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20+ Great Movies About Teen Life in the 1950s

Updated June 2, 2020 4.1k votes 690 voters 42.2k views30 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
    316
    79

    Grease

    John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John

    Released1978

    Directed byRandal Kleiser

    Grease is a 1978 American musical romantic comedy-drama film directed by Randal Kleiser and... more on Wikipedia

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  • 2
    Back to the Future
    263
    61

    Back to the Future

    Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd

    Released1985

    Directed byRobert Zemeckis

    Back to the Future is a 1985 American science fiction film directed by Robert Zemeckis. Marty... more on Wikipedia

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  • 3
    Stand by Me
    225
    46

    Stand by Me

    Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Feldman

    Released1986

    Directed byRob Reiner

    Stand by Me is a 1986 American coming of age comedy-drama adventure film directed by Rob... more on Wikipedia
  • 4
    The Outsiders
    235
    52

    The Outsiders

    Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage

    Released1983

    Directed byFrancis Ford Coppola

    The Outsiders is a 1983 American drama film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, an adaptation of... more on Wikipedia
  • 5
    Rebel Without a Cause
    227
    51

    Rebel Without a Cause

    Natalie Wood, James Dean

    Released1955

    Directed byNicholas Ray

    Rebel Without a Cause is a 1955 American drama film about emotionally confused suburban,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 6
    American Graffiti
    184
    42

    American Graffiti

    Harrison Ford, Ron Howard

    Released1973

    Directed byGeorge Lucas

    American Graffiti is a 1973 American coming of age comedy-drama film directed and co-written... more on Wikipedia
  • 7
    West Side Story
    155
    42

    West Side Story

    Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno

    Released1961

    Directed byJerome Robbins, Robert Wise

    West Side Story is a 1961 American romantic musical drama film directed by Robert Wise and... more on Wikipedia

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  • 8
    Pleasantville
    120
    53

    Pleasantville

    Reese Witherspoon, Paul Walker

    Released1998

    Directed byGary Ross

    Pleasantville is a 1998 American fantasy comedy-drama film written, produced, and directed by... more on Wikipedia

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  • 9
    Cry-Baby
    136
    67

    Cry-Baby

    Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe

    Released1990

    Directed byJohn Waters

    Cry-Baby is a 1990 American teen musical romantic comedy film written and directed by John... more on Wikipedia
  • 10
    Dead Poets Society
    118
    59

    Dead Poets Society

    Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke

    Released1989

    Directed byPeter Weir

    Dead Poets Society is a 1989 American drama film written by Tom Schulman, directed by Peter... more on Wikipedia
  • 11
    Hairspray
    127
    73

    Hairspray

    Debbie Harry, Jerry Stiller

    Released1988

    Directed byJohn Waters

    Hairspray is a 1988 American romantic musical comedy film written and directed by John Waters,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 12
    Hairspray
    111
    71

    Hairspray

    John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer

    Released2007

    Directed byAdam Shankman

    Hairspray is a 2007 American musical romantic comedy film based on the 2002 Broadway musical... more on Wikipedia

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  • 13
    Peggy Sue Got Married
    77
    56

    Peggy Sue Got Married

    Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey

    Released1986

    Directed byFrancis Ford Coppola

    Peggy Sue Got Married is a 1986 American comedy-drama film directed by Francis Ford Coppola... more on Wikipedia
  • 14
    Hoosiers
    76
    58

    Hoosiers

    Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper

    Released1986

    Directed byDavid Anspaugh

    Hoosiers is a 1986 sports film directed by David Anspaugh. A coach with a checkered past (Gene... more on Wikipedia

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  • 15
    The Wanderers
    39
    24

    The Wanderers

    Karen Allen, Olympia Dukakis

    Released1979

    Directed byPhilip Kaufman

    The Wanderers is a 1979 drama film about gangs and the greaser subculture, based on the novel... more on Wikipedia

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  • 16
    The Vast of Night
    2
    2

    The Vast of Night

    Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz

    Released2020

    Directed byAndrew Patterson

    The Vast of Night is a 2020 retro-science fiction film directed by Andrew Patterson. In the... more on Wikipedia

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  • 17
    The Man in the Moon
    58
    60

    The Man in the Moon

    Reese Witherspoon, Sam Waterston

    Released1991

    Directed byRobert Mulligan

    The Man in the Moon is a 1991 American coming of age drama film and was the final film of... more on Wikipedia

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  • 18
    The Last Picture Show
    48
    51

    The Last Picture Show

    Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd

    Released1971

    Directed byPeter Bogdanovich

    The Last Picture Show is a 1971 American drama film directed by Peter Bogdanovich, adapted... more on Wikipedia
  • 19
    Lolita
    44
    51

    Lolita

    Christopher Lee, Peter Sellers

    Released1962

    Directed byStanley Kubrick

    Lolita is a 1962 comedy-drama film directed by Stanley Kubrick based on the novel of the same... more on Wikipedia

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  • 20
    My American Cousin
    1
    4

    My American Cousin

    T.J. Scott, Richard Donat

    Released1985

    Directed bySandy Wilson

    My American Cousin is a Canadian drama film, released in 1985. Written and directed by Sandy... more on Wikipedia
  • 21
    The Lords of Flatbush
    36
    43

    The Lords of Flatbush

    Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler

    Released1974

    Directed byMartin Davidson, Stephen F. Verona

    The Lords of Flatbush is a 1974 American drama film about street teenagers in leather jackets... more on Wikipedia

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  • 22
    This Boy's Life
    43
    55

    This Boy's Life

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro

    Released1993

    Directed byMichael Caton-Jones

    This Boy's Life is a 1993 film adaptation of the memoir of the same name by American author... more on Wikipedia

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  • 23
    The Hollywood Knights
    16
    20

    The Hollywood Knights

    Michelle Pfeiffer, Fran Drescher

    Released1980

    Directed byFloyd Mutrux

    The Hollywood Knights is an American motion picture comedy written and directed by Floyd... more on Wikipedia
  • 24
    Quiz Show
    4
    2

    Quiz Show

    Ralph Fiennes, Martin Scorsese

    Released1994

    Directed byRobert Redford

    Quiz Show is a 1994 American historical drama film produced and directed by Robert Redford,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 25
    Streets of Fire
    16
    23

    Streets of Fire

    Willem Dafoe, Diane Lane

    Released1984

    Directed byWalter Hill

    Streets of Fire is a 1984 film directed by Walter Hill and co-written by Hill and Larry Gross.... more on Wikipedia