From young teens falling in love, to young adults coming to realize what their life will be like after school, coming of age movies tend to bring out the most emotion in the audience. They’re realistic depictions of what it means to become an adult and they inspire so many people, who are around the same age as the characters in these movies.
Today I am here to countdown the best movies that the coming of age genre has to offer. Not only will some of these have some nostalgic value on your life, but they will also remind you of what it was like or even for the younger readers, what it is like to grow up in the toughest years of your life.
As always, I have some honourable mentions to give out before I countdown the top 10 best of the genre. These are great movies and one of them also appeared on my ‘Top 10 Musicals’ list just recently.
The Spectacular Now (2013): A modern-day classic inspired by the movies that came from John Hughes and it also tends to break away from the typical tropes of the genre.
Juno (2007): A heart-warming, smartly written movie that deals with one of the biggest problems that a teen could possibly face.
The Sandlot (1993): A movie that every 90s kid grew up with and one of the funniest that the genre has to offer.
Rushmore (1998): My first introduction into the mind of Wes Anderson and one of the more darkly funny coming of age movies out there. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour.
Submarine (2010): Although there aren’t any submarines in this movie, you will get some deeply touching themes yet great quirky comedy out of this hidden gem.
The Way, Way Back (2013): Although it is one of the more authentic and dramatic movies the genre has to offer, it has enough heart to make you love this amazing gem of a movie.
The Kings of Summer (2013): With great performances and a unique twist on the coming of age format, this is a great breath of fresh air in the genre.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982): A classic high-school movie with one of the most infamous movie scenes in history (aka the pool scene).
The Edge of Seventeen (2016): A bittersweet and smart coming of age comedy with a beautifully nuanced performance from Hailee Steinfeld.
Sing Street (2016): It was originally in the top 10 but since it already placed in my last top 10 list, I thought I’d give some other great movies a chance. But seriously, this is one of the best coming of age movies out there.
Now, let’s begin!
10. Dead Poets Society (1989)
How do you manage to make poetry one of the most interesting and entertaining forms of literature? Well, you get Robin Williams as your English teacher and succumb to his beautiful and energetic ways of teaching. ‘Dead Poets Society‘ follows a group of teenage boys and how their new English teacher (Robin Williams in one of his greatest on-screen performances) inspires them into not only loving poetry, but also life itself. This is a beautiful, haunting and poetic coming of age movie, which also manages to pull on your heartstrings with enough force to make you forget how sad a movie like ‘Titanic’ is. Seriously, if a tear doesn’t roll down one of your cheeks by the end, do you really have a heart?
9. Boyhood (2014)
Probably the only coming of age movie on this list which was filmed over a period of 12 years with the same actors, ‘Boyhood’ is a technical achievement in the movie industry and the coming of age genre. It follows Mason, a child of divorce, from the ages of 7 to 18 in Texas, as he deals with the ups and downs of growing up with separated parents and a society which expects something good to come from you. Richard Linklater has a knack for making great dialogue focused movies (another may appear later in the list) and it shines here. This is a sprawling epic that manages to keep you captivated with its realistic depiction of growing up (literally) for the almost 3-hour run-time and it’s a joy to witness.
8. Mean Girls (2004)
Perhaps one of the funnier coming of age movies out there, ‘Mean Girls’ is a staple of the genre. With great performances from it’s young cast (with most of them becoming respected and renowned actors/actresses) and a witty script that shows the bitchiness of certain people in high school (‘The Plastics’ really did earn their name), this is a great teen movie. Although some may be turned off by its often overdone premise, it has enough originality and soul to stand out among the rest. A classic movie for our millennial generation.
7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
How can a movie about a socially awkward teen coming out of his shell manage to be so different to the rest? After hearing about how touching this well-acted coming of age tale was, I knew I would be in for a treat. ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ manages to be a comedy, tragedy, drama and amazing adaptation all in one and it’s simply amazing. With Emma Watson finally showing the world that she can do more than just play with magic, her role in this movie manages to stand out as the best among the many great performances in ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower.’ Not only does it deal with many relevant issues among young adults, but it isn’t afraid to dig deeper into those same problems and it manages to show us the ugly truth and for that I am grateful.
6. Almost Famous (2000)
The only coming of age movie on this list that managed to make an already amazing song (Elton John’s beautiful ‘Tiny Dancer’) even greater. ‘Almost Famous’ is Cameron Crowe’s magnum opus, which follows an aspiring music journalist as he manages to go on tour with the eccentric rock band Stillwater and starts to fall in love with the mysterious Penny Lane (Kate Hudson easily in her best performance to date). Set during the craziness of the early 70s, this is a movie filled with typical coming of age tropes, but tricks you into thinking it’s unlike any in the genre. With a great soundtrack, terrific performances and enough heart to make you appreciate its almost autobiographical feel, this is an essential coming of age movie that will appeal to everyone, even if they didn’t grow up in that era. Trust me, the Tiny Dancer scene will give you chills.
5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
The quintessential 80s comedy, ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ is a coming of age staple. This classic of the genre follows the titular character (played with confidence and charm by Matthew Broderick), as he attempts to have the perfect day off before graduating high school, while his principle eagerly wants to catch him in the act. A John Hughes classic, this is a great coming of age movie that manages to pack enough comedy and drama into a tight and precise package. Perhaps one of the more quotable 80s movies out there and filled with some of the funniest scenes in movie history, this a coming of age movie that is still relevant today and gets even funnier after each viewing.
4. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Yet another John Hughes entry on this list, ‘The Breakfast Club’ is another essential coming of age movie that is as relevant as it was 32 years ago. Following five completely different teenagers as they sit through a Saturday detention (I actually can’t believe that these things existed, imagine if you had to go to one of these hellish things), ‘The Breakfast Club’ manages to show us what makes people who they are and how their own personal life can affect them on both a physical and emotional scale. With a deeply touching script that has plenty of heart and nuanced performances from the young cast, this is both an 80s and coming of age classic. This is a movie that you shouldn’t forget about.
3. The Goonies (1985)
Goonies can mean one of two things to certain people. If you happen to be a CSU student in Bathurst, a goonie would be a refreshing alcoholic beverage that you buy in a really drunken state and probably end up spilling it over people within a couple of minutes. Or, it could refer to an 80s classic called ‘The Goonies.’ Yet another 80s coming of age classic on the list, ‘The Goonies’ is your quintessential childhood adventure movie that is also one of the best coming of age movies to ever exist. With charming characters (Sloth is actually the best!!!) and a smart and funny script that appeals to both children and adults, this is a classic of the genre and is one of my personal favourite movies of all time. Seriously, the nostalgic value this has on me is ridiculous!
2. Stand By Me (1986)
Damn, why are there so many great Stephen King adaptations in the movie world? It also seems that Rob Reiner tends to make some of the best adaptations and ‘Stand By Me’ is easily one of the best. ‘Stand By Me’ follows four boys who set out to find the body of a stranger who was hit by a train. Along the way they encounter terrifying bullies and find out what it really means to grow up and the changes that this transformation brings out in someone. With some of the best child performances in movie history and a script that pulls at your heartstrings with both emotion and nostalgia, this is one of the most touching coming of age movies to ever exist and is a great way to help the transition of becoming a young adult. A triumph in the movie industry!
1. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Alright, alright, alright, here we are. I did say that Richard Linklater would make another appearance on this list and he is worthy to have the top spot with the greatest coming of age movie of all time! ‘Dazed and Confused’ follows a group of high school seniors as they celebrate graduating in the late 70s. It may have a very simple plot, but it is the characters and how they are represented that makes this such a great movie. From some of the seniors showing freshers how powerful they are with the initiations that they put them through (as a guy, the initiation of having every senior guy chase you down to basically bruise your bum is actually terrifying), to the realizations that growing up means moving on from some of the stuff that made you in high school, ‘Dazed and Confused’ has a certain level of authenticity that manages to plunge you into this realistic world and make you feel like you are growing up with these characters. It also introduced us to the hilarious Matthew McConaughey in one of his best roles. This is the best coming of age movie around and it is still very relevant today.
There it is, my top 10 coming of age movies. I hope you enjoyed reading it and I also hope that you agree with most of my choices on this list. Feel free to message me or comment below some movies that I may have missed as I’m curious to see what you have to say!