The 25 Best Coming-of-Age Movies of All Time

17. Beautiful Thing (1996)

Beautiful Thing (1996)

Combining such elements as a working class 1990s English setting , the music of Cass Elliott, and a gay revelation coming of age story, resulted in Beautiful Thing. This British film is based on a eponymous play by Jonathan Harvey and focuses on Jamie (Glen Barry), an awkward teenager who is concealing his homosexuality. One of his neighbors Ste (Scott Neal), is also in the closet. Their relationship develops from friendship into something deeper, as the two young men find in each other someone else who understands shared feelings.

Despite the interesting leads, it’s the supporting characters who steal the show. Jamie’s mother Sandra (Linda Barry), is a chain smoking, tough, yet loving single mother who wants nothing but the best for her son and is worried about him. There is also Leah (Tameka Empson), a trash-talking sass machine who is Jamie’s and Ste’s neighbor. Her distaste for school and adoration of Cass Elliott, makes her another character with some growing up to do.

The film is heart warming, funny, and tackles important social issues without being preachy with a message which is still timely The music of Miss Elliott drives and informs the film.


16. Let The Right One In (2008)

Let the Right One In

This Swedish romantic horror film is about a 12 year old boy who befriends a vampire child in the suburbs of Stockholm in the early 1980s.

Director Tomas Alfredson toned down many of the elements of the novels upon which the film was based. The film bypassed typical vampire tropes and horror conventions, in order to focus on the relationship between the two children. Lead actors Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson deliver fine performances as Oskar, the boy, and Eli the vampire girl respectively.

The film focuses on Oskar, who is a bullied young boy, and who keeps newspaper clippings of local killings and a knife under his bed. Eli, is the new girl next door living with Hazan, an older man, who kills in order to get her supply of blood. Eli and Oskar’s develop an incredibly close relationship throughout the film as they each battle their respective difficult circumstances.

The film received wide acclaim for acting, directing, and its score among other elements. Let The Right One In is often highly placed on list of scary films, and is also considered to be among the best films of the last decade.


15. Boyz n the Hood (1991)


John Singleton was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay Academy Awards at the age of 24, making him the youngest person nominated for directing and the first African American to be nominated for that award. The nominations recognized his feature debut, Boyz n the Hood.

The film is set in a neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles. Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.), is sent to live with his father (Laurence Fishburne) in order to straighten him out. Although his father tries to instill proper values and a moral compass, Tre’ gravitates towards friends Doughboys (Ice Cube) and Ricky Morris (Morris Chestnut) who don’t have the same type of support system. He become involved in the neighborhood’s burgeoning gang and drug scene, which lead to catastrophe.

The film focuses on growing up and coming of age in a hard, tough environment. Those living in this environment are told constantly that they are just street toughs and will never make it out of the neighborhood. Boyz n the Hood illustrates that it is possible to exit out of the neighborhood.


14. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Moonrise Kingdom

Described as an “eccentric pubescent love story”, Moonrise Kingdom focuses on two kids running away in order to live with each other.

Directed by Wes Anderson and written by Anderson and Roman Coppola, this eccentric tale relates the story of two twelve year olds (Jared Gilman & Kara Hayward), one a boy scout and the other an introverted, classical music loving girl. Set on a New England island called New Penzance in 1965, a lunatic set of characters including the parents of the pre-teens and the local townspeople search high and low for the runaways.

The highly comedic cast of the film includes Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Tilda Swinton. The cast members give themselves over totally to the quirky characters. The film is whimsical, warm, funny and tells a memorable story concerning first loves accented by quirky comic moments.


13. Almost Famous (2000)

Almost Famous

Cameron Crowe based this film on his experiences touring around the country with rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd as a teenager while writing for Rolling Stone. Almost Famous explores growing up, leaving home, and experiencing life.

William Miller, a character based on Crowe, is a baby-faced teenager who is following the fictional band Stillwater for a cover story of Rolling Stone. The film follows him as he loses his virginity, falls in love, and meets his heroes.

William is befriended by Stillwater lead guitarist Russell Hammond, mostly due to the fact that he is a friend of Penny, a groupie Russell desires. After lying about his age, William gets hired by the editor of Rolling Stone, who sends him on the road with Stillwater and thus begins the adventure.

The entire cast shines and Crowe perfectly portrays the 70s as a decade where having no purpose was purpose enough. The cast, including Kate Hudson as Penny, Patrick Fugit as William, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs brings a little something extra to the proceedings.

The dynamic soundtrack is essential to the film including music from the Allman Brothers, Elton John,and Led Zeppelin. This score drives the film forward, while conjuring a nostalgic feel.


12. The Virgin Suicides (1999)

The Virgin Suicides

This 1999 drama marking the feature debut of writer/director Sofia Coppola, tells the story of five sisters living in upper middle class Detroit in the 1970s. When the youngest sister attempts suicide, the girls are put under intense scrutiny and this eventually leads to a state of near confinement, resulting in the young women’s severe isolation and depressive behavior.

There is a melancholy sweetness to this dark movie. The film mixes the delicate with the disparate. In this film girls become women and men watch from afar. A mysterious quality within the film heightens the suspense, as the bond sisterhood prevails as expressed by a pact among the sisters.

The film concentrates not on the actual interaction of the sisters but in how the sisters and their relationship appeared to the young men around them. The film is narrated by one of the young men and creates a disquieting tension and piquant nostalgia surrounding disquieting events.


11. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

Y Tu Mamá También

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, this coming of age tale centers on two teenage boys taking a road trip with a woman in her late twenties. This road movie is set in 1999, against a backdrop of the political and economic realities besetting present day Mexico. The film was noted for its depiction of sexual situations and scenes depicting drug use.

An omniscient narrator gives insights into the characters and the setting, focusing on the political unrest and the poverty of the people surrounding the characters. Cuaron re-imagined the American road movie using Mexico’s geography, people, politics and culture. The cinema verite style marked the film as being different from a number of other road movies.


10. Fast Times of Ridgemont High (1982)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Written by Cameron Crowe and directed by first-time director Amy Heckerling, Fast Times at Ridgemont High is adapted from Crowe’s own book about his year-long undercover reporting while posing as a teen at Claremont High School for a Rolling Stone story .

The film features Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, and future two-time Academy Award winner Sean Penn, among others. Fast Times tells several ongoing stories about the students at Ridgemont High.

The iconic film captures the small details of school, work, and teenage life, making the experiences relatable. The picture has earned a place in the National Film Registry.


9. Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)


This adaptation of the euphonious 1999 epistolary novel by Stephen Chbosky was an example of a literary film adaptation which raises questions concerning the qualities of the novel as opposed to the film. Written and directed by the author, Perks is about an uneasy high school freshman Charlie, who has difficulty making friends and also has recurring dreams concerning his dead aunt.

Charlie befriends his English teacher Mr. Anderson, who notices Charlie’s love for reading and gives him extra books and assignments in order to enrich the boy. Charlie also befriends two seniors Sam and Patrick, who become Charlie’s best friends and welcome him into their group. His friends lead Charlie into a number of experiences such as taking him, having him perform in Rocky Horror Picture Show and celebrating Christmas with him, these help Charlie transition into high school.

Perks of Being a Wallflower chiefly concerns transitions. Charlie’s transitions into high school; Sam’s transitions into college; Patrick’s transitions to being more open about himself. The trio of starring actors, Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller, all give great performances. Both book and film emerge as most worthwhile.