Our 20 Favorite Out-of-Control Teens on Film


A few weeks ago, in honor of the oh-so-controversial teens of Skins, we rounded up ten of our favorite out-of-control TV teens. And although that show is far from finished making headlines, pop culture already has a new gang of wild youths to contend with. Gregg Araki, known recently for stoner comedy Smiley Face and bracing indie drama Mysterious Skin , is back with Kaboom, a film that hearkens back to his joyfully decadent ’90s fare. In celebration of Araki’s candy-colored ode to collegiate experimentation, we’ve put together a list of our favorite out-of-control teens on film.

Cry-Baby Walker, Cry-Baby

In a simpler time — the ’50s — when you were either a square or a rocker, Johnny Depp’s Cry-Baby was the rockin’-est of them all. The hunkiest troubadour-cum-juvenile delinquent in Baltimore, he made us laugh and swoon in equal measure. We have to assume director John Waters felt the same way.

Nora Diniro, Pump Up the Volume

Christian Slater’s Mark Hunter (a.k.a. Happy Harry Hard-on) may have been a high-school pirate radio hero, but it took the sexily unhinged notes and eventual real-life lovin’ of Samantha Mathis’s Nora Diniro (a.k.a. “the eat me, beat me lady”) to push him off the precipice of full-on teenage riot.

Jason Dean, Heathers

Speaking of Slater, who could forget him as JD, the sociopathic boyfriend of Winona Ryder’s Veronica? Freaky revenge fantasies never looked so appealing.

Lisa Rowe, Girl, Interrupted

Speaking of crazy people and Winona Ryder, both appeared in 1999’s Girl, Interrupted, an adaptation of Susanna Kaysen’s mental-hospital memoir. Ryder was wonderful as the book’s suicidal author, but Angelina Jolie, in her breakthrough role as a beautiful former junkie who takes pride in her diagnosis as a sociopath, totally stole the show.

Alex, A Clockwork Orange

Among the most famous juvenile delinquents in the history of film (not to mention literature), the protagonist of A Clockwork Orange is fond of mischief, drugs, rape, and “ultra-violence.” Alex’s (Malcolm McDowell) nasty proclivities land him in jail where he is tortured and manipulated by a government that’s every bit as disgusting as he is.

Evie Zamora, Thirteen

A sort of Reefer Madness for the 21st century, Thirteen is Nikki Reed’s sensational (but apparently true) tale of her own middle-school corruption. Basically overnight, Tracy Freeland (Evan Rachel Wood) is transformed from an honor student into a slutty, drug-abusing, self-mutilating thief. The peer who leads her into evil, Evie Zamora, is played by none other than Reed herself.

Mitch Kramer, Dazed and Confused

There are plenty of wild teens in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. But we’re partial to Wiley Wiggins’s Mitch Kramer, a soon-to-be freshman who survives some harrowing hazing only to get totally fucked up at his first high-school party and stay out all night with an older girl. Sweet emotion, indeed.

Jim Stark, Rebel Without a Cause

Back in 1955, James Dean set the standard for out-of-control teenagers on film. As the titular rebel, Jim, he’s drunk and disorderly, prone to fights and deadly games of chicken. Every mysterious, leather jacket-wearing male loner in pop culture, from Cry-Baby to Dylan McKay, owes a major debt to Dean’s Jim and the film’s director, Nicholas Ray.

Courtney Shane, Jawbreaker

Like “Satan in heels,” Rose McGowan’s Courtney Shane is the evilest mean girl of them all. Not only does she go to great lengths to cover up the accidental death of her friend, but she also sleeps with a creepy-as-fuck Marilyn Manson. Knowing that McGowan and Manson were actually together at the time Jawbreaker was filmed only makes just makes the scene even skeevier.

Lane Meyer, Better Off Dead

As far as ’80s teen comedies go, Ferris Bueller might have been the obvious choice for this list. But we far prefer his darker counterpart, Lane Meyer (John Cusack) of Better Off Dead. He doesn’t have a drug problem or a sex addiction — just a cartoonish death wish and several totally macabre failed suicide schemes.

Deb, Empire Records

Deb had a hot boyfriend (remember Coyote Shivers?), a cool haircut, and a sweet record-store job. But she still wanted to kill herself — at least, until her awesome pals threw her a faux funeral and she realized that dying wasn’t such a great idea, after all.

John Bender, The Breakfast Club

A list like this one would never be complete without Judd Nelson’s wonderful John Bender, the “rebel” of the Breakfast Club gang. Hey, if he was good enough for Molly Ringwald, he’s good enough for us.

Doughboy, Boyz N the Hood

In this heartbreaking film, about boys growing up in South Central L.A. in the ’80s and early ’90s, Ice Cube stars as Doughboy, a gang member and teenage ex-con. Loyal to the end, he avenges his childhood friend’s death and reaps the horrible consequences of his actions.

Telly, Kids

Among the most repellent film characters we can recall, Telly is the character in Harmony Korine’s incredibly controversial Kids who sleeps with 12- and 13-year-old virgins and randomly beats up passersby. Just thinking of him makes us shudder.

Mel, Nowhere

As in just about all of Gregg Araki’s movies, most of the kids in Nowhere are beautiful wrecks. But our favorite has got to be promiscuous, polysexual, violet-haired Mel — who you may remember as out-of-control TV teen Emily Valentine, from Beverly Hills, 90210.

Jim Carroll, The Basketball Diaries

The late author and musician Jim Carroll wrote a harrowing memoir of his high-school double life as both a basketball star and a heroin addict. A young Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed Carroll in the film version, and despite the movie’s unevenness, DiCaprio was fantastic.

Kathryn Merteuil, Cruel Intentions

Sure, it dumbed down a classic French novel, and many are partial to Glenn Close and John Malkovich’s traditional take on Dangerous Liaisons. But we’ve got a soft spot for this teen update. Sarah Michelle Gellar is pure prep-school evil as Kathryn Merteuil, a Selma Blair-smoochin’, cocaine-locket-wearin’, Ryan Phillippe-manipulatin’ queen bee who singlehandedly made the country club look fashionable again.

Arthur Stuart, Velvet Goldmine

In one of our favorite movies of all time, Christian Bale plays Arthur Stewart, a journalist with a secret past — as a teenage glam-rock superfan. His infatuation with Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor) drives him to realize his bisexuality, disgust his parents, and move out to live his glittery dreams. Does he really get with Ewan? We may never know…

Nancy Downs, The Craft

The ladies of The Craft were not your average polite, granola-eating Wiccans. They fucked shit up good. The scariest one by far? Fairuza Balk’s tough as nails Nancy Downs.

Jeff Spicoli, Fast Times at Ridgemont High

We can think of no better way to end this list than with the one and only Jeff Spicoli. Sean Penn may be a Serious Actor these days, but we will always associate him with Fast Times’ resident surfer, stoner, and smart-ass.