Besides having one of the most iconic musical scenes of all time (thank you, Peter Gabriel), Say Anything is a teen romance that treats its leads like mature individuals. And... it has John Cusack at his best.
Reese Witherspoon truly announced herself to the world in Election opposite Matthew Broderick. It stands out because it's from the brilliant mind of Alexander Payne (who went on to make Sideways and The Descendants).
You may sense a theme here, great directors getting their start making teen movies. Cameron Crowe wrote Fast Times at Ridgemont High and that could explain why it's so smart, savvy... and absolutely entertaining.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is another example of how the teen movie genre can be powerful if it gives its characters something real to feel. In fact, few movies give their characters the emotional power of this film.
10 Things I Hate About You broke stereotypes left and right with its portrayal of high schoolers and their emotional rollercoasters. Perhaps because it was based on Shakespeare it could avoid teen movie potholes?!
John Hughes was a master at capturing the reality of being a teen, without ever talking down to his audience. Ferris Bueller Day's Off was good fun, but it also delved deeper into what it means to be a teen.
There is a reason that The Breakfast Club is the king of all teen movies. Sure, there are the archetypes, but that's what John Hughes wants you to see... Diving deeper, these characters are as real as movies can portray.
Brandon: Do you wanna go out with me? Olive Penderghast: Brandon, just a couple of hours ago you told me you were gay. Brandon: You said I should pretend to be straight. Olive Penderghast: I didn't mean with me! Brandon: I am tormented every day at school. Just one good, imaginary fling.