10 Coming of Age Movies You Need To See At Least Once


August 24, 2019

Everyone loves movies. I mean, who doesn't? (There might be some out there who don't, but we don't judge). There are many different genres of films: comedy, romance, horror, thriller, and mystery are just a few examples. Over the past couple of years, there has been a surge of movies from this one particular genre of film, a personal favorite of mine. 

Coming of age films! 

The definition of a coming-of-age film, or the coming-of-age genre in general, "is a genre of literature, film, and video that focuses on the growth of a protagonist from youth to adulthood". No matter what, coming-of-age movies can still hit home no matter what walk of life you are in, thanks in part to that movie magic that allows you to feel young again whenever you watch a movie of this genre. Other than being complete cinematic masterpieces that usually leave us with a nostalgic and sometimes sweet feeling. There are a few movies that truly define the coming of age genre, and by watching them we can actually learn from them. 

Some of them may be explicitly stated, such as in Ferris Bueller's Day Off - make sure to make the most of the time you have when you're young because you never know when you might get that feeling again - or in in the satirical romance movie But I'm a Cheerleader - that you are who you are, and you love who love, that can't be changed even if you tried. Though they probably aren't straight up telling you, the person watching the movie, so we are able to emotionally connect and look at the deeper messages within these movies.   

*POSSIBLE spoilers ahead*

Here are some of the most iconic coming of age films everyone needs to watch at least once:

1. Stand By Me

To start the list we have this 80s classic. Stand By Me, released in 1986 and based off of Stephen King’s novella The Body starts with the main character, Geordie Lachance, as an adult in 1985, reminiscing about one summer in 1959, when Geordie and his 3 childhood friends (Chris Chambers, Teddy Duchamp, and Vernon Tessio) go searching for a dead body that is rumored to have been found in their town. There are some very bittersweet moments in this movie, such as Geordie and Chris’ conversation regarding Geordie and how he and his family are dealing with his brother Dennis’ death that occurred 4 months prior, and Chris’ confession about how he feels being associated with his troublemaking family.

The movie is shown as a flashback with anecdotes from adult Geordie as he looks back fondly on his memories, adds a nostalgic quality to the movie. The movie also deals with death, the loss of innocence and the importance of friendship, especially childhood friendships and how nothing can replace them, even after you all have grown apart. 

2. Ten Things I Hate About You

Another oldie is, '10 Things I Hate About You', a modern adaptation of the William Shakespeare play 'The Taming of the Shrew'. Here we have a typical love story. A boy sees a girl. Boy falls in love with a girl. A boy can't date the girl. Okay, maybe it isn't that simple.

In this film, we have a star-studded cast - Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in what is considered to be some of their most popular roles. Gordon-Levitt's character, the new student Cameron and popular rich guy Joey Donner (Played by Andrew Keegan) both want to date the incredibly popular Bianca Stratford (played by Larissa Oleynik), but Bianca isn't allowed to date until her less popular and greatly feared older sister - Kat - does. So, Cameron comes up with a plan. He and his friend, Michael Eckman, convince Joey to hire Patrick Verona, the school's resident bad boy to go out with Kat so that he can begin to date Bianca. But that isn't to say there aren't some troubles that arise when Patrick tries to go out with Kat.

There are many memorable moments in this movie (Who can forget Heath Ledger serenading Kat by singing 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' on the soccer field?) and the poem that Kat recites at the movie, which the film is named after. This movie is an incredibly sweet one that deals with the turmoils of first love and romance and leaves you feeling very lovey and mushy at the end. 

3. Mid90s

The third on our list is a great one. A film from A24, directed by Jonah Hill (of 21 & 22 Jump Street fame) with a star-filled cast including Sunny Suljic and Lucas Hedges. Mid90s tells the story of Stevie, a 13-year-old who finds himself drawn to a group of boys at his local skate shop (Ray, “Fuckshit”, “Fourth Grade”, and Ruben) and begins to skateboard and become friends with them. The boys take him under his wing, and they begin to bond and get close. While hanging with the boys, Stevie experiments with many things for the first time – such as drinking, drugs, and girls. 

Even if you weren’t alive during the 1990s, this movie will still have you nostalgic for the time. Mid90s is a raw interpretation of growing up and new experiences, as well as the importance of friendship, family and the hardships that come along with it, all while keeping the authenticity of skateboarding and the 1990s. 

4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This is arguably the most popular film on this list, and it is for a good reason. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is adapted from the 1999 book of the same name, written by Stephen Chbosky.

This film tells the story of Charlie Kelmickis, who suffers from depression and who recently got released from a mental hospital, and is about to enter his freshman year of high school. Charlie meets 2 seniors, Sam and her stepbrother Patrick and they become fast friends. Through his freshman year, Charlie tries to work past his depression and improve his relationship with his new friends. Charlie eventually ends up falling for Sam, and as their relationship progresses, he tries to work through his feelings for her as well as his repressed memories.

This movie has spectacular performances from Logan Lerman (Who plays Charlie), Emma Watson and Ezra Miller as well as many others. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is iconic for many reasons. Since its release in 2012, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a movie that many can relate to, even today. It deals with growing up, sexuality, drug use, and mental health in a way that we can all understand or relate to.

This movie inspired a generation of wallflowers that proudly declared "We are infinite!" and listened to the tunnel song (Heroes by David Bowie) on repeat. Charlie, Sam, and Patrick were characters that a lot of people loved, and maybe even saw a little bit of themselves in them, and that is what I think makes this movie so great, and the definition of the coming-of-age movie genre. 

5. Lady Bird

The next movie on this list is ‘Lady Bird’, another film from A24, written and directed by Greta Gerwig. This movie tells the story of Christine – who goes by the name Lady Bird’ – Mcpherson, a senior at a catholic high school in 2002 Sacramento, California. Lady Bird wants to go to a school out of state even though her family cannot afford it, and her mother wants her to stay in California. This conflict adds on to the turbulent relationship Lady Bird and her mother already have.

This movie stars Saoirse Ronan as the titular character, Laurie Metcalf as Lady Bird’s mother, Marion, and Timothée Chalamet, Lucas Hedges and Odeya Rush in supporting roles. Lady Bird is another recent movie that's placed in the past, this time 2002– and the reoccurring song in the film, Crash into Me by Dave Matthews Band gives you a nostalgic feeling.

Lady Bird is another film that I am sure a lot can relate to- whether it be because you may have an on and off relationship with your family, or because you want to leave your town and go to an out of state college and you can’t. If not, it is still a wonderful film, and I am sure that the ending will make you feel bittersweet.

6. The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants

For our next movie, we have another adapted film. Based on the book series The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, we have a tale of friendship surrounding a pair of magical jeans. In the sisterhood of traveling pants, Lena, Bridget, Tibby, and Carmen are childhood friends who are about to spend their first summer apart. While shopping, they find a pair of jeans that magically fits the four of them, and these jeans become a symbol of their friendship– as they take turns wearing the jeans during the summer and writing to each other about their adventures.

Each of the girls have their own issues that come up while they are apart– Lena goes to Greece and falls in love while getting caught up in family drama, Carmen finally goes to visit her fathers new family, Bridget goes to soccer camp and falls for her coach, and Tibby spends her summer at home and meets a girl named Bailey– and through the pants they are able to work things out and have a great summer despite being apart. This movie is really sweet, and it shows the true bond of friendship and how it can never be broken.

And the sequel, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, is another good movie that invites you to have a look at Bridget, Tibby Carmen, and Lena and how their friendship fares as they all grow up, attend college apart, and face the real world. 

7. Moonlight

In this academy award-winning film, we have the story of Chiron ‘Little’ Harris, a young African-American living in Miami. This movie is impressive in the way that it tells Chiron's story, by telling it in different parts– Chiron as a child, teen, and adult– as he deals with his abusive family life and discovers himself and his sexuality.

This movie deals with a lot, especially the prospect of black masculinity in society, and how one might push themselves to come off to others as one way, a way that is completely off how they really are. As a child, Chiron meets this drug dealer- Juan and a familial bond forms between Juan, Chiron and his Teresa, Juan's girlfriend. Though there is progress, it is some sort of rarity to see movies about lgbt+ characters and lgbt+ themes in the mainstream, making Moonlight even more of an impactful film.

Written and directed by Barry Jenkins and based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight received an abundance of awards during the 2016 season- including the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Academy Award for Best adapted screenplay and Mahershala Ali won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role of Juan. Moonlight is a great portrayal of growing up and finding yourself, especially as a black male in America, and how to accept yourself when you are in a rigid society.

8. Thirteen 

Released in 2003 and loosely based on screenplay writer Nikki Reed’s life from ages 12 to 13 comes a very dark and gritty movie that shows early adolescent life. In the movie Thirteen, we are shown the life of Tracy Freeland, an honor student that wants to forgo her childish appearance and behavior and fit in with the cool kids. This works, and Tracy finds herself becoming friends with Evie Zamora, who introduces her to a world of sex, drugs, and crime. Tracy’s mom, Melanie, is worried about Evie and Tracy’s friendship but Tracy doesn’t care, thrusting herself deeper into a dark world.

Thirteen is definitely an intense movie as compared to the others of the coming-of-age drama, we are shown the causes and negative effects that become of the typical rebellious teen lifestyle, and this movie deals with many things teens go through– peer pressure, sex, depression, and drugs– on a more intense scale.

9. The Breakfast Club 

This 1980s classic, a tale of what seems to be 5 teens that have absolutely nothing in common and run in different social groups one Saturday morning in detention, became a movie that inspired a generation, and more generations since its release. Coming from the genius mind that is John Hughes – we have The Breakfast Club. We have a jock, (Andrew Clark: played by Emilio Estevez), a princess,  (Claire Standish: played by Molly Ringwald), a basketcase, (Allison Reynolds: played by Ally Sheedy), a criminal, (John Bender: played by Judd Nelson), and a brain, (Brian Johnson: played by Anthony Michael Hall).

Upon their first meeting, they immediately judge one another based on the cliques that they are in and believe that they have absolutely nothing in common; except for the fact that they are in detention on a Saturday. However, as time in detention goes on, they discover that as different as they are, they all have similar problems and can relate in some way to each other, revealing deep secrets that they would keep to themselves in any other situation.

This movie is as iconic as a movie can get, from the ending scene with Bender pumping his fist in the air to ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ being played in the end credits. It is one of those timeless movies that anyone of all ages can relate to, and a reason why 34 years after its release, it is still as popular as ever.

10. 8th Grade

The last movie on this list, (and another A24 film!), tells the story of Kayla, an 8th grader who struggles with social anxiety while running a youtube channel and giving life advice.

Kayla is quiet, and has little friends, and has a struggling relationship with her father. But despite that all she attempts to make friends with others in preparation for her last week of 8th grade and the start of 9th grade. Kayla meets Olivia, a 12th grader, as part of a high school shadow program and they become close friends.

Throughout this movie we see Kayla struggle with finding herself and gaining confidence, something that I am sure many of us can relate to, same with the scary transition from middle school to high school. This movie is heartwarming, especially near the end and definitely has points that really hit home and may remind you of yourself. 

Agnes Garrett
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Hi. I'm Agnes. An aspiring writer(?). Movie lover. Virgo. I love writing and reading just about anything! If I'm not on here I'm probably makiing a million playlists!