At a time when hormones are raging and every obstacle seems like it could ruin your entire life, love can feel like life or death, and in movies, it sometimes can be. But teen romance can also be sweeter and more earnest than the romance between grown-ups in movies, and sometimes it’s a little more fun, too. With a new version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ hitting theaters this weekend, we thought we’d take a look back at the best teenage romances in movies. From the comedic to the melodramatic, these are the love stories that warm our hearts, put a smile on our lips, or cover our faces with tears — so many tears.
10 Things I Hate About You
A modernization of William Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ ’10 Things I Hate About You’ is a complicated love story — Julia Stiles and Larisa Oleynik play Kat and Bianca, sisters and total opposites. Kat is more interested in her studies and is already jaded by school boys, while Bianca is naive and eager to date. Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) wants to date Bianca, but she can’t date until Kat does, so he pays Patrick (Heath Ledger — our hearts are still hurting over that loss) to woo Kat.
Through all the drama, betrayal, and wacky shenanigans, these teens come to realize that love can be found in someone you least expect — or, for Kat, someone whom you despise. We love watching Kat slowly realize that Patrick is her perfect match, or impatiently waiting for Bianca to take the blinders off and give Cameron a chance. And we especially love Heath Ledger’s rousing rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” on the bleachers.
‘Dirty Dancing’ is a teen love classic. Jennifer Grey plays Frances “Baby” Houseman, the daughter of a well-to do family on vacation at a fancy resort, where she meets Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), a bad boy dance instructor — and not the kind of guy her parents want her to end up with. When Baby learns of Johnny and his friends’ after-hours dirty dancing parties, she gets Johnny to teach her some movies… but he ends up teaching her so much more about dignity and respect, both toward others and toward herself. Johnny opens Baby’s eyes to a world beyond her picket fences, and the two fall in love despite what everyone else might think.
Wes Anderson’s ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ tells the story of troubled wild child Suzy and precocious orphan Sam, who run away together and send all the adults in their lives into a frenzy. It’s a lovely coming of age story about first love, and how kids perceive the occurrences in their world as equally consequential as the trials grown-ups have to deal with. Why can’t Suzy and Sam be in love?! Love, drama, and hardship aren’t only applicable to adults. Anderson, inspierd in part by Terrence Malick’s ‘Badlands,’ creates a true love story that seems impossible, but only if you refuse to believe in it.
Way back when Tim Burton and Johnny Depp first began their long working relationship, Depp starred in ‘Edward Scissorhands,’ as the titular character — a lonely teen boy who was created by a brilliant inventor in a castle way up on the hill, overlooking a picturesque suburban town. When his “father” dies, Edward is rescued by an Avon saleswoman, who takes him home and tries to civilize him.
Edward falls in love with her daughter Kim, played by Winona Ryder, and the two form an unlikely relationship, later threatened by her bull-headed jock boyfriend. ‘Edward Scissorhands’ is an uplifting and heartbreaking story of teen romance, and of looking beneath the surface to find a more meaningful connection. Edward not only teaches Kim what it means to open her heart, but he teaches an entire town as well.
Cameron Crowe’s 1989 film ‘Say Anything’ stars John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler, an average teen who just graduated high school along with the intellectual valedictorian Diane (Ione Skye). Lloyd impresses the socially-limited Diane with his undying devotion over the summer leading up to college, when Diane is set to move away to England.
And then there’s that iconic scene, when Lloyd stands outside of Diane’s window with a boombox, blaring Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” How could she not fall in love with him right then and there?! ‘Say Anything’ doesn’t have your typical happily ever after ending, but it’s definitely a happy one for Lloyd and Diane, who overcome family pressure and trials to experience their first love before entering the grown-up world.
Pretty in Pink
John Hughes and Molly Ringwald gave us some of the best movies of the ’80s. ‘Pretty in Pink’ features Ringwald as a senior high school outcast. Andie is in love with preppy Blane (Andrew McCarthy), and Andie’s best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) is desperately in love with her. And although Blane likes Andie, his popular friends are total jerks about it, and it’s making him kind of a jerk, too.
‘Pretty in Pink’ is a movie that shows us how love shouldn’t be based on what other people think, and when you find someone special, the rest of the world shouldn’t matter. For Duckie, it’s also about how when you love someone, you should want them to be happy, even if that happiness has nothing to do with you. It’s a sweet, classic movie that, like most of the films on this list, puts an interesting spin on the traditional story of love against all odds — the best kind of love!
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Nick (Michael Cera) is a struggling musician in L.A. whose girlfriend just dumped him. By chance, he runs into Norah (Kat Dennings), the daughter of a music producer — oh, and she happens to be friends with Nick’s ex. In order to avoid the advances of a guy who just wants to use her for her connections, Norah has Nick pretend to be her boyfriend for the evening.
The two bump heads at first, but the longer they’re stuck together, the more they realize they’re sort of perfect for each other. Using the backdrop of the L.A. indie music scene (and with an awesome soundtrack), ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ feels legit by having its characters find common ground in sharing the music they love before finding the love they share.
John Hughes and Molly Ringwald make the list again. How could we not include ‘Sixteen Candles’?! This time around, Ringwald plays Sam, a girl whose family has forgotten all about her 16th birthday because her sister is about to get married. Sam has a crush on school jock Jake, who doesn’t seem to know she exists, but when a “sex quiz” she fills out makes its way into Jake’s hands by accident (including the sensitive info that she wants to lose her virginity to him), Jake starts to get a bit curious about this Sam girl.
Sam is one of the best teenage girl characters in movie history: she’s put-upon, ignored by her parents, feels invisible to the one guy she has a crush on, and the guy who has a crush on her is some geeky kid (who she’s actually nice to, as she should be, and ends up being key in her happy ending). ‘Sixteen Candles’ also gives us one of the most romantic teen movie endings, when Jake goes out of his way to find Sam and give her the happy birthday she deserves.
Romeo and Juliet
There have been a few film iterations of William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ but one of the best — and most memorable — is Baz Luhrmann’s version, a visual modernization in which the characters all recite the original Shakesperean dialogue. It’s a brilliant move that allows people to connect on an aesthetic level while staying true to the classic story.
Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio play the star-crossed lovers of warring families, who fall in love at first sight (impossible! But it happens!) and must carry on their tortured relationship in secret. Their love is tragic and reflects impetuous, melodramatic teenage behavior while also respecting the genuine emotions involved. No matter how many times you watch this movie, you’ll always keep your fingers crossed that it ends differently.
Teen love gets even more complicated with the additon of an unplanned pregnancy in ‘Juno.’ Directed by Jason Reitman from a script by Diablo Cody, the film tells the story of young Juno (Ellen Page), who takes the virginity of her BFF Paulie (Michael Cera) and winds up with more than either of them bargained for. When Juno offers her unborn child up for adoption to a seemingly perfect married couple, she learns that there’s no such thing as an ideal relationship, and that sometimes when things fall apart, it’s not the end — but the beginning of something beautiful. Cody’s quirky, teen-speak-heavy dialogue creates a more honest, relatable experience. And can we talk about how perfect this soundtrack is?