Movies are a reflection of life, and the theme of bullying has been dealt with in literally dozens of movies.
The timeline below is a list of movies that I have seen that deal with bullying, though it is not the complete list.
It shows that the issue has been ongoing for several generations (in reality, probably for all generations), though the type of bullying has changed over the years.
We’ve included affiliate links to help you find these movies dealing with bullying in case you want to watch them with your family.
►Don’t forget to check our guide The correlation between school uniform statistics and bullying
Popular Movies Dealing with Bullying
- 1980 – My Bodyguard
- 1983 – A Christmas Story
- 1984 – The Karate Kid
- 1985 – Weird Science, Back to the Future, and The Breakfast Club
- 1986 – Pretty in Pink
- 1987 – Three O’clock High
- 1988 – Heathers
- 1995 – Welcome to the Dollhouse
- 1996 – The Craft
- 2004 – Mean Girls
- 2008 – Drillbit Taylor
Back in the eighties the abuse was generally directed at boys and was physical in nature, at least as far as the moviemakers were concerned. Pretty in Pink was one of the first movies to cast a girl as the victim, and the abuse was social and mental rather than physical, but it changed the face of on-screen bullying. Indeed in Heathers and The Craft the bullied turn the tables by upping the stakes and find themselves in danger of becoming bullies.
Bullying is a timeless problem that, as a society, we have not put nearly enough thought into how we should deal with it. Like crime and poverty, it will never disappear. Therefore we must think of strategies that our children can use to deal with it…because the one common theme, other than bullying that appears in each and every one of these movies is that the bullied must deal with the problem. Whether the lead character resorts to hiring a bodyguard to protect him, develops special powers, or simply confronts the bully and deals with the consequences, in none of these movies do the adults EVER help the situation. Apathy seems to be the most that we can muster, and that common theme clearly stems from a truth. The adults are not dealing with bullying. Surely there is a lot of discussion, and even a few laws, that have been created to deal with bullying, but what we really need to do is come up with some realistic, thoughtful strategies that kids can employ to empower themselves.
I wish I had a list of movies where the bullied turned to their parents and were provided useful strategies (other than violence) to stop the bullying, but alas, I do not know of any such movies. I am not even sure that anyone has come up with good strategies for dealing with bullying, but by discussing it we might be able to brainstorm some initial techniques. The most important thing is to get kids and parents talking about the issue, because most kids will hide the embarrassing truth of bullying from their parents. It is up to us to dig down deep and find the truth. Although none of the movies that I have listed offer helpful solutions to bullying, they do provide a great opportunity to get the discussion started, and in a subtle enough way that they won’t realize what is happening until they have already revealed information that they were keeping from us.
Society is making some progress in this area. We have finally recognized that bullying is a problem, and not simply an issue of “boys being boys”. By finally identifying it we are now capable of addressing it, and it is clear that people want bullying to stop. The will is there, and all we need is a common direction to work towards. So let’s continue the discussion and try out different solutions to see what works and what does not.
If you have any ideas on how to deal with bullying, please leave a comment. I will respond.
26 thoughts on “A Timeline of Movies Dealing with Bullying”
I agree that the key is to open the doors of communication. These movies seem like a good way, there are also some good children’s books that I have used with my young kids. Bullying is something that needs to be addressed more and more these days.
I think they should keep on addressing bullying. It’s everywhere is some form or another. For children and adults, rich and poor. I had to handle some bullying for my daughter many years ago, and I said a few words to this kid and off she ran running after she yelled at me like a truck driver and she took off. I was pregnant and I was pretty big, but she didn’t think I could keep up with her, but I did and scared the begeezes out of her and then spoke to the dad. She stopped needless to say because I told her before I left if I hear of it again I’ll be back. hahaha
I didn’t know pretty in pink dealt w/bullies. I’m way way way behind on that one. 🙂
Wax on, wax off. We do love the Karate kid.
This is an interesting list.
I am really glad that bullying is being seen for what it is and not just kids being kids. Who says kids are supposed to be mean?
However, in many ways, it’s been blown out of proportion.
That’s for the great write up!
Bullying is indeed becoming a serious problem. That is why parental guidance is recommended as kids watch movies so they will be guided properly.
I was bullied in school and it was horrible. I always got teased, there were days I hated going to school. It’s a very emotional topic for me, I wish there was a way to stop this!
These are some of my favourite movies, especially Heathers! With that one I was completely taken aback by the degree of bullying although I didn’t take it seriously because it is SO absurb and surreal. There are in fact, a lot of bullying issues in MANY films today…that can be a good thing and a bad thing!
I’ll have to rewatch some of those movies and pay closer attention. I never thought about how they portray it.
Omg who knew there were so many movies about bullying?!? I love half of these movies too lol… Mean girls is the best
The way Hollywood movies have approached the subject has definitely changed over the years. It used to always be a “get revenge” attitude.
Why did 1985 have the BEST films?! Bullying has definitely worsen with the introduction of cyber bullying. Sadly, a lot of bullies were bullied as kids that’s why they turned into bullies.
I think its a two way street. They teach our children what bullys are and usually in moved thebullied are made to look dumb and stupid and usually the good wins. I dont think that its movies that effect kids into billying its usually their homelife sadly enough.
It is hard enough growing up having to face bullying and choose which side you belong to but its even worse to contemplate that my future kids might go through the same. Great movie list
It is so sad that now it is such a real and horrible problem. I think social media and that most teens have cell phones just take it to a new level. I saw a movie recently that talked about how now with social media bullying doesn’t end when school does. It follows the child home and invades their safe space. That is the saddest part to me.
Luckily I was someone who blended in with the crowd and didn’t get bullied much (if at all). So I’m scared to deal with it when it comes to my future-kids. I won’t know what to say! 🙁
I was bullied in middle school. It was awful. I finally worked up the courage to speak to my school counselor about it and she basically told me to toughen up and deal with it. I don’t think I told my parents because I was embarrassed to admit it. As parents, we need to make sure our kids know they can tell us anything and that we will believe and support them. Same with teachers, counselors, etc. If a child comes to you for help, they need to know you will listen and offer actual help.
Mean Girls is the one that speaks the most to me, as I have two girls. I have first-hand experiences girl on girl bullying, and so has my older daughter. It’s a painful thing that can last well into adulthood. I try to give my daughter lots of positive coping mechanisms!
It is astonishing to me that there are no shortage of movies from the 80s and 90s that had bullying as a part of the story line for one of the characters. I wonder if those movies have done us an injustice with people watching them more than once and then adopting some of the unhealthy views on treating others as if they are lower than the dirt. Not in my house.
What an interesting post as I learned something new today! Bullying is a very big issue in our society
Great list. I am passing it along to my sister who is a teacher. Media is a great way to get kids involved in a conversation about bullying.
I have seen a lot of the movies on this list with my daughter, she asks questions like “why are they so mean?” and says things like “that’s not nice, I would never do that.” it brings awareness and fosters communication about bullying
You got the top three movies that popped into my head right away. I like that movies are portraying that bullying is bad. But in all of these movies, it is the KID that has to deal with it. ALONE. I don’t like that. It should be shown as having the resources from the parents. Parents being involved. But maybe that wouldn’t give so much “drama”. But that is what needs to happen in life. The kids getting bullied need to turn to caring parents for help. The bully needs to find better ways to deal with emotions that is causing them to be a bully. Kids need to see where these resources come from. Not just the “oh if I stand up to them; then it will go away”. Cause that is a false hope that doesn’t always work.
I’ve seen a lot of these movies – good collection to be aware of.
Great post! Both my kids were bullied and I firmly believe the key to stopping it is education and communication.
These movies are great for conversation starters for parents. If you suspect your child is being bullied, you can view the movie with them and the ask them questions about what happened.
My biggest tip is modeling empathy – having discussions about how children feel when they are put into a situation where they are bullied, name-called or put down in some way and asking them to empathise and remove those behaviors that cause others pain…