Coming-of-age movies have a timeless appeal, remaining relatable and popular across generations. Whether watched during adolescence or in the later stages of life, these films resonate with viewers of every age. For those currently navigating the challenges of youth, these movies strike a chord of understanding. And those who have passed through the difficult period of coming of age, these films can evoke a sense of nostalgia.
Dead Poets Society
Robin Williams takes the lead in Dead Poets Society. This film straddles the line between humor and a coming-of-age story. The narrative centers on a group of boarding school students, with Williams portraying Mr. Keating, an English teacher who encourages them to think beyond conventional boundaries, challenging the school’s traditional values and its headmaster.
Dead Poets Society carries sentimental tones and it is both earnest and impactful. It leaves a lasting impression, especially with its emotional final scenes. It is noteworthy for showcasing one of Ethan Hawke’s early performances. The film features an 18-year-old Hawke as Todd Anderson, the protagonist of the story.
Coming-of-Age Movies: Pather Panchali
Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali is the first installment of the celebrated Apu Trilogy. It has earned high praise not only from millions of viewers, including filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Apu is the central character in the trilogy. The film primarily delves into the lives of his family, grappling with hardships in providing for their children. At the core, the film delves into themes of humanity and universality. Widely regarded as a modern classic and nothing short of a masterpiece, it continues to captivate audiences.
Perks of Being Wallflower
While Stephen Chbosky’s 2021 film Dear Evan Hansen may not be regarded as one of the great coming-of-age movies, his 2012 film The Perks of Being a Wallflower certainly earns that distinction. Notably, Chbosky wrote the novel on which the film is based, adapted it into a screenplay, and then took on the role of director.
Set in the early 1990s, the story revolves around Charlie, a shy high schooler and the eponymous wallflower, who gains confidence after forming a friendship with an older student and her stepbrother. The Perks of Being a Wallflower strikes a perfect balance, offering an impeccably bittersweet experience accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack. The film also boasts some of the most memorable quotes in modern teen cinema.
Coming-of-Age Movie: Moonlight
Moonlight shares a thematic resemblance with the previously mentioned Apu Trilogy, though it compresses three life stages – childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood – into a 111-minute film. The narrative revolves around the experiences of a young Black man named Chiron, portrayed by different actors at each life stage.
Known for its honesty, rawness, and realism, Moonlight sheds light on the challenges faced by a Black, homosexual boy. It doesn’t shy away from portraying the difficulties of life for someone deemed “different.” The film is commendable for its powerful message and grounded storytelling, achieved on a modest budget before gaining significant awards recognition, including winning the Oscar for Best Picture. Intense yet rewarding, Moonlight stands as a cinematic triumph and a crucial platform for Black queer individuals, providing a much-needed representation for those who have been marginalized for too long.
Before helming the highly acclaimed Barbie movie and offering a modern take on Little Women, Greta Gerwig’s directorial career took flight with the 2017 film Lady Bird. This dramedy revolves around a girl named Christine. She aspires to leave California and attend college in New York, leading to conflicts with her mother.
While there are numerous films exploring the dynamics between mothers and daughters, few coming-of-age movies match the compelling nature of Lady Bird. Gerwig’s screenplay is often lauded among the best in recent memory, balancing humor and heartbreak with a true-to-life portrayal. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf deliver standout performances, earning them both Oscar nominations. It is an instant classic and a defining movie for the Z generation. Lady Bird stands as a rare dramedy that lingers in the audience’s memory.