Top 10 Must-See Movies about Bullying for Older Kids
When it comes to bullying, there is no one right way to deal with it. As you’ll see from the characters in these fine flicks, there are a variety of inventive solutions – from hiring your own personal bodyguard, to becoming friends with the enemy, and even blowing bothersome bullies away using telekinetic powers.
There are serious, hard-to-watch, heavy movies based on true stories ending in tragedy and there are wish-fulfilment fantasies of a makeover making everything all better. Regardless of how the message is delivered and what its outcome is, everyone can relate to some aspect of this rite of passage in these movies – out of these ten, there’s bound to be one that speaks to you as a parent and to your kids… whatever side of the bullying coin they may be on.
When a high school girl named Jessica (Lexi Ainsworth) attempts suicide, everyone points the finger of blame at Avery (Hunter King), a popular blonde clique leader who’s been harassing her for months. Since Jessica was wearing a hidden camera to document herself as the target of relentless bullying, there’s plenty of proof of Avery’s cruelty. As Jessica lies in a coma, a documentary crew arrives on the scene and uncovers several secrets behind the scenes. Writer and director Amy S. Weber (who also plays the filmmaker in the pseudo-documentary) took her inspiration from a true story and in her film she attempts to show both sides of the bully issue. This is one of the few movies that humanizing the “monster” — and allowing Avery to tell her side of the story in her own words.
Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is a shy, withdrawn 16-year-old student who is teased, taunted, belittled, and bullied at school… and at home. Carrie’s mother is an overprotective religious fanatic who smashed her daughter’s self-esteem so flat, it’s a wonder Carrie can even speak. But Carrie really doesn’t have to say much: she just has to use the powers of her mind and everyone who’s tormented her gets the message loud and clear! While Carrie is a full-on horror movie, its deep and soulful examination of the effects of bullying cuts to the bone. There is a contemporary remake of the movie starring Chloë Grace Moretz as Carrie – and yes, kids may relate to her because they know who she is – but it’s not nearly as effective or as memorable as the original.
Happy-go-lucky senior Bianca (Mae Whitman) is in for a rude awakening when she learns that her classmates secretly know her as the DUFF – the “Designated Ugly Fat Friend” – to her prettier, thinner, and more popular pals. Bianca decides she must reinvent herself before the end of the school year, so she enlists the aid of charming jock Wesley (Robbie Amell) and makes it her mission to befriend the resident “mean girl” Madison (Bella Thorne). Because fat-shaming is a huge issue for so-called less-than-10 girls, The Duff serves as light-hearted reminder that at the end of the day, we’re all beautiful. Only one problem… Mae Whitman, the actress who plays the Duff, would never in any universe be considered ugly or fat, which kind of negates the message. The movie is cute, but a little crass – use caution showing it to younger kids. (Or better yet, have them read the book [hyperlink] by Kody Keplinger.)
While the bullying she endures is relatively mild, Olive (Emma Stone) is the punchline of jokes based on her squeaky-clean image. Prompted by her BFF to spill the deets of her boring weekend, Olive decides to spice things up by telling “a little white lie” about losing her virginity at a house party. When class busybody Marianne (Amanda Bynes) overhears the conversation and spreads the sordid story all over campus, Olive is suddenly popular for all the wrong reasons. Based very loosely on The Scarlet Letter, Easy A owes a huge debt to the classic teen comedies of the 1980s. However, it proves to be a saucy, witty, and charming tale in its own right, thanks to intelligent writing and an excellent cast (including Penn Badgley and Dan Bryd as the token “hot guy” and “gay guy,” respectively).
Based on a series of popular books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the first of three movies and to date, it’s the best of the lot. Here’s the skinny: Middle school is far from an enjoyable experience for Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon). It’s a gauntlet of minefields he’s forced to navigate on a daily basis. To get through the ordeal, Greg devises schemes to win him the recognition and status he feels he deserves… all of which fail miserably. He chronicles his misadventures in a diary and we get to see them all through his eyes. Even being at home is hard – Greg’s older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) is as bad a bully as the ones at school. Told through the lens of wisecracking comedy, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is gross enough to appeal to its target audience (12-year-old boys) but smart enough to make its point to anyone who watches it.
Cady (Lindsay Lohan) was educated in Africa by her scientist parents, so when her family moves to the suburbs of Illinois, she is excited to get to mix with kids her own age and experience an American public school for the first time. Her excitement quickly dwindles to disappointment when she gets an education in cliques, bullying, and unpopularity. Not that she’s being bullied – quite the opposite: Cady has been embraced by an elite group of cool students dubbed “the Plastics.” But when she realizes how her shallow group of new friends earned this nickname, Cady decides to take a stand. Written by Tina Fey and based on a bestselling nonfiction book, Mean Girls is the queen bee of its genre.
As if his name didn’t make him enough of a target, Clifford Peache (Chris Makepeace), is a sensitive teen from a rich family, and he’s new in school. The resident bully, Melvin Moody (Matt Dillon), quickly zeros in and begins a relentless mission to make Clifford’s life a living heck (yes, this movie is rated PG). Tired of being picked on, Clifford comes up with a clever solution: he hires brooding tough kid Ricky Linderman (Adam Baldwin) to be his bodyguard. While this initially works like a charm, something goes south and Clifford is forced to confront Moody all by himself. While My Bodyguard is definitely dated, its mix of heart, drama, and comedy are truly timeless.
Controversial director Larry Clark first made headlines in 1995 with his shocking film Kids, which showed the seedy side of growing up too fast. With Bully, he did it again – making a brutally honest, hard-to-watch story showing kids doing the most unimaginable… yet factual… things. Bully is a searing psychological crime drama starring Brad Renfro, Bijou Phillips, Rachel Miner, Michael Pitt, Leo Fitzpatrick, Kelli Garner, and Nick Stahl. Based on the 1993 murder of Bobby Kent, the plot follows a clique of teens in South Florida who enact a murder plot against a mutual friend who has emotionally, physically, and sexually abused them for years. It’s based on the book Bully: A True Story of High School Revenge by Jim Schutze. It’s disturbing, straightforward, and raw – you’ll either love it or hate it, but you can’t deny it’s an important film.
While this is a classic coming of age comedy, the dynamic between bespectacled Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and ginger-headed bully Scut (Zack Ward) has become indelible in the minds of many movie lovers over the years. Not just for the holidays, A Christmas Story transcends the season as a perennial fave. Based on the touching, humorous memoirs of author Jean Shepherd, this beloved follows young Ralphie as he spends most of his time dodging Scut and dreaming of his ideal Christmas gift: a Red Ryder air rifle. More often than not at odds with his cranky, leg-lamp loving dad (Darren McGavin) but comforted by his smothering mother (Melinda Dillon), Ralphie just hopes to make it to Christmas morning with his glasses and his hopes intact.
The novel Lord of the Flies has been required reading in schools for decades, as it is an excellent dissection of archetypical personalities thrown into an atypical situation. The first and best film based on the book captures the spirit in an amazing and arresting way. When nuclear war unexpectedly breaks out, a plane carrying a group of school boys crash lands on a deserted island. With no adult survivors, the boys are forced to fend for themselves, and at first they cooperate… but before long they split into two separate camps. One is led by the rational Ralph (James Aubrey), and the other by warmongering Jack (Tom Chapin). Inevitably, their groups both fall into disarray, leading to a troubling examination of human nature and a chilling conclusion: there’s a thin line between society and savagery. Lord of the Flies was remade in 1990 and 2013.
What are some films about bullying you’ll be watching with the kids? Share your must-see movies with us!
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