There are teen romance movies and there are teen romance movies. But what stands out in a typical teen romance movie is the character of the girl, not so much the boy. Now why is that?
Society has always deemed the woman as some sort of “prize” to be won by men who want to “own” them. Goodness knows how many books, plays and movies have been done that portray these kinds of men and women. While this kind of thinking might be true in some sectors, it’s generally frowned upon now, in these modern times.
Yup, in these modern times, both men and women love change. They want to see change, and they want to experience change. And sometimes, that wishful longing starts as early as their teenage years. Therefore, we now have newer works of art that reflect these attitudes.
You might be surprised that there are quite a few literary gems and earlier films that also reflect this modern-day attitude about girls and boys. And in this list of teen romance movies we have here, we’ll point you to some specific cinematic gems that highlighted a strong-willed young girl at the midst.
Ready to binge-watch? Let’s go!
1. A Cinderella Story
While the typical Cinderella plot centers on the hardships of a young orphaned girl who got lucky with a prince charming one day, this 2004 retelling ain’t so archaic in that manner.
Hilary Duff plays the titular character who undergoes the usual plot points expected in a fairytale-like tale. This modern retelling focuses on the ambitions of the young Cinderella-like character into having ambitions bigger than the fairytale. And what could be a bigger ambition that working hard enough to get accepted into an Ivy League school.
So for that element alone, this rehash of the tired old waiting-for-a-prince-to-rescue-me narrative belongs here in our top list of recommended teen romance movie with a strong female lead. Go watch it!
2. The Prince and Me
When you’re a student who wishes for life to be better soon, and takes charge of what happens, then that’s a great film to be a candidate for our recommended teen romance movie with a strong female lead. That’s why the 2004 movie The Prince and Me is here on our list.
Starring Julia Stiles as a hardworking but frustrated medical student, she meets a new male student in school who could be a potential boyfriend. But she is very much focused on what she wants to achieve in school, that’s why she doesn’t really want to entertain these thoughts or feelings. And the worst part is, that new boy in school turns out to be a European prince in disguise!
Such a lot of things to unpack for our heroine, right? So go watch this one to see what happens next.
3. First Daughter
When you’re the daughter of the president of the United States, your mobility is always limited. But what if you fall in love? Will that be part of the Secret Service’s security detail? That’s what the film First Daughter explored.
The 2004 film stars Katie Holmes in the titular role. She’s very opinionated, strong-willed, and purposeful. But as a first daughter, she also knows how to play it cool and keep it together. That’s why it’s such a hoot to see her have an “average college life” in this manner.
And that’s also why it’s here in our list of recommended teen romance movie with a strong female lead. So go watch this and see why the former Mrs. Tom Cruise was great in it!
4. West Side Story
Given that the West Side Story musical got its romantic template from Romeo and Juliet, this one still stands out because of what the character Maria is all about.
By now, we all know that this 1961 musical film is about how two star-crossed lovers found love in a racially charged New York area. To be a woman of color during these times, falling in love with a white boy, takes a lot of guts. And this is why we included this here in our list of recommended teen romance movie with a strong female lead.
In between the singing and dancing, we can see how Maria shines on her own. And she even does that within the bravado machismo put forth by his own turf’s gang, The Sharks, and their perceived enemy’s gang called The Jets. The ending is also owned by her, when the finality of things strikes everyone. It’s Maria who tells them all off!
So go watch this to know what we’re talking about!
What if you’re in the present-day reality, and you get transfixed into the black and white backward world of the 1950s? What will strong-willed teenage women do there, then?
This is what the very cool 1998 film Pleasantville explores. Granted that this is not a strictly teen-only-focused romantic movie, but we still want to include it here in our recommended teen romance movie with a strong female lead.
For one, the strong-willed woman here is Reese Witherspoon’s ‘90s character who influences the teens of the ‘50s world. She could be seen as straightforward and very liberated. But that’s how strong women are, basically. And in Pleasantville, there are indeed women there who are like that, but they just keep it hidden – until the newcomers arrived.
It’s a great film to watch. Don’t miss it!
Take a look back at the 1988 original John Waters film for this one. This is where you’ll see the early ‘60s persona of Tracy Turnblad, the teenage girl from Baltimore who wants to dance in a popular TV show. She’s cute and blonde, and talented to boot. But she’s a bit on the hefty side, which other people poke fun at. But she still perseveres with her dream, regardless of what detractors say.
And this is why we included Hairspray in our list of recommended teen romance movie with a strong female lead. Ricki Lake brings justice to the role of Tracy. And of course, there’s also a love story there to boot. But with the racial tensions and the body image issues being hurled at our lead, will she be able to have it all?
Watch this very original story to find out!
The 2007 Disney comedy may not be strictly a teenage movie in the technical sense, but it still belongs here in our list of recommended teen romance movie with a strong female lead. That’s because the young woman lead in our story is indeed the template dream of every teenager out there.
In this case, it’s a princess. And not just any other princess, but a Disney princess! She is Giselle, who gets transported into modern-day New York City, where people are disillusioned and disenchanted about things like love. What’s a positively cheerful Disney princess to do?
Watch this wonderful film to find out!
8. What A Girl Wants
When a girl wants something, you’re sure she should be in a list of recommended teen romance movie with a strong female lead. That’s because she is indeed such a strong-willed teen! This is the basic premise we can see in the Amanda Byrnes starrer called What A Girl Wants.
The 2003 movie is about a teenage girl who lives with her single mom. But when it gets revealed that her father is of royal descent, she travels to Europe to finally meet up with him. Now that’s spunky!
But when the American teen arrives there, she finds out that her dad is running for politics instead. Add to that the fact that he only discovered just then about a daughter’s existence, and the daughter suddenly feels dislocated. But a girl still wants to have what she wants – a dad who will accept her, and a boy who will like her for who she is.
Will she get these things? Watch the film and find out!
When you have a teenage girl singing “You’re the one that I want!” you’ll know that this gal has guts to claim what she wants! And when she also sings “You better shape up/ ‘cause I need a man/ and my heart is set on you!” then you know that she won’t put up for second best here!
This is what the timeless teenage musical Grease is all about. The 1978 classic is about teens Sandy and Danny, who appear to be from different sides of the high school social strata. But love finds a way to put them together, even though Danny chickens out later on, to preserve a macho image.
So what do you think our gal Sandy does here? Well, this film here is not in our list of recommended teen romance movie with a strong female lead for nothing! Go see it, and sing along while you’re at it!
10. Pretty in Pink
The 1986 film Pretty in Pink should definitely be in our list of recommended teen romance movie with a strong female lead. Molly Ringwald’s character, Andie, is as strong as you could get!
This classic John Hughes-penned film is about how Andie, from the not-so-rich side of the social strata, falls for a rich guy named Blane. It’s clearly a class divide that will put up a wall between these two. But Andie tries to persist regardless of the wall. And she still remains strong, even if Blane’s rich kids’ circles pokes fun at the couple for being “uneven” in wealth.
So what do you think happens to Andie here? Try to see it and see! It’s not a classic teen romance movie for nothing!