There are not enough movies about teen girls that aren’t about a romance, but are just about girls being girls, doing girl stuff (a.k.a. doing stuff.) Not that movies with a romance plot are bad, but we also want to see movies where girls go on adventures, get into trouble, save their town, etc.
None of the movies on this list are perfectly feminist, and most of them do not have good representation of POC. By recommending these movies I am not endorsing everything about them. They all have their problems. But I think these movies are the cream that has risen to the top of the teen girl films we have available to us and, imo, they are all fun to watch.
I’m breaking this list down into several different themes, so you can find something to fit your mood:
Penelope – Okay, Penelope isn’t about a teenage girl (she supposed to be 25) and it is a romantic comedy. What is it doing on this list? I don’t know! Except it is a funny little movie with Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catherine O’Hara, and Peter Dinklage. Penelope is a take on the classic fairy tale trope of a girl who is cursed and needs true love’s kiss the break the spell. But, you can safely assume, that if I am recommending it to you, that there is more to it than that. 🙂
Hairspray – is a 1988 John Water’s musical. Like Grease it is set in a high school in the 1960s, but Hairspray is about obesity and race segregation. This is cult director John Waters’ most mainstream movie, yet still quite a weird film. Here is the original trailer. I know they remade Hairspray in the 2000’s and it was pretty fun and worth watching. But the original has Sono Bono, Ricki Lake, Debbie Harry (Blondie), not to mention actor, singer, and drag queen, Divine.
Girls Winning the World:
Pitch Perfect – College girls in an all girls-acapella group with POC, LGBT, and overweight characters? Yes, thank you. Pitch Perfect is fun, and I don’t know why I didn’t see it sooner, except that I don’t think I realized what kind of movie it was from the trailers. Some compare it to Bridesmaids and I see why, it’s got that whole Hilarious Pack of Girls Being Hilarious thing going on. Here is a review of Pitch Perfect at Btchflcks that compares it to 3rd wave feminism. You might wait until after you have seen the film to read that review because it does have spoilers.
We are the Best! – Set in 1980s Stolkholm, Sweden, We Are the Best! follows the adventures of three girls in their early teens who decide to start a Punk Rock band despite having no instruments. This movie will make you feel awesome, and possibly inspire you to get a mohawk. Here is the trailer.
Mean Girls – There is this classic trope that girls are catty and mean to each other. Anyone that ever went to middle school knows this trope is based in reality. But tv shows and movies would have us think that all girls are really back-bitey, gossipy, and cruel and that is not the case. I have a middle school aged girl and she and her friends are great together! The reality is that girls and women are each others best friends. They can and do stand with each other and take care of each other. That being said, Mean Girls is hilarious, clever, and very quotable.
Heathers – the proto-mean girls movie. Heathers isn’t really a movie about teen girls “doing stuff” so much as it is a satire about the mean popular girls. Or maybe it is a revenge fantasy. Either way, I feel like Heathers should be watched and enjoyed by everyone.
Like a Boss:
Clueless – Clueless is the best movie version of a Jane Austen movie. (Colin Firth just died of shock and then rolled over in this grave. “Don’t worry, Colin! I said movie version, your version is still the best mini-series.”) Clueless is very loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, with Alicia Silverstone as Cher (Emma). Cher is rich, beautiful, and popular, but she is not dumb, or mean. Cher gets herself into silly and funny adventures, but Cher and the movie, also have heart. There is a romantic subplot with Cher’s step-brother Josh (Mr. Knightley), who is played by a young Paul Rudd. *swoon*.
Dick – Two teenaged girls get embroiled in the Watergate scandal? Silly? Definitely and so are the main characters (Kristen Dunst and Michelle Williams) but that is okay. Girls don’t always have to be smart. They are just regular teenaged girls who go rollerskating, have crushes, and work as dog walkers for President Nixon. Is the film feminist? I could make a argument for that, especially with lines like, ““You can’t let Dick run your life!”
Ginger Snaps – Ginger Snaps is a hilarious, twisted, not very scary (until the end), horror movie about two sister who are obsessed with death. It’s a feminist werewolf movie where lycanthropy is an analogy for menstruation and female sexuality. I love Ginger Snaps!
The Woods – You’ve probably never heard of The Woods but it is one of my favorite horror movies. I’ve probably seen it six times. The Woods is set in an all-girls boarding school in the 1960s. There are secrets, mysterious societies, a creepy school, scary nightmares, vintage outfits, retro music, and girls, girls, nothing but girls (and, kind of surprisingly, a little bit of Bruce Campbell.) The Woods isn’t very scary but it has a delectable aesthetic and a great mystery. The ending is a little wackadoodle but it is not too bad. The Woods is all about teen girls doing girl stuff, if by “girl stuff’ you mean, “creepy tree magic in the woods.”
Sexuality and Gender
But I’m a Cheerleader – Came out (see what I did there?) in 1999 and stars Natasha Lyonne (Nicky from Orange is the New Black) as a cheerleader whose parents send her to a conversion therapy camp to cure her of lesbianism. It’s a satirical comedy with some tender moments. It is, in many ways, a conventional romantic story, but one that explores gender theory.
Easy A – Some feminists like this movie, some really don’t. I agree it is not perfect, but it is cute (like Emma Stone), and funny (like Emma Stone), and makes you think about slut-shaming (like… nah, not really.) Easy A riffs on The Scarlet Letter, and how female sexuality is demonized. I think the movie is trying to have a positive message but it might not go as far we would like it to.