The Best Young Adult Dramas

by moonspinner55 | created - 12 Apr 2011 | updated - 23 Apr 2011 | Public

From "The Chalk Garden" to "Mermaids"

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1. The Chalk Garden (1964)

Approved | 106 min | Drama, Mystery

A grandmother (Edith Evans) seeks a governess for her sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Laurel (Hayley Mills), who manages to drive away every one so far by exposing their past, with a record... See full summary »

Director: Ronald Neame | Stars: Deborah Kerr, Hayley Mills, John Mills, Edith Evans

Votes: 1,553

Hayley Mills is a hell-raising teenager living with her eccentric grandmother who becomes insistent upon knowing all the secrets of her mysterious new governess (Deborah Kerr), a woman who paces in her room at night and doesn't seem to have a friend or a relative in the world. An acting tour-de-force for the ladies, with an exquisite production from Ross Hunter.

2. Susan Slade (1961)

Not Rated | 116 min | Drama

Premarital sex, secrets, and society. At 17, shy Susan Slade is on her way to California after a ten-year stay at a remote Chilean mine where her father was chief engineer. Onboard ship, ... See full summary »

Director: Delmer Daves | Stars: Troy Donahue, Dorothy McGuire, Connie Stevens, Lloyd Nolan

Votes: 666

Busy teenager Connie Stevens gets kissed, gets pregnant, hopes to get married but instead gets sidelined by fate. Mom poses as the baby's mother to save face. Watch out! Gorgeous Lucien Ballard cinematography and Max Steiner scoring adds this to heart-rending drama, topped with camp flourishes and Stevens' exquisite beauty and solid acting. No, she's not Meryl Streep, but she connects with the viewer on an emotional level and is never less than fascinating.

3. Blue Denim (1959)

Approved | 89 min | Drama, Romance

Arthur Bartley and Janet Willard are fairly typical 1950s teenagers. Their lives are turned upside down however when Janet becomes pregnant. Desperate to tell his parents of the predicament... See full summary »

Director: Philip Dunne | Stars: Carol Lynley, Brandon De Wilde, Macdonald Carey, Marsha Hunt

Votes: 537

Carol Lynley and Brandon de Wilde experiment with intimacy--much to their chagrin. Not really a film about regrets or hard decisions, rather a film dealing with mistakes, and with explaining your actions to your parents.

4. Splendor in the Grass (1961)

Not Rated | 124 min | Drama, Romance

74 Metascore

A fragile Kansas girl's love for a handsome young man from the town's most powerful family drives her to heartbreak and madness.

Director: Elia Kazan | Stars: Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty, Pat Hingle, Audrey Christie

Votes: 16,618 | Gross: $8.72M

I'm not sure why this story about misguided young love had to be set during the time of the Stock Market Crash, except to add a bit of background; otherwise, a first-rate example of how our emotions lead us astray. Natalie Wood, cracking up in the hospital, her eyes wild repeating "Is somebody there? Is somebody there?", delivers one of her best performances.

5. Echoes of a Summer (1976)

PG | 99 min | Drama

A couple, whose daughter has a life-threatening heart condition, decides to make her last days of life as meaningful for her as possible by taking her to the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

Director: Don Taylor | Stars: Richard Harris, Jodie Foster, Lois Nettleton, Geraldine Fitzgerald

Votes: 361

Jodie Foster is dying of heart disease, and so wants the last year of her young life to be filled with new experiences and wonderment. She and a neighbor boy (Brad Savage) talk about the mystery of sex, finally deciding it must be something like lying down together and holding hands. Based on an unsuccessful Broadway play (which starred the equally young Patty Duke), "Echoes" has been almost forgotten except for a few cult-movie die-hards. It attempts to discuss the realities of death (particularly a young person's death) in a serious, non-melodramatic way, though the scenario is underlined with sentiment. Still, a good showcase for 12-year-old Foster, with Richard Harris and Lois Nettleton solid as her parents.

6. Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring (1971 TV Movie)

74 min | Drama

After finding out that the hippie lifestyle isn't as glamorous as the media makes it look, Dennie comes home to find disapproval and judgment at every turn, and her sister Susie wanting to follow in her footsteps.

Director: Joseph Sargent | Stars: Sally Field, Eleanor Parker, Lane Bradbury, David Carradine

Votes: 477

Just off "The Flying Nun", Sally Field makes an impressive acting U-turn with this complicated drama of young love, parents, drugs, freedom, and insecurity in suburbia. Trying to get through to her drunken parents about an urgent family matter, Sally gives up, lets out a scream, and dives into the swimming pool with all her clothes on. She's trying to escape yet still retain her roots--and her youthful feelings of helplessness and confusion are powerful to this day.

7. Sarah T. - Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic (1975 TV Movie)

Not Rated | 96 min | Drama

This movie is a teaching tool about a teenage girl struggling with alcoholism to cope with her feelings of insecurity and usual problems of adolescence.

Director: Richard Donner | Stars: Linda Blair, Larry Hagman, Verna Bloom, William Daniels

Votes: 435

There was nobody more troubled on-screen in the 1970s than Linda Blair was! Here she's a high school misfit with a new stepfather, a meddling mother, a boyfriend (Mark Hamill) whom she's not allowed to see, and a ne'er-do-well father (Larry Hagman) who makes lots of promises to Sarah he can't possibly keep; she turns to the bottle. Scenes of Blair (very cute in braces and floppy hats) scheming to get her hands on booze are unforgettable, while everyone learns a lesson in the end about how tough it is to be a teenager.

8. Me, Natalie (1969)

M | 111 min | Comedy, Drama

A young woman struggles for independence.

Director: Fred Coe | Stars: Patty Duke, James Farentino, Martin Balsam, Elsa Lanchester

Votes: 782 | Gross: $1.07M

Patty Duke is the proverbial Ugly Ducking who moves from the Brooklyn Boroughs to the Big Apple after high school and...doesn't turn into the proverbial Swan! She gets a waitressing job (at the Topless & Bottomless Club), gets her own studio apartment, falls in love with a married man, and comes to the realization that nobody controls her life, her heart, her emotions. She's her own girl ("I'm me...Natalie!") and nothin's gonna stop her now. Pure movie pleasure.

9. The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)

PG | 107 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

Two students from neighboring colleges in upstate New York are swept up in a tragic romantic interlude calling for a maturity of vision beyond their experience of capabilities. Pookie Adams... See full summary »

Director: Alan J. Pakula | Stars: Liza Minnelli, Wendell Burton, Tim McIntire, Anita Alberts

Votes: 1,754 | Gross: $13.98M

Liza Minnelli (in only her second major acting role on-screen) as an anti-social college student in love for the first time. Her Pookie Adams encompasses all the things we often see in ourselves that we don't like and wish we could change: her neediness, her paranoia, her desire to ruin everything good before IT ruins HER. One of the most poignant endings ever, and Liza is a treasure.

10. Mermaids (1990)

PG-13 | 110 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

56 Metascore

An unconventional single mother relocates with her two daughters to a small Massachusetts town in 1963, where a number of events and relationships both challenge and strengthen their familial bonds.

Director: Richard Benjamin | Stars: Cher, Bob Hoskins, Winona Ryder, Michael Schoeffling

Votes: 27,195 | Gross: $35.42M

Cher's role as a somewhat flighty and irresponsible single mother of two takes a surprising backseat to Winona Ryder as her eldest daughter, an idealistic high schooler anxious to grow up and get away from Mom. Ryder was THE teen star of 1990, and she pulls off some incredible moments here while balancing comedy and pathos. Perhaps this is one reason why Cher never spoke with much love for "Mermaids"--it is Ryder's angst and longing we ultimately remember.

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