Everybody likes a good teen comedy, but we can only talk about how awesome The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are so many times before the Internet is destroyed in a flood of redundancy. So we’ve assembled a list of 10 pretty good teen comedies that may have slipped under your radar, unless you’re one of those people who immediately runs to the comments section of lists like this to brag about how you’ve seen all the entries before. For the rest of you, enjoy!
10. Youth in Revolt
Youth in Revolt stars Michael Cera, and was released in 2009—right when moviegoers were saying to themselves, “Hey, isn’t Cera that guy who plays the same awkward teenager in every movie?” The film’s by-the-numbers advertising reinforced that notion, as trailers made Youth in Revolt look exactly like every other teen comedy ever made. It’s no wonder not a lot of people saw it.
Those who actually watched Youth in Revolt saw a comedy that was much darker than advertised. Cera plays both a shy teenager named Nick and his confident, sociopathic alter ego Francois, and together they commit arson, get their manipulative girlfriend expelled from school by drugging her with sleeping pills, and eventually go to jail. Based on an even darker book (the movie left out the part where Nick gets sedated and raped by an obese, borderline mentally handicapped boy), Youth in Revolt effectively mixes black humour with a sweet romance story. Also, you get to see Michael Cera with a moustache. Who says he doesn’t have range?
The Last American Virgin, a 1982 remake of a 1978 Israeli film, is for the most part a pretty typical teen flick. You’ve got your everyman protagonist, his cool best friend and the fat comic relief sidekick, and all they want out of life is to have sex. They go to parties, try to get laid and have wacky adventures. It’s not high art, but it’s amusing enough.
But once you get past the typical shenanigans you’ll find some pretty serious content—the hero, Gary, helps the girl he has a crush on pay for an abortion after his best friend gets her pregnant and dumps her. Then, in a remarkably grim ending—Spoiler Alert for a 29 year old movie you’ll probably never watch—Gary’s attempt to get with the girl is crushed when she takes back his best friend despite his cruelty, and the film ends with a shot of Gary in tears. It’s like if Ferris Bueller’s Day Off had ended with Ferris crashing Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari and killing them both. The brutal portrayal of unrequited love makes The Last American Virgin stand out amongst other teen films.
If you took all the drama and shenanigans of a typical high school comedy but changed the venue to a Christian school, you’d have Saved! It stars Jena Malone as Mary, a devout Christian with an equally devout boyfriend. But after he comes out of the closet to her, Mary has sex with him in an attempt to “cure” his homosexuality, and ends up pregnant. From there she begins to question her faith, and runs afoul of her fundamentalist former friends. It’s kind of like Mean Girls, except with hardcore Christians instead of Lindsay Lohan.
Religion is always a touchy subject, and Saved! was criticised both for being anti-Christian and for not taking its satire of Christianity far enough. But that’s what makes Saved! so funny—it treats the subject matter with enough respect to prevent the film from degenerating into mindless bashing. The characters feel like real people instead of shallow caricatures, which makes the lessons they learn seem genuine, not preachy. Also, Macaulay Culkin is in it, and he plays a handicapped kid. We’d like to think it’s his character from Home Alone after placing one too many traps.
Lucas is so quintessentially 80s that anyone who watches it today risks developing a spontaneous desire to go out and buy parachute pants. You’ve got the spunky little kid, the jocks who bully him and the girl he can’t get past being “just friends” with. He tries to impress her by joining the football team, and although he’s injured his bravery earns him a slow clap from his schoolmates. It’s one musical fade-out away from being a John Hughes movie.
Lucas can be a little saccharine, but it has its fair share of funny moments, like seeing a young Corey Haim curse out his football coach and get in an argument about penises with his bullies. And there’s something surreal about watching a movie starring Haim, Winona Ryder and Charlie Sheen in their youth; the tone of the film changes significantly when you picture Lucas growing up to die of a drug overdose while his friends turn into a shoplifter and a crazy person.
6. Get Real
Part comedy, part drama, Get Real put a twist on the typical high school romance story by making it a gay romance. And it’s British.
Get Real has some hilarious scenes, but it’s the painfully awkward depiction of a high school student trying to come out of the closet that’s most memorable. Steven, the protagonist, has a crush on John, the school’s star athlete, and is shocked when they run into each other while cruising for anonymous sex at the local park (who didn’t meet their first partner that way?). They start a relationship, but John, struggling with being open about his sexuality, refuses to publically admit it. It doesn’t end well, but Steven learns a valuable life lesson and the audience learns about the difficulty of maintaining a homosexual relationship in high school. And also about how weird British schools are.
subUrbia is part of the proud “a group of slackers sit around and drink outside of a convenience store” comedy subgenre, which director Richard Linklater helped create. It was released in 1996, and everything about it has a 90s vibe, from the aimlessness of the young characters to the alternative rock soundtrack.
The movie takes place over a single night, as the friends wait for a visit from a former schoolmate who is now a rock star. The movie is all dialogue, partly because the characters have nothing to do with their lives besides talk, partly because the movie is adapted from a play, and partly because subUrbia had a budget of whatever could be stolen from tip jars. It’s very funny, but also very dark—these are depressed people living depressing lives, and their complete lack of direction is painful to witness. It’s also the hardest movie on this list to find a copy of, so if you’re looking for a film that will make it seem like you have obscure tastes then this is the one for you.
4. The Trotsky
The Trotsky is about a high school student named Leon who believes he’s the reincarnation of, you guessed it, Leon Trotsky. He’d be insufferable in real life, but Jay Baruchel’s great sense of comedic timing makes the character funny and charming.
The movie begins with Leon working at his family’s clothing factory, where he goes on a hunger strike in an attempt to unionise the workers. His parents punish him by switching him from a private school to a public one, but he keeps right on fighting the power, this time by trying to unionise his fellow students while battling the authoritarian principal. Along the way he attempts to seduce an older woman whom he believes he is destined to marry, just because she has the same name as Trotsky’s wife.
The sheer insanity of the concept makes The Trotsky very funny, although unless you’re well versed in Russian revolutionary history a joke or two will inevitably go over your head. But it never hurts to brush up, and watching a movie sure beats studying.
3. Gregory’s Girl
Gregory’s Girl is about soccer, teenage love and ridiculous Scottish accents (the dialects are so strong that different voices were dubbed in for the film’s American release). The titular protagonist falls for a girl who joins his school’s soccer team, but to win her love he has to compete with both the rest of the squad and his own ineptitude.
Most of the comedy comes from Gregory’s incredible ineptitude, which is guaranteed to make any viewer feel better about their own teenage years. But he’s also a very charming character, and one that feels believable. Gregory’s Girl isn’t the funniest movie on this list (although it definitely has its moments), but it does the best job of capturing what teenagers really act like. Except with a lot less profanity.
Flirting is another movie that could have easily swung from “charming” to “nauseating,” especially since it’s set in Australia. God knows how many killer snakes and giant spiders they had to edit out of the background. It tells the story of a romance at a 1960s boarding school between a nervous boy and a rebellious girl from Uganda, and features several now-famous Australian actors before they made their way to Hollywood.
It sounds like the setup to an inane Nicolas Sparks movie, but Flirting is both witty and charming. There are some very funny moments, some very likeable and realistic characters, and some very gratuitous shots of Thandie Newton running around in her underwear. Oh, and there are overarching themes of racial politics and stifling societal norms and the power of love and whatever. Did we mention you see Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts in their underwear, too?
Election is both a great comedy and a hilarious satire of American politics. It stars Reese Witherspoon as Tracy, a girl who wants to win her school’s student president election at all costs, and Matthew Broderick as Mr. McAllister, the teacher who sets out to stop her.
Everyone’s high school had a bubbly overachiever like Tracy, and everyone hated them. McAllister is so desperate to ensure her defeat that he puts his own career and personal life on the line, and his obsession over one student in a meaningless election makes him equally ridiculous. Throw in an injured football player who’s only running because McAllister talked him into it, and his younger sister who enters the race on a platform of immediately disbanding the student government if elected, and you have a fantastic comedic premise. The fact that none of the other students really care about the election in the slightest just makes it funnier—and disturbingly similar to real Presidential elections.