16 Best ’90s Teen Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes


The 1990s were quite the decade. Pop stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were rising to fame, chokers were the highest form of fashion, and an entire generation was only a few years away from witnessing the turn of the century. Many industries adopted a particular style, and that includes, of course, cinema.

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It was in the ’90s that teen movies cemented themselves as one of the most popular genres in the world. Many classics hit the silver screen, classics that would become the inspiration for movies like Mean Girls and 13 Going On 30. The best and most famous teen movies of that decade still seem so close, yet so far away, from the modern day. Ranked according to the Rotten Tomatoes audience score, there are definitely some standouts from the dozens of releases.

Updated on March 2nd, 2022 by Amanda Bruce: Some of the best teen movies of the 1990s didn’t release to huge box office numbers or critical acclaim. In fact, movies like Cruel Intentions, now considered a standout of the era, are considered “rotten” by critical reviews. Movies like Dazed and Confused didn’t rake in cash at the box office but became cult classics as an audience found it on home video. The audience’s consideration of the best of the decade is certainly an eclectic group.

16 American Pie (1999) – 61%

  • Available to rent on AppleTV

The 1999 movie that launched a myriad of pie jokes and had a never-before-seen take on sexuality, American Pie spawned sequels and spinoffs for years after its release. Following four friends who make a pact to lose their virginity by prom night, American Pie quickly became of the most quotable and recognizable movies of all time, due to its original nature.

American Pie wasn’t afraid to be what it was, a hilariously and unapologetic telling of what it feels like to be a teenage boy who’s paving the world of love, girls, and sexuality.

15 Never Been Kissed (1999) – 69%

  • Available to stream on Disney+

Another 1999 movie classic arrives in the form of Never Been Kissed, starring a young Drew Barrymore as a newspaper reporter who’s never experienced what it’s like to be in love and intimate with someone else. As she enrolls in high school in order to do research for a story, Drew’s character, Josie, gets to relive her years as a youngling, this time around in a much more exciting and revolutionary way.

The movie definitely requires a suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience as it’s hard to continue to buy that Josie would fit in with a bunch of teenagers. Luckily, much of the comedy comes from her difficulty in doing just that.


14 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) – 69%

10 Things I Hate About You

  • Available to stream on Disney+

William Shakespeare’s plays have been told and retold time and time again on several mediums. But this late ’90s take on “The Taming of The Shrew” remains one of the most beloved attempts to bring the English writer’s characters to life.

Julis Stiles and Heath Ledger share unbelievable chemistry throughout the entire movie and the underlying messages of female empowerment and unexpected love make this a movie fit for every generation. And the poem Julia Stiles’ character reads towards the end of the movie? An epic scene that few will be able to forget! 10 Things I Hate About You is so beloved amongst ’90s teen movies that a remake in the form of a television series was attempted years later.

13 Clueless (1995) – 76%

  • Available to stream on HBO Max

On the topic of book adaptations, this one is from another English author who’s also seen her work be a source of inspiration several times – Jane Austen. While Austen’s novels take place in the 18th century, this modern retelling of Emma remains an iconic piece of filmmaking by many people’s standards.

RELATED: Cher’s Top 10 Quotable Clueless Lines

Starring a young Alicia Silverstone as Cher and a dashing Paul Rudd as Josh, Clueless is a fresh new point of view in terms of coming of age stories. Even Austen herself would be proud of this 1995 classic! It’s become the must-view ’90s teen movie for movie lovers.

12 Cry-Baby (1990) – 77%

  • Available to rent on AppleTV

A young Johnny Depp starring in a 1990 musical as a typical leather jacket-wearing bad boy? Perfect! And that’s probably what many teenagers at the start of the decade thought. Even though the premise is far from original and has been done 1000 times before, Cry Baby still stands on its own.

With amazing performances and a new set of characters taking on a tale as old as time, viewers had plenty to revel about, including Depp’s hairstyle, the musical numbers, and the ’50s inspired outfits

11 Romeo + Juliet (1996) – 77%

Romeo and Juliet kissing in front of a sea of lit candles.

  • Available to stream on Roku

Unlike 10 Things I Hate About You, this Shakespeare adaptation keeps the bard’s lines intact. The movie is modernized with gangs, guns, and costume parties, but it retains all of Shakespeare’s dialogue and stage directions.

The fusion of classic and modern in this Romeo and Juliet adaptation helped plenty of ’90s teens understand Shakespeare’s vocabulary a little better, and made the movie a hit with its target audience. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes were both already pretty well known to teen audiences at the time, but this movie made them household names. DiCaprio, of course, became world-famous when Titanic hit theaters a year later in 1997.

10 Election (1999) – 79%

  • Available to stream on Hulu

In the late ’90s, Reese Witherspoon began paving the way to become the chick-flick icon that she was in the early and 2000s, and later, the unbelievably successful actress she is now. Election was one of Reese’s most successful movies at the time, going as far as being nominated for an Academy Award.

Reese plays the overachiever Tracy Flick, who will stop at nothing to achieve her goal of becoming student body President. Starring alongside Matthew Broderick, the two make for an incredibly entertaining watch.

9 Scream (1996) – 79%

  • Available to stream on Paramount+

The horror movie to end all horror movies, Scream premiered in 1996, and became so popular, that it gave birth to endless franchises, including Scary Movie and its many sequels, television shows, and endless pop culture references.

RELATED: The 10 Most Underrated Scream Queens in Horror History

A masked maniac goes around town killing teenagers and terrorizing Sydney Prescott in particular. The twist is out-of-this-world-amazing, and audiences got to see fan favorites such as Courtney Cox, Skeet Ulrich, and Rose McGowan put on quite the show.

8 Pleasantville (1998) – 79%

  • Available to stream on Redbox

Though other actresses are remembered more for their time in teen movies, Reese Witherspoon really was the queen of ’90s teen cinema. She appears in three of the top-ranked movies of the decade in very different roles. While Election sees her as a neurotic overachiever, Pleasantville has her as the family rebel when she and her brother end up sucked into the universe of a black and white TV show. There, the residents are awakened to the world of color when they start opening themselves up to the possibilities beyond their scripted lives.

Released in 1998, Pleasantville came out before both Election and Cruel Intentions, beginning the Witherspoon trifecta.

7 The Virgin Suicides (1999) – 81%

The Virgin Suicides

  • Available to stream on Paramount+

Sofia Coppola’s unique style of filmmaking shines through in her 1999 masterpiece starring Kirsten Dunst, The Virgin Suicides. Adapted from a 1993 book with the same name, the movie sees a group of teenage boys become increasingly obsessed with five mysterious sisters.

Set in the 1970s, The Virgin Suicides explores themes of family, mental illness, and love in a unique way, which eventually leads to the tragic ending of the five Lisbon girls.

6 Cruel Intentions (1999) – 81%

  • Available to stream on IMDbTV

The final movie of the Reese Witherspoon trifecta, Cruel Intentions was a 1999 take on the 1988 classic Dangerous Liaisons, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Glenn Close, and John Malkovich. In the more recent version, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Philippe take on the roles of the villains, while Witherspoon is the innocent teenager caught in their web.

Lust, power, desire, and manipulation are at the forefront of this exciting drama, that explored relationships between teenagers through a completely different lens, and thus quickly becoming an iconic piece. It also allowed the audience to see already established actors like Gellar and Philippe in completely new roles.

5 House Party (1990) – 82%

  • Available to stream on HBO Max

Released in 1990, House Party really begins the era of movies that culminated in a big teenage party. While many 80s teen movies featured the post-prom party, or a graduation party to end the high school experience, House Party showcased a party just because.

The movie was based on Reginald Hudlin’s award-winning student film, and the plan was to feature DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince in the lead roles, but the two went on to appear in The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air sitcom instead. Hip hop partners Kid ‘n Play, as well as a large number of other musicians, appear in the film, chronicling a pair of friends just wanting to have a good time, but everything that can go wrong does.

4 Pump Up The Volume (1990) – 84%

Mark holding his microphone in Pump Up The Volume

  • Available to stream on HBO Max

Christian Slater had already stolen the hearts of teens in Heathers in the 80s, and he continued that trend in the 1990 teen movie Pump Up The Volume. He starred as Mark Hunter, a teenager who starts his own pirate radio show.

RELATED: 10 Best Teen Movies, According To Reddit

The radio station allows Mark to anonymously speak his mind about all of the issues plaguing him and his classmates. It also allows other teens the ability to anonymously call in and speak their minds as well, giving a voice to the rebels, the outsiders, and those who are hiding who they really are. Things become more complicated for Mark when one of his listeners ends their life, but the movie showcases the need to be heard and understood that so many teen stories capture well.

3 Show Me Love (1998) – 86%

Curiously enough one of the top ’90s teen movies, in accordance with Rotten Tomatoes’ audience score, is the Swedish 1998 movie Show Me Love. This film takes the audience on a wonderful journey that defies misconceptions about what love is, but it wasn’t initially seen by a wide audience.

Following two teenage girls on the opposite side of the spectrum – one is popular and beautiful, the other is sad and friendless – Show Me Love slowly turns into the love story between these two opposite souls, navigating their feelings with all the confusion of teenagehood.

2 Dazed And Confused (1993) – 90%

Wooderson, Pink, and Mitch walk into the Emporium in Dazed and Confused

*Available to rent on Amazon

Dazed And Confused has become a cult classic since its release. With a cast featuring Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, and Adam Goldberg before they were well known, the movie has become a snapshot of the early careers of some of Hollywood’s most successful actors.

The movie follows groups of seniors and incoming freshmen on the last day of school in 1976. They have the whole summer ahead of them, but there’s still the matter of high school social politics, freedom, and relationships before the three-month break happens. It’s definitely got some dated concepts as it heavily features hazing of new students, but the story of a group of kids just wanting to be themselves still holds up.

1 Rushmore (1998) – 91%

Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray in Rushmore

  • Available to stream through AppleTV

Wes Anderson’s films can be incredibly polarizing, but the audience overwhelmingly loves Rushmore as it’s one of the highest-rated teen movies of the ’90s. The movie certainly provided a darker take on teen years as a 15-year-old competed with a middle-aged man for the affections of a teacher in escalating revenge schemes, but both characters eventually figure out their paths.

With Jason Schwartzman as the teen, Bill Murray as his rival, and Olivia Williams as the teen in question, the cast is stacked with talent.

NEXT: 10 Action Movies From The ’90s That Critics Hated (But Audiences Loved)

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