7 movies and TV shows that walked so Euphoria could run

HBO’s hit series didn’t invent the idea of young people being consumed by sex, drugs and depression.

by Douglas Greenwood
20 January 2022, 10:33am

Thirteen (2003

The introduction to this piece contains mild spoilers for Euphoria season two.

Okay, you’re hooked. We all are. A24’s hit series Euphoria is back on our televisions — new characters, new relationships, new plot lines unfurling — and suddenly it’s summer 2019 again. Each week, we’re waiting with bated breath to see what happens with Rue’s unruly ties to addiction, her love for Jules, how Elliot, a new kid in town played by Dominic Fike, may or may not throw a spanner in the works. Nate, Maddy and Cassie (our new series MVP) are back, up to their old antics and seem certain to fuck up fairly swiftly. Kat is still kicking around, flitting between her bad bitch persona and crippling anxiety. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be intoxicated by what’s to come — but what about the in between time? What if there were other movies and shows about the ramifications of high school hedonism to keep us on theme?

For those who find Euphoria’s vision of teenage life by turns stunning and morose, you’re in luck: artists have been making fascinating screen works on a similar wavelength for decades. These seven are some of our favourites.

1. Euphoria (2012-2013)

You might not know that Sam Levinson and Drake’s hit show isn’t an entirely new concept: it was based on a short-lived Israeli series that debuted back in 2012. Telling the story of a group of teenagers with seemingly no parental authority guiding them through life, the show’s protagonists take drugs, drink and have sex to hedonistically waste the days away. There are a few differences to the US retelling, though: no adult faces are shown in the Israeli version, heightening this idea of reckless abandonment, and it was also set in the 90s, separating it from the very modern themes the 2019 versions deals with.

2. Christiane F. (1981)

Nearly four decades separate Euphoria’s arrival and the release of Christiane F., a movie adapted from the gruelling biopic of a young girl in 70s Berlin navigating friendship, family and violent drug addiction. It’s been an inspiration to many for decades now (Raf Simons loved it so much that it shaped his AW18 collection), and you can see the glimmers of its caustic grit and style in Euphoria, though the real-life stakes make this cult classic far more dismal.

3. Nowhere (1997)

Described upon release by ArtForum as “Saved by the Bell on crystal meth”, this was Gregg Araki’s final part in his Teenage Apocalypse trilogy on disaffected youth. Released to extremely mixed reviews, it’s not necessarily a critical hit, but ticks all the boxes of what Euphoria offers — only with a different kind of disbelief. Set over the course of a day, it follows a group of high schoolers meandering through Los Angeles, each with their own problems. Themes and motifs it reckons with stretch from bisexuality to S&M to sex toys (yes, it’s mostly about sex), but for lurid, fairly mindless viewing, it’s worth a watch.

4. Thirteen (2003)

Before she made Twilight, filmmaker Catherine Hardwick directed Thirteen, a story about off-the-rails LA kids on the cusp of teenhood. She pinned down the accuracy of that experience by writing the script with one of the film’s stars, 14-year-old Nikki Reed (aloof icon Rosalie in Twilight), transforming what could have easily been a gutless and apprehensive film about youth and drugs into one that felt fiery and interesting, even garnering controversy for explicitly showing hard drug use and underage sex. Today, the film remains one of the most talked-about movies on youth of the 21st century.

5. Skins (2007-2013)

For a while in the late 00s, it felt like the world of British teenagers rested on the fate of the stars of Skins, a show that did Euphoria before Euphoria did Euphoria, albeit through the comparatively humdrum lens of English high school. If that HBO show combines the dirty and the glossy for ultimate evocative effect, then Skins felt far more grounded. The show made stars of many of its cast members (Dev Patel, Nicholas Hoult, Jack O’Connell, Kaya Scodelario), and still resonates with teens today on TikTok. But more importantly, it felt like the first show for young people that truly stirred the pot in Britain; showing us everything from stories about suicide to hard drugs — against a familiar backdrop to many.

6. Kids (1995)

At this stage, everybody knows everything about Larry Clark’s Kids. His 1995 feature about joint-smoking, skateboarding teenagers having casual sex in 90s New York feels like the apex of torrid youth culture over 25 years on. It made a star of Chloë Sevigny, proved a then baby-faced Harmony Korine could write a killer movie script, and remains one of the most jaw-dropping and discomforting movies about American youth. Without something as sordid as this, maybe Euphoria wouldn’t even exist.

7. Skam (2015-2017)

In the in-between years of Skins and Euphoria’s English language success, a now-cult Norwegian series chronicled the life of high schoolers in Oslo, deftly navigating the thornier issues they faced. Skam’s characters had lives outside of the show, each of their stories fed through social media platforms as the show aired. Based in a real high school in the city, one famous for being attended by the country’s royal family, it used a series of characters, shifting in significance, to unpack stories of depression, sexual assault, queerness and religion. It was so popular that an American spin-off followed, but purists will demand you watch the original first.

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