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20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s 

Ranker Film
Updated June 2, 2020 3.6k votes 663 voters 38.9k views 30 items

Teen movies set in the 1950s have a timeless feel that taps into universal childhood memories. The top 1950s teen movies feature stories about friendship, relationships, and becoming adults. This is a list of the top life in the 1950s films, featuring everything from The Outsiders to American Graffiti to Rebel without a Cause.

What movies will you find on this list of the best films about teenagers in the 1950s? John Waters directed two of the best with Cry-Baby and Hairspray. Both films stand out from the pack for their ability to highlight misfits, rebels, greasers, and outcasts from the era and make them the stars of the show. Peggy Sue Got Married is another great film about teens set in the 1950s. Young love is at the heart of the classic teen musical Grease, which is set in the summer and fall of 1958. Other good films featured on this best fifties teen movies list include Stand By Me, Back to the Future, and Pleasantville.

Do you have a favorite teen movie set in the 1950s? Vote your favorites up to the top, and add any great flicks that are missing.

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1
Grease is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing

Released: 1978

Directed by: Randal Kleiser

Grease is a 1978 American musical romantic comedy-drama film directed by Randal Kleiser and produced by Paramount Pictures. It is based on Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs' 1971 musical of the same ...more

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2
Back to the Future is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson

Released: 1985

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Back to the Future is a 1985 American science fiction film directed by Robert Zemeckis. Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent thirty years into ...more

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Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About Back to the Future #1 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

3
Rebel Without a Cause is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Natalie Wood, James Dean, Dennis Hopper

Released: 1955

Directed by: Nicholas Ray

Rebel Without a Cause is a 1955 American drama film about emotionally confused suburban, middle-class teenagers. The film stars James Dean, Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood. Directed by Nicholas Ray, ...more

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#1,264 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #210 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies #125 of 199 The Biggest Tearjerker Movies of All Time

4
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Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage, Diane Lane

Released: 1983

Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola

The Outsiders is a 1983 American drama film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by S. E. Hinton. The film was released on March 25, 1983. Jo Ellen ...more

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#24 of 82 The Best Film Adaptations of Young Adult Novels #65 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #56 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked

5
Stand by Me is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Feldman, John Cusack

Released: 1986

Directed by: Rob Reiner

Stand by Me is a 1986 American coming of age comedy-drama adventure film directed by Rob Reiner and starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O'Connell. Based on the novella ...more

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Behind-The-Scenes Stories From 'Stand By Me' That Prove The Film Shaped The Child Actors #36 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #11 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked

6
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Harrison Ford, Ron Howard, Suzanne Somers

Released: 1973

Directed by: George Lucas

American Graffiti is a 1973 American coming of age comedy-drama film directed and co-written by George Lucas starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford, Charles Martin ...more

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7
West Side Story is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, John Astin

Released: 1961

Directed by: Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise

West Side Story is a 1961 American romantic musical drama film directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. The film is an adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn ...more

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8
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Reese Witherspoon, Paul Walker, Tobey Maguire

Released: 1998

Directed by: Gary Ross

Pleasantville is a 1998 American fantasy comedy-drama film written, produced, and directed by Gary Ross. The film stars Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, J. T. Walsh, and ...more

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9
Cry-Baby is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Iggy Pop

Released: 1990

Directed by: John Waters

Cry-Baby is a 1990 American teen musical romantic comedy film written and directed by John Waters. It stars Johnny Depp as 1950s teen rebel "Cry-Baby" Wade Walker, and also features a ...more

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10
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Debbie Harry, Jerry Stiller, John Waters

Released: 1988

Directed by: John Waters

Hairspray is a 1988 American romantic musical comedy film written and directed by John Waters, and starring Ricki Lake, Divine, Debbie Harry, Sonny Bono, Jerry Stiller, Leslie Ann Powers, ...more

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11
Dead Poets Society is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Lara Flynn Boyle

Released: 1989

Directed by: Peter Weir

Dead Poets Society is a 1989 American drama film written by Tom Schulman, directed by Peter Weir and starring Robin Williams. Set at the conservative and aristocratic Welton Academy in the ...more

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#61 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #64 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

12
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John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Amanda Bynes

Released: 2007

Directed by: Adam Shankman

Hairspray is a 2007 American musical romantic comedy film based on the 2002 Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was based on John Waters's 1988 comedy film of the same name. Set in ...more

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Every Song in Hairspray, Ranked by Singability #29 of 377 The Best Musical Movies of All Time #171 of 804 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made

13
Peggy Sue Got Married is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Kathleen Turner

Released: 1986

Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola

Peggy Sue Got Married is a 1986 American comedy-drama film directed by Francis Ford Coppola starring Kathleen Turner as a woman on the verge of a divorce, who finds herself transported back to ...more

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#203 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #316 of 804 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made #134 of 347 Movies with the Best Soundtracks

14
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Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper, Barbara Hershey

Released: 1986

Directed by: David Anspaugh

Hoosiers is a 1986 sports film directed by David Anspaugh. A coach with a checkered past (Gene Hackman) and a local drunk (Dennis Hopper) train a small town high school basketball team to become ...more

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#173 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #911 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #171 of 293 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry

15
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SalvatoreIanni added Chuck Berry, Jay Leno, Fran Drescher

Released: 1978

Directed by: Floyd Mutrux

American Hot Wax is a 1978 biopic film directed by Floyd Mutrux and written by John Kaye telling the story of Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed, who was instrumental in introducing and ...more
16
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Linda Kusch added Karen Allen, Olympia Dukakis, Ken Wahl

Released: 1979

Directed by: Philip Kaufman

The Wanderers is a 1979 drama film about gangs and the greaser subculture, based on the novel "The Wanderers" by Richard Price. It marks the sixth feature film directed by American

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17
The Last Picture Show is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Cloris Leachman

Released: 1971

Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich

The Last Picture Show is a 1971 American drama film directed by Peter Bogdanovich, adapted from a semi-autobiographical 1966 novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry. Set in a small town in ...more

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18
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SalvatoreIanni added Ralph Fiennes, Martin Scorsese, Ethan Hawke

Released: 1994

Directed by: Robert Redford

Quiz Show is a 1994 American historical drama film produced and directed by Robert Redford, and written by Paul Attanasio, based on Richard N. Goodwin's memoir Remembering America: A Voice From ...more

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19
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SalvatoreIanni added My American Cousin T.J. Scott, Richard Donat, John Wildman

Released: 1985

Directed by: Sandy Wilson

My American Cousin is a Canadian drama film, released in 1985. Written and directed by Sandy Wilson based on her own childhood, the film stars Margaret Langrick as Sandy Wilcox, a pre-teen girl ...more
20
The Man in the Moon is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Reese Witherspoon, Sam Waterston, Jason London

Released: 1991

Directed by: Robert Mulligan

The Man in the Moon is a 1991 American coming of age drama film and was the final film of director, Robert Mulligan and is also Reese Witherspoon's debut role.

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21
The Vast of Night is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz, Gail Cronauer

Released: 2020

Directed by: Andrew Patterson

The Vast of Night is a 2020 retro-science fiction film directed by Andrew Patterson. In the twilight of the 1950s, a young switchboard operator (Sierra McCormick) and charismatic radio DJ (Jake ...more
22
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SalvatoreIanni added Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Ellen Barkin

Released: 1982

Directed by: Barry Levinson

Diner is a 1982 American comedy-drama written and directed by Barry Levinson. The film is Levinson's screen directing debut, and the first of Levinson's four "Baltimore Films" set in ...more

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23
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Christopher Lee, Peter Sellers, Shelley Winters

Released: 1962

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Lolita is a 1962 comedy-drama film directed by Stanley Kubrick based on the novel of the same title by Vladimir Nabokov, about a middle-aged man who becomes obsessed with a teenage girl. The ...more

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24
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Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Eliza Dushku

Released: 1993

Directed by: Michael Caton-Jones

This Boy's Life is a 1993 film adaptation of the memoir of the same name by American author Tobias Wolff. It is directed by Michael Caton-Jones and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Tobias Wolff, ...more

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25
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Linda Kusch added Michelle Pfeiffer, Fran Drescher, Tony Danza

Released: 1980

Directed by: Floyd Mutrux

The Hollywood Knights is an American motion picture comedy written and directed by Floyd Mutrux depicting the crass and mischievous antics and practical jokes of the remaining members of a ...more

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