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The Teen Movie Bracket

It’s time to debate the ins and outs of one of Hollywood’s best, most enjoyable genres

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Tied to the 20th anniversary of Bring It On, we hereby dub the next five days Teen Movie Week. Dig up your varsity jacket, pull up to your cafeteria table, and relive your adolescence as we celebrate the best coming-of-age movies ever made.


The one where the teen skips school. The one where the teen goes from homeschooled outcast to queen bee. The one where the teen ruins prom. The one where the teens fall in love and die together. (Shakespeare was hella dramatic, man.)

From Rebel Without a Cause, to the genre’s first heyday in the ’80s, to the late ’90s resurgence, to today’s Netflix-led charge, there have been a lot of teen movies. Perhaps it’s because the genre is so malleable—the teen experience can be welded into a number of other genres. Perhaps it’s because the teen movie audience is a continually replenishing resource—to steal the idea of a wise man: Time goes on, they stay the same age. Or perhaps it’s because the people who make these movies—and the people who watch them—want nothing more than to remember the days of innocence, self-discovery, and freedom. Adolescence, in all its wonder and terror, is something we all go through in one way or another.

But as The Ringer has been wont to do in this moment when we’ve all been stuck at home, with ample time for spirited debate and friendly argument, we now pose a question: With the 20th anniversary of Bring It On approaching on Tuesday, we ask: What is the best teen movie? Welcome to the Teen Movie Bracket.

Isn’t it absolutely fetch?

Before we get to the voting, here’s how the field of 64 was assembled. First, there were some ground rules:

  • As you’ll see (and surely tweet at us about), we used a fairly loose definition of “teen movie.” It was more of a Justice Potter Stewart approach: You know it when you see it. But generally, the movies included had to feature teenage protagonists and deal at least a little bit with the adolescent experience.
  • The parodies—namely, Scary Movie and Not Another Teen Movie—were not included. There are too many actual teen movies to consider the movies that exist solely to make fun of them.

For the selection process, members of the Ringer staff were asked to compile their own personal character rankings. From those results, seeding was calculated from 1 to 64. Characters were then sorted into four regions: High School Drama, Teens Are Terrifying, Next Stop: Adulthood, and What’s Your Damage? If you’ve seen more than one teen movie in your life, the regions ought to be fairly self-explanatory. Sorting the movies into each region was done as literally as possible, though in the cases in which movies arguably fit into multiple regions, they were placed so as to ensure the most parity across the categories. Difficult decisions had to be made—I would like to personally apologize to 2000s-era Mandy Moore—but expanding the field would have been an insult to our Top 64. These are your finalists—surely, the Best Teen Movie is within this group.

But that’s up to you to decide. For each round, you can vote here on the website, on Twitter, and on Instagram every day till 6 p.m. ET, through Friday. Voting will go as follows:

Monday: Round of 64
Tuesday: Round of 32
Wednesday: Sweet 16
Thursday: Elite Eight
Friday a.m.: Final Four
Friday p.m.: Championship
Saturday: Winner revealed

Now let’s get to the best of each region.

High School Drama

Most Intriguing Matchup: (5) Varsity Blues vs. (12) Rebel Without a Cause

It’s the Beek versus the Dean. It’s the tale of a Texas kid who hates his parents versus the tale of an L.A. kid who hates his parents. It’s “I don’t want your life!” versus “You’re tearing me apart!”

It’s interesting to think about: Should you choose the movie that partially defined the late-’90s boom, or should you choose the movie that’s partially responsible for laying out the parameters of the entire genre? West Canaan, Texas, or Griffith Observatory? Whipped-cream bikinis or hot rods? These are questions I leave to you.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    (5) ‘Varsity Blues’
    (9688 votes)
  • 33%
    (12) ‘Rebel Without a Cause’
    (4844 votes)
14532 votes total Vote Now

Movie That Got Screwed: (9) Say Anything …

The movie that gave us Lloyd Dobler—an apex teen movie protagonist—and the boombox scene has a tough road, to say the least. First up is George Lucas’s seminal classic American Graffiti, and from there things just get harder: a potential date with 1-seed Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Fast Times at Ridgemont High lingers as well. Say Anything ... is a tremendous teen movie, but it might not even see the second round.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    (8) ‘American Graffiti’
    (5057 votes)
  • 63%
    (9) ‘Say Anything ...’
    (8637 votes)
13694 votes total Vote Now

The Long Shot: (11) Spider-Man: Homecoming

For anyone interested in arguing that Homecoming is not a teen movie (why would you do this?), may I just say that it may be responsible for the best “teen boy meets his girlfriend’s parents” scene in teen movie history. That reveal alone makes it worthy of its appearance here. As for why it could disrupt this entire bracket, well, a couple of things. First, have you heard of the MCU? It has quite the following. Second, let’s just say that the teens who identify with Homecoming are A LOT more online than the people who identify with, say, The Breakfast Club.

Also, in Round 1 it’s going up against Back to the Future, a movie that many may not even consider to be a teen movie. Truly, it is many other things: a sci-fi movie, a time-travel movie, an incest movie. The fact that Back to the Future slots into so many genres—coupled with Homecoming’s aforementioned fan base—could easily hamper its chances.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    (6) ‘Back to the Future’
    (12920 votes)
  • 18%
    (11) ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’
    (3002 votes)
15922 votes total Vote Now

Upset Special: (14) She’s All That vs. (3) 10 Things I Hate About You

This matchup is just straight-up unfair. For the record, She’s All That fell so far in seeding because it’s a problematic, misogynistic mess that somehow aged worse than Cruel Intentions. But I concede that that sort of thing may not have much bearing in national elections. And it’s hard to argue that She’s All That isn’t one of the most notable teen movies ever made: Freddie Prinze Jr., Paul Walker, the Real World subplot, the whole “everyone realizes girl is pretty after she takes off her glasses” trope, Usher as a high school DJ—I could go on.

That said, 10 Things I Hate About You is a perfect movie and you would be wrong to vote for She’s All That over it. But I know this one is a toss-up, seeding be damned.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    (3) ‘10 Things I Hate About You’
    (12178 votes)
  • 19%
    (14) ‘She’s All That’
    (2915 votes)
15093 votes total Vote Now

The Rest of the Matchups

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 82%
    (1) ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’
    (13487 votes)
  • 17%
    (16) ‘Napoleon Dynamite’
    (2825 votes)
16312 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    (4) ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’
    (10563 votes)
  • 31%
    (13) ‘Friday Night Lights’
    (4817 votes)
15380 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    (7) ‘House Party’
    (3689 votes)
  • 75%
    (10) ‘The Karate Kid’
    (11091 votes)
14780 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    (2) ‘The Breakfast Club’
    (14459 votes)
  • 7%
    (15) ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’
    (1211 votes)
15670 votes total Vote Now

Teens Are Terrifying

Most Intriguing Matchup: (7) It Follows vs. (10) The Craft

One is a fascinating allegory for sexually transmitted disease; one is about a coven of budding witches. Both are terrific movies that capture the pains and horror of teen life, particularly female teen life. You can’t go wrong with voting on this one.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    (7) ‘It Follows’
    (5354 votes)
  • 55%
    (10) ‘The Craft’
    (6779 votes)
12133 votes total Vote Now

Movie That Got Screwed: (3) Election

As an employee of the company behind Binge Mode, I’ve been able to see the sort of fanaticism that Harry Potter inspires. Its fans are certainly more active online than the [checks notes] Election fans. I haven’t fact-checked this, but I’m pretty sure there are no Election-themed websites where you can run for high school office (among other things). Getting matched up with Goblet of Fire is a major blow for Election, an expertly crafted teen dark comedy. I know it’s the better teen movie. I also know how online polls work.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    (3) ‘Election’
    (8605 votes)
  • 43%
    (14) ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’
    (6501 votes)
15106 votes total Vote Now

The Long Shot: (14) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

See above. But also, for anyone who has beef with our including Goblet of Fire, let me stop you—it is definitely a teen movie. There is a high school dance, there are heartthrobs, everyone is going through puberty, everyone is extremely angsty, and everyone has bad haircuts.

Upset Special: (16) Twilight vs. (1) Scream

Maybe I’m just traumatized by The Ringer’s previous brackets—in which wild shit happened like Cartman almost winning and Gob Bluth bots hacking the polls—but I could see this happening. Please prove me wrong. Please prove that democracy works.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 85%
    (1) ‘Scream’
    (13158 votes)
  • 14%
    (16) ‘Twilight’
    (2165 votes)
15323 votes total Vote Now

The Rest of the Matchups

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    (8) ‘Kids’
    (6270 votes)
  • 49%
    (9) ‘Eighth Grade’
    (6184 votes)
12454 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    (5) ‘Carrie’
    (9355 votes)
  • 28%
    (12) ‘Spring Breakers’
    (3748 votes)
13103 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    (4) ‘Cruel Intentions’
    (11321 votes)
  • 15%
    (13) ‘The Faculty’
    (2036 votes)
13357 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    (6) ‘Rushmore’
    (10701 votes)
  • 15%
    (11) ‘Chronicle’
    (2029 votes)
12730 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    (2) ‘Heathers’
    (9924 votes)
  • 22%
    (15) ‘Blockers’
    (2909 votes)
12833 votes total Vote Now

Next Stop: Adulthood

Most Intriguing Matchup: (6) Grease vs. (11) Risky Business

All right, so first of all, maybe Grease doesn’t seem like a movie about teenagers—because all of the actors look 40—but I promise it is. It tells a great love story about a girl who can’t inhale and a guy who somehow has never heard of basketball; it’s a story in which the moral is that dudes love leather and changing yourself is the key to finding happiness.

Anyway, this is a great matchup because it pairs two classics of yore that feature iconic actors at their most Teen. John Travolta in the leather jacket versus Tom Cruise in the tighty-whities. Let’s do this.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    (6) ‘Grease’
    (7479 votes)
  • 48%
    (11) ‘Risky Business’
    (7021 votes)
14500 votes total Vote Now

Movie That Got Screwed: (4) Can’t Hardly Wait

There’s no real way around this. This is just a stacked region, from Superbad to Dazed and Confused to even double-digit seeds like The Outsiders and Romeo + Juliet. Can’t Hardly Wait is an excellent teen movie that has a final four spot in my heart, but unfortunately I don’t see it wading through all of these heavy hitters.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    (4) ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’
    (8190 votes)
  • 43%
    (13) ‘21 Jump Street’
    (6321 votes)
14511 votes total Vote Now

The Long Shot: (5) American Pie

Can a 5-seed be a long shot? Perhaps not. But considering the quality of the top seeds in this region, I think it’s fair to say that American Pie making it out of this thing would be an upset. That said, I can see it happening. The movie was highly successful and is highly memorable, the peak and logical conclusion of the teen movie’s sexual acceleration in the late ’90s. It featured an iconic teen movie character in Stifler. It turned Jason Biggs—Jason Biggs—into a star. It made “One time at band camp …” a common phrase. And it’s also one of the only teen movies to prominently feature lacrosse. More teen movies should do this. It’s a very teen movie-ish sport.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    (5) ‘American Pie’
    (11566 votes)
  • 22%
    (12) ‘The Outsiders’
    (3283 votes)
14849 votes total Vote Now

Upset Special: (15) The Perks of Being a Wallflower vs. (2) Dazed and Confused

LOL, just kidding.

Quite honestly, this bracket looks pretty chalk to me. (Famous last words before everything descends into chaos.)

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    (2) ‘Dazed and Confused’
    (12599 votes)
  • 13%
    (15) ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’
    (1993 votes)
14592 votes total Vote Now

The Rest of the Matchups

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 95%
    (1) ‘Superbad’
    (14322 votes)
  • 4%
    (16) ‘Dope’
    (633 votes)
14955 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    (8) ‘Adventureland’
    (8210 votes)
  • 36%
    (9) ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’
    (4755 votes)
12965 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 85%
    (3) ‘Boyz n the Hood’
    (11016 votes)
  • 14%
    (14) ‘Brick’
    (1915 votes)
12931 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    (7) ‘Juice’
    (4389 votes)
  • 64%
    (10) ‘Romeo + Juliet’
    (8088 votes)
12477 votes total Vote Now

What’s Your Damage?

Most Intriguing Matchup: (6) Easy A vs. (11) The Virgin Suicides

Both great movies that approach the trials and injustices that young women face in very different ways. Which one you prefer probably says more about you than the movies themselves.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    (6) ‘Easy A’
    (10800 votes)
  • 19%
    (11) ‘The Virgin Suicides’
    (2696 votes)
13496 votes total Vote Now

Movie That Got Screwed: (2) Clueless

First of all, Clueless getting bumped off the one-line by Mean Girls is a tough beat. I can’t argue with anyone complaining that those movies should be switched. But beyond that, Clueless’s road to the final four could potentially include a Molly Ringwald classic, a movie that was up for Best Picture just a few years ago, and then absolute hits like Bring It On and the aforementioned Mean Girls. It’s hard out here for a Valley Girl.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 98%
    (2) ‘Clueless’
    (14052 votes)
  • 1%
    (15) ‘The Kissing Booth’
    (263 votes)
14315 votes total Vote Now

The Long Shot: (9) Booksmart

One of the sleeper hits of 2019, a movie whose excellence just recently propelled Olivia Wilde into the director’s chair for a new Spider-Woman movie. It’ll be interesting to see how far recency bias might take this one. It has the potential to be a disruptor in this region.

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    (8) ‘Juno’
    (9392 votes)
  • 34%
    (9) ‘Booksmart’
    (4918 votes)
14310 votes total Vote Now

Upset Special: (12) She’s the Man vs. (5) Dirty Dancing

She’s the Man has Amanda Bynes at the peak of her powers, a young Channing Tatum, and a plot adapted from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (and everyone knows that the best teen movies come from classic British works). Couple that with the fact that Dirty Dancing is another teen movie that doesn’t quite seem like a teen movie because of the age of its actors, and you’ve got a real shot at an upset. (Which I’d be fine with, by the way—She’s the Man is an underrated gem.)

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    (5) ‘Dirty Dancing’
    (8903 votes)
  • 34%
    (12) ‘She’s the Man’
    (4724 votes)
13627 votes total Vote Now

The Rest of the Matchups

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 93%
    (1) ‘Mean Girls’
    (13618 votes)
  • 6%
    (16) ‘Ghost World’
    (989 votes)
14607 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    (4) ‘Bring It On’
    (12121 votes)
  • 7%
    (13) ‘An Education’
    (1043 votes)
13164 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    (3) ‘Lady Bird’
    (8178 votes)
  • 39%
    (14) ‘The Princess Diaries’
    (5412 votes)
13590 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which teen movie should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    (7) ‘Pretty in Pink’
    (9691 votes)
  • 23%
    (10) ‘The Edge of Seventeen’
    (3027 votes)
12718 votes total Vote Now

The Rewatchables

‘Dirty Work’ With Bill Simmons and Sean Fennessey

Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air

The Life and Legacy of Muhammad Ali With Ken Burns

Tea Time

Keke Palmer Stans, ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again,’ and Bella Hadid’s New Beverage

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