Coming of age is a necessary and fascinating part of life. It’s awkward, messy, and almost never goes the way we planned. First loves, new friends, and the kick start to life ambitions – this time in a person’s life often shapes what they like and who they’ll become. Lucky for us – cinema has been there to capture every step to the way.
John Hughes both lampooned and sympathized high school stereotypes while Cameron Crowe sought out a more sentimental and honest mentality. Richard Linklater seems to try and accurately capture every stage of a young person’s life while Wes Anderson takes a more absurdist approach. There are and have been so many filmmakers who have entered coming of age flicks into the lexicon, seeking to ignite conversation of the world around us or preserve times, places, and fads that speak to young people.
They comfort us during the troubled times of breakups and bad grades – they make us feel like we’re not alone. These days, films about growing up are standard – with many old and new shaping how people in fact come of age in their daily life. And while there seems to being monthly releases of movies with growing up themes – there are certainly some that ring true or stand out brighter than others.
If you’re a fan of these films, you’ll want to read 101 Most Influential Coming of Age Movies; a colorful index and analysis of the very best films of the genre. Exploring each decade in film and youth history, you can purchase your copy on Amazon.
The 2010’s have been filled with tweets and texts, Instagram posts and online living. The very fabric of life has been steadily shifted to the computer and that’s had an effect on people both real and fictional. In film, more readily available technology has also aided filmmakers in their ways of telling stories.
People now come of age on screen in the most fascinating of worlds. And while escapist cinema seems to be climbing to a never ending peak – low budget indie dramas that get to the ugly truths of growing up seem to slip through the cracks to tug at teen heart strings.
Here are the very best big and small coming of age movies of the 2010 decades so far:
15. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Pixar is notable for blending comedy and drama in family friendly masterpieces. Almost every film contains a child coming of age – aided by a strange force whether it be a toy, a monster, or a superpower. After the first two installments, we saw young Andy grow from a cowboy crazy child to a space ranger wannabe.
What’s brilliant about Toy Story 3 is that the producer’s let the actually ten years pass since the 1999 sequel. When we visit Andy again in 2010, he’s graduating high school and moving off to college. That means the beloved toys we know and love are going to be left behind.
Told from the toys prospective of course, it makes us all remember our action figures and stuffies – showing us what an important role they played in our lives before the adult world (and what role they can continue to play for someone else). Honestly, who didn’t tear up in the final minutes of the film? A pure coming of age moment for the characters and even fans that grew up on the series.
14. Submarine (2010)
This Ben Stiller produced dramady feels like it could have been the work of Wes Anderson or Noah Baumbach. It’s a weird world meant to both capture and parody 1960’s swinging London. There, we find Oliver who is desperate to lose his virginity by his sixteenth birthday.
When a quirky girl takes interest in him, he’s unsure if he can live up to the deed. After all, he has a full time job trying to spark up his parent’s failing passionless relationship.
Fun and fresh, Submarine feels similar to Harold and Maude – many scenes are unrealistic and over the top but it’s energy keeps you enthralled, especially due to Craig Roberts’ great performance. The familiar loss of virginity goal feels fresh when it’s in the hands of these filmmakers – the struggle and especially the doubt of it all makes the circumstance more down to earth.
13. Black Swan (2010)
Essentially an offbeat horror flick, Natalie Portman won her Oscar for portraying Nina, a young woman transitioning from the white swan to black in a unique adaptation of the play Swan Lake. She is haunted by rivalry and peer pressure as sexual awakenings and a social life take hold of her. Mila Kunis perfectly temps and lures her into darker territory while Nina’s Mother stands nervously by.
Reflecting a common time in womanhood where defiant moods steer their mind to more risqué situations, Portman’s transition is both seamless and beautiful. Though horrific physical changes toward swan-hood disrupt reality, we can still clearly identify with this girl’s dark and dangerous yet relatable coming of age path.
12. Easy A (2010)
It’s hard to find a movie these days that doesn’t feature one of the twenty-first centuries favorite red head’s Emma Stone. In her breakout role, we see a perfect parody reminiscent of nineties comedies that took their inspiration from classic literature such as Clueless (1995) and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999).
Here, we get a parody of The Scarlett Letter where a teenager falsifies her loss of virginity to help a friend mask his sexual orientation. She quickly becomes the talk of the hallway, especially when she starts a business pretending to deflower classmates.
From blogging to youtubing, openly gay characters to religious stances on sex, this seemingly simple comedy does so much to show how far the world has changed. Wickedly funny yet topical on teen sexuality – both Stone and Amanda Bynes contrastingly clash back and forth as each character momentarily steals the show like a comical tug of war.
11. The Tree of Life (2011)
The 2001 Space Odyssey of coming of age films, we get a lot here in Terrance Mallick’s experimental epic including a lengthy interpretation of the universe’s creation. Then we see Sean Penn miserably walking around society, all the while two dinosaurs demonstrate the first act of compassion. Sounds like a good teen flick huh? It’s actually the scenes with Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain that make this one so memorable.
Pitt’s strict Father character puts strain and influence on his boys – unwittingly pitting the two of them against each other for life. His cold manor verses Chastain’s nurturing tendencies contrast to confuse and ultimately hurt their children.
Exploring deep impacts of parental love and the family unit, this one’s a thinker but a gorgeous one at that. Expect nothing less than spellbinding from one of cinemas most elusive and thought provoking directors.
10. Life of Pi (2012)
This bestselling book had millions of perplexed readers arguing over the shocking ending. What really kept readers and eventually viewers invested in the beautiful story was Pi Patel, a man who recounts his adolescent days in India. While he lived a typical life with his zoo owning family, a move to Canada separates them – putting Pi on a raft with various hostile animals, most memorably a tiger.
A thrilling adventure tale that looks like a painting, Pi’s relationship and maturity through the ordeal makes us reevaluate our own lives and what values and codes we live by. With small familiar tropes like first loves and school fights – it dives into unique territory that explores solidarity, relationships, and how one looks at troubled pasts after the experience ends.
9. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
When an orphan confined to a strict boy’s camp escapes to the wilderness with a bored and lonely girl – sparks ensure. These kids experience first kisses and rock music during the turbulent sixties on a fictional New England Island. Only possible because of Wes Anderson’s unique storytelling ability – we get a slew of wild adult characters from an uptight Edward Norton to a sluggish Bill Murray. Then there are the two young lovers, rebelling for friendship and connection.
Filled with bright colors, forgotten music, Anderson’s staple cast, and an unconventional plot – this film may be his deepest routed outing. A caricature of rebellion in the sixties, we get a wild goose chase filled with bizarre people who might just know and feel less than the kids who have flown the coop. Both over the top zany and sadly sweet due to the orphan plot line – unconventional doesn’t even begin to explain what all can be found here.