Movies to Watch with Tweens and Teens That Don't Make You Look Like a Dork

Bond over Ferris Bueller, discuss Dead Poets, and transition your tweens and teens into a whole new world of movies. By Betsy Bozdech
Movies to Watch with Tweens and Teens That Don't Make You Look Like a Dork

Once your kids have outgrown the Disney princesses, the Kung Fu Pandas, and the Ice Ages of the world, picking something for family movie night can get a bit more challenging. If you want tweens and teens to admit to genuinely liking your choices (rather than just tolerating them with an eye roll), you'll need something cool and sophisticated -- just not too cool and sophisticated.

Here are a few of our favorite not-babyish, not-embarassingly grown-up movies to add to your list:

For Tweens

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (age 7+): Lighter than other movies in the series but still exciting and full of magic, the first Harry Potter adventure is great for all ages.
  • The Princess Bride (age 8+): Romantic without being mushy, hilarious without resorting to potty humor, fast-paced without gratuitous violence -- what's not to love?
  • Back to the Future (age 10+): The '80s references will soar right over the heads of today's kids, but the clever premise, high stakes, and excellent performances still make this one a winner.
  • Holes (age 10+): This excellent adaptation of Louis Sachar's popular book both respects its young audience's attention and dares to challenge them -- a very rare combination!
  • RBG (age 10+): Riveting and surprisingly touching, this documentary offers an unforgettable look at how a bookish girl from Brooklyn became the Notorious RBG (aka Ruth Bader Ginsburg).
  • Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (age 11+): Thanks to its 1930s setting, this rousing adventure doesn't feel awkwardly dated, even decades after its release. And there's just no hero quite like Indy.
  • Black Panther (age 12+): Marvel's masterful superhero drama is unlike any other, with amazing diversity, surprising depth, and strong, smart female characters.
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off (age 12+): This beloved '80s comedy has some pretty salty dialogue, but kids will adore Ferris and cheer as he gets away with the kinds of things most of us only daydream about.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (age 12+): Charming rogue Peter Quill and his ragtag crew are tons of fun to root for while they fight intergalactic bad guys -- and rock out to a retro-cool soundtrack.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings (age 12+): Epic, magical, and intense, the first movie in Peter Jackson's must-see trilogy is violent and scary but also utterly absorbing.
  • The Martian (age 12+): Proof that being awesome at science doesn't have to be nerdy, this gripping survival story is the perfect mix of tension and humor.

For Teens

  • Dead Poets Society (age 13+): Both inspiring and heartbreaking, this prep-school drama packs a powerful emotional punch (in between quips from co-star Robin Williams).
  • Edward Scissorhands (age 13+): Tim Burton's darkly sweet tale of adolescent angst will resonate with any teen who feels like he doesn't quite fit in (so, just about all of them).
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (age 13+): The Pythons' loony take on the King Arthur legend is still hilarious. Just be ready for strong language and bawdy humor (those vestal virgins!).
  • The Way, Way Back (age 13+): In this rare coming-of-age tale that really rings true, there's some edgy content but nothing that should leave teens too red-faced if they see it with Mom and Dad.
  • (500) Days of Summer (age 14+): This smart, fresh romcom is sweet without being sappy and cool without being cynical -- the perfect mix for teens.
  • The Bourne Identity (age 14+): It gets pretty violent, but this thrilling action movie is also full of exciting twists and turns -- and not too much in the way of sex or language.
  • The Fault in Our Stars (age 14+): Break out the tissues; this poignant, funny love story based on the best-seller by John Green is sure to leave you sniffling -- in the best way.
  • Moonrise Kingdom (age 14+): If your teen likes all things quirky and offbeat, then this 1960s-set gem from Wes Anderson is sure to be a hit. And if it goes well, you can graduate to Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and more.
  • Stand by Me (age 14+): For a certain generation of parents, this likely was their first R-rated movie -- and it still works as a good "starter R" pick today. There's tons of swearing and some gross-out moments, but ultimately it's a realistic, nostalgic look at friendship and growing up.

About Betsy Bozdech

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Betsy's experiences working in online parenting and entertainment content were the perfect preparation for her role as Common Sense's executive editor of ratings and reviews. After earning bachelor's and master's... Read more

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Comments (8)

Parent of a 8 and 10 year old written by BookNerdMom

Of the 18 movies on this list, only one has a female protagonist (a couple have both male and female leads, but the story is told predominately from the male lead's POV). These are also all stories that feature mostly white protagonists. A little more diversity in lists like this would be appreciated.
Parent of a 10 and 18+ year old written by Crashcartjockey

Surprised they didn't include Hidden Figures on this list. Strong female leads, diversity. Excellent movie. My 10 year old loved it. Inspired her to seek out more science in her life.
Adult written by ClaraBat

Thank you, BookNerdMom, for pointing this out! I had the same reaction. I was so happy to see this list of suggestions -- my two kids fall right in this age range, and it's time I updated our movie viewing. Betsy Bozdech, would you consider adding to this good list? We're hungry for movies with more diversity!
Teen, 14 years old written by Buffy Rules

While I understand there needs to be African-Americans and women in the media, it's almost hypocritical they don't accept white people the same --- sure, I like diversity as much as the next guy, and appreciate much diversity in movies like you do, but, for example --- why was Annie turned African-American? She's traditionally white. But female protagonists are surely missing, and what there is are portrayed as sexualised or dumber than the males, which I just think is not right.