The term ‘Lolita’ refers to an under aged, seductive girl, who often becomes the sexual obsession of a much older man. Originating from the character in the popular Vladimir Nabokov novel of the same name, multiple films have taken on some kind of variation of her and Humbert Humbert’s relationship.
With the upcoming film “Diary of a Teenage Girl” having a similar theme, here are 15 other films that explore this complex from different angles.
15. Ask Me Anything (2014)
Katie Kampenfelt (Britt Robertson) is an archetypal version of a Lolita – a seductive, attractive, dishonest, underage girl who desires nothing more than feeling wanted and loved. She takes gap-year before beginning college and with the advice from a concerned teacher, starts an anonymous blog that chronicles her thoughts, affairs and adventures.
She cheats on her high school boyfriend (Max Carver) with a 32-year-old college film teacher (Justin Long) who is in turn cheating on his girlfriend. After he moves away, Katie is left stranded, ignored, and car-less, unable to contact him of her own accord.
Despite breaking up, he still occasionally contacts her whenever he feels lonely, and after having sex, says that he regrets it. He uses his adult status as a defense for ending the relationship, saying that she is immature and he has to be the grown up in this situation. That is, until the next time he wants to use her.
After quitting her job at the bookstore since her boss was a convicted sex offender (Martin Sheen), she gets a call from Paul (Christian Slater) who interviewed her for college and knew that since she deferred a year, she could maybe work for his family as their babysitter. Although somewhat shallow and sulky, Katie is not just the girl everyone wants, but the one who loses her innocence, the people closest to her and everything else.
14. Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
Rob Marshall’s film chronicles the poor little Chiyo Sakamoto’s adventure to becoming the most desired geisha in Japan. After being sold by her family to an okiya (geisha house), she makes too many mistakes and is punished by being demoted to a slave.
The young Chiyo feels very unhappy and hopeless until she is noticed by an older man, the Chairman (Ken Watanabe), who compliments her rare blue eyes and buys her an iced cherry sorbet. She admires his geisha companions and dreams of becoming as elegant as they are so that she could become part of this kind stranger’s life.
The Chairman gives her his handkerchief with some money in it, so that she could buy some food for herself. Instead she gives the money to the gods and wishes to someday become a geisha.
Cut to a 15-year-old Chiyo (Zhang Ziyi) who still loves and dreams about the Chairman, keeping his handkerchief underneath her clothes, next to her heart. Despite all odds, she becomes a maiko (geisha in training) thanks to Mameha (Michelle Yeoh) and reunites with the Chairman who has been her entire reason and motivation for becoming a geisha.
However, she has to deny the dream she has been promising herself since her childhood and entertain and romance his best friend, regardless of the Chairman’s proximity.
13. Stoker (2013)
Another film by Park Chan-wook (Oldboy), the psychological horror begins on India Stoker’s (Mia Wasikowska) 18th birthday, when her father dies unexpectedly in a car accident. At the funeral, India’s unbalanced mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) introduces her to her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), a man she had never known existed. After traveling around the world for the past two decades, Charlie starts to live with them, seemingly to offer his support after this family tragedy.
Evelyn grows closer to him, since he reminds her of her husband when they first met and fell in love. India, however, rejects all his attempts at friendship. She takes the bus home even though he is there to pick her up (much to the schoolgirls’ delight) and declines his umbrella when it’s raining heavily.
India discovers more about Uncle Charlie than she wants to and becomes drawn to him. Evelyn and India’s jealousy of each other’s time with him leads them to resent each other even more. Charlie seems to play with India’s emotions and leads her into the dark path that he is on. Their relationship, besides incestuous and unhealthy, is dangerous – for everyone.
12. Labyrinth (1986)
15-year-old Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly) is left in charge of her baby brother Toby while her parents go out for the evening. Toby is hugging her favorite teddy bear and she dramatically responds by wishing for Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie), a character from her favorite play to take Toby away. Surprisingly enough, he appears and does just that, despite her pleas to leave them alone, saying that she was just being melodramatic.
As a compromise, he gives her thirteen hours to find her way through his labyrinth and save Toby before he turns him into a goblin. Sarah falls into a trap, causing her memories and motives to fade. She escapes into a dream world set in a ballroom with 80s dresses and Bowie pop songs, where Jareth finds and dances with her.
The Goblin King shows in the most contradictory way, that he is doing all this because he is in love with her. His obsession with her is why he tortures Sarah so that she becomes trapped in his world forever. He illogically insists that he would be her slave, if only she does everything he wants.
11. The Squid and The Whale (2005)
Noah Baumbach’s “The Squid and The Whale” focuses on the inappropriate behavior and dysfunctional relationship between the egotistical, once-promising author turned English teacher Bernard Berkman (Jeff Daniels) and his newly separated and serial cheating wife (Laura Linney) as parents who share joint custody of their two maladjusted sons, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline).
One of Bernard’s college students, Lili (Anna Paquin) who writes explicit, “racy” metaphorical poetry about her sexual experiences, asks him whether he could help her find a new place to live. He immediately responds by offering her the extra room in his house that he shares with his children half the time. She accepts and starts living with him.
His sons don’t blink an eye to what appears to the viewer’s as an obvious cross of boundaries. Walt, who’s only a bit younger than Lili, develops a crush on her. Bernard and Lili publically go to events together, leading other people to assume they’re in a relationship, which Walt always denies.
The pairing is made all the more unfitting and creepy when one considers that Daniels and Paquin were in a movie together before, in 1994’s “Fly Away From Home”, where Daniels plays her 13-year-old character’s father. However, Paquin is no stranger to the Lolita complex, portraying provocative students in films “25th Hour” with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and “Margaret” with Matt Damon.
10. An Education (2009)
Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a bored 16-year-old student focused on getting into Oxford University. Her days revolve around studying and her free time is spent practicing cello in the hopes of becoming a more attractive candidate. Enter the rich and sophisticated David (Peter Sarsgaard), who offers Jenny a lift back from cello practice one rainy day. He draws her into his glamorous lifestyle, a welcome change from reading Latin dictionaries.
David charms her strict parents into allowing her a night on the town with his ‘aunt’ i.e his friends, (Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike). This soon escalates to a weekend trip to Oxford and culminates in a trip to Paris for her 17th birthday. She becomes complicit in his lies and revels in fine-dining restaurants and night clubs.
Despite her youth, she is mostly in control, dictating the opportune moment for sex, refusing David’s baby talk and shuts down his cringe-worthy suggestion that she should first lose her virginity to a banana.
David’s age never seems to bother anyone; her friends are all intrigued by his car and Jenny’s new French cigarettes. Her parents disregard his age in favor of his interesting conversations and social connections. Only her sixth form teachers seem to care about her stirring away from her education for an older, rich man. No one expects anything bad from David, not unless they truly know him.
9. Ghost World (2001)
Best friends Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) have just graduated high school. In this transitory phase of their lives, they have nothing much to do besides follow strangers and eat at a 50s diner. They notice a personal ad in which a man is seeking the blonde woman in the yellow dress with whom he had a “moment” at the airport. They are amused by this pathetic advertisement and prank call him pretending to be the blonde and arrange a meeting.
They watch the lonely, middle aged man Seymour (Steve Buscemi) show up and wait for the blonde. After a while, he realizes that he’s been stood up and dejectedly leaves. The girls stalk him back to his place, rifle through his mail, ridiculing his subscriptions. Both girls meet him at his empty garage sale nearby.
Enid’s amusement soon turns to pity towards Seymour. She starts hanging out with instead of Rebecca, going to his dinner party, to a jazz club, to diners and hanging out at his place. She changes his normal, dull routine and convinces him to try more things and get out more, even managing to persuade him to go into a sex shop.
She tries to help the reluctant Seymour to find a girlfriend, but once he succeeds, he feels that their age gap seems inappropriate and starts to avoid her. This leads to Enid becoming more persistent and even jealous of his new girlfriend.