9. Thirteen (2003)
It’s a time of life most parents dread – when their daughter becomes a teenager. There is no escaping the dramatic transition where they’re right and the parents are always wrong.
Then of course there are always the dangers of drugs, sex, and peer pressure looming in the balance. Based on director Catherine Hardwicke’s own life, we follow a teenage girl leaving behind her childhood innocence as she makes new friends, gets piercing after piercing, and slowly breaks down the rocky relationship with her Mother (played by Holly Hunter).
Evan Rachel Wood steals the show, plunging herself in a tough role that doesn’t glorify and poke fun at the age. There is truth and honesty in this film – even if it scares parents with young girls nearing this time.
10. Goodbye Lenin (2003)
For many years, the Berlin wall stood tall – separating friends, family, and a country divided in political views. Soon after President Regan so famously asked Mr. Gorbachev to tear down the wall, it toppled in 1989.
It was the story of the year that changed the world. Young Alex, the hero of this story, has no doubt heard about the event but his fragile Mother waking up from a coma in 1990 has not. So instead of celebrating and moving on with his life, Alex must keep up the charade that the wall still stands and East Germany has not changed.
Darkly humorous, mixed with tragedy and satire – this film works because of the beautiful heart is gives off. The lead character works so hard to protect his Mother – it’s both entertaining and frustrating as it effects his own life and grip on the changing world.
11. Garden State (2004)
Before Zack Braff was exploring the infinite abyss and curing patients as our favorite medical intern in Scrubs, he was waiting tables as a depressed struggling actor; so he wrote a screenplay about it.
Following a medication addicted actor returning to his home town to rekindle a relationship with his friends and Father, we are treated to a quirky friendship that blossoms between him and a very bubbly Natalie Portman. With a new age soundtrack that attracted so many extra viewers – this sweet and often sad look at your twenties will surely resonate to lost youth.
It is Braff’s idea that we don’t stop coming of age after our teens – our twenties are just as explorative and necessary as any other age before it. Garden State illustrates that point and guides lost souls looking for motivation and a good song to listen to.
12. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
The King of nerdy quirk – Jon Hedar became a star after this tiny indie flick became one of the year’s best loved films. What’s not to like here? You have a bizarrely strange and angry young man trying to get through high school whilst feeding lamas and dealing with his time traveling brother.
Then there’s the high school election dance, Uncle Rico, opinions on one percent milk, and endless quotes that filled the airwaves at the time.
Critics were so confused by the success of the offbeat movie – they named the special case after the film where it is almost impossible to tell why something becomes popular. And while the lessons are few and far between, the high school scenes are familiar. Plus the never before seen type of lead characters are refreshing in a bold and hilarious way.
13. Mean Girls (2004)
Tina Fey adapted a clever novel Queen Bee’s and Wannabees to give us this hilarious, nearly slapstick look at high school hallways. Lindsay Lohan is the new girl just trying to make some friends.
When the popular clique takes interest in her – she quickly ceases the opportunity to infiltrate the group and wreak havoc on their lives. Then again, their plastic world seems tempting thanks to boys, gossip, and well, boys; she quickly becomes one herself.
Brilliant comparisons of the African Savannah with the local shopping mall make this film stand out. Not only is it a laugh a minute riot thanks to Amanda Seyfried’s ditsy supporting character – it’s a sweet reminder just to put away all the drama and be nice to one another.
14. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Harry Potter came along in the late nineties and changed everything – the series seemingly turned a whole generation on to reading while spawning quite possibly the most popular film series of all time.
In a magic world filled with dark evils and wizardry schools – we follow young orphan Harry, year by year, as he makes friends, seeks revenge on his family’s killer, and learns a spell or two. What lands Goblet of Fire on this list is the sheer focus of the story. There’s the whole school competition side and comradery through the Triwizard Tournament.
Then there’s the Yule Ball – a large portion of the film where Harry and Ron struggle to find dates. Most of the story revolves around dating, talking to girls, and impressing each other through athleticism. It doesn’t get more coming of age that this… especially in the wizarding world.
15. The Squid and the Whale (2005)
Noah Baumbach knows who to push an awkward moment further and further until you just can’t take it anymore. He also knows how to blend reality with quirky characters that are engaging and fascinating to watch.
Here, we follow two boys who are torn between their parent’s divorce – taking sides which ultimately causes the family unit to collapse. And while the kids are great (a shining young Jesse Eisenberg), Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels are incredible. Their fine tuned characters are relatable while being wildly childish and borderline insane.
Divorce is sadly a coming of age chapter for man kids. This film doesn’t pull any punches, it paints a funny but depressing picture of the situation divorce can lead to. All these boys have to go on is the happy memories of their trips to the Museum of Natural History.
16. This is England (2006)
England 1983 – the tail end of the punk movement when social norms and the status quo were challenged. Twelve year old Shaun is bullied because of his lack of height and the gaping size of his trousers. He receives little support from his family and spends most of his time getting riled up and fighting. That’s when he finds solace within a group of skinheads who teach the look, style, and viewpoints that fight back against conformity and the adult world.
With a killer soundtrack, this film paints a detailed and accurate picture of the UK at the time. You can only imagine that his involvement in the gang only escalates friction between family and school but that’s what it’s always been about. Rebelling against the very things that give up trouble, either to prove a point or find something that suits us better.
17. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Absolutely spellbinding in its use of special effects – this landmark fantasy film follows a young girl in the wake of civil war in Spain. To escape the dreadful times, little Ophelia occupies here time with a challenging sets of tasks given to her by an ancient faun. If she proves herself through these tasks – Ophelia will have shown she is a reincarnated princess that can be reunited with her Father.
With comparisons to Catholicism and evident stages of growing up – this spellbinding Spanish language journey was delicately brought to like by visionary director Guillermo del Toro. The sight of pale man will make you squirm in terror while Ophelia’s innocence and bravery will lift your spirits. Fantasy at its absolute best.