- French film critic Robert Benayoun.

What isn't contested is what drives the teen film industry. Disposable income. The teen movie emerged as the relatively wealthy American baby boomer teens had cash to burn. As teens asserted themselves as a social group distinct from adults in the mid 1950s, Hollywood collectively decided to juvenilize its content and reap the bountiful rewards. Whilst early attempts at the teen film lack the modern hallmarks of the genre, the central message was essentially the same: Parents just don't understand. Movies such as "Blackboard Jungle" and "Rebel without a Cause" catered to disillusioned youth wanting to rebel for rebellion's sake, or at least, wear leather in public.

American movie theatres were caught between a "desire for teenage dollars and dread for teenage violence"1, a problem that could only be solved by one man, Elvis Presley. By the end of 1957, the King had made made three completely inoffensive teen movies: "Love Me Tender", "Loving You", and "Jailhouse Rock", all of which featured titular hits. Elvis trailblazed into the 1960s, opening the way for a tsunami of teen Beach Party movies. Think Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello or Fabian. From here, the teen genre faded into obscurity, mostly as a result of changing tastes of aging boomers. They were having children themselves, and teen rebellion was a thing of the past.

"(I) feel like I'm in a John Hughes rite-de-passage movie" - Wayne, in "Wayne's World"

Selected Viewing2:

  • "Blackboard Jungle" (1955) - The Eisenhower administration kept it from being shown at the Venice Film Festival. And it wasn't because of Sidney Poitier.
  • "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965) - Even typing those words makes me feel slightly nauseous. With a tagline like "It's the game that separates the girls and the boys...into groups of two!" and a character named Eric Von Zipper, it is no wonder there wasn't a decent teen film during for the next decade
  • "Revenge of the Nerds" (1984) - This spun the plot element essential to all teen movies - Jocks versus Nerds - into an entire series. Was it really worth it?
  • "Sixteen Candles" (1984) or "The Breakfast Club" (1985) - His Master's Finest. Every teen movie requires bonding, no matter how badly written and poorly executed.
  • "Starship Troopers" (1997) - End of high school drama, following an impossibly attractive ensemble cast as they fight GIANT BUGS IN SPACE! Required nerd content provided by Doogie Howser, MD.


  1. Quotes from Thomas Doherty (1988). Teenagers and Teenpics: The Juvenilization of American Movies in the 1950s . Unwin Hyman Ltd: London.
  2. I know you're asking why I didn't include Weird Science or Risky Business or Bring It On or Dude, Where's my Car? or every movie containing Matthew Broderick. I'm trying to showcase a range of films in the genre through the decades, not make a "best of" list.

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