5 Unusual movies and their portrayals of teenage angst


Most of us know all about teenage angst, the existential horror that is growing up. If you don’t, consider yourself very lucky. But some movies take it a step further, showcasing the teenage years in a unique and intriguing way that we don’t see often. Such is the case with these 5 movies, which gives you an original, and sometimes uncomfortable insight into the lives of young adults. Here are five unusual movies about teenagers that you have to watch!

Elephant (2003)

Elephant a raw movie about teenage angst

Elephant focuses on the question “Why?” and is about murders committed by young people. The movie loosely brings up the fatal shots in Columbine and director Gus van Sant builds up a story that offers no answers but still sucks you in and refuses to let go.

The film shows a number of young people hours before a school shooting, and during the act itself. We get to see early on how the future perpetrators trudge into the school, but it will be a while until we see the result of it. Scenes are repeated several times from several people’s points of view, all the while a doomsday feeling rests heavily over the film.

We follow normal teenagers going about their day, knowing that violence awaits them, we watch the tragedy slowly unfold. The cinematography is unique and beautiful, and with the camera tracking one person at a time, we watch as distant observers. This is not a movie for everyone, it doesn’t have a clear distinction between good and evil, nor a narrative that follows the classical beginning, middle, end. Elephant is an art film that asks more questions than it answers.

Ghost World (2001)

Ghost World entering adulthood

Ghost World might be on the top ten list of movies I’ve watched the most times, involuntarily though, as my sister played the VHS on repeat (seriously, day in and day out) when we were young teenagers. It was kind of a “eyes-bent-open-clock-work-orange”-moment for me, which is why it took me many years to revisit it willingly. But I’m glad I did. Now I can finally understand why my older sister loved it so much.

Enid and Rebecca are two cynical 18-year-olds who spend their days belittling the world around them. Messing with people is part of their fun, which is why they respond to a personal ad in the newspaper for fun and end up meeting cd collector Seymour. Enid quickly becomes fascinated by Seymour and his look on life. The friends used to do everything together, but are now drifting more and more apart.

Terry Zwigoff brings to life the complex main character from Daniel Clove’s cult comic of the same name, and the result is a sad, funny and sharp film about entering, or perhaps rather, trying to avoid adulthood. Ghost World tells the story of leaving the teenage years behind with intense yet painful humor. It’s a movie about teenage angst, feeling left out and finding belonging, painted with melancholic tranquility.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Moonrise Kingdom teenage angst and young love

There’s no mistaking a Wes Anderson movie, with few directors being as recognizable in their cinematography as him. Each frame in Anderson’s films offers a perfect composition of its content and an unmistakable color-aesthetic. But Anderson’s films offer more than just style, which he proved in Moonrise Kingdom.

How can one not fall in love with a movie featuring sunday school shoes, a portable CD player, young love and children on the run? That’s exactly what Moonrise Kingdom is about. The year is 1965 and nothing will ever be the same when 12 year old Sam decides to run away from the strictly controlled scout camp he’s meant to spend his summer break at. Outside the camp is equally young Suzy, the twin soul and first human Sam met who is worth sacrificing everything for.

Wes Anderson focuses on the younger generation in this film, but it is by no means a kids-film. Moonrise Kingdom is the epic tale of two individuals discovering love and freedom together in the wild. The movie gives you constant eye candy with each scene being visually stunning. In addition to the exquisite cinematography and wonderful use of music, the film is highlighted by a bunch of superb child actors.

Thoroughbreds (2017)

Thoroughbreds 2017 scene

What happens when two privileged teenage girls with too much money to spend and questionable morals start challenging each other? This is what first-time director Cory Finley brilliantly examines in his first feature film, Thoroughbreds, a movie that marks the final role for Anton Yelchin who died just 14 days after completing filming.

The story centers on Amanda and Lily who reluctantly become friends after Lily is hired to help Amanda with her homework. Both girls are emotionally odd, with Amanda edging on antisocial and Lily swiftly going from cold to warm in a heartbeat. Instead of tending to schoolwork a plan for revenge is formed, aimed at Lily’s stepfather, whose autocratic presence looms heavily over the lives of Lily and her mother. Wouldn’t life just be better if he didn’t exist?

Thoroughbreds is a movie with many stylistically stripped-down scenes that add to the emotional sterile feel of the characters. An unnerving, funny and dark depiction of generational conflicts as well as many elements of social condemnation and teenage angst. The acting is superb and what holds the movie through the slow but well-executed suspense.

Mysterious Skin (2004)

Mysterious Skin trauma and growing up

Director Gregg Araki really proved himself to be someone who doesn’t shy away from an uncomfortable subject with this brilliant drama. Mysterious Skin is a hard movie to watch as it bravely takes on a controversial subject. But it does so with absolute brilliance, with Joseph Gordon-Levittki and Gregg ArBrady Corbet’s powerful portrayal of the characters’ emotions.

Mysterious Skin begins with a rainstorm in the summer of 1981. Brian is an eight-year-old who suffers a blackout on the baseball fields. He wakes up with a nosebleed, but with no memory of what happened or how he got there. As the years go by, he becomes more and more convinced it was an alien abduction and seeks friendship and answers in fellow UFO-nerd Avalyn. It’s not until much later when he contacts his childhood friend Neil, now a fine-tuned gay hustler in New York, that pieces of their childhood fall into place.

Mysterious Skin is an incredibly touching story about two young boys trying to interpret things in their lives that they don’t fully understand. A depiction of how something painful can affect two individuals in completely different ways. A gripping tragedy that really deals with the effects of abuse realistically, regardless of how raw, provocative and gut-wrenching that may feel. I can’t recommend this masterpiece enough.

Written By


I've always had a deep love and fascination for movies, being an especially strong advocate for the weird, foreign, underrated, under-budgeted and unfairly NC17 rated films of our world. Cinesister is the embodiment of this passion (which some might call an obsession).

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