50+of the best movies to watch with your teens

50+of the best movies to watch with your teens

Remember when you used to suffer through the 27th showing of Finding Nemo, just to do the whole ‘family movie night’ thing with the kids? I reckon I can still quote that movie from beginning to end (and we still all laugh at how my middle used to be terrified during the scuba diver scene). Thankfully, our children have much better tastes in movies these days. There is, however, some dissension as to which films should make the list of good movies to watch with your teens.

Little kids all seem to just like the same thing. Older kids… don’t. They grow up and decide for themselves what they like and don’t like. Annoying, isn’t it?

At our place, my son is into obscure indie films and tends to watch based on who the director is (he’s keen to go into the industry, so there’s that). My youngest seems to like cliched teen romance movies and reruns of Brooklyn 99. My middle fortunately isn’t that fussed (just don’t make her watch Finding Nemo ever again).

How do we find movies that everyone will want to watch together, and should we even bother trying?

Movies are a quality time shortcut

Yes, we should be bothered trying. Spending time together having a shared experience is how we stay connected to our teens and tweens. In fact, research by Penn State showed that spending quality time with parents is just as important for teenagers as it is for toddlers.

“Our research shows that, well into the adolescent years, teens continue to spend time with their parents and that this shared time, especially shared time with fathers, has important implications for adolescents’ psychological and social adjustment,” concluded Susan McHale, professor of human development and director of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State.

Sharing a movie together feels like a shortcut to a bonding experience. Just go easy on the sex scenes, yes? Surely the only thing more cringey than watching a sex scene with your parents is knowing that your parents actually have sex. Eek, look away, people. I’ll try to add a sexy warning, just to be safe.

A note on ratings and age recommendations

Righto, time to break out the movie downloads. I’ve seen every single one of these films and have recommended an appropriate starting age based on my own understanding. Keep in mind that my tolerances and values will be different from your own, so I’ll include a link to the Common Sense Media review for each film so you can double check what others have to say.

In my opinion, one of the best things about my kids turning older is sharing movies I truly love with them. Note that there are some SPOILERS in these reviews, as I thought it necessary to warn you of some of the more sensitive content. Lots of BIG conversations are opened up by many of the movies to watch with your teens I’ve selected. Let’s get watching…

Movies to watch with your teens

Blinded by the Light

Maybe it’s because I’m a closet Springsteen fan, but I loved everything about this movie. It’s a feel-good, coming-of-age dramedy that touches on some serious themes about culture, ethnicity, racism and class. Jav is a Pakistani teen growing up in 1980s England whose three ambitions are to “make loads of money, kiss a girl and get out of this dump.” He’s inspired by (make that obsessed with) the Boss to make his own way with optimism and song. This film is by writer-director Gurinder Chadha whose previous hit Bend It Like Beckham is also a must-watch with the kids.

Rated PG
Recommended for kids aged 11+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Download only

La Vita e Bella – Life is Beautiful (1997)

This story of a father’s heartbreaking attempt to keep the horror of being in a concentration camp from his son is one of my all-time favourite movies and it should be required viewing for every teen. It’s a story about the evils of the Holocaust, but it’s also a story about the strength of love and humanity. Italian film with subtitles

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 11+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Stan

Enola Holmes (2020)

The new Netflix flick tells the story of Sherlock Holmes’ sister Enola Holmes. She’s a feminist during Victorian times, raised by a strong mother to be an independent thinker. She’s even smarter than her obnoxious brother, and definitely more likeable. This is basically a straightforward and entertaining crime caper with the added bonus of a charismatic lead (Stranger Things’ Millie Bobbie Brown). Helena Bonham Carter, Henry Cavill and Sam Clafin also star.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 12+
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Netflix

Dead Poet’s Society (1989)

We remember this coming-of-age film as uplifting and joyful, but it actually features many heavy and depressing moments. That shouldn’t stop you from watching it with your mature tweens and teens, though. There’s plenty of ‘seize the day’ and ‘captain your ship’ moments to balance the fact that one of the lead characters struggles with depression and ultimately commits suicide. It’s sensitively handled in the film and serves as a good introduction to have a deeply necessary talk about this sensitive subject. You’ll find plenty of resources to help you do so here.

Rated PG
Recommended for kids aged 12+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Download only (though it pops up on SBS On Demand regularly)

Clueless (1995)

Clueless is one of the best movies to watch with teens

How long since you’ve watched this cute classic? This updated version of Jane Austen’s Emma has aged well. Universal themes of finding yourself while trying to find the ‘one’ tend to do that; as do enjoyable, highly watchable characters. The self-involved vapidity of Cher and her friends feels way too familiar, but we end the film realising that people are more than the image they project to the world. It’s funny and fun and it features Paul Rudd who was 26-playing-18 and to this day is just as ageless as this classic teen flick.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 11+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Stan

Mean Girls (2004)

Another classic bitchy-girls-get-comeuppance flick, made wonderful by the fact that Tina Fey wrote the script. Lindsay Lohan is so good in this film that I got a bit sad thinking how much she went off the rails. Otherwise just a fabulously funny romp back into the cut-throat world of high school.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 13+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Stan

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

To all the boys movies for teens

This Netflix cutie is very formulaic but is made highly watchable by the charm of its two leads. Mums of tween girls will already know who Noah Centineo is (The Perfect Date, Sierra Burgess is a Loser) and relative-newcomer Lana Condor is equally as charismatic. Who doesn’t love a mismatched-couple teen romance with a cute-as plot device that throws them together? Ah, we all do!! There’s a sequel (and a third movie planned), but it’s not half as good.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 12+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Netflix

The Princess Bride (1987)

You don’t expect to love this Rob Reiner movie as much as you do, but here it is. I must have seen it 27 times and I still have a laugh, so I couldn’t not include it on a list of movies to watch with your teens! My kids all loved this satirical, romantic fairytale when they were tweens and didn’t mind a re-watch recently at 16, 15 and 12. Go for it!

Rated PG
Recommended for kids aged 9+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Amelie (2001)

Amelie

Don’t forget to share this lovely French flick with the kids. It’s just a delight from start to finish. There are a few light sexual encounters and a reference to suicide to navigate, but otherwise it’s a sweet film about love, loss, connection and kindness. French film with subtitles

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 15+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on SBS On Demand

The Intouchables (2012)

Another fabulous French film with plenty to offer the teens. Based on the plot about a wealthy, pessimistic paraplegic taking on a new personal assistant, this film shouldn’t be as uplifting and joyful as it is. But it is. In true ‘mismatched friendships’ movie style, this story reminds us that friendship can happen with anyone when we are allowed to be our authentic selves. Omar Sy as the petty criminal assistant has personality that fairly leaps off the screen. French film with subtitles

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 13+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Download only, but it pops up regularly on SBS On Demand

Love, Simon (2018)

I freaking love this film and think it’s one of the must-see movies to watch with your teens. Read our full review here.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 12+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Sierra Burgess is a Loser (2018)

Another Netflix flick, this time starring the wonderful Shannon Purser alongside favourite hottie Noah Centineo in a Cyrano de Bergerac-inspired rom com. There was a fair amount of controversy over the messaging in this film (there’s a good run-through of this list here), and it’ definitely screens some very uncomfortable moments. However, it’s definitely worth watching this one with the kids in order to spark some awkward conversations about body image, catfishing, depictions of disability and a whole lot more. TBH, Sierra Burgess really is a loser, but not for the reasons she thinks she is…

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 12+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Netflix

Sing Street (2016)

Watch these movies with your teens - Sing Street

This is one of the most underrated teen films out there. It’s an Irish feel-good musical drama from John Carney (Once and Begin Again – both also recommended) that follows budding musician Conor as he starts a band to impress a girl he likes. It’s set in the ’80s, so expect outrageously good costuming, big tunes and loads of personality. The simple story and over-the-top music are equally brilliant and Ferdia Walsh-Peelo acts a heartwarming and talented Conor.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 11+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Steam it on Stan

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

If you haven’t watched this much-loved teen classic with the kids, now is the time. It’s simply a feel-good, leave-your-cares-behind fun night in for everyone. “I recall, Central Park in the fall…”

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 10+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Steam it on Stan

Eighth Grade (2018)

Indie teen dramas have come a long way since the gloss of Reality Bites. This movie is a painfully realistic portrayal of what’s it’s like to be 13. Elsie Fisher (previously doing mainly voice overs for films like Despicable Me) is simply marvellous as socially-anxious Kayla, who can barely say hi to her classmates in person, but comes to life on her vlog channel. The kids and I agree: this is one of the best ‘teen movies’ we’ve ever seen.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 10+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Holes (2003)

A brilliant book (by Louis Sachar, review here) became a brilliant movie (and a brilliant reminder that Shila LaBeouf is not just a boof). Stanley Green is falsely accused of theft and sent to juvenille detention at Camp Lake Green in a desert in Texas. Here the incarcerated boys are forced by the warden to dig holes in the dirt every day, but why? Holes is smart, funny and completely original.

Rated PG
Recommended for kids aged 10+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Disney+

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

How can this movie be almost 40 years old? Harry Ford must be about 100 years old by now… eek. It will probably play as quite kitschy for kids raised on CGI and Marvel effects, but it was always kind of tongue-in-cheek so it gets away with it. Really enjoyable adventure for everyone in the fam, provided they don’t scare too easily. Anxious kids should steer clear.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 12+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Stan

Pitch Perfect (2012)

The first movie is easily the best in the Pitch Perfect trio (second one is okay, third don’t even bother). Catchy music, loads of questionable moments that will make younger teens squirm and plenty of likeable characters to make you all laugh. Be warned that those squirmy moments are very, very squirmy.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 13+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Netflix

Your Name (2016)

This story about Mitsuha and Taki, two total strangers who find they are slowly turning into each other, is delightful from start to finish. The best Japanese animated romantic fantasy film you’ll ever see…

Rated PG
Recommended for kids aged 10+
Common Sense Media review
Download only

A League of Their Own (1992)

“There’s no crying in baseball” – such a classic line and this is the Penny Marshall-directed movie where it comes from. Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty and a random Madonna star in an underdog sports film with a difference. As America’s stock of male athletes is depleted during World War II, a professional all-female baseball league springs up in the Midwest, coached by a grumpy coach who’s past his prime. It’s a feel-good, shiny kinda movie that will leave you all feeling like all is right in the world.

Rated PG
Recommended for kids aged 10+
Common Sense Media review
Download only

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

Another ‘teen highschool flick’ that went mostly under the radar. Not sure how that happened as the acting is about 10x better than most teen flicks (Hailee Steinfeld is excellent as opinionated Nadine, and Woody Harrelson as her teacher can do no wrong IMO). It’s a very character-driven movie and possibly slower than teens expect in a high school coming-of-age flick, but it’s on a great road.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 16+
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Les Choristes (2005)

The ‘based on a true story’ French boarding school movie has more than a touch of the Dead Poets about it. A music teacher at a strict boys boarding school uses music to bring the boys together. He changes the life of Pierre, who grows up to become a famous conductor who this movie is based upon. The music is beautiful and the story is uplifting, so it’s definitely worth a night in with the kids. French film with subtitles

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 12+
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on SBS On Demand

The Secret Life of Bees (2008)

The Secret Life of Bees - movies to watch with teens

I don’t know why this movie wasn’t seen by more people when it was released. While it has some issues with tempo, the cast alone make it a must-see for me. Dakota Fanning stars as Lily, a lonely 1960s teen who runs away from a violent home to a small South Carolina town and meets the Boatwright sisters (Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Sophie Okonedo and Alicia Keys) who welcome her in. The film depicts troubling scenes of racial hatred and domestic and other violence, but it’s handled carefully and overall the mood of the film is uplifting rather than heavy.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 13+, depending on maturity
Common Sense Media review
Download only

We Bought a Zoo (2011)

You can just tell that Matt Damon signed up for this Cameron Crowe film because he wanted to be in a movie his young kids could see. Naturally he chose a good one, because Matt Damon always chooses good ones. It probably helped that he’d be starring with Scarlett Johansson. Regardless of motivations, the two pull off an awesome family-friendly film about the healing power of animals and the nature of family.

Rated PG
Recommended for kids aged 13+, depending on maturity
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Une vie de Chat (2010)

My kids have loved this animated crime caper since they were small, but it’s never too late for a viewing. A grieving girl’s cat Dino (the ‘cat in Paris’ of the English-translated title) lives a double life as a burglar. He introduces Zoe to his jewel thief accomplice Nico and draws her into their nightly prowls across Paris. The action is non-stop and thrilling and the story very charmingly touches on themes of grief. betrayal, revenge and loneliness. French film dubbed in English

Rated PG
Recommended for kids aged 8+
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on SBS On Demand

The Way (2010)

This will be a much slower movie than most teens are used to, but that’s not such a bad thing. A father travels to France to recover the body of his estranged son, who died in an accident while attempting the walk the El Camino Way. He decides to make the pilgrimage himself to try to better understand his son. Emilo Estevez directs his father Martin Sheen and the film feels very authentic and low-key. For that reason, it’s profoundly affecting and will raise many rich topics of conversation with the kids.

Rated PG
Recommended for kids aged 8+
Common Sense Media review
Download only, but it pops up from time to time on SBS On Demand

Juno (2008)

Juno is one of the best movies to watch with your teens

You’ll fall in love with smart, quirky Juno MacGuff, a 16-year-old who falls pregnant to her friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). She initially considers abortion, but is soon searching for the perfect couple to adopt her baby (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman). She’s supported through her quest by her equally quirky parents (the brilliant Allison Janney and JK Simmons). The whole movie is just a delight from start to finish.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 13+, depending on maturity
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

The movie that helped launch Keira Knightley into the stratosphere is one teens of all ages will enjoy. It’s a sporting-underdog, coming-of-age film that also explores themes of family, culture, sexism and racism in a non-threatening way. A nice way to get sports-mad boys to watch a ‘girl’ movie.

Rated PG
Recommended for kids aged 12+
Common Sense Media review
Download only

The Martian (2015)

The Martian a good movie for teens

What should theoretically be a really boring movie (man trapped in small space in space) is made gripping by the charismatic force of lead Matt Damon (can you tell I’m a bit of a fan?). There’ll be a lot to talk about with the kids afterwards: namely about what it means to live a useful life, dealing with loneliness, the importance of creativity and invention, how daily habits and routines can build a life and, above all else, what true resilience really looks like.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 12+
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Dumplin’ (2018)

You know, it would be really nice to see a movie starring a ‘bigger’ actor that wasn’t about the fact that that actor was bigger. A true ‘body positivity’ move would be to just cast the larger girl and let her have a good life, you know? Dumplin’ is not that film, but it still does a pretty good job of making an overweight girl feel good about herself. Even though she’s called Dumplin’. Kudos to the way they handle her first romance in this warm-hearted film.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 12+
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Netflix

Heathers (1990)

The comedy in this movie is pitch black, which means Winona Ryder and Christian Slater are completely in their element. This is teen peer pressure and cruelty ramped up to a 110 and it will be disturbing for many teens. Real life teen shootings have taken most of the fun out of this flick and I’m genuinely surprised it’s only rated M. That said, it’s one I’d still recommend as it satires teen life and raises some very necessary talking points.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 16+, depending on maturity
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Stan

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

10 things I hate about you

Watch it together for Heath, in all his gloriousness.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 12+
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Disney+

Friday Night Lights (2005)

A high school underdog football team rises above adversity to come together as a team. You could call this movie formulaic, except it’s a bit too real and raw to be that. It’s worth noting that the original movie is much tamer than the TV series (which has a solid M rating).

Rated PG
Recommended for kids aged 12+
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Brick (2005)

This indie noir was hardly seen by anyone on release, which is a huge shame. I’m a massive Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan, so you bet I was there. It’s basically an old-fashioned detective who-dun-it coupled with high school dramedy film and JGL pulls it off beautifully. If you haven’t seen this gem, beg, borrow or steal.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 13+, depending on maturity
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Say Anything (1990)

Where did John Cusack go? I loved him when I was old enough for this film to be about me. He just kind of disappeared sometime in the early noughts, but I think we’d all like to have him back. Can you imagine growing up with John and Joan Cusack next door? But, I digress. You probably remember this boy-girl-against-the-world (and especially her parents) movie from your teen years and it still feels a little edgy. Your own teen will love it just as much.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 13+, depending on maturity
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on SBS On Demand

La Tribu (2018)

The Tribe on Netflix

This offbeat Spanish comedy is a truckload of fun – but you may find yourself wondering how they manage to pull it off. Exhibit A, the plot: A corporate bigwig ruins his career and marriage after a shamefully embarrassing encounter with an intern. He attempts suicide, but fails at that too. The resulting amnesia means he has no idea who he is or that he has such a broken past. Luckily he’s rescued by a woman, her “mommies” dance class and the pretty dance instructor. Exhibit B: there’s a lot of cheesy dancing. But, hey, you will LOVE this somehow adorable story anyway, so do give it a try! Spanish film with subtitles

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 13+, depending on maturity
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Netflix

The Royal Tenenbaums (2002)

I’m a huge fan of Wes Anderson and this is one of his best. Three unquestionably odd siblings are reunited together and with their father after their father announces he is dying. It’s the most off off-beat comedy you could possibly wish for and you’ll love every moment. Note that beneath the dark comedy it’s extremely heavy and graphic, including an attempted suicide.

Rated MA15+
Recommended for kids aged 16+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Little Miss Sunshine - good movies to watch with teens

This is one of the cutest, sweetest dysfunctional family road trip movies around. It has an amazing cast (Toni Collette, Steve Carroll, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin) and a sharp script that uses dark humour to deal with the not-even-remotely-funny topics of depression, drugs, divorce and suicide. The main takeaway is the importance of family and that’s a theme worth celebrating.

Rated M | R in US
Recommended for kids aged 14+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Le Scaphandre et le Papillon – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2008)

This is a challenging one due to its slow content and subtitles, but it’s worth encouraging your teens to watch it with you. Younger kids might find this based-on-a-true-story film sad and slow moving, but mature teens should finish the movie feeling inspired and humbled. Jean-Dominique Bauby’s story of suffering from a huge stroke at 43 and becoming the victim of ‘locked in syndrome’ is claustrophobic, unsettling and devastating – he can only communicate by blinking his left eyes. But it’s also a powerful account of a different perspective and raises all kinds of questions about what makes a ‘good life’. Brace yourselves, but don’t miss it. French film with subtitles

Rated M 
Recommended for kids aged 14+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on SBS On Demand

Yesterday (2019)

A rocking Beatles soundtrack, sweet romance and a little bit of fantasy means this movie is probably the most fun you could have watching a movie. Jack (a very cool Himesh Patel) has an accident and wakes up to a world where the Beatles never existed – which means he can pass all their songs off as his own. Ed Sheeran also makes an appearance.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 16+, depending on maturity.
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Lady Bird (2018)

Lady Bird was the first time I took my son to the cinema to see a more ‘mature’ film and it features a very in-your-face sex scene. Talk about trial by fire! See our full review here.

Rated MA15+
Recommended for kids aged 16+
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Mary and Max (2009)

A quirky Aussie indie animated film that’s highly entertaining and thought-provoking. It’s the story of a friendship between Mary, a lonely eight-year-old in Melbourne, and Max, an equally lonely 44-year-old New Yorker. There’s a pervasive melancholy throughout the film, but it’s very touching and thoughtful. It will make you want to search harder for true friendship in unlikely places.

Rated PG
Recommended for kids aged 14+, depending on maturity
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on SBS On Demand

My Left Foot (1989)

Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his performance as Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy and can only use his left foot to do things. The movie highlights the strength of his mother, who never lets him dwell on his shortcomings, and his own inner strength to rise above societal expectations. A beautiful story, beautifully told.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 16+
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on SBS On Demand

The Diary of A Teenage Girl (2015)

Diary of a Teenage Girl

This one has a massive ‘sex ahead’ warning. It’s basically the whole premise of the movie as 15-year-old Minnie explores her sexuality in the 1970s. It’s handled with care, but it’s very graphic and very frank. No judgement here, but many parents will feel uncomfortable knowing their teen is watching this, let alone watching it with them. I still recommend it for its huge heart and fearless exploration of female sexuality.

Rated MA15+
Recommended for kids aged 16+, depending on maturity level
Common Sense Media review
Download only

The Hate U Give (2018)

One of the best books for teens of the past decade was turned into one very fine movie. Starr Carter witnesses the shooting of her best friend by police and must find the courage to stand up for what she knows is right. Amanda Stenberg is a stand-out as Starr and the movie is a faithful adaptation of the fierce book. Read our book review of The Hate U Give here.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 12+, depending on maturity level
Common Sense Media review
Download only

The Way, Way Back (2013)

Fourteen-year-old Duncan (Liam James) is thrown out of his comfort zone and forced to grow up during a summer spent away with his mother (Toni Collette, always great) in this authentic gem of a film. He’s rescued by an unexpected job at a waterpark and its devil-may-care park manager (Sam Rockwell, also always great). As we meander through one very awkward summer with Duncan, we’re reminded of our own teen years and every small and large thing we had to overcome to grow up and be counted.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 12+
Common Sense Media review
Download only

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

Another JGL winner, this time he’s romantic lead who falls in love with Summer (cute-as Zooey Deschanel). Their relationship lasts 500 days and the film explores big truths like “what’s the point of being with someone when you know they’re not ‘the one’?”. It’s quirky, whip-smart and highly watchable. Long live the rom-com!

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 13+
Common Sense Media review
Download only

The Outsiders (1983)

The Outsiders

It would be interesting to see what today’s teens think of The Outsiders. I remember it being so out-there when I was in my mid-teens and saw it for the first time (I’d read the book in Year 7 as well – read our review here). An outstanding cast under Francis Ford Coppola’s direction brings SE Hinton’s classic story about the violent clash between rich Socs and poor Greasers to vivid life: Matt Dillon, C Thomas Howell, Patrick Swayze, Emilo Estevez, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise and Diane Lane. Stop it.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 13+, depending on maturity
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Election (1999)

Reese Witherspoon (Tracey Flick) and Matthew Broderick (Jim McAllister) are outstanding in this smart little (very) black comedy. McAllister flips after Flick answers one too many questions correctly and sets out to ruin the overachievers chances of winning the school’s presidential race. Let’s just say, he’s met his match. Note the rating: there’s plenty of sex, language and questionable ethics in this one.

Rated MA15+
Recommended for kids aged 16+, depending on maturity
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Freedom Writers (2007)

Family movies to watch with teens - Freedom Writers

The best thing about this movie is Hilary Swank (where did she go?!). It’s otherwise a fairly formulaic entry into the ‘tough inner-city school gets inspired by quirky teacher’ genre. Let’s face it, that genre exists for a reason. It makes for fantastically watchable movies that inspire us all to try a little harder. 

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 13+
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Netflix.

Easy A (2010)

It’s easy to see the star inside Emma Stone as she plays Olive Penderghast in this upbeat update of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. A tiny lie about going on a date spirals into out-of-control slut shaming. Olive is aghast, until she realises she can turn the vicious rumours and lost reputation to her advantage. Lots of sexual innuendos and discussion, but not much actual action. The judgey mcjudgersons are the real thing to be horrified about.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 15+
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Netflix.

Booksmart (2019)

You’ll wonder why you’ve never heard of this whip-smart gem. It’s easily one of the best high school movies to come out in the past couple of decades. On the last day of high school best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein, my new favourite actress) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever, equally adorable) decide to cut loose. What follows is crude, rude and a ton of fun as the girls discover more about themselves and their fellow classmates than they ever thought existed.

Rated MA15+
Recommended for kids aged 16+
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Good Will Hunting (1998)

Did you also forget about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s moving film? Their script won them an Academy Award and it’s tight, bright and darn alright. Will Hunting is discovered as a mathematical genius, but he’s got a lot of history to overcome if he wants to feel accepted. He is helped along by therapist Sean (Robin Williams) who draws on his own troubled past to help Will rise to the challenge.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 16+
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Stan

Paper Towns (2015)

Paper Towns

John Green novels translate extremely well into movies (The Fault In Our Stars, Looking for Alaska – see a list of books made into good movies here), but Paper Towns is probably the best adaptation of them all. Q has had a secret crush on his neighbour Margo since the beginning of time. When Margo goes missing, Q and his motley bunch of friends follow clues left by Margo to go on a road trip looking for her. It’s about time I included a road trip movie on a list of movies to watch with your teens!!

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 16+
Common Sense Media review
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The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Charlie (Logan Lerman) has had a rough few months, including dealing with the tragedy of his best friend’s suicide and now changing schools. He meets Patrick (effervescent Ezra Miller) and his step-sister Sam (Emma Watson) who help him through his breakdown. However, the past is never far behind him…

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 16+
Common Sense Media review
Watch it on Netflix

The Spectacular Now (2013)

The writers of (500) Days of Summer pay homage to classic John Hughes films in this party-boy-meets-guileless-girl dramedy. It features a teen alcoholic lead, a fair bit of sex and loads of partying, but it’s got plenty of heart. The movie touches on all the teen angsty hopes and dreams and draws honest, authentic conclusions about why living for the moment isn’t possible all the time.

Rated M
Recommended for kids aged 16+
Common Sense Media review
Download only

Speaking of John Hughes, don’t forget to revisit all his eighties teen classics: The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful.

What are your fave movies to watch with your teens?

50 of the best movies to watch with teens

Feature image by JESHOOTS.com; all other images are stills from movies. 

 

 

 

 

Daily vitamins strategy – a unique parenting tool to encourage good habits

Daily vitamins strategy – a unique parenting tool to encourage good habits

Recently I learned about a ‘daily vitamins strategy’ used as a coaching tool. It was mentioned in an episode of the Trained podcast (which, for reasons currently unknown to me, is my new obsession). Essentially, ‘daily vitamins’ are the specific, personal things that an athlete has to individually work on before each training session. One athlete might be prescribed dribbling and core work as their daily vitamins. Another may need to do sprint drills, passing and mental focus. I think of them as ‘wellbeing vitamins’ – things that are specific to helping an individual reach optimal performance.

I immediately thought that daily vitamins would be a fantastic parenting tool. Wellbeing vitamins seems like a great way to help kids form good habits and work on individual challenges. It’s a shorthand way of guiding them to make beneficial changes. I think it would work for kids of all ages, not just older kids like my three. It even works for parents too, trust me!

A daily vitamins strategy helps us:

  • Focus on what is most important to us
  • Make small, gradual changes that we can build on
  • Create consistency over time
  • Take responsibility for our own wellbeing

Older kids can be really resistant to change, such that we want to pull our hair out in frustration. Despite trying to teach them good habits their whole life, it can be distressing to find that they still don’t brush their teeth / hair / life without constant nagging.


I’m done with the nagging: I stopped cleaning up after the kids and this is what happened


 

A daily vitamins strategy is a way to curb the nagging. We make the list of 3, 5, 10 wellbeing vitamins (or as many as you think your kid can handle) and then it’s done. Our only job is to check in to see if the vitamins have been ‘taken’ and perhaps to discuss strategies to get them done tomorrow.

Daily vitamins - a parenting strategy

Getting buy-in

I think it’s a really good idea to bring your kids along from the beginning. My kids were on board with the concept, especially when I mentioned that taking their vitamins every day might result in a reward. I’ve therefore allocated a point a day for checking off every vitamin. The kids can swap their points for money or treats.

I also made sure that we discussed the vitamins I was considering with them before I made the prescription. That way, I had their buy-in. They were happy to work on the vitamin areas and confident that they could stick to them every day. By keeping it to just five vitamins, we kept it achievable. We plan to swap out the vitamins from time to time to keep things motivating.


Buy-in strategies: 3 excellent wellbeing apps for teens and how to get their buy-in


Daily vitamins prescriptions

Every child will have a different ‘prescription’ that is unique to their needs. In our house, everyone has three vitamins the same, and two different vitamins. The three everyone has in common are:

  1. Make your bed
  2. Put in at least one hour of outdoor exercise time
  3. Do something kind for someone

Here are some examples of what other wellbeing vitamins might look like for different kids. Remember, the vitamins need to be something that happens every single day. It’s also useful if they are building skills that will help our kids’ longtime wellbeing.

  • Practise your instrument for at least 20 minutes
  • Do one hour of homework
  • Walk the dog
  • Cook dinner
  • Dance to loud music for at least 15 minutes
  • Meditate
  • Spend time outside
  • Walk up as soon as your alarm goes off
  • Get along with your siblings
  • Write in your gratitude journal
  • Spend time talking to a friend or family member
  • Choose fruit over other snacks

  • Say your prayers
  • Pull some weeds in the garden
  • Keep your room neat
  • Walk 10,000 steps
  • Read a book
  • Eat five different kinds of vegetables
  • Fill your drink bottle three times
  • Do your core exercises
  • Watch your posture
  • Pack your bag for tomorrow
  • Go to bed on time

Try these tips too: A quick guide to developing good daily habits for kids


 

Make it a general prescription

We typed out our daily vitamins strategy lists and put them up inside the pantry door. There are five vitamins for each kid and five for each parent too. I figured, why not prescribe some change and good habits for myself and my husband while we’re at it! I think the kids really appreciate the fact that we are working on daily vitamins alongside them. It’s all about the role modelling, people!

So far, I have been the worst at sticking to them! Must do better. I wish I hadn’t prescribed myself a ‘no sugar’ vitamin. That’s definitely proving to be a hard pill to swallow!

Reckon you’ll give this strategy a go?

Feature image by Ketut Subiyanto; Fruit plate by Brooke Lark; Strawberries by Artur Rutkowski

How to enjoy school holidays at home when there’s nowhere to go

How to enjoy school holidays at home when there’s nowhere to go

This year, huh? This #$%* year!!!!!!!! And we’re not even located in Victoria. Oh Victorians, we feel for you. Let’s hope it keeps on getting better for you, but in the meantime there are the school holidays and, let’s face it, they are already a bust. How can kids enjoy school holidays at home when home is where school days are spent too?

Here’s the thing – the main point of the school holidays (aside from giving those sainted teachers a much needed break from our cherubs) is to switch up the daily routine. Take the pressure off kids’ brains and let them have some down time, preferably outside.

Fair enough, it’s easier to do that when you’re road tripping to a week long vacay at the beach. No question about it. But even if we’re stuck at home – and possibly only home, forevermore – we can give the family a break. We can make the most of school holidays at home.


If you can get out: 50+ (mostly) free things to do in the holidays for older kids


 

Accept that it’s going to be a quiet one

Here’s where we demonstrate for our kids the important adage of accepting the things we cannot change. Best to settle in for a couple of quiet, slow weeks where not much happens. Sounds quite blissful, don’t you think?

The fact is, we are all too busy in our ‘real life’ anyway. It’s high time we learned how to go slow and simply let time pass without doing things.

There’s a really cool book by Rob Walker called The Art of Noticing. It was written to help creatives find their groove again, but it’s really about hitting pause and being more mindful in any moment. Click through to Rob’s Art of Noticing newsletter archives because there are a ton of fantastic ideas right there.

Quiet doesn't mean you can't enjoy school holidays at home

Keep to a mild routine

Days spent doing quiet pursuits can sometimes feel unproductive and meld into each other. Cue the “I’m boreds”. If you map out a basic routine, it will help the kids feel like they’re busy and have something to look forward to. Even older teens benefit from a bit of structure in their days, and not every kid is capable of providing that structure for themselves.

If there’s a particular activity that they love the most, schedule it for late in the day.

For many kids, this will be beloved screen time. Save that for the afternoon. So, your routine might be as simple as something like:

Morning – breakfast, chores, reading, kick a ball at the park, make something

Lunch – make lunch, eat outside, tidy up

Afternoon – walk to visit a friend, screen time, build something

Dinner – help cook dinner and set the table really nicely

Evening – watch a movie, play a game, go for a night walk, light the fire pit, read a book, start a new hobby

Light the firepit and enjoy school holidays at home

Have a list of activities up your sleeve

There’s actually plenty an older kid can do to enjoy school holidays at home. In fact, we wrote a list of more than a hundred of them

The point is, be ready with a list of at least five recommendations when you see your kid moping around complaining about how boring their life is.

Oh child, we will say, here are five things I wish I could be doing right now instead of folding this giant pile of washing.

A good trick for kids who can never find a thing to do that doesn’t involve a screen: set them up with a calendar that has three activities to do each day already in place. It will take you no time at all to do (or for them to do themselves, of course!!!), but it provides structure and ideas in one handy spot. When they whinge, refer them to the calendar.

Life is too short to do things that don't matter

Give yourself a break too

It’s all well and good for the kids to enjoy school holidays, but what about us? We need a break too – probably way more than the kids do (but not as much as the teachers, surely).  The trouble with an ‘at home’ holiday is that, well, we’re at home. All the mess and lack of organisation and flawed systems and all the junk we wish we hadn’t bought in the first place is right. there. holidaying. with. us.

The only way through it is to give yourself permission to ignore the lot. Or treat yourself to a cleaner a couple of times that week (we’re saving money on holidays, right?). Get takeaway every single night. Head to the beach, bush, river or park. String up a hammock far away from the house. Do what you need to do to get some proper holiday-like downtime. More on taking a week off in the middle of it all here.

How do you plan to spend the school holidays at home?

Feature image by Silvia Lanfranchi; caterpillar by Krysten Merriman; Fire by Michael Aleo; calendar by Manasvita S 

This is how I take a week off when I really need it

This is how I take a week off when I really need it

I remember writing an article years ago where I said that holidays when you’re a mum are just the same sh*t, different location. Nothing has changed. In order to take a week off during an actual holiday, we’d need to go somewhere remote without the family. Somewhere catered, with daily maid service.. and a concierge whose sole job was to shoulder the mental load that being separated from our family is bound to bring on. Yup, we can’t actually be without the buggers without worrying incessantly about where they are, how they are coping, whether they are wearing matching socks, etc. 

So can a mum ever actually take a week off? Especially when we really, truly need it (not just when the school calendar dictates that now is when you need a holiday)? The answer, thank god, is YES. In fact, with a little planning and stealth, we can take a week off whenever we like. Maybe not weeks and weeks in a row, but the odd week or two here and there, preferably during term time. Here’s how we do it.


Take care of you: The self-care parents really need (and it’s not a holiday) (although that would be nice)


 

Step one: clear the calendar

There will be no obligatory social events, sports training, boring meetings, extracurricular activities, or unwelcome obligations of any kind. You may even like to take a week off your job so you don’t even have that to worry about. The only thing you’re allowed to have scheduled in the calendar is fun stuff that benefits your mental health.

++ Speaking of which: 10 wellbeing podcasts that will help you feel better ++

Trust me, your kids’ world will not crumble because they have to miss a rugby training session. I mean, you can always organise lifts for them if they absolutely, positively have to be somewhere. Actually, scrap that, if they want to be there, they can organise the damn lifts themselves!

Step two: ditch the menu

One of the things that sucks the most about being the leader of the house is that you apparently have to cook proper meals 2-3 times a day for eternity. Sure, the kids might whip up a plate of spag bol from time to time, but they didn’t plan that meal, check the pantry, write the shopping list, buy the groceries, put away the groceries and, most likely, they won’t clean up the kitchen afterwards, either.

Eat out every night to take a week off

A lot goes into doing the meals… so let’s take a week off and just not cook at all. Order takeaway, or better yet, go out for dinner every night of the week. Ahem, wouldn’t that be nice?! Affordability-wise, we might need to make some dishes ahead and freeze them so we have stocks for a full week. So let’s do that.

Step three: arrange cleaning help (or not)

If you can afford it, treat yourself to having a cleaner a couple of times during the week you take off. If you can’t, do what I do and ignore the housework for the week. Sure, my fantasy that my family will realise the mess the house is in and clean up has never happened. Which means at the end of my week off it’s all still waiting for me… but, you know what? Two week of shit to clean is no different to one week of shit. All still shit. 

So, pay someone else to do it, or don’t do it all. Either way, you get a free pass from cleaning for a whole week and that’s a holiyay in my book.

Step four: plan something lazy

Holidays mean relaxing in the sun without a care in the world. We might take a short walk from headland to headland, but otherwise, it’s us, a cocktail and a good book. We’re allowed to be lazy on hols; in fact, it’s mandatory. So, let’s put down the To Do list (feel free to crumple it into a ball and throw it at something) and be as unproductive as we like for the week.

This is exactly what so many of us need. I’ve been trying to finish a book I’m actually enjoying for weeks now… but haven’t been making the time. During my week off, I will read more than one book, I promise.

How to take a week off and replenish your soul

Step five: don’t take calls

By this I don’t mean answering the phone (although feel free to lock yours away for the week if that helps you properly switch off). Instead, it’s a phrase I use whenever my kids are bugging me and I don’t wish to be disturbed. “Sorry, I’m not taking calls right now, please call back later.” One time when I said it, my daughter shoved a note in my hand and said, “I’ve sent you a text instead.”


It’s all for them, really: We need to stop being so available to our kids


 

The point is, no one is allowed to interrupt your thoughts during this special week off. If the kids have a problem or need something, they can (a) sort it out themselves or (b) ask their father or (c) phone a friend. It’s not important how they solve things, just that we don’t need to know the thing even existed in the first place.

Step six: go outside as much as possible

It’s a fact of modern life that we spend far too much time inside. Often chained to a desk, not moving much at all. It’s really not nice. Holidays, on the other hand, are so often about being outside, exploring. So, that’s what we’ll do when we take a week off for ourselves! Go outside and walk, rest, eat, relax, play, etc. Whatever you’re doing, just do it outside.

Hopefully you’ve got plenty of ourdoorsy options to choose from, be it a local beach, bush reserve, park, river, creek, forest, or even just the backyard. Out we go!

Getting outside is a great way to take a week off and feel like you're on holiday

Step seven: take proper care of  yourself

For some, optimal care might involve running everyday and eating kale. For others, long baths and chocolate ice cream. It doesn’t matter how you care, only that you do. Gather your thoughts before you take a week off and make a list of the kinds of things that really nourish your soul. Things you might not ordinarily make the time for, but know are good for you.


This helps too: 5 gentle ways to for mums to practise self-kindness


 

On my list are things like:

  • take a long walk in the bush with the dog and a favourite podcast for company.
  • drive somewhere new and have a look around
  • sit on the headlands as the sun goes down
  • eat hot chips with barbecue sauce in the car while listening to Cold Chisel
  • do yoga outside in the morning

None of these things are things I make time for, but all of them are things I really love.

Take a week off and truly relax

Step eight: call on the village

Imagine if every mum had a friend who took her kids after school for a full week, fed them dinner and dropped them home an hour before bed? Just for a week; a very needed week. Not only would you get a full day each day (especially if you have taken that same week off work), but you’d be freed up to go out for dinner too. If your heart desired such a thing.

Well, you can make this happen simply by offering to do it for your friend as well. One week she takes the kids in order to really, truly give you time off. The next is your turn. Repeat as often as needed. Even if you work, I’m pretty sure her kids can fall in with whatever arrangements you have in place for your own kids. That’s the plan anyway!

How long has it been since you’ve been able to take a week off?

Feature image by Milada Vigerova; restaurant by Toa Heftiba; heart hands by Aki Tolentino ;  bush walk by Ghiffari Haris ; cafe by Clem Onojeghuo

11 family games teens will be into too

The problem with all the ‘family games’ lists is that teens are highly unlikely to want to settle around the table with their family and play Monopoly. Some teens will, of course. But most would rather pour boiling-hot scorn on their parents’ pathetic attempts at togetherness and flounce from the room in disgust. Slam!

The thing is, as much as they think they are ready to abandon family life, most teens actually enjoy doing things with us. Once they come down from their pedestal of superiority and deign to join in, of course. It’s true – once they are coaxed out of their room, most are happy to be there. The trick is to get them going in the first place.


Try this too: Family conversation dinners can help you connect


 

Here’s how you encourage them into the fold so you can have a bit of a family games night:

  1. Under no circumstances call it ‘family games night’. Just no.
  2. Have a list of actually good games like this one.
  3. Give them two to choose from so they can be in charge.
  4. Insist that they stay at least for the first 15 minutes.
  5. Relax and don’t spoil things by being overly-cheerful or enthusiastic, they are not five years old 🙋.

It’s worth persisting. There’s a whole lotta together time happening right now for families everywhere and the internet does get tiring after a while. Even for teens. Build it, and they will come.

Board games teens will love - make it a family games night

Family games teens like too

1. Trivial Pursuit

It’s possible your teen might like the original Trivial Pursuit, but you’re more likely to get them involved in a game featuring a TV program/ movie/ book series they love. You could even have a family ‘big watch’ of a series before challenging everyone to trivia. Try:

2. Pictionary

Pictionary is just flat-out fun, no matter how old you are. It’s even better if you can’t draw to save yourself. You can cannily use tech to entice the kids into family games. Teens will love the new Pictionary Air – which uses their beloved phones to bring drawings to life.

3. Game of Life

You probably played Game of Life with the kids when they were smaller. Believe me, it’s MUCH more fun when your teen winds up with eight children and a dead-end job. Cue loads of opportunities to have a not-so-subtle talk about life choices and values.

There’s also a special Game of Life edition for millennials facing their quarter-life crisis.

4. Risk

Risk is a strategy war board game that’s been around since 1959. So it must be good, right? The aim is to achieve global domination by building armies and eliminating your competition. This is the kind of game that groups of nerdy boys play for days at a time – but don’t let that stop you. There’s no reason that nerdy group can’t be your fam.

This is the kind of game that groups of nerdy boys play for days at a time – but don’t let that stop you.

Incidentally, you can now get an app version of Risk, which actually makes it a lot less complex to learn and play. Maybe even start with the app! Family games teens are into can be hard to find, but one that brings an app they love ‘to life’ might be a great lure.

5. Codenames

Our family loves playing Codenames. A little nightly obsession during lockdown, and still a go-to on a lazy Friday night. It’s simple to learn, but challenging to master, so perfectly suited to teens of all ages. It’s easiest to play with four or more people, but you can play with just two at a pinch.

You set out the game cards in a grid of 25 cards and split into teams. Each team allocates one person to be the spymaster. The spymaster has to give clues to the rest of the team to help them identify code words within the grid. Here’s how it works:

There’s a great article about improving your Codenames play here.

6. Local Monopoly

While the very British original Monopoly might be the most boring thing, like, ever to your teen, chances are they’ll love a local version. Try one of these:

Or a character/ band / TV show version:

7. Catan

Catan is another complex strategy game that is great for older kids. It definitely takes a while to learn, so be patient and figure it out together. The game can take a couple of hours or more, depending on how willing players are to trade. There are lots of lessons to learn about making wise choices with what we have. 

The object of the game is to gather resources in order to build your settlement. This is mostly driven by the luck of the dice, but there is plenty of strategy involved in what you do with the resources after you get them. You earn victory points along the way and the winner is the person with the most points at the end.

8. Cluedo

Cluedo is exactly the same game you will remember from your own youth. Fun to play on the board, even more fun when you make it a ‘real life’ game of Clue.

My daughter set this up for our family one night during lockdown and it was terrific. We dressed up and really got into it and I can highly recommend it. Also, if you’ve never seen the movie Clue, based on the board game, make it a family watch immediately! Just not sure where it’s available to stream… any clues? Sorry!

9. Forbidden Island

If your family enjoys the Jumanji movies, you’ll probably all love playing Forbidden Island. As the tagline says: Adventure… if you dare. You have to work together to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of a once-beautiful island paradise. The relics control the Earth’s core elements, earth, wind, fire and water. Did we mention that the island was booby trapped by an ancient civilisation and is rapidly sinking?

Good family games are quick family games, and Forbidden Island is all done in about half an hour. Even the surliest kid can spare a quick 30, surely? And in this one, everyone is on the same team, so it should really help with family bonding.


More fab ideas: 100 fun, quirky, important ways to bond with your teen


 

10. Scrabble

Another oldie, but goodie. Scrabble has been a big fave all over the world for many, many years for very good reason. It suits people of all ages (hello teens!), it’s challenging, no game is every the same aaaaand you can practise with the app called Words With Friends. What’s not to love?

Scrabble is a great family game teens love too

11. Pandemic

This one may be just a liiiiittle bit too close to home right now, but Pandemic is seriously good. Your goal is to stop the spread of a global pandemic and cure the disease before it runs rampant. Too soon?

It can get quite tense – which is great for helping the family release any festering resentments.

As a thematic game, Pandemic can be quite different every time you play it, which makes it a worthwhile addition to the board game shelf at home. It can get quite tense – which is great for helping the family release any festering resentments. LOL. The good news is, the fam will quickly figure out that you have to cooperate in order to stop the spread. Let’s get a yay for family team work!

Can you recommend more family games teens like too?

Feature image by cottonbro; Scrabble by Pixabay; other images from respective game marketing.

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