Top 18 Angsty Movies to Watch

Cayla Peacher and Olivia Steele share their top picks of must-watch teenage angst movies.


Madeline Clark

A drawing of The Breakfast Club (1985) official movie poster.

Olivia Steele and Cayla Peacher

Whether it be by applying to a college your parents told you not to apply to, deciding to single-handedly take down the patriarchy, or exercising the right to carpe diem, at times, all teenagers crave the feeling of rebellion. As both of us being self-proclaimed movie buffs and angsty teenagers ourselves, we felt it necessary to share our top eighteen angsty teen movies to watch; whether it be for a laugh, a cry, or to feel connected to characters in the movies. 

*Trigger Warnings brought up in the movies: sexual assault, self harm, abuse, eating disorders, suicide, depression, grooming*


10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Gil Junger’s romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You is by far my favorite movie of all time. The movie takes on the perspective of four high school students: Cameron James, the sweet and delicate new kid; Patrick Verona, the rough-edged rebel; Bianca Stratford, the popular and preppy love interest of Cameron James; and Kat Stratford, sister to Bianca who is the more rebellious and unsociable of the two, and who is also the love interest of Patrick Verona. Throughout the movie, Kat tries to redefine who she is as a person; not only to others, but to herself as well. Kat finds herself resonating most with Cameron’s quote, “Thai food, feminist prose and angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion”. 10 Things I Hate About You begins at a point in time where Kat has already broken the mold of her past self, which was a popular crowd-follower, and is showing who she really is and who she truly wants to be. Kat perfectly represents the awkward circumstances and struggles of not wanting to fit in, but also desperately wanting to be loved by someone else. Kat is perceived as an extremely strong-headed and independent feminist that shows no interest in love; however, when Patrick comes along, she is forced to look at romance in a different light. 10 Things I Hate About You perfectly grasps the contradicting life of a teenager who feels an obligation to not fit in while also wanting to be accepted and loved. The 1999 film also depicts young love in a way that romanticizes it while also showing the struggles that come along with opening up to new people.  

Moxie (2021)

Moxie, directed by Amy Poehler, follows timid high school teen Vivian Carter as she attempts to expose the sexism that takes place in her high school, Rockport High. Encouraged by her moms’ keepsake box filled with memoirs of her engaging in the riot grrrl movement and after being a victim of sexism, Vivian creates a zine titled Moxie as a way to anonymously expose the sexism at Rockport while also empowering the women around her. Moxie has an immense amount of representation; the film features transgender women, different ethnicities and cultures, and also raises awareness on instances of rape and sexual assault. I believe Moxie is a movie that everyone should watch at some point simply because the movie is made to be watched by everyone. Not only does it teach young women to use their voice in a powerful way to create change for the better, but it also touches on toxic masculinity when a classmate of Vivian’s, Seth Acosta, is shown to be a firm believer in feminism, breaking down the archaic belief that feminism is only made for women. At the end of the movie, Vivian takes on an act of courage and reveals herself as the anonymous writer of Moxie, ultimately showing what good can be brought about if people, especially young women, break out of their timid molds and use their voices in powerful ways to create a revolution. Words that encourage me and remind me that there is always someone looking up to me are featured in Bikini Kill’s famous song, “Rebel Girl”: “When she talks, I hear the revolution”, also featured in the movie. 

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen stars Hailee Steinfeld as the wildly spunky, cynical and extremely relatable teen Nadine Franklin, as she tries to navigate life inside her own bubble of typical high school struggles and depression. After the recent death of her father, a struggle to find consensus with her aggravating mother and discovering the secret relationship of her brother, Darian and her best friend, Krista, Nadine finds herself feeling all alone and copes using the way she thinks is best; desperately searching for comfort through toxic romantic relationships. After Nadine is verbally abused and sexually assaulted by someone she thought she could trust, she confides in the only person she has left, her history teacher Mr. Bruner. She admits that she is having thoughts of suicide and asks for his help, ultimately leading to a new relationship that Nadine never realized she needed. At the end of the film, Nadine makes amends with her brother, her best friend, her mom and finds new love in a classmate of hers, Erwin. The Edge of Seventeen’s tagline “You’re only young once… is it over yet?”, perfectly embodies the thought process of every teenager in high school. Many adults often say that the years of youth in high school are some of the best but neglect the rough trepidations that many teens go through. It can oftentimes be difficult to find security in oneself, especially in high school. The Edge of Seventeen dives into the notion that to be young does not mean that everything is always perfect, instead, there is a fine line between the edge of perfect and messy; the epitome of the life of a high school teenager. 

She’s the Man (2006)

She’s the Man, directed by Andy Fickman, is a romantic comedy that yields a much deeper meaning than just romance: feminism. Viola Hastings, an outgoing soccer star, runs into issues when her high school, Cornwall High, decides to cut the girls’ soccer team from the program. After members of the girls’ soccer team are denied the right to join the boys’ soccer team because “…girls aren’t as fast as boys, or as strong, or as athletic,” Viola conjures up a plan to prove those sexist theories wrong. Viola disguises herself as her twin brother, Sebastian, so she can attend Illyria High School, an all-boys boarding school, join the soccer team, beat the Cornwall boys’ soccer team and prove that girls can do anything boys can do. While Viola attends Illyria and practices with the boys’ soccer team, she runs into struggles of self-doubt. However, when the time finally comes around for Illyria to face Cornwall, Viola reveals herself in her true identity, a girl, and ends up annihilating the Cornwall boys’ soccer team. She’s the Man is not only an entertaining movie full of funny remarks and cute moments of romance, but it is a movie with a powerful message to young girls displaying acts of courage and pushing past gender bias. 

Juno (2007)

The 2007 comedy-drama Juno, directed by Jason Reitman, tells the story of Juno MacGuff, an eccentric, lively and charismatic sixteen-year-old girl who experiences an unplanned pregnancy. Juno experiences teen angst when she is forced to make a difficult decision about whether or not to keep the baby and worries about how she will tell her parents. Contrary to other films that involve teen pregnancy, Juno’s father and step-mom are actually quite supportive of whatever decision she decides to make regarding the baby; whether that be having the baby or receiving an abortion. Juno eventually decides that she will give birth to the baby but give it up for adoption to two parents that are unable to get pregnant. Besides the main focus of the movie, teen pregnancy, Juno also focuses on heavy issues many teens experience regarding grooming. The soon-to-be father of Juno’s baby takes advantage of her while Juno is looking for someone to confide in during a time in her life when she feels extremely lonely. Juno is an extremely self-sufficient girl who goes through the nine-month journey of pregnancy without the father, Paulie Bleeker, present. In the end, Juno gives birth to the baby boy and gives him to the adoptive mother, Vanessa, who has been ready for this moment since she and Juno met. At the end of the movie, Juno and Paulie eventually find each other again and attempt to rehash their old friendship and realize that they are meant for each other.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

One of my all-time favorite coming-of-age films, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, directed by Stephen Chbosky, perfectly represents teen angst at its peak. The movie takes place in the early 90s and follows the introverted and selfless fifteen-year-old, Charlie Kelmeckis, as he is on a journey to discover where he belongs in the world of high school. Charlie is an incoming freshman when he meets his lifelong friends: Sam, who also happens to be his love interest, and Sam’s step-brother, Patrick. Charlie struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide, along with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of being a victim of child molestation when he was younger. The Perks of Being a Wallflower also touches on the sensitive topic of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community in the 90s, which is experienced by Patrick. As the movie progresses, Charlie becomes more and more comfortable with himself and is able to better realize his true identity; a wallflower, that is. Sam and Patrick call Charlie a wallflower, which is someone who lets life pass them by as they observe from the sidelines. Being a wallflower might seem like a negative way to be characterized; however, Charlie finds comfort in being known as a wallflower. Essentially, everyone should find comfort in being a wallflower because then “You See Things And You Understand,” which is not that bad of a character trait to embody.  

Carrie (1976)

Most famously known as a classic horror movie, Carrie, directed by Brian De Palma, has grown into a movie known for a much deeper message. Carrie follows a young high school teen, Carrie White, an introverted and submissive girl that does not have many friends. Throughout the movie, Carrie White is constantly harassed by her fellow classmates and has to deal with her abusive mother all while trying to navigate being a teenager in high school. Although Carrie lacks friends, she is given the opportunity to build a new relationship with her newfound love interest, Tommy Ross. For the first time in sixteen years, Carrie finally feels as though she fits in with everyone else. In the end, the circumstances do not turn out for the best for anyone that goes to her high school, Bates High, but the film does provide a strong message that is important for many young teens to realize: it is okay to not fit in with everyone else that you are surrounded by, and as seen in Carrie, sometimes forcing yourself to fit in with the crowd might not turn out for the better. 

Boyz n the Hood (1991)

John Singleton’s crime and drama-filled movie, Boyz n the Hood, features three high school boys who attempt to cope with the rough lifestyle that is brought to them in their very own neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles: Crenshaw. After the main character, Tre, is forced to move back into Crenshaw, he reunites with his old best friends, Ricky and Doughboy. Throughout the film, Tre, Ricky and Doughboy face trepidations that are beyond rough, such as racism, gang violence and even death, simply because of the neighborhood that they live in. Boyz n the Hood represents teen angst in a more unique way than any other movie has done before. The three teens long to escape their home-town neighborhood, Crenshaw, but contrary to other movies with a similar want from young teens, these boys long to leave due to a never ending cycle of gang violence that implements fear. The film also focuses on rough relationships with families and attempting to navigate the love life of a high school teen. 

Thirteen (2003)

Thirteen, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, follows two thirteen-year-olds, Tracy Freeland and Evie Zamora, as they encounter different obstacles that they are exposed to at an extremely young age. After Tracy, an academic, sweet and overachieving outcast, meets Evie, a wild child, Tracy begins to explore things that she never had before, such as drugs, sexuality and shoplifting. Along with these rough experiences, Tracy also has a rough home life and a rough relationship with her mother, Melanie. As the film progresses, Tracy dives deeper into destructive tendencies, such as self harm and develops an eating disorder. Thirteen perfectly represents teen angst in the fact that Tracy, much like many other teenagers, tries things she would have never before simply because she wants to fit in with a certain crowd. In my opinion, Thirteen does an amazing job of showing that anyone, at any age can go down a dark path if they are heavily exposed to a rough lifestyle.

Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird is the most relatable movie I have ever watched in my life. Directed by Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird has become one of my all time favorite movies and feels so timeless I continue to come back to it almost every day. As Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson goes through her senior year of high school in “the Midwest of California,” yearning for adventure and a life on the East Coast, learning how to navigate her relationships; whether it be with boys, her best friend, Julie, or her anxiety-ridden and tough loving mother. Through Lady Bird’s character, I have found extreme comfort as she is someone who is exactly like me. For the good, she is smart, spunky, and adventurous. For the worse, she is awkward, insecure, and can be manipulative and unreliable in search of that adventure. Lady Bird is a great example of teen angst: trying to get as much out of senior year as possible while wanting to leave town and never come back and rebelling against a nervous mother who she feels is “holding her back”.

Election (1999)

Alexander Payne’s Election has everything someone could ever want in a movie: Reese Witherspoon, Matthew Broderick, political commentary, and comedy. Set in the middle of Student Council elections with a few different side plots, Election details the story of government teacher Jim trying to find who he is as he goes through a midlife crisis and helps influence the election. Tracy knows she has got the position of student body president under lock, but Jim knows how unethical she is and convinces injured football star Paul to run against her. This now becomes a popularity contest and a competition for Tracy to learn how to take failure. Paul’s little sister, Tammy, also decides to run, solely on the basis of getting back at both her brother and ex-girlfriend and decides that her campaign will be based on the fact that student government is stupid. While Tammy attempts to find comfort in her sexuality and Tracy is distraught over elections, Jim is worried about his own relationships with his wife and Tracy after his best friend resigned due to a relationship with a student.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

John Hughes’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is my favorite movie of all time and the ultimate example of senioritis. Ferris creates an elaborate plan to skip school one more time before he graduates: he fakes an illness, sets everything up in his room to seem as though he is still there, and explores Chicago for the day. He convinces his best friend, Cameron, to come along, and tags along his girlfriend, Sloane, into the plan as well. While avoiding his father in Chicago, his twin sister, Jeanie, and his principal search for him at home, both of them having a deep desire to bring down the guy everyone loves. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off includes one of the best mottos for life as well: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Dazed and Confused (1993)

With what I consider to be the best opening to a movie and soundtrack of all time, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused is the perfect “no plot with a plot” movie: Randy “Pink” Floyd trying to rebel against his football coaches by not signing an oath to abstain from non-soberness in the midst of hazing incoming freshmen, partying, and buying tickets to see Aerosmith. As the plot progresses, Pink tries to figure out who he is; does he love this town? Was high school fun? Freshmen Mitch and Sabrina, on the other hand, make friends with the seniors post-hazing and have the night of their lives party-hopping and experiencing their first romances. This movie feels like the definition of carefree, with the seniors’ only worry being who to hang out with next. Another great movie to watch pre-graduation and one of my favorites of all time. 

Booksmart (2019)

What I like to call “Dazed and Confused but with depth,” Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart is the perfect movie to watch before you graduate high school; the story of overachieving best friends Amy and Molly trying to cram four years’ worth of high school adventure into the night before graduation. After a culture shock in the bathroom on the last day of school, they become dead set on breaking the status quo by attending that night’s rager thrown by senior class Vice President Nick. With a couple side adventures that include eating drug-infused strawberries and trying to rob a serial killer, as well as Amy trying to find security in her sexuality, Booksmart is a perfect example of teen angst and breaking the status quo.

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society tells the story of enthusiastic English teacher John Keating teaching his students his life motto: “Carpe diem”, translated to “Seize the day”. As these students learn in an otherwise boring environment, cooped up at an uptight boarding school, the boys find a sense of relief from the pressure placed on them and do what they are taught: seize the day, especially for Neil Perry, who wants to do everything he can to show his father he is his own person. The students discover themselves and express their angst towards their parents and school by reciting poetry at midnight and pursuing their dreams. 

Persepolis (2007)

The autobiographical tale of Marjane Satrapi living as a rebellious teenager in 1980s Iran, Persepolis is not only a great angst movie, but a great first foreign film. Told through animation instead of live action, Satrapi rebels multiple times against the government she does not see fit to rule by wearing makeup, holding hands with a significant other, and expressing left-wing ideas. Sent to Austria to re-evaluate her behavior with the support of nuns and eventually making her way around Europe, Satrapi tells the sad and empowering story of her time from being a child to a young adult.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Another movie directed by John Hughes, The Breakfast Club stars Brat Pack core members Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, and Ally Sheedy as their characters break stereotypes and learn more about each other while resenting society and their parents during Saturday detention. Throughout the movie, they become closer, sharing more secrets about themselves and things they know they’ll never tell anyone else, and avoid the antics of their principal. Though they know they’ll probably never talk again, they confide in each other and seek advice and eventually have one of the greatest dance scenes in film history. This is a perfect example of teen angst and I find it to be a very relatable movie, because at the end of the day, we are all just people who share more similarities than differences and we just want to be appreciated by our peers and parents. 

Project X (2012)

Nima Nourizadeh’s Project X can only be described as a review I saw on Letterboxd one time: “This is what you hallucinate when you make tea with a frat bro’s shower water.” Three seniors make it their mission to become the coolest kids in school by throwing the greatest party their school has ever seen. While lacking in depth, respect, and a takeaway message, it gives the same idea Booksmart and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off does: get as much out of high school as possible. Possibly the worst party film ever made, Project X is a good one to watch when you feel rebellious and have nothing better to do.