprise) high school social cliques, house parties, and prom. It’s a lovely jolt of ’80s sweetness to your system.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Charlie (Logan Lerman) never really fit in anywhere until two whimsical souls, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), take him under their wing and help him come into his own. It’s a powerful story about letting go of the pressure to be “normal” and the freedom that comes with fully embracing who you are. Please note that this movie contains scenes that feature sexual abuse and self-harm and, therefore, may be triggering to some.

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Cruel Intentions

Reese Witherspoon’s breakout role as the virgin Annette Hargrove, who gets seduced by bad boy Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe), is worth a watch, like, immediately. Not only is this 1999 dark comedy the place where Phillippe and Witherspoon fell in love IRL, but it’s also chockfull of pretty delicious scandal, like some light incestuous vibes between Sebastian and his stepsister Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar), casual drug use, and loads or backstabbing revenge.

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She’s the Man

Truly laugh-out-loud funny, this rom-com follows Viola Hastings (Amanda Bynes) as she attempts to pose as her brother so she can play soccer at his preppy boarding school. Another one inspired by Shakespeare (this time around, it’s Twelfth Night), She’s the Man took home two awards (Choice Movie: Comedy and Channing Tatum nabbed the “breakout” category) at the Teen Choice Awards in 2006.

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17 Again

Honestly, this 2009 movie does NOT get enough credit. Not only is it a hilariously sweet story about how love takes hard work and the benefits of casual time travel, it also stars Zac Efron at his cutest. If part of you wishes you could redo high school again, hold that thought and stream this movie instead.

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footloose

A Chicago transplant (Kevin! Bacon!) winds up in a small southern town that has outlawed dancing and loud music. (It was the ’80s??) The thing is, you can’t stop his feet from grooving their way into the heart of a totally off-limits gal—the minister’s daughter. Choreography and Flirting Ensue.

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