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20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s  

Ranker Film
3.5k votes 628 voters 36.2k 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.

list ordered by
1
Stand by Me is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Feldman, John Cusack
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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#35 of 336 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #21 of 304 The Greatest Soundtracks of All Timefeaturing Behind-The-Scenes Stories From 'Stand By Me' That Prove The Film Shaped The Child Actors

2
Rebel Without a Cause is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Natalie Wood, James Dean, Dennis Hopper
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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#1,215 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #348 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies #50 of 307 The Best Movies for Men

3
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Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage, Diane Lane
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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#78 of 336 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #401 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #98 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies

4
Back to the Future is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson
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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#1 of 336 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimefeaturing 51 Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About Back to the Futurelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

5
Grease is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing
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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#4 of 630 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #2 of 223 Musical Movies With the Best Songsfeaturing This Disturbing Fan Theory Will Completely Change How You See 'Grease'

6
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Harrison Ford, Ron Howard, Suzanne Somers
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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#19 of 304 The Greatest Soundtracks of All Time #40 of 223 Musical Movies With the Best Songs #412 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

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
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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#11 of 223 Musical Movies With the Best Songsfeaturing The Behind-The-Scenes Of 'West Side Story' Was Plagued With More Hatred Than The Movie Itselflisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

8
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Reese Witherspoon, Paul Walker, Tobey Maguire
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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#108 of 493 The Funniest '90s Movies #373 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #232 of 710 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Stars

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
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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#424 of 630 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #166 of 493 The Funniest '90s Movies #163 of 223 Musical Movies With the Best Songs

10
Dead Poets Society is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Lara Flynn Boyle
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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#79 of 336 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #122 of 440 The Funniest '80s Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

11
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Debbie Harry, Jerry Stiller, 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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#103 of 630 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #140 of 440 The Funniest '80s Movies #142 of 371 The Best Musical Movies of All Time

12
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John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Amanda Bynes
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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#31 of 223 Musical Movies With the Best Songs #21 of 371 The Best Musical Movies of All Timefeaturing 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
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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#128 of 630 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #170 of 440 The Funniest '80s Movies #224 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies

14
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Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper, Barbara Hershey
Hoosiers is a 1986 sports film written by Angelo Pizzo and directed by David Anspaugh. It tells the story of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship. It ...more

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#647 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #103 of 291 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry #106 of 710 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Stars

15
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Linda Kusch added Karen Allen, Olympia Dukakis, Ken Wahl
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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#167 of 304 The Greatest Soundtracks of All Time #90 of 101 The Best New York Movies #14 of 14 The Best Bowling Movies

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
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 #227 of 710 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Starslisted 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
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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#279 of 336 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #120 of 250 The Best Teen Romance Movies #11 of 15 The Most Intense Method Actor Performances In Movie History

18
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Linda Kusch added Michelle Pfeiffer, Fran Drescher, Tony Danza
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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#241 of 440 The Funniest '80s Movies #475 of 992 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films #51 of 55 The Greatest Party Movies Ever Made

19
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Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Eliza Dushku
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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#56 of 80 The Best Movies Based on Non-Fiction Books #505 of 547 The Greatest Movies for Guys #9 of 42 The Best Coming of Age Movies About Boys

20
Streets of Fire is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list 20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s
Linda Kusch added Willem Dafoe, Diane Lane, Kathy Griffin
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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#70 of 304 The Greatest Soundtracks of All Time #262 of 376 The Greatest Movie Themes #139 of 319 Movies with the Best Soundtracks

21
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Rhonda McCloughan added Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler, Susan Blakely
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
22
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Christopher Lee, Peter Sellers, Shelley Winters
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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#197 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Books #77 of 194 The Best Movies of the '60s #20 of 36 30+ Great Movies About Juvenile Delinquents

23
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Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek
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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#80 of 591 The Best '70s Movies #20 of 106 The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time #188 of 207 The Best Adventure Movies

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
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

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#28 of 33 The Best Movies About Interracial Couples #149 of 167 The Best Family Drama Movies of All Time #84 of 199 The Best R-Rated Coming Of Age Movies

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
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