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Top 10 Teen Summer Movies

Script written by Nick Spake These are the best teen summer movies! For this list, we’re taking a look at the best movies that primarily take place during the summertime and center on a teenage cast. We’ve included movies like High School Musical 2, The Way, Way Back, I know What You Did Last Summer, The Kings of Summer, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and more!

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Top 10 Teen Summer Movies

Ah...those summer nights. Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Teen Summer Movies.

For this list, we’re taking a look at the best movies that primarily take place during the summertime and center on a cast of teenagers. Teenagers don't necessarily need to represent the entire cast of the films in question, but the protagonists and plotlines should reflect and be directed at a young adult demographic, meaning college-age is okay too.

#10: “High School Musical 2” (2007)

The sequel to the original Disney Channel phenomenon, “High School Musical 2” drew in 17.2 million viewers, becoming the most watched basic cable program of all time upon its release. Interestingly enough, the plot here shifts the focus away from East High and doesn’t actually feature a school musical. So… kind of a misleading title. But who cares? What matters is that our favorite Wildcats are back with a slew of catchy new songs, all of which come complete with a refreshing summer spin. The opening number in particular depicts the anticipation we all feel counting down the final minutes of the school year.

#9: “Adventureland” (2009)

Spending your summer working at an amusement park might sound like a blast, but “Adventureland” is at times an incredibly bleak dramedy. Of course that’s exactly why Greg Mottola’s film is so universally relatable. For Jesse Eisenberg’s James, the titular Adventureland acts as a purgatory of sorts as he struggles to transition from college to grad school. While his summer is filled with disappointment and uncertainty, James also finds love and gains real world experience. Along the way, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig inject some welcome humor. In addition to capturing the spirit of summer, the film is also full of 80s vibes, complete with nostalgic throwbacks and a retro soundtrack.

#8: “The Way, Way Back” (2013)

Played by Liam James, Duncan appears to be in store for a rough summer as his mother drags him to Cape Cod with her mean-spirited boyfriend. Fortunately, our protagonist uncovers a safe haven at Water Wizz, which (fun fact) is actually a real-life water park. While there, he finds a mentor in Sam Rockwell’s Owen, who’s at once wise and immature. As the socially awkward Duncan begins to come out of his shell, he also develops an adorable romance with AnnaSophia Robb’s character Susanna. Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, “The Way, Way Back” puts a fresh spin on familiar coming-of-age themes, winning audiences over with heart, humor, and an exceptional cast.

#7: “American Pie 2” (2001)

The first “American Pie” is often cited as the film that brought back the teen sex comedy. This sequel sees our characters take the next step towards adulthood as they spend their summer at a beach house. The film is of course filled with all the gross-out gags one would expect, especially with Seann William Scott’s Stifler getting a larger role. The humor once again finds just the right balance of being hilarious and cringe-worthy. Like its predecessor, “American Pie 2” also catches the audience off-guard with some of its sweeter, more poignant moments. Underneath the raunchy jokes, there’s still time for some genuine romance and life lessons, elevating it above your average sex comedy.

#6: “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (1997)

There’s something about summer and the slasher genre that just go hand in hand. No film better exemplifies this than “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” which centers on a group of recent high school graduates who accidentally run someone over with their car. A year after the accident, our protagonists are haunted by a mysterious figure who knows their dirty little secret. While the plot admittedly has too many holes to count, the film does create a foreboding sense of dread that captures the summer season at its most sinister. The film also brought together some of the era’s biggest teen idols, including Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr.

#5: “The Kings of Summer” (2013)

At some point during our youth, we all likely thought about running away from home and living in the wilderness. For most of us, this never became anything more than a daydream. In “The Kings of Summer,” however, three young adults make their childish fantasy a reality, building a home in the woods. While the premise might sound preposterous, the emotions Joe, Patrick, and Biaggio experience ring surprisingly true. Touching upon strained parental relationships, love triangles, and growing pains, the film uncovers a great deal of honesty against a quirky backdrop. Think “Stand by Me” meets “Ed, Edd n Eddy.” The woodland setting additionally reminds us that our best summer memories often take place outdoors.

#4: “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” (2005)

When four best friends are separated over the summer, they remain bonded through a pair of pants that magically fits them all. Based on that corny premise and the even cornier title, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” might not seem like anything special. You can’t always judge a book by its cover, however, and this adaptation of Ann Brashares’ bestseller is rich with meaningful themes about family, loss, and growing up. At the center of everything is a sincere story of friendship with Alexis Bledel, Blake Lively, America Ferrera, and Amber Tamblyn all turning in authentic performances. The result is essentially four summer movies for the price of one.

#3: “Dirty Dancing” (1987)

In addition to being one of the definitive dance movies, “Dirty Dancing” is also one of the most iconic films ever made about summer love. The romance in question revolves around a rich girl called Baby, played by Jennifer Grey, and a hunky dance instructor named Johnny, played by Patrick Swayze. While they come from different backgrounds, these two never miss a step together on the dance floor. The story isn’t anything revolutionary, but the film stands out thanks to the sensational music, dancing, and chemistry between the leads. If you’re looking for an old classic to watch during the dog days of summer, this is one you wouldn’t want to leave in the corner.

#2: “Dazed and Confused” (1993)

This cult classic is light on plot, but heavy on character and atmosphere. Writer/director Richard Linklater sets his film in 1976 on the last day of school and the movie’s tone fits that sentiment to a T. Much like the beginning of summer, “Dazed and Confused” feels like a wild party that’s just getting started. In the same vein of a lazy summer day, however, the film is also very laid back as our characters drive around, listen to music, and make casual small talk. Rather than following a conventional three-act structure, Linklater immerses us in a carefree state that simply screams summertime. The movie is a vacation from reality, allowing the audience to cut loose.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“The Baby-Sitters Club” (1995)

“Camp Rock” (2008)

“Blue Crush” (2002)

#1: “American Graffiti” (1973)

Where “Dazed and Confused” took place on the last day of school, “American Graffiti” is set in 1962 on the last day of summer. Having recently graduated from high school, this marks both the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter for our main characters. Some see this as an opportunity to go out with a big bang. Others begin to rethink their futures, realizing they may be taking the wrong path. They make the most of their final evening together as the clock winds down. Earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, George Lucas’ film proved just how adult a teen movie could be.


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