Coming of age movies are both timely and timeless. Surely we all remember when we were 15 years of age and what was going on with us. The people we knew, our families, school, nights out, fantastic summers – the whole works. Whatever your age, if older than 15 then we’ve all been there and that’s perhaps why this is such a popular movie genre!
If so then you should find something fun, heart-warming and often inspiring in the universal themes behind this type of film.
No matter what age you are, here are some of the best films of this type ever. They are relatable, touching and inspiring. Read on to find out which made the cut for us.
Little Women (2019)
Little Women was originally a book written by Louisa May Alcott in 1868. Since then, it has been adapted into many film and TV versions. The most recent, directed by Greta Gerwig, is the one that made our list of the best.
This story follows the lives of four sisters as they navigate societal expectations, family obligations, and the roles of women in the 19th century. The main protagonist, Jo (Saoirse Ronan), seeks to break the feminine mould by following a career path as a writer. In this version of the story, Gerwig takes the character’s journey a step further than Alcott was able to at the time of her novel.
Director: Greta Gerwig
The Breakfast Club (1985)
This 80s classic is one of the most iconic coming of age films on our list. The Breakfast Club takes place during a weekend detention session. Five students from different walks of life come together to discover they aren’t so different after all.
Each of them has problems, unseen by those around them. Each of them struggles with the desire to fit in and the fear of being exposed as weak. Through their shared imprisonment they become equals, even if only for a day.
Director: John Hughes
Spirited Away (2001)
The talented Hayao Miyazaki is no stranger to this film type that really hit home. In this animated treasure, we follow a young mortal girl on her journey into the spirit world to save her parents.
Chihiro begins her journey as an obstinate and whiny child. But as obstacles and adversaries are thrown her way, she manages to find courage and strength.
This is a must-watch masterpiece in our opinion.
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Stand By Me (1986)
Stand by Me is a wise, nostalgic, touching and compelling coming of age film capturing Stephen King’s voice and the trials of growing up, especially among the male identity. Director and film-maker Rob Reiner feature an impressive cast of four teenage boys with great chemistry.
After learning that a kid had died near their homes, four Oregon boys, Gordie Lachance (Wil Wheaton), Vern Tessio (Jerry O’Connell), Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) and Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman), embark on a journey to discover the dead body hoping to claim a reward.
Despite not being an essential character to the story, Ray Brower holds a place marker for the misery of death. Gordie hopes to use the adventure to come into terms with his brother’s death while the other boys are looking to prove themselves to their town. Finding Ray Brower’s body is their chance to become heroes instead of the town losers. It is their one shot at redemption and showing that they matter.
Although beginning as just a lark, the adventure evolves into a defining event in the boys’ lives. On the way, the four learn some truths about themselves, the meaning of friendship, their different backgrounds and the need to stand up for what is right.
Peppered with pain, regret, love and nostalgia, the timeless classic is one of the best if not the best coming-of-age story.
Director: Rob Reiner
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Our list wouldn’t be complete without a story of family obligation vs personal desire. Jess (Parminder Nagra) is a British-Indian girl who secretly goes against her family’s wishes to pursue her dream of becoming a professional footballer. Eventually, Jess realizes that life is about balance and to feel complete she must accept both her passion and her heritage.
Director: Gurinder Chadha
This indie film has earned its place as one of the top coming of age flicks ever. Although it may not have some of the razzle-dazzle elements seen in some other coming of age films, it dives into the realities of teen pregnancy. At sixteen years old, the movie’s heroine Juno (Ellen Page), discovers she is pregnant. After an unsettling trip to the abortion clinic, she decides to bring the baby to full term and put it up for adoption. This emotional and quirky tale shows that feeling like an adult doesn’t always mean you’re ready to take on the responsibilities of one.
Director: Jason Reitman
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
This coming of age film takes place in Spain, shortly after the Spanish Civil War. When the young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is terrorized by her cruel stepfather, she escapes into the realm of the ferries. It is there that she meets Pan, one of the fey folk, who informs her that she is a lost princess of the underworld.
Pan sends her on a mission to prove her worth. Only once she has successfully mastered her fear and completed all his tasks can she return to her home with the fey.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Remember the Titans (2000)
Reaching maturity films often go a lot deeper than personal growth. They challenge prejudices, push boundaries, and highlight unity. That’s exactly what Remember the Titans does in this tale of a multi-racial football team that comes together in a time of turmoil.
Director: Boaz Yakin
Easy A (2010)
Easy A is a modern take on the literary classic, The Scarlet Letter. When a little white lie gets out of hand, Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) finds herself being confronted by judgement and scorn. Although she takes on the “bad girl” persona for a while, she eventually discovers that honesty is her only way out.
Director: Will Gluck
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those beautiful and painfully real films that we can all relate to. Based on a book, this movie dives deep into the personal struggles experienced by teenagers. It deals with depression, anxiety, abuse, suicide, grief, and more.
But don’t worry it’s not all heavy and sad. This film has great light-hearted elements and a theme that focuses on inclusivity, acceptance, and tolerance.
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
Taika Waititi has created many masterpieces over the years, including this coming of age tale about little Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison). Ricky is a thirteen-year-old juvenile delinquent in the New Zealand foster care system. He is well known for burning things, breaking things, kicking things, and generally rebelling against the world. Ricky finds solace with a new foster family living in a remote area of New Zealand. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last and before he knows it, he is on the run from the police with his foster father, played by Sam Neill. Out in the bush, the two learn to depend on each other, in this beautiful and hilarious coming of age survival story.
Director: Taika Waititi
So, that completes our best coming of age movies list choices. Over the years there has been a wide range of coming of age movies with beautiful storylines and touching characters. However, for us here at BOB, these ten stand a cut above the rest.
Why? Well, they don’t just touch the surface of what it means to grow up. They dig deep into the conflict, heartache, and self-doubt experienced by every child as they navigate the road to adulthood. For some good laughs and heartwarming moments, make sure to add them to your watch list.
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