Best Teen Films of 2018


Elsie Fisher in ‘Eighth Grade’ | A24

Teenagers generally watch a lot of garbage. The two most popular television series for teens this year are probably 13 Reasons Why, which dangerously handles the subjects of mental illness and suicide, and Riverdale, which dangerously subjects audiences to potential mental illness and suicide. Not all people, especially teenagers, want to watch a realistic, high-art depiction of their own lives, but these nuanced portrayals exist, nonetheless. Here are the best teen films of 2018.

Eighth Grade dir. Bo Burnham

This is a fascinating, naturalistic time capsule of what it means to be a Generation Z teenager in the age of technology and antisocial behavior.

Elsie Fisher and Josh Hamilton, who play the protagonist and her father respectively, are receiving awards attention from critics circles, and Burnham is receiving widespread acclaim for his writer-director work for the film, which he directed when he was 26 years old. This is Burnham’s feature film directorial debut, and he managed to create one of the most critically acclaimed American films of the year.

The film is called Eighth Grade, but the MPAA apparently doesn’t want any actual eighth graders to see the film, as it was rated R for language and some sexual material.

Amandla Stenberg in ‘The Hate U Give’ | 20th Century Fox

The Hate U Give dir. George Tillman

Police brutality, race relations, and social inequality — the perfect combination for a popcorn pleaser. The trailers and other promotional materials made this film look like a “woke” Hallmark creation, but it’s anything but. All sides are fairly represented. The messages are not exactly subtly presented and the direction is sometimes choppy, but for a studio film, no punches are pulled.

The Hate U Give is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some violent content, drug material and language. It’s worth noting that there are riots and actual death in this picture, but it still has a lower content advisory rating than Eighth Grade, a film about an ordinary eighth grader living her life.

Charlie Plummer in ‘Lean on Pete’ | A24

Lean on Pete dir. Andrew Haigh

This film is about a 15-year-old boy who embarks on a continental journey with his racehorse, who is about to die, following his actual father’s death — still less depressing than The Hate U Give.

Andrew Haigh is a force in independent filmmaking with Weekend (2011) and 45 Years (2015) being his major accomplishments. He and the main star, Charlie Plummer, are two talents to look out for.

Lean on Pete is rated R for language and brief violence. It’s still astonishing how The Hate U Give scraped by with a PG-13 rating for what is essentially one giant rolodex sociopolitical issues.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke in ‘Thoroughbreds’ | Focus Features/Universal Pictures

Thoroughbreds dir. Cory Finley

The pull quote used in all the film’s promotional materials is “American Psycho meets Heathers,” which aptly describes the entire film. For those who don’t know, American Psycho is about a serial killer, and Heathers is about teen serial killers. They are both comedies.

Thoroughbreds is rated R for disturbing behavior, bloody images, language, sexual references, and some drug content. This one deserves that R.