This is the hardest category of films to find. There are loads of movies suitable for younger children (especially Disney animations) and, of course, thousands of films suitable for adults. Where are the films that won't bore an adolescent, but don't trivialize important issues in order to avoid offending puritans?
Our society seems to have some strange, contradictory ideas about films and adolescents. We don't seem to think our children will be negatively affected by watching explicit dismemberment and other acts of violence by humans against other humans (or aliens), but a woman nurturing a tiny infant from her breast is a threat to the morals and principles of a free society. Even today, a woman swimming topless at a public beach in full view of adolescent boys and girls generates a storm of protest and hysteria and letters to the editor. These very same adolescents routinely play video games in which their victims are splattered into gory fragments by powerful weapons.
A few people object to both violence and explicit sex. Of this group, unfortunately, some have no objection to the intellectual pornography of "wholesome family entertainment"-- movies, books, and music that doesn't present any kind of intellectual, creative, or moral challenge, but wallows in a kind of smug, escapist, sentimentality. With the recent parody of "The Brady Bunch", and with Disney now churning out adult features, this is now a dying thread in pop culture.
Finally... there is the issue of language. Most of the films recommended here will not present a problem in that area, but some of them might. I'm afraid that it is almost impossible to compile of a list of worthwhile films without having at least a few that include a few words that might be found on the Watergate tapes. On the other hand, I find attempts by the Christian right in the U.S. to evaluate television shows and movies based on the frequency of swear words used, or the number of times a "minister of the cloth" is presented in an unfavourable light, puerile and ridiculous. By this standard, slop like "The Brady Bunch" and "Gilligan's Island" get perfect scores, and some of the best television series ever made, "Hill Street Blues", "The Wire", "The Sopranos", even "West Wing", get a big fat zero.
So, if you thought the original "Brady Bunch" was adequate entertainment for youngsters-- don't go by my recommendations.
The films presented here are well-made, literate, imaginative, and suitable for most adolescents. None of them will be "cutting edge", but then, "cutting edge" is something best appreciated by adults. Some of them may have some violence or sexual situations in them and may not be perfectly suitable for immature teens (if you have doubts, preview them, as every good parent should). And some adolescents won't like them no matter how well-made they are because, after all, adolescents like to watch exciting adventure flicks. But many adolescents will watch almost any film if they are allowed to, and will be willing to go with your choice as a parent if you can show them you can make some interesting choices. Good luck.