The List: The best movies featuring gangs of youths

Joel Oliphint
“Stand by Me”

Gang of Youths, an Australian rock act coming to town for a performance at A&R Bar on Wednesday, Dec. 5, made us think of films that feature gangs, cliques and tight-knit groups of kids and teens. And while we were thinking of those movies, we thought, “Hey, might as well rank them.” (No charge for that exclusive peek behind the Alive curtain.) So here are some movies with gangs of youths in loosely ascending order.

“Peter Pan”

The Lost Boys never quite lived up to their potential in Disney's 1953 animated feature, even with a leader like Peter. Plus, they all cried when Wendy sang that song about mothers. Weak.

“Red Dawn”

It doesn't really hold up, but the official description of this 1984 flick has never felt more appropriate: “It is the dawn of World War III. In Midwestern America, a group of teenagers band together to defend their town, and their country, from invading Soviet forces.”

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

They're heroes in a half shell, and they're green, but most importantly for this list, they're teenagers on a crusade for justice (and pizza). I'm partial to the original 1990 movie, with turtles that look less steroidal than the HGH-evoking ones from the recent reboot.

“The Goonies”

This one has it all: misfit kids, pirate treasure, a monster who's not really a monster.

“The Sandlot”

Like the Goonies, but with baseball instead of pirate treasure.

“Mean Girls”

I'd sooner mess with the “Red Dawn” Russians than the Plastics …


... but the clique-killing duo of Christian Slater and Winona Ryder is even deadlier.

“To Sir, With Love”

Sidney Poitier and a group of unruly kids > Michelle Pfeiffer and a group of unruly kids (and Coolio).

“The Outsiders”

This one gets into the top tier on cast alone: Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Tom Waits, Ralph Macchio and an uncredited Flea. Bonus points for featuring actual gangs (the Greasers and the Socs).

“Boyz n the Hood”

Sure, some of these guys are more like men than boys, but it still counts, and even though it was made in 1991, it's tragically timely. “Either they don't know, don't show or don't care about what's going on in the hood.”


Spielberg somehow managed to make a compelling action sequence out of a pack of kids riding bikes with attached baskets, making every child in America feel infinitely cooler while riding around their neighborhoods. Thanks, Steve.

“Stand by Me”

The most believable pack of young friends in cinema (thanks to good acting and great dialogue) and the best storyline of all the gang-of-youth movies. “It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of our lives, like busboys in a restaurant.”