ByChristina Tenisha Small, writer at
Fangirl, Cat Lady, all round NERD! follow me for all your fangirl/fandom/YA nonsense!!..ssshhh I have fangs Twitter = @MizzSeychellois
Christina Tenisha Small

Screaming fangirls. Screaming fanboys. Graphic Fan Art. Tears. Book Lovers. More screaming. Ridiculously handsome male leads. Beautiful female leads. Love triangles. Supernatural Powers. You are the chosen one. Only you can save us. Mysterious and brooding newcomer to your everyday high school. Fighter of all evil. Protector of a species. Dystopian divides and "I SHIP IT,"

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the world of "Young Adult."

This is what we call "fangirling." We can't help it. Sorry.
This is what we call "fangirling." We can't help it. Sorry.

The 'Young Adult Movie,' a sort of unofficial term for a film based on a Young Adult book, kick started its success somewhere between Harry Potter and The Twilight Saga. Screaming girls, who 'literally can't even' (yes, we actually say this. Frequently) perpetuated the success of the "Young Adult Movie," and it's those same screaming girls who are going to continue its success.

Okay, maybe not those same girls. We've all got to grow up some time, right?

In this article, I will aim to figure out what makes a successful formula for the "Young Adult Movie" and why, if done right, it will always be a success. It will always have a fanbase, it will always make money, and there will always be books for filmmakers to adapt and make money off of.

The Hits:

These are the critically and commercially successfully movies based upon Young Adult books. These are the movies that have spawned spoofs, merchandise, countless amounts of fan-art, wide media attention and billions of fans across the globe. These are the movies that clearly had the right formula.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter, arguably has one of the biggest fanbases worldwide, it's spawned an entire theme park, studio tours, and millions of people around the world grew up with the books, and the movies. We were able to watch the cast grow and mature from chubby-cheeked soft spoken kids into fully fledged and very talented actors with promising careers ahead of them.


  • It was based on an amazingly written book series, with an entire world to bring to the big screen and not just a story.
  • It covered a mirage of topics, from coming-of-age, to moral obligation, friendship, love, and loss. To name a few.
  • The film had a pretty stellar supporting cast, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Maggie Smith, Helena-Bonham Carter, and Ralph Fiennes. Again, to name a few.
  • We were able to grow up with the cast, something unusual for films. We were with them every step of their career, as they matured into the characters we love, and actors we know today.


  • As with all adaptations, there were a few changes from the book, that occasionally riled fans. An example of a minor change is a character being more spirited in the book than they were in the movie, i.e. Ginny Weasley.

But overall, Harry Potter is an extremely successful franchise. I can't name one person who doesn't like the movies, and the fact that money is still being made off of all things Harry Potter related shows that it clearly had the right formula.

The Twilight Saga

The second Robert Pattinson was cast as brooding Vampire Edward Cullen in 'Twilight', millions of Harry Potter fans turned round and went "AHH IT'S CEDRIC DIGGORY!!" Already having connections to another huge franchise via casting, this film went one step further in bringing the teenage Vampire romance to the big screen in a way that had never been done before. There was an allure to the Cullens, this perfect looking Vampire family, and fans who had fallen in love with the books couldn't wait to see the story play out on the big screen.


  • The fact that the Wolves were all Native American, provided an opportunity to cast Native American actors in semi-lead roles. Which the filmmakers gladly did.
  • The film ultimately brought Young Adult Vampire Fiction to the forefront, despite the Vamp's sparkly nature. A year after the first film, another popular book series came to the small screen on the CW, and five years later, 'The Vampire Diaries' is still going strong, even having its own spin-off series, 'The Originals.' In addition, 'The Morganville Vampires,' another Young Adult Vampire novel, will also be getting its own web series this year, and of course 2014 marked the failed debut of 'Vampire Academy' - a film also based on a series of novels centered around Vampires, so Twilight's success has clearly had a huge impact on YA Vampire Fiction.
  • It was a huge catalyst in the "Young Adult Movie" success. Admittedly its success is more of a phenomenon than anything else, but there's no denying that the fanbase for Twilight is huge, so it clearly did something right in amassing so many fans. (Think 50 Shades of Grey starting out as Twilight fanfiction and now being a movie slated for release next year).


  • Bella's more than unhealthy attachment and obsession with Edward. I know a lot of people have a problem with Bella's relationship with Edward, namely her crying, and inability to function if he's more than a foot away from her.
  • It dumbed down Vampires. Not a serious problem, granted, but as someone who loves Vampires, I can tell you I'm not a fan of the Twilight Vamp's and their sparkly, no fang ways.
  • 50 Shades of Grey. A pro for Hollywood, more money to cash in on, a con for everyone who hates Twilight, and the poorly written 50 Shades.
  • Overall lack of substance. As a teenager, watching the movies, they were amazing. I loved every single little thing about them. As an adult watching them, you can't help but pick up on the stupid little things here and there. The things I once fangirled over now make me roll my eyes in exasperation.

Overall, The Twilight Saga wasn't the greatest series of films, nor were they the greatest of books, but it's evident that somewhere along the line something sparked to make this movie franchise a huge success. Regardless of what people think now, there's no denying Twilight's success. The filmmakers, like those of Harry Potter, clearly had the right formula.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, is probably one of the most popular Young Adult franchises among all age groups. While it managed to bring its fandom over from the books to the movies, with the addition of stellar supporting cast, and good old-fashioned storytelling, it managed to create a whole new bunch of fans.


  • With a strong female lead in the character of Katniss, The Hunger Games is one of the most successful films with a female lead. It doesn't rely on using her sexuality or brute strength to show this, and instead shows her strength in the decisions she makes.
  • It's a damn good story, and one with an interesting enough background to warrant success without all the YA cliches. Katniss doesn't make her decisions for a guy and a guy alone, she makes them for those she loves - i.e. her family first and foremost.


  • Somewhere between the first Hunger Games film and Silver Lining's Playbook, the entire world media circuit jumped right up Jennifer Lawrence's ass. Hell, they probably took the nude photo's of her, themselves. No, but we shouldn't joke about that. Celebrity nudes being leaked is a very serious issue. They're people just like us, and we should care about them as much as they would care if it were us.
  • When you actually really look at the Hunger Games films, you realize, they haven't been as great as we all think. The first one was mediocre (I'm being polite, I thought it was crap), and extremely slow paced, and whilst the second one made up for this with brilliant visual effects and a much more interesting and better written plot, all in all it was a good film but not fantastic.
  • Following in both Harry Potter and Twilight's footsteps, it decided to split the last book into two movies. A move that undoubtedly rakes in more cash for the studio, but perpetuates a now annoying habit of spinning an extra, unnecessary movie out of a book that could easily be adapted into one movie.

Overall, The Hunger Games franchise, while so far being a good franchise, has the potential to blow up even bigger than it already has with its last two installments. The supporting cast gets better and better (Natalie Dormer, Julianne Moore, etc.), and with the world still in awe and in love with Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games has and had the right formula, too.

Percy Jackson

Percy Jackson, although commercially a hit, falls somewhere in the middle of this whole thing. It's never actually failed at the box office, but critically it's always had mixed reviews, and the fanbase seems to have followed suit, also having mixed reviews for the film.


  • It's a pretty cool concept, and the story itself really can't be faulted. With a male lead, it takes away from the crop of "Young Adult Movies" led by women.
  • Like Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games, this movie realized the importance of having a strong supporting cast. Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Uma Thurman, Rosario Dawson, and Steve Coogan, have all starred in the Percy Jackson movies.


  • On screen, the story seems lacking. It always feels like there's something missing, and while visually the films are good, you can't help but feel they're lacking substance.
  • A whole host of changes from the book. Perhaps if they kept it closer to the book it'd be more of a critical success.

Overall, Percy Jackson seems to have half the formula. Sure people are paying to watch the movies, but are they liking what they see? Not so much.


Divergent, had a pretty huge fanbase before the movie, so its commercial success was pretty much guaranteed. However, this is a movie that, like The Hunger Games, managed to bring in a bunch of new fans, and people who hadn't read the book were suddenly interested in this action-packed looking "Young Adult Movie."


  • Again, a highly successful film, and with a female lead. Tris is a strong character, both in her choices and her action. Throughout the film, she learns to fight, just like in the book, preparing her for her future as a force to be reckoned with.
  • It's Action-Packed. It's as easy as 1, 2, 3, for a "Young Adult Movie" to fall into the cliches of the genre and be a slow-paced mess, with some young love and a painstakingly staged kiss somewhere in the movie. Although Divergent has this, it makes up for it with the action. Clearly amped up from the book.
  • Like the previous films, it too cast some big names as supporting cast. Maggie Q, Kate Winslet and Ashley Judd all played a part in the movie.


  • Dystopian is a played out genre, and not just in the Young Adult world. The whole separated into "Factions" or "Districts" has been done so many times, it's no longer interesting.
  • Just as quick as the media circuit jumped up Jennifer Lawrence's ass, they flew up Shailene Woodley's, citing every thing she did as perfect, until she opened her mouth on Feminism, and we all realized how ignorant she is.
  • It falls into countless Young Adult cliches. The kiss between Tris and Four when she sees his tattoo's is a moment so worthy of eye-rolling, it's a wonder my eyes didn't roll right on out of my head.

Overall, Divergent, a mediocre film based on a mediocre series, clearly had the right formula. It was a huge commercial success, enough to warrant a sequel, so it's obviously done something right.

Worthy of mention:

Obviously, as The Maze Runner is still in cinemas, I'm not going to include it in 'The Hits.' but it has been doing very well, and with a sequel on the way, there's no doubt that it too has the right formula.

For the most part, it seems to be a mixture of a strong lead, with an even stronger supporting cast. Whilst the story and plot are of course important, a lot of these films (The Hunger Games, Divergent, & Twilight) have skated by on mediocre concepts, proving that the story in a "Young Adult Film" isn't necessarily everything.

This is further proved if we look at some of the failures of the genre, most of which, have stories which are just as good, if not better.

The Misses:

These are the movies that didn't do so well. Critically and commercially, these films didn't do as well as the studio's hoped. Raking in little at the box-office, generating bad reviews, and failing to bring in new audiences.

Beautiful Creatures

An interesting story based around 'Casters,' who have powers, and who on their 16th birthdays must either chose the side of the light or the dark. Where it all went downhill, was instead of having a soppy, boring female lead (think Bella in the first 3 movies) as with quite a few YA books, they switched that out for a weak male lead with a thick southern accent, and no real character to his character at all. The plot was poorly executed, the movie was ridden with cliches as the two teenagers were drawn to one another, and the under-use of such talented actors (Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons) was puzzling at best.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Leather-Clad, Tattooed Shadowhunters, who see beneath the facade of the world, able to hunt down demons, monsters and all things that go bump in the night. A brilliant concept, from a brilliantly written book series, but the film had numerous problems. In changing so much from the book, and speeding up the pace, the movie ruined the depth that came with the book. Lilly Collins in a lead role was never a smart idea, and "prettying' up Clary - changing her curly red (more on the ginger side) hair, to a sexy and sleek deep red for the movie - took something away from the character, as did Collins' questionable acting ability. The chemistry between the cast was there, the budget sure as hell was, and visually it can't be faulted. But with a lackluster story, and failing to bring in new fans, TMI unfortunately has to go with The Misses. Hopefully the TV series can save it.

Vampire Academy

Three races of Vampire's based on Russian and Romanion folklore. One race, the Dhampir, train to fight the other, the Strigoi, to protect the good ones, the Moroi, from danger and death. The Dhampir numbers are depleting and strigoi are a constant threat. Action, fantasy, romance and a kickass female lead, this movie had everything it needed to be a success, except the right creative team. This movie tried to change the dynamic of the YA genre, adding in a little more humor to balance out the action and serious tones, but all it managed to do was make a mockery of the source material. Mediocre actors, crap visual effects, terrible writing and lack of marketing, were ultimately this movie's downfall, and unlike The Hits, it didn't have a strong supporting cast to hold it up. Its fans were loyal, but not big enough to save the movie, and with Twilight popularizing Vampires for some, while making them the bane of all evil for others, Vampire Academy failed to bring in new audiences.


In conclusion, it seems to me that the "Young Adult Movie" is a delicate genre, that either hits big, or misses big. Most of the standalone Young Adult films seem to have more chance at success than the ones hoping to spawn a franchise, (think The Fault in Our Stars, If I Stay). With a strong supporting cast and a little amped up action, the chances of success are higher, but not certain.


What do you think makes a good "Young Adult Movie"?


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