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Movies Every Teenager Should See

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A high school teacher teaching a course on film and theology has asked me for a list of 5-10 movies every teenager should see.

 

I'm thinking it over. But I'd love to hear your thoughts. My senior-year English teacher showed us Babette's Feast, Ran, and Henry V, if I recall correctly.

 

I'm guessing that this teacher is teaching a range of students, not just seniors.

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For older teens, I would say This Is Martin Bonner, Faust (Murnau's 1926), The Decalogue, M, Munyurangabo, The Pianist, The Station Agent

 

For any teens: Paths of Glory, A Man Escaped, Quiz Show, Sullivan's Travels, Sophie Scholl the Final Days, The Kid with a Bike, Le Fils, L'Enfant (maybe the last two should be reserved for older teens)

 

And I know a priest who highly recommends The Truman Show for teens. (I'll be seeing it later this week before voting for the Divine Comedies list)

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Singing in the Rain. (OK, maybe I put that one in because teens just need to see it.)

 

Casablanca.

 

Places in the Heart.

 

And I second Babette's Feast, Munyurangabo, Sullivan's Travels, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, The Truman Show, The Kid with a Bike.

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Beloved and respected teaches made sure I saw the The Graduate and Henry V in the classroom when I was a HS student in the early 90s. No complaints.

 

The same teachers encouraged seeing many other pictures outside the classroom, but those were the two they could show during school hours.

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Trying to remember some films shown in high school that haven't been mentioned, yet had a lasting impact...

 

Cool Hand Luke

Hud

All the Presidents Men (although I had seen this before entering high school)

Network  (Older teens, definitely)

 

Other films I might add...

Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)

The Fog of War

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Singing in the Rain. (OK, maybe I put that one in because teens just need to see it.)

Everyone needs to see Singin' in the Rain.  At the earliest age possible.

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A high school teacher teaching a course on film and theology has asked me for a list of 5-10 movies every teenager should see ... I'm guessing that this teacher is teaching a range of students, not just seniors.

Does anyone here really think that "teenagers" are not able to watch the best that film has to offer?

 

For a class about film and theology, I would draw from our Top 100 list.  But instead of thinking of what few films from the Top 100 list to include, I would be thinking of what few films from the list to exclude.  What films are very adult in the sense that it probably wouldn't be wise to show to a whole group of high school students?  The high school student is generally more sensitive and less disciplined when it comes to sexual content, so morally as well as professionally, I'd exclude selections like The Double Life of Veronique, Dogville or Breaking the Waves.

 

But, instead of thinking that there would be special films for teenagers because they were "teenagers", I'd be thinking more in terms of the fact that, assuming the average American teenager's pop cultural consumption habits, the teacher is working with a group of young people who have basically seen nothing.  This film and theology class is going to be introducing a majority of students to meaningful film for the first time.  I have different adult friends who have still seen just about nothing.  I can't start them with Andrei Rublev or Ordet or Wings of Desire.  I've tried and they don't make it through those films.  It's asking too much at the beginning.  You have to sort of gradually ease them into it.

 

I've found that Ponette works well for that.  So does Babette's Feast, Millions, The Night of the Hunter and A Man Escaped.  Then lengthier stuff like Amadeus, The New World and Wings of Desire starts becoming feasible.  Then Tarkovsky and Bergman become possible.  For pure theological discussion motivation, I've recently found Ponette, The Sunset Limited and The Exorcism of Emily Rose highly rewarding as introductory beginnings for friends for whom film has never been something that asked them to think before.

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A high school teacher teaching a course on film and theology has asked me for a list of 5-10 movies every teenager should see ... I'm guessing that this teacher is teaching a range of students, not just seniors.

Does anyone here really think that "teenagers" are not able to watch the best that film has to offer?

 

For a class about film and theology, I would draw from our Top 100 list.  But instead of thinking of what few films from the Top 100 list to include, I would be thinking of what few films from the list to exclude.  What films are very adult in the sense that it probably wouldn't be wise to show to a whole group of high school students?  The high school student is generally more sensitive and less disciplined when it comes to sexual content, so morally as well as professionally, I'd exclude selections like The Double Life of Veronique, Dogville or Breaking the Waves.

 

But, instead of thinking that there would be special films for teenagers because they were "teenagers", I'd be thinking more in terms of the fact that, assuming the average American teenager's pop cultural consumption habits, the teacher is working with a group of young people who have basically seen nothing.  This film and theology class is going to be introducing a majority of students to meaningful film for the first time.  I have different adult friends who have still seen just about nothing.  I can't start them with Andrei Rublev or Ordet or Wings of Desire.  I've tried and they don't make it through those films.  It's asking too much at the beginning.  You have to sort of gradually ease them into it.

 

I've found that Ponette works well for that.  So does Babette's Feast, Millions, The Night of the Hunter and A Man Escaped.  Then lengthier stuff like Amadeus, The New World and Wings of Desire starts becoming feasible.  Then Tarkovsky and Bergman become possible.  For pure theological discussion motivation, I've recently found Ponette, The Sunset Limited and The Exorcism of Emily Rose highly rewarding as introductory beginnings for friends for whom film has never been something that asked them to think before.

 

 

I totally agree with this. My high school class of honors students were boggled by Babette's Feast the first time. But our teacher's plan was then to teach us about poetry for the rest of the quarter, and then show it again. The difference between the two experiences was remarkable. It was as if we'd been taught to "read" a movie. So... throwing students into the deep end of the pool isn't wise unless you are ready to help them deal with it. And Babette's isn't really "the deep end of the pool." It's more like the middle of the pool. If we want young moviegoers to grow in their appreciation of challenging films, it needs to a gradual process, showing a lot of humility and patience along the way.

Edited by Overstreet

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I think high schoolers need to gain exposure to life through film even more than they need to develop an appreciation for 'film' as an art form at their stage, but why not take this fleeting opportunity (when they are still becoming adults and remain in a compulsory learning environment) to influence them in both ways?

 

Twelve Angry Men, The Killing Fields, Catch 22, Dersu Uzala, The Trial, The Glass Menagerie, The Old Man and the Sea, The Grapes of Wrath, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Seagull, Invictus, Zorba the Greek, Exodus, and Judgment at Nuremberg all jump to mind.

Edited by Lynn He

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Teenagers need to see and understand the classics.  Casablanca, Citizen Kane, From Here to Eternity, It's A Wonderful Life.

 

Once done, they need to see classic film from other countries:  Rashomon, Beauty And the Beast, Bicycle Thief, etc.

 

If they want to find a film that best connects with them, I would suggest any of the three James Dean movies (or the first two--Giant is too long).

 

And, for fun, they should introduce "Plan 9 From Outer Space."

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First, I love that this thread exists. And the suggestions have been phenomenal. Jeffrey's insight about being patient and slowly exposing them to more challenging and enriching films is important. It's an acquired taste, one that requires cultivating and refinement and time.

 

I'll reiterate what others have said about filmic classics: Casablanca, Citizen Kane, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Third Man, North by Northwest. Perhaps The Godfather films, for older teens.

 

I'd want them to experience the best of the silents: The General, City Lights, M, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, even Metropolis.

 

I'd also want to expose them to the best of foreign cinema. Kurosawa is a great place to begin, as are the Dardenne films (at least ones with little-to-no nudity/sexuality).

 

Documentaries are valuable too: Hoop Dreams, The King of Kong, The Thin Blue Line, Apted's Up series, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Man With A Movie Camera.


Moonrise Kingdom has recently been the go-to film for me with the high school teens in my own life when I want to introduce them to the discipline of watching a film and thinking about it. They've all loved it.

 

I'm inspired to try to create my own top 10 list now.

Edited by Joel Mayward

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As I'm still in high school, I am livid that Overstreet had a teacher who showed his students Ran, since I'm assuming it went over well. I tried to show my foster brother and his (beautiful) then-girlfriend, and they got bored, though I knew they would have considered it time well spent had they had any endurance. The experience really made me cynical. (I never recommend films to anyone within fifteen years of my age anymore.)
 

 

 

A high school teacher teaching a course on film and theology has asked me for a list of 5-10 movies every teenager should see ... I'm guessing that this teacher is teaching a range of students, not just seniors.

Does anyone here really think that "teenagers" are not able to watch the best that film has to offer?

Thank you. I'm always told by my mentor that I'm heading in cinematic territories that won't really hit me without life experience. And he's partially correct. However, I have a theory that the films I've seen will, in a sense, grow with me, like how people will talk about seeing a particular movie periodically and finding new things in it (Shirley Temple with Kane, Scorsese with probably a half-dozen Powell & Pressberger classics).
(BTW, my mentor was referring to my purchase of Scenes From A Marriage, which he has watched annually since before his divorce. I told him that I gravitated towards it for a weird sort of catharsis I find in stories of dysfunctional marriages/families that actually do anything besides bicker and fight. I'd compare it to the guy in Magnolia who loads his parents' shotgun when he gets sick of them threatening each other with it.)
 

 

 

I've found that Ponette works well for that.  So does Babette's Feast, Millions, The Night of the Hunter and A Man Escaped.  Then lengthier stuff like Amadeus, The New World and Wings of Desire starts becoming feasible.  Then Tarkovsky and Bergman become possible.
 

*whips out notepad*
*mutters while scribbling* "This may be my chance."

---------

Also, what about someone like Ozu? He'd be difficult to sell to anyone in my diverse, low-income high school, but if a high school teacher somewhere showed his class Ran and Babette's Feast, there's a chance.

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Inspired by this conversation thread, and the British Film Institute's list of "50 films you should see by age 14," I made a top 25 list of movies every high school student should see before they graduate:

 

 

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)
  2. The 400 Blows (1959, Francois Truffaut)
  3. Amelie (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
  4. Babette's Feast (1987, Gabriel Axel)
  5. Bicycle Thieves (1948, Vittorio De Sica)
  6. Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz)
  7. The General (1926, Buster Keaton)
  8. The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola)
  9. Hoop Dreams (1994, Steve James)
  10. The Iron Giant (1999, Brad Bird)
  11. It's a Wonderful Life (1946, Frank Capra)
  12. The Kid with a Bike (2011, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne)
  13. Moonrise Kingdom (2012, Wes Anderson)
  14. The Night of the Hunter (1955, Charles Laughton)
  15. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Steven Spielberg)
  16. Rashomon (1950, Akira Kurosawa)
  17. Rebel Without a Cause (1955, Nicholas Ray)
  18. Singin' in the Rain (1952, Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly)
  19. Spirited Away (2001, Hayao Miyazaki)
  20. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977, George Lucas)
  21. Sullivan's Travels (1941, Preston Sturges)
  22. The Tree of Life (2011, Terrence Malick)
  23. The Truman Show (1998, Peter Weir)
  24. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)
  25. The Wizard of Oz (1939, Victor Fleming)

The hardest part was deciding which films would be both accessible and challenging. There's a fine line to pacing with a typical high school student where they're at while also inviting them to expand their film-watching horizons.

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One movie that has killed me ever since I saw it for the first time as a teenager is Sidney Lumet’s Running on Empty.  I recognize now that there should be a little caution about the offscreen teen sex here and the way we are not confronted with any negative consequences of it.  However, there is no movie that I find more devastatingly emblematic of a certain universal experience that most teens will go through : that experience of having to leave home and family to find an identity.  The way this experience finally plays out in the Phoenix character’s life is like a direct collision between grief and hope.

Edited by Brian D

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In lieux of not finding an appropriate forum to post this in, I think this would work best.

 

This weekend I introduced my kids to that Stanley Kramer classic "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World."

 

My high point: during the second plane sequence, telling the kids that Scuttle the seagull and Santa Claus had accidentally knocked out Mr. Magoo.

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