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5 Movies like Thirteen: Raw Teenage Struggles

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Roxanne_Sancto_itcher_contributor“If you’re craving a little teenage angst as seen in Thirteen (2003) you might want to check out Running with Scissors (2006), Ken Park (2002), Lords of Dogtown (2005), Crazy (2000), Kidulthood (2006) and This is England (2006)”. ~ Roxanne Sancto

***This article contains spoilers for:
Running With Scissors, Ken Park and Crazy.***

Aaah, to be thirteen again….Yeah, right! It’s got to be the suckiest of all ages for a girl: hormonal-overloads, mood-swings, growing boobs, periods and stupid boys. Ugh, no thanks! Being thirteen is like being stuck in limbo: somewhere between feeling like a kid and an “adult”. I believe it was actually Britney Spears who said it best: not a girl, not yet a woman.

Yeah, who wants to be stuck between those two extremes?

I would never want to go back to being thirteen again – not in a million years.

I can really relate to movies like Thirteen (2003) and the feeling of being torn between wanting to go on with life as per normal, and wanting to explore new, teen territories such as boys, fashion or other things.

It may be scary and often difficult for parents to grasp, but kids are getting into mischief at a much younger age these days. Thirteen is the new sixteen, so to speak, and I think that’s a point this movie really drove home.

Evan Rachel Wood delivered an outstanding performance as Tracey Freeland, as did the beautiful Holly Hunter as her mother.

The film is loosely based on Nikki Reed’s life, who also stars in the film as Evie Zamora.

Let’s check out a few other good movies similar to Thirteen!

What Films Are Similar to Thirteen?

`Running With Scissors´ (Ryan Murphy, 2006)

Where would we be without our painful childhoods?

Running With Scissors is based on the memoir of Augusten Burroughs, the author of Dry and Possible Side Effects. While Thirteen largely concentrates on Tracey and her journey towards finding a good place in life as a teenager, Running in Scissors focuses on the characters surrounding the character of Augusten.

Augusten grew up with two dysfunctional parents whose relationship was an absolute disaster.

His mother Deidre (Annette Bening) was obsessed with the idea of fame and recognition as a poet, and exhibited extreme bipolar behaviour. His father was an alcoholic who felt overwhelmed by his wife and son… and he was rather useless.

Deidre hands Augusten over to the care of her psychiatrist, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox); although it may seem as though she simply wants the best for her child, it becomes clear that this is an act of pure selfishness.

Dr. Finch is a strange, Freudian character who is obsessed with faeces, and his family is a bit of a freak show.

His wife Agnes (Jill Clayburgh) clearly has all to say in their household, while his insanely religious daughter, Hope (Gwnyeth Paltrow), seems as though she wants to crawl back into her father’s non-existent womb.

The most likeable and rebellious of the Finch clan, is the youngest daughter, Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood), who takes a shine to Augusten, but unfortunately for her, he outs himself as gay, and soon begins a relationship with Finch’s adoptive son, Neil (Joseph Fiennes).

Augusten has a hard time adapting to the Finch families crazy manners and absurd behaviour, but establishes a caring relationship with Agnes. This helps him come to terms with his anger over his own mother having neglected him.

Finch finally manages to talk Deidre into signing over all of her money, at which point Augusten decides to leave for New York to become a writer. Agnes meets him at the bus station to hand him some money she had saved up for him.

This film is weird, funny, sad, quirky, dramatic – all rolled into one! If you’re looking to find any movies like Thirteen, this one is a great start. In Running With Scissors we get to witness what it’s like for a boy who’s going through teenaged dilemmas!

`Ken Park´  (Larry Clark, 2002)

You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family.

If ever there was a director who specialises in teen life, sexuality and drug abuse, it’s Larry Clark, the director of Kids (1995) and Wassup Rockers (2005).

No one has ever quite managed to portray teenage life as authentically and shockingly as Clark and Ken Park was no exception.

As is typical for Clark, this film explores the deep effects of dysfunctional families and extreme sexual preferences such as autoerotic asphyxiation.

If you thought Thirteen was hardcore, Ken Park is not for you.

The movie concentrates on a group of friends who distract themselves from their difficult home situations by having sex and skating.

Shawn (James Bullard) may be your modern day Casanova who’s sleeping with his girlfriends’ mother, but other than that, he seems pretty stable in life. Unlike his friends.

Peaches (Tiffany Limos) lives with her extremely religious father who wants her to act like her deceased mother. When he catches her in bed with her boyfriend, he forces her to put on her mother’s wedding dress and engage in a wedding ritual with him.

Claude (Stephen Jasso), a sensitive and sweet kid with a love for skateboarding, is constantly being terrorized by his alcoholic father who scolds him for “acting like a fag”. He regularly beats up Claude’s pregnant mother, and one day, tries to force Claude into oral sex.

Tate (James Ransone) lives with his grandparents. They care for him but to no avail: Tate can’t stand them and lets it be known. When his grandpa “cheats” during Scrabble one day, Tate ends up murdering his grandparents in their bed and finds himself getting aroused by the act.

This is obviously not a film for the faint-hearted, but as far as coming-of-age films go, Ken Park should be on the top of your list!


More Films like Thirteen

As I mentioned before, Larry Clark is my first choice when it comes to the portrayal of teenage life, but I do understand that his work is not for everyone.

If you like the authenticity of his characters, but not the extreme sex and drug abuse, you might like Lords of Dogtown.

`Lords of Dogtown´ (Catherine Hardwicke, 2005)

You gotta approach every day as if it’s your last!

I love this movie! It gives us a real sense of the rise of the skateboarding culture in 1970’s California.

It’s based on the story of the original Z-Boys, who are renowned for introducing a new style of skateboarding that included aerial and sliding skate moves.

While it is definitely more focused on Skateboarding and surfing than anything else, we get an insight into the lives and lifestyles of teenagers like Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch), Stacy Peralta (John Robinson) and Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk).

Plus, Nikki Reed makes another appearance here as Kathy Alva.

`Crazy´ (Hans-Christian Schmid, 2000)

Stop the singing! Ok, the midnight mass is too long, lets finish it now. Everybody go home and unwrap your presents.

Another great movie like Thirteen but on a slightly less dramatic note, is the German film Crazy, featuring Tom Schilling (Verschwende Deine Jugend) and Robert Stadlober (Summer Storm).

Set in a boarding school in the Bavarian suburbs, Crazy focuses on Benjamin (Stadlober), who is paralyzed on one side. He finds new friends in his room mate Janosch (Schilling) and several other school mates.

While Benjamin always has crushes on girls, he finds it difficult to approach them and feels hindered by his handicap. Janosch opens up a new world for Benjamin when he takes him and his mates to a strip club, and motivates Benjamin to feed some notes into the stripper’s panties.

Benjamin doesn’t end up getting the girl he wants, but he does lose his virginity to an equally beautiful girl at his school.

The soundtrack of Crazy is brilliant, and epic interludes within the film guarantee a great laugh.

`This Is England´ (Shane Meadowns, 2006)

I just wondered if you’d like to be my girlfriend. I think you’re lovely.

This Is England (2006) by Shane Meadows, is also great choice.

A tad harsher than Lords of Dogtown and Crazy, this films give us an idea of teenage life in Britain in the 80’s. It follows the 12 year old Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), who befriends a group of apoliticial skinheads led by Woody (Joseph Gilgun).

When Combo (Stephen Graham), a former member of the group, returns from prison, he shares his English nationalist and racist views – something Woody and his friends don’t agree with.

They part ways and Shaun goes with Combo, not realising how much of a sociopath Combo really is…


What Are You Waiting for? Time to Relive Your Teenage Years!

We all have mixed feelings about our teenaged years; yes, we all had a lot of fun – especially getting up to no good! – but we also had to go through a lot of changes, not all of which were easy.

If you’re craving a night of teenage nostalgia, check out any of the movies on this list! And if you still can’t get enough, I’m sure you’ll also like these movies like ‘Kids’.

Any Suggestions?

Please leave your comments below!

**For a video playlist of the recommendations, please click here.

My name is Roxanne Sancto and I’ll be writing all things music, book and movie related for itcher mag. I also write for New Heroes & Pioneers’ upcoming Festival and Culture magazines, to be launched in the spring of 2014. I am the co-author of The Pink Boots and am currently working on two new novels. I love music, literature, cinema, crafting, yoga and animals.
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