Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Teen film

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit

Teen film is a film genre targeted at teenagers and young adults in which the plot is based upon the special interests of teenagers, such as coming of age, attempting to fit in, peer pressure, first love, rebellion, conflict with parents, teen angst or alienation. Often these normally serious subject matters are presented in a glossy, stereotyped or trivialized way. For legal reasons, many teenage characters are portrayed by young adults. Some teen films appeal to young males while others appeal to young females.


Films in this genre are often set in high schools, or contain characters that are of high school age.


As well as the classic teen film, which is similar to a romantic comedy, there are hybrid genres, including:

  • Teen sci-fi
  • Teen horror
  • Teen drama
  • Teen comedy
  • Teen musicals
  • There are many more types of teen films, which can then be divided again into sub-categories. These can be found at list of teen films.

    Beach films

    Early examples of the genre in the United States include the "beach party films" of the 1950s and 1960s, such as the Gidget series.

    Codes and conventions

    Codes and conventions of teen films vary depending on the cultural context of the film, but they can include proms, alcohol, illegal substances, high school, parties, losing one's virginity, social groups and cliques, interpersonal conflict with peers and/or the older generations, fitting in, peer pressure, and American pop culture.

    The classic codes and conventions of teen film come from American films, where one of the most widely used conventions is an emphasis on stereotypes and social groups. The stereotypes most commonly used include:

  • The Jock/Cheerleader
  • School Diva (Alternately The It Girl)
  • The Geek/Nerd
  • The Rebel
  • The Misfit/Outcast
  • The Boy/Girl next door
  • The New Girl/Boy
  • The Loner
  • The Band Geek
  • Class Hottie
  • Class Clown
  • The Stoner
  • The Athlete
  • The Queen Bee
  • Apart from the characters there are many other codes and conventions of teen film. These films are often set in or around high schools as this allows for many different social cliques to be shown. This is different in hybrid teen films, but for the classic romantic comedy teen film this is almost always the case.

    Common archetypes

    A good example of the use of archetypes in teen film was displayed in the 1980s film The Breakfast Club. These archetypes have since become a larger part of the culture. The jock, cheerleader, and social outcast, among others, become a familiar and pleasurable feature for the audience. However, genres are dynamic; they change and develop to meet the expectations of their target audience, teenagers.

    Herman Raucher

    Herman Raucher along with Robert Mulligan invented the genre with Summer of '42, and Raucher continued the trend by writing Class of '44.

    George Lucas

    George Lucas has been credited for perfecting the genre by writing and directing the 1973 film American Graffiti.

    John Hughes

    The genre gained more credibility during the 1980s with the appearance of writer and director John Hughes. His legacy of teen films, including The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and many more, proved to be popular not only with audiences, but also with critics.

    Gregg Araki

    One of the faces of the rise in independent film productions in the 1990s was Gregg Araki. His films, particularly the Teen Apocalypse Trilogy (consisting of Totally Fucked Up, The Doom Generation, and Nowhere), are notable for capturing the disaffected attitudes of suburban teenagers of Generation X.

    Éric Rohmer

    Éric Rohmer, a pioneering director of the French New Wave, was notable for focusing on young adults or youth and their complications with love in a number of his films. Some of these works are La Collectionneuse, Claire's Knee, Pauline at the Beach, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, and A Summer's Tale.

    Noteworthy actors

    Popular actors in teen films have included Annette Funicello, Hayley Mills, and Sal Mineo in the 1960s and 1970s,; members of the Brat Pack; John Cusack in the 1980s and early 1990s; and Sarah Michelle Gellar, Neve Campbell, Rose McGowan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Seann William Scott, Eliza Dushku, Kirsten Dunst, Shannon Elizabeth, Gina Ravera, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Jason Biggs, Alicia Silverstone, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Frankie Muniz, Hilary Duff, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, and Emma Stone in the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s, who were either pre-teens or teens at the time of the movies themselves.


    Teen film Wikipedia