The teen-age years are full of the first tastes of adult pleasures such as the first time drinking or the first time heart break while, navigating the social, hormonal, and scholarly adventures. The following films are quite universal, whether one is in the midst of teenage adventure or looking back at the faster times of life. Coming of age movies act as a guide and a nostalgia road map for viewers, teaching and remembering shared experiences.
Coming of age has been portrayed in cinema since cinema has existed. 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.
25. American Pie (1999)
The teen sex comedy that spawned many sequels and spin offs. None can compare to the original.
The noted film, whose title is borrowed by the Don McLean song is all about one thing, loss of virginity. The story concerns 5 friends (Jim, Kevin, Oz, Finch, and Stifler), who all, excepting the experienced Stifler, decide to lose their virginity by the end of their senior year of high school.
This movie is hilarious. Whether the film is concentrating on Jason Biggs’ character inserting his phallic friend into an apple pie in order to simulate the third base experience, or having his father, played by Eugene Levy, giving him unwanted sex advice, American Pie is classic comedy.
24. Mean Girls (2004)
Mean Girls is one of the official movies of the 90s kid generation. It is the story of Cady Heron, a pretty teenager girl, who was home-schooled in Africa before coming to the North Shore of the US. She meets Janis Ian and Damian, who is too gay to function. Then she meets “the plastics”, who are like Barbie dolls with bank accounts.
Tina Fey, who also plays pushy teacher Ms. Norbury, wrote the quotable script. The film is deeply insightful, concerning ingrained truths of modern American society. The exceptional cast consists of young players and Saturday Night Live alums, all of whom shine brightly and embody high school stereotypes which have become part of US culture. Characters such as Regina George and Gretchen Wieners exist in many school or friend groups.
23. Thirteen (2003)
Catherine Hardwicke’s semi-autobiographical film based upon the life of co-writer Nikki Reed, was quite controversial. The film dealt with issues of underage sexual behavior, self-harm, and drug and alcohol abuse. It is an emotionally wrenching and terrifying film which explores the perils of being a teenager.
Shot on a limited budget on a shooting schedule of less than a month’s time, Thirteen stars Evan Rachel Wood and Holly Hunter as a teen trying to fit in with the cool crowd and her struggling single mother respectively. Nikki Reed also stars as the popular girl who befriends Wood’s character and helps to change the young woman.
The film received acclaim, especially for its performances. Reed, Wood and Hunter all received praise for their challenging roles, with Wood and Hunter receiving Golden Globe nominations and Hunter an Academy Award nomination for supporting actress.
22. Edge of Seventeen (1998)
This coming of age/coming out film based on the life of 1980’s writer Todd Stephens is a hidden treasure of its sub-genre. The film is an honest portrayal of teenage life and, though it may be a little dated at some points, it is still poignant and reveals the struggles of self discovery, sexual or otherwise.
Edge of Seventeen, taking its title from a Stevie Nicks song, tells the story of Eric, a teenager who is trying to discover himself over the course of a summer working at an amusement park. There he works with his best friend Maggie, who is in love with him, his cool lesbian boss, played by the hilarious Lea DeLaria, and Rod, a gay college student.
Maggie sits in the wings and slowly starts to realize that her friend is gay and is not going to be with her, especially after he connects with Rod. Through his relationship with Rod, Eric starts to experiment and changes his look to resemble singer Annie Lennox. His parents are not amused by his changes, but he finds solace in a bar run by DeLaria.
The cast and the story create a mood of realism and poignancy which makes the film a true gem of the LGBT film canon and a potential coming of age classic. The soundtrack is also amazing!
21. Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (2009)
Precious stars Gabourey Sidibe in her acting debut, Mo’nique, Paula Patton and Mariah Carey, in a story concerning an illiterate 16 year old girl and her abusive mother.
This film is a highly emotional experience featuring a number of disturbing elements. Sidibe and Mo’nique bring raw energy and power to their performances which exude an emotional force which imbues the small apartment setting with a feeling of imminent implosion.
Precious can only find refuge in frequent daydreams. The young woman’s teacher Blu Rain (Paula Patton) becomes Precious’s savior. Precious begins to learn to read, write and become excited about life. Precious also goes to work with Ms. Weiss (Mariah Carey). Ms. Weiss helps Precious uncover the incest and abuse which has been part of her life. Both women help Precious in her hour of need.
The film represents a different coming of age tale since the main character is dealing with abuse, incest, having given birth to children through that incest, and other atrocities. Precious is a sobering look into the lives of less fortunate people.
20. Superbad (2007)
Superbad is a teen comedy from the crazed and brilliant comedic minds of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
Rogen and Goldberg, who ostensibly play themselves, started working on the film when they were 13, and finished a draft at 15. The film explores, through ridiculous situations, the overarching awkwardness of the high school experience. The vulgarity and sincerity of the film are well balanced and , while sometimes immature, is also warm and sophisticated at other times.
The cast includes Seth Rogen, Michael Cera, Emma Stone, and Jonah Hill.and is expertly funny.
19. G.B.F (2013)
The three queen bees of a suburban high school fight over the affection of a recently outed outsider who wanted to skate by high school without getting notice in this notable recent entry in the LGBT sub-genre.
The film follows Tanner (Michael J. Willet) as he navigates his new social position as the school’s G.B.F (gay best friend). His best friend Brent, coveted the title and wanted to be extravagant in coming out,as a glittery eyeful for all to see. Tanner is seen as an accessory by these young woman since a G.B.F is considered to be quite trendy. This battle to possess him causes the women to get nasty.
All of these lead to sassy comments, well-coordinated outfits, and backstabbing, which leads to unlikely friendships and romances. These events are both predictable and yet seem to come out of nowhere like a thrown stiletto at a club. Tanner uses the women for protection and they use him as a human handbag.
However, Tanner and the rest of the characters realize that gay men aren’t just fabulous objects to wave around and that they are, in fact, people, and should be treated as such. The film is hilarious and entertaining but never takes itself too seriously.
18. Juno (2007)
Directed by Jason Reitman and written by Oscar winner Diablo Cody, Juno tells the story of the title character, an independent teenager whose unplanned pregnancy and its consequential events bring a lot of pressure into her life.
Starring Oscar nominated Ellen Page, Juno was a surprise hit of its year and a sizable financial gross and considerable critical acclaim. The film was named one of the best films of the 2000-2009 decade by a number of sources. The title character is often considered one of the best film characters of that decade.
The cast, including Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, , received praise for their originality, realism and synergy. The subject of abortion, central to the film, was praised by both pro-life and pro-choice supporters for the treatment it was given in this film.
A.O Scott, film critic for the New York Times wrote that Juno has “an underlying theme, and message that is not anti-abortion, but pro-adulthood”. The film is about becoming an adult and although Juno had to grow up faster than she might have expected, matured throughout the film.