I did a bit of time travel yesterday, thanks to the oral surgeon who extracted four wisdom teeth from my college daughter’s mouth. The 20-minutes-on-20-minutes-off ice pack schedule kept us tethered to the couch and the TV. I hovered and pampered, thrilled to have the rare chance to dote on my nearly grown daughter. Armed with meds, smoothies, Netflix, and the DVR, we whiled away the day looking for the best teen movies to watch together.
These are the movies (from the 1980’s and beyond) that made it into my own personal top ten list:
Good Movies to Watch With Your Older Kid
Academy Award Winning Good
Blind Side (2009)
The true story of Michael Oher’s (Quinton Aaron) journey from homeless teen to college graduate and NFL standout is inspirational on every level. Sandra Bullock (Academy Award, Best Actress) and Tim McGraw are Leigh Ann and Sean Tuohy, the couple who become Oher’s legal guardians and helped him move way beyond his troubled boyhood. His presence in their family is transformative for the Tuohys and their children, as well.
Football fans will love the cameos by college coaches. Based on The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis, this is an inspirational story and wonderful movie.
Forrest Gump (1994)
In terms of award winners, this title on my best teen movies list has the most accolades earning Best Picture, Director, Actor (Tom Hanks), Adapted Screenplay, Visual Effects, and Film Editing.
Based on the novel by the same name by Winston Groom, the story is about intellectually challenged and incredibly sweet Forrest Gump who manages to be on the scene in memorable moments of American history (1944 -1982.) Bonus is watching gorgeous Robin Wright, way before her Claire Underwood/House of Cards days.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
The movie that put the careers of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (Academy Award, Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay with Affleck) on the map also stars Robin Williams (Academy Award, Best Supporting Actor). Damon plays a brilliant but misguided dropout working as a janitor at MIT and Williams is the therapist who works hard to reach his troubled patient.
To watch now-superstars Damon and Affleck acting in their mid-twenties in this excellent movie is a thrill. Boston lovers will soak up the scenery and the accents.
We love every word that writer Michael Lewis has put on paper and highly recommend Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The movie, based on his book, won an Academy Award for Best Picture as did Brad Pitt (Best Male Actor) for his soulful depiction of Billy Bean, general manager of the Oakland A’s, and Jonah Hill (Best Supporting Actor) for his performance of Ivy-league stats-smart Assistant General manager Peter Brand.
This true story of how an underfunded baseball team could win 20 consecutive games, an American League record, by inventing a radical approach to scouting talent is remarkable and the movie, unforgettable.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The great tragedy and extreme violence of war that Academy Award winning director Steven Spielberg created here is a graphic view on the battlefield. For an older kid who has studied WWII, this movie will vividly bring to life classroom lessons. Set during the Invasion of Normandy, it depicts the search for a paratrooper, Private Ryan (Matt Damon) who is the surviving brother of four servicemen. The movie won four additional awards.
On the Edge of Your Seat Good Movies
Friday Night Lights (2004)
True confession: I am from Texas and have a life-long affinity for any well-done film about small town football in the Lone Star State. Regardless of where you live and your taste for football, this movie is remarkable in its depiction of high school sports and friendships, and the families that are woven into the a community’s fabric. Based on the book, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger, the movie later spawned a TV series so if you get hooked on the movie and need more material, check out the show, also starring Connie Britton.
Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman play the roles of prison inmates in Shawshank State Penitentiary in Maine. Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, a banker wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, who was sent to jail for two life sentences in 1947. While there he meets Red (Morgan Freeman) who excels at importing contraband into the prison from the outside world. Over time, their fortunes rise and fall within the prison but their friendship holds steady. It should come as no surprise that the movie is filled with suspense, given that it is based on a novella by Stephen King, “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.”
Our favorite teen movies
Legally Blonde (2001)
I love Reese Witherspoon’s depiction of Elle Wood, a shopping-focused, pink-clad coed whose determination to prove her intelligence to her ex-boyfriend leads her to a spot in his same class at Harvard Law School. Improbable? Of course! But who cares as we watch Elle overcome prejudice and sexism and transform into a legal star while still maintaining her values, loyalty and sense of style. What’s not to love about a young woman managing all that?
Men in Black (1997)
I am not sure if there’s ever been a better comedic duo than Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in Men in Black. Described in Wikipedia as a “science fiction buddy cop action comedy,” the fusion of genres and abundance of talent in the lead roles makes me want to watch this one over and over.
Two agents (Jones and Smith) supervise extraterrestrial life on earth and basically try to save the world, looking very cool in their dark sunglasses while doing so. If you and your teen are loving this one, take the plunge and watch the two sequels, MIB2 and MIB3.
13 Going on 30 (2004)
Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo star in this rom com fantasy where they are irresistibly adorable as grown up versions of their 13-year-old selves. Portraying next door neighbors and best friends, Jenna Rink (Garner) and Matt Flamhaff (Ruffalo) weather the trials of middle school together until Jenna’s 13th birthday when she is humiliated by the mean, cool kids she invited to her party.
In the next scene, she emerges as a 30-year-old, confused about how she got there and why her life is so very different that the one she dreamed of. The movie’s soundtrack includes hit songs from the 1980’s – 2000’s, in particular, “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, the tune featured during my favorite scene of the entire movie.
On a personal note, Legally Blonde and 13 Going on 30 were two of my daughter’s favorites growing up and we watched them over and over during her middle school years. Since she is temporarily grounded from her life as a college student, we have the chance to curl up together and watch these favorites from her childhood. While these moments come with some discomfort for her (hoping that will pass soon) for me, it doesn’t get much better than this.
More Good Movies to Watch with Your Teen 2020
Can’t Buy Me Love
Mr. Holland’ Opus
Pay it Forward
Stand By Me
If you could see what I hear
The Good Lie
Miracle on Ice
Million Dollar Arm
The Power of One
Eddie the EAgle
Perks of Being a Wallflower
God’s Not Dead
Akeelah and the Bee
When the Game Stands Tall
5 People you meet in Heaven
The Emperors Club
The Way, Way Back
Bridge of Spies
The Finest Hour
Me and Earl and The Dying Girl
The Ultimate Gift
The Ultimate Life
Life of Pi
When the Game Stands Tall
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