Best Coming of Age Films


Coming of age is something everyone is familiar with. It’s a transition from childhood to adulthood. The transition depends on society, the individual and the nature of one’s environment. This list is made up of my top twenty five coming of age films (not in any order).

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) This film is shot from the Germans point of view of World War I. The story revolves around a young man named Paul. Paul is a high school student who is urged to join the war efforts. The film tells how young men are forced to grow up quickly and how the German generation of WWI was destroyed. The soldiers had a difficultly reverting to society (which our country is dealing with veterans of Iraq), feeling isolated and removed from daily life.

American Graffiti  (1973) A George Lucas classic which cast a young Harrison Ford. The film is a nostalgic portrayal of car cruising, rock n roll music/pop culture and teenage lifestyle of pre Vietnam and counterculture movement. The film sheds light on impact of cars and radio in America.

American Pie (1999) Four best friends make a pack to lose their virginities before senior prom. The theme revolves around one’s body and sexual curiosity in our teen years. The story touches base with sex in our pop culture and how to lose your virginity to fit in, “I mean we’re going to college as VIRGINS! Virgins probably have their own separate dorms”.

Animal House (1978) Toga! Toga! Toga! The film takes a look into college culture. College is seen as the last rodeo for American youth, to be rebellious, promiscuous and general drunkenness. The story revolves around drunken brotherhood of the fraternity’s chapter.

The Breakfast Club (1985) Five teenagers, from different cliques, spend a Saturday together in detention. The teens are in detention for rebelling against authority. The principal is portrayed from a teen’s P.O.V as an evil dictator. The teens start bonding when they find similarities with each other.

Can’t Hardly Wait (1998) The story revolves around different high school seniors during a graduation party. The movie has its stereotypically high schoolers of the 90’s. The characters realize that their lives are going to change after high school. The jock/bully meets his idol, who happened to be a jock/bully in high school, is now a wash up.

City of Men (2007) Director Paulo Morelli, City of God, brings a story of two young men living in poverty in Rio de Janeiro. The teens are best friends (Ace and Wallace) who avoid the drug and gang culture of the slums. The two part ways, Wallace’s father is killed and the Ace has a child. Ace takes new responsibility and must grow up quickly. The film shows how quickly innocents can be lost.

Dazed & Confused (1993) The story takes place in late 70’s suburban America. The film captures the spirit of the 70s, Pink Floyd, weed, beer and the American Dream. The film revolves the joy of summer for American Teenagers and ability to have decisions.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010) Greg is starting the awkward phase of everyone’s life, middle school. Greg’s goal is to become the popular kid at school. Greg gets worried that his best friend Rowley might hurt his chances becoming Mr. Popular.  Rowley becomes the popular one by being himself and a nice guy.

Fandango (1985) The film revolves around five fraternity buddies who are in their last week of college. The five want to take a final road trip to celebrate the privilege of being a youth in America. The young men face different roads ahead them, marriage, the draft (Vietnam War) and graduation, which all are going to force them to grow up.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) Legendary screenplay writer John Hughes (Home Alone, 16 Candles, National Lampoon Vacation, Weird Science… you get the picture) writes a humorous story about a likable smooth talker. Hughes touched base that life is too short to be stressed, to follow the rules and to do things you do not enjoy.

Flipped (2010)  The story follows a middle schooler named Bryce in the late 50s. The film tracks progress of a friendship that turns into a crush /girl next door. Director Rob Reiner brings up subjects like character, environmental awareness and class.

Funeral Kings (2012) Perhaps a live version of South Park. Middle school boys discovering alcohol, girls and tobacco. The story reminds us that tweens understand more than adults give them credit. The tweens do show that they truly do not understand their actions, such as death.

The Graduate (1967) This movie still relates to college graduates in our current times. Ben, recent college graduate, moves back home. Ben is unsure what exactly he wants to do in life. Ben is clearly uncomfortable and anxious. The 60’s were a time of rebellion and dissonance. Ben has an affair with a woman and eventually falls for her daughter.

Heavyweights (1995) A group of young teenage boys attend an overnight camp to help them lose weight. The story shows how society places an importance on our looks. The  importance instead should be focused how health (mentally and physically) is more important than physical appearance. The boys learn how to accept themselves by beating the rival jock camp and having a dance with popular girls camp. The film touches on America’s issue on its weight problem. The boys learn how healthy lifestyle is important for one’s health.

Karate Kid (1984) Sweep the leg! Underdog Ralph moves from New Jersey to Southern California, culture shock. Ralph is bullied by Mr. Popular, silver spoon fed, soccer captain and black belt Johnny. Ralph eventually learns wisdom from his mentor (Mr. Miyagi). The movie shows a 80’s predictable good guys always wins.

Kids (1995) One of the most controversial movies of all time (NC-17 rating). The movie follows kids (13 to 16 years olds) in 90’s setting New York City. The story hits home and addresses the issue of teenage sex/HIV, rape culture, drug/alcohol abuse and 90’s violence of New York City. The film touch bases on how parents are less involved with their children.

Mystery Team (2009) A story about three high school senior friends who are not ready to give up their childhood. The community place the friends as outcast. The three have not left their childhood dream of being detectives. The “cases” they take are child-related, such as lost balls or missing cats. They take a case that might be over their heads which helps them grow up.

October Sky (1999) Based on a true story about the Rocket Boys during the 50’s. The story revolves around Homer, a small town high school student who is interested in space and rockets. The film touches base on father/son relationship, to follow your dream and have determination, which allows America (Americanism) to beat the Soviet Union to the moon landing.

The Sandlot (1993) Killing me, Smalls! A story, narrated, by Scotty Smalls. Smalls reminisce the summer of 62 when he moves into the suburbs of Los Angeles. Smalls befriends neighborhood boys and shares adventures with the group. The film touches on friendship, responsibility/owning up to mistakes, tween crushes, etc.

Say Anything… (1989) “If you guys know so much about women, how come you’re here at like the Gas N Sip on a Saturday night completely alone drinking beers with no women”. John Cusack had many classic 80’s teen flicks but this one takes the cake. The movie follows Lloyd (truly a good guy) who falls for Diane, a lone wolf who is the valedictorian of the class. Diane’s father thinks Lloyd is an underachiever and is not good enough to date his daughter. The story shows that Diane’s father was not perfect (that no one is) and Diane realizes there is more to life than perfection.

Spirited Away (2000) A Japanese animated fantasy hits on many themes. The film represents the passage a child must take to become an adult. Transition from child to adult  in the movie shows the little girl changes with society, herself and supernatural. The film touches base with Japan’s current culture on the struggle with the youth to keep their traditional identity (culture/customs) with the changing world society and environmental pollution.

Stand By Me (1986) A story of four curious best friends. The themes in this film are how children can be put in adult situations quickly and force to grow up at a young age. The reality of death hit the children.

Superbad (2006) Fake ID’s, getting laid, alcohol, belonging to certain crowd are all tied in this comedy. The film goes much deeper though, it shows the relationship, bro relationship, of two life long best friends, Evan and Seth. The two friends are going to different colleges in the fall. Evan and Seth do not really fit in with any cliques at their school. McLovin (self-named) is their alienated friend. Evan and Seth have a fight but their friendship proves that it stays strong.

Toy Story 3 (2010) A Disney/Pixar classic. The plot has Andy preparing to leave for college and he is not sure what to do with his beloved toys. There’s one toy Andy especially loves, Woody. The movie touches how it is hard to let go something you love (hence why so many men were crying at the end). Sometimes it is important to let go to start the new chapter in your life. Rejection, love, friendship and moving on. No Woody… Buzz was more than just a child’s play toy.

Honorable Mentions:
10 Things I Hate About You, Bad News Bears (76), Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Good Will Hunting, She’s All That, South Park, That’s What I Am, Varsity Blues


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