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20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s 

Ranker Film
Updated July 5, 2019 3.5k votes 643 voters 37.5k views 25 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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#2 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies 46 Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About Back to the Futurelisted 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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#4 of 37 Great Movies About Sad Loner Characters #87 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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#67 of 363 The Best Movies Based On Books #320 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #91 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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#19 of 363 The Best Movies Based On Books #226 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies Behind-The-Scenes Stories From 'Stand By Me' That Prove The Film Shaped The Child Actors

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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#413 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #40 of 212 Musical Movies With the Best Songs

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
Cry-Baby is listed (or ranked) 8 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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#265 of 373 The Best Musical Movies of All Time #165 of 212 Musical Movies With the Best Songs

9
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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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#298 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #108 of 493 The Funniest '90s Movies #413 of 1,199 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

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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#144 of 373 The Best Musical Movies of All Time #158 of 804 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made #113 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies

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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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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#21 of 373 The Best Musical Movies of All Time #31 of 212 Musical Movies With the Best Songs Every Song in Hairspray, Ranked by Singability

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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#216 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #318 of 804 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made #307 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies

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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#647 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #167 of 548 The Greatest Movies for Guys

15
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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
16
The Last Picture Show is listed (or ranked) 16 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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#722 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #32 of 46 Every Single Movie On Rotten Tomatoes With 100% Approval, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

17
The Man in the Moon is listed (or ranked) 17 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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#117 of 199 The Biggest Tearjerker Movies of All Time #10 of 15 The Most Intense Method Actor Performances In Movie History #120 of 264 The Best Teen Romance Movies

18
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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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#77 of 194 The Best Movies of the '60s #20 of 36 30+ Great Movies About Juvenile Delinquents

19
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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
20
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Rhonda McCloughan added Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler, Susan Blakely

Released: 1974

Directed by: Martin Davidson, Stephen F. Verona

The Lords of Flatbush is a 1974 American drama film about street teenagers in leather jackets from the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Directed by Martin Davidson and Stephen ...more
21
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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
22
Streets of Fire is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Linda Kusch added Willem Dafoe, Diane Lane, Kathy Griffin

Released: 1984

Directed by: Walter Hill

Streets of Fire is a 1984 film directed by Walter Hill and co-written by Hill and Larry Gross. It was described in previews, trailers, and posters as "A Rock & Roll Fable". It is ...more

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23
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Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek

Released: 1973

Directed by: Terrence Malick

Badlands is a 1973 American film written and directed by Terrence Malick, starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. Warren Oates and Ramon Bieri are also featured. Malick has a small speaking ...more

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24
Liberty Heights is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Misha Collins, Adrien Brody, Bebe Neuwirth

Released: 1999

Directed by: Barry Levinson

Liberty Heights is a 1999 comedy-drama by writer-director Barry Levinson. The film is a semi-autobiographical account of his childhood growing up in Baltimore in the 1950s. It is the fourth of ...more
25
Saint Ralph is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Jennifer Tilly, Campbell Scott, Gordon Pinsent

Released: 2004

Directed by: Michael McGowan

Saint Ralph is a 2004 Canadian drama film written and directed by Michael McGowan. Its central character is a teenage boy who trains for the 1954 Boston Marathon in the hope a victory will be ...more