THE COMING-OF-AGE STORY IS ONE OF THE MOST EMOTIONAL AND MEMORABLE STAPLES IN MOVIE HISTORY. HERE’S A LOOK AT SOME GREAT FILMS ABOUT GROWING UP
Coming of age movies act as a guide and a nostalgia road map for viewers, teaching and remembering shared experiences. Whether it’s a raucous sex comedy or a drama depicting growing up is a tough household, everyone has a story with which to relate and the following are some of the best coming of age tales on film.
Rebel Without A Cause 1955
Directed by Nicholas Ray and written by Stewart Stern, the film tackles the moral decay of American youth due to inadequate parental guidance and generational differences. The movie is widely considered a classic and largely defined James Dean’s persona and legacy. The film’s depiction of social issues and generational divide inside 1950s America was a revelation for Hollywood, influencing many other films across a variety of genres.
The 400 Blows 1959
The film centers on Parisian adolescent Antoine Doinel, a misunderstood young man whose parents and teachers consider him to be a troublemaker. Antoine frequently runs away from school and home. At some point he’s put in a correctional facility, where he explains his problems to a psychologist, in a beautiful, haunting, yet fragmented monologue. The movie frequently ranks among the best films of all time and is a great introduction to both French New Wave cinema and Truffaut’s work.
American Graffiti 1973
Before he blasted off to “a galaxy far, far away” George Lucas made this nostalgic ode to his own youth in the California car culture of the early 60’s. Look for early appearances by Richard Dreyfuss, Suzanne Somers and “Han Solo himself”, Harrison Ford.
Big Wednesday 1978
Directed by the infamous director John Millius, this film chronicles three die-hard surfer friends as they grow up in the 1960s. The friends are a well rounded group of varying personalities that navigate through the different aspect of sixties culture. The film has a classic feel and understanding of the slow separation that occurs as people have their own lives and paths. The nostalgia of youth is perfectly idealized while being realistically represented.
Stand by Me 1986
Stephen King’s lyrical novel “The Body” was the basis for Rob Reiner’s and terribly bittersweet film about that moment when childhood loses its innocence and death becomes something that can suddenly happen to all of us.
Dead Poets Society 1989
Robin Williams gives one of his most beloved performances as an English teacher who inspires a group of boys at a stuffy boarding school to question authority and live their lives the way they see fit.
Welcome To The Dollhouse 1995
With awkwardness, bullying, confusing sexuality, and parental neglect all effecting the 11-year-old Dawn Wiener, we follow her on a journey through middle school. The film has a dark humor element that allows the action to be awkwardly funny. Todd Solondz is a master of black comedy and this film is one of his darkest. The film is heartbreaking, funny, sad, and uplifting all while dealing with such dark themes of alienation.
Good Will Hunting 1997
Everyone has that friend who ends up stuck in their hometown, having the tools to make something great of themselves, but complacent for the life they’ve carved out in their safe zone. Good Will Hunting paints that picture powerfully with the gifted Will Hunting (Matt Damon), who could be brilliant, but seems satisfied with dead end jobs along with his blue collar childhood friends.
The Virgin Suicides 1999
Here’s yet another adaptation of a beloved book making the list. This time it’s Sofia Coppola behind the camera delivering what could arguably be her best film, depending on how much you love “Lost in Translation”. The film follows five mysterious sisters as they become the obsession of a group of young boys, mystified and fascinated by their sheltered life, ruled by super religious parents. As the title implies, this leads to their eventual demise, which is obviously sad, but also beautifully presented.
Y Tu Mama También 2001
Two overstimulated teenage boys and a woman in her late 20s take a road trip together across rural Mexico that changes all three of their lives. Alfonso Cuaron’s film is equal parts funny, tragic and painfully honest in its depiction of the tenuous bond between its male leads.
This is England 2006
Joyous and angry, welcoming and alienating, loving and hating, this film from Great Britain incapsulates growing up in a gang of skinheads. The guide into 80’s troubling time is a lonely 12-year-old boy named Shaun. He has a dead father and struggling mother. He eventually meets a kind apolitical gang of skinheads lead by the friendly Woody, who takes a likely too Shaun.
After the entrance of a violent character named Combo, Shaun’s internal anger turns to embracement White Nationalism and the incitement of racial violence. This Is England has many themes of friendship and isolation in youth, while also tackling the jeopardy these young minds can find themselves when swept up into idealism.
A Guide To Recognize Your Saints 2006
Shia LaBeouf, Channing Tatum, and Robert Downey Jr. star in this powerful and intense drama. It follows the memoirs of the author, director and musician Dito Monteil. Told via flashback and present-day exposition, as well as several monologues, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is a coming of age film that leaves an impact on the audience and critics both, with two Sundance awards and heaps of nominations to its credit.
The “IT Crowd” star Richard Ayoade proves that he has quite the talent behind the camera with his directorial debut. With flares of Woody Allen, albeit with a darker color palette, Submarine is a dryly funny story about a 15-year old kid named Oliver (Craig Roberts) who wants to lose his virginity, and also break up his mother and a resurfaced ex-boyfriend. Yasmin Paige shines as the object of his affection, a mysterious, strong young girl who deserves a movie all her own. It’s subtle, quirky and worth seeking out.
Blue is the Warmest Color 2013
A breakout hit of the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, this is one of the rare coming-of-age movies about a young girl discovering her sexuality. More specifically, it’s about a teenage girl (Adèle Exarchopoulos) exploring her newfound lesbian tendencies and the romance that unfolds with a fascinating, confident, hip young woman (Lea Seydoux).
Richard Linklater famously filmed Boyhood over a 12-year period, allowing us to watch a little boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) grow into adulthood as the real actor did the same. Profoundly moving in its treatment of the passage of time and the accumulation of the small details that inform a life, Boyhood is utterly unique and rich.