Coming Of Age Films That Every Teen Must Watch Before They Hit their 20s

“Stop trying to make fetch happen”. All of us have obviously seen and love Mean Girls.

“Stop trying to make fetch happen”. All of us have obviously seen and love Mean Girls. There are so many other coming-of-age films, some classics, some not very well known, which everyone must watch at least once, if not multiple times. Here is a list of a few of my favorite films, in no particular order.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

Me and Earl and The Dying Girl films

Greg is a high school senior who avoids deep relationships of any kind. Quite literally, he even calls his best friend, Earl, with whom he makes short film parodies of classic movies, his ‘co-worker’. 
Greg’s mom forces him to spend time with Rachel, a girl in his class who has recently been diagnosed with leukemia, and he slowly discovers that he is in love with her. This movie depicts how beautiful the true bonds of friendship can be.

Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower films

It may seem like the typical ‘shy kid in school learns to stand up for himself’ sort of a feel-good drama at first sight. But this movie is so much more than that - it depicts mature themes like mental illness, suicide of his best friend, sexual abuse, drugs and alcohol. This movie has introduced us to many loveable characters like Sam, the sweet and genuine girl who befriends Charlie, and makes him feel included, Patrick, a happy-go-lucky guy, who takes him on many new adventures, and of course our protagonist, Charlie, who suffers from clinical depression since childhood, and lives in his own little world sometimes. We also see the close bond shared by Charlie and his English professor. It is a movie which depicts the bonds of friendship, and how it can improve our lives in so many ways. 

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Good Will Hunting | Films

Will Hunting is a janitor at MIT, and is also a brilliant mathematician, who gets discovered by the professor while solving a difficult mathematics question. He gets into a fight with a gang, and to avoid going to jail, the professor makes him agree to study mathematics under him and to work with Sean, a therapist. Sean actually challenges Will, who eventually begins to open up. They help each other out in life, giving each other support.

Clueless (1995)

Loosely based on Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’, it follows the life of Cher, a popular 15 year old, who loves taking up projects- like giving the new girl (Tai) a makeover to help her fit in, or setting up two of her teachers (which was ‘only partially’ for her own benefit).  Everyone loves her, but the only person who finds fault with her is her (ex) step brother, Josh, who she eventually realizes she has been in love with for a long time, after learning that Tai fancies him.

500 Days of Summer (2009)

500 Days of Summer | Films

This is a boy meets girl story, about a man (Tom) who falls head over heels for a woman (Summer) who stoutly declares her disbelief in love and it follows their relationship, which lasts for a little over a year.
 Tom believes in the concept of soul mates and knows that he’s found his in Summer. Tom pursues Summer with all that he has to convince and persuade her that their love is the real deal. Will he succeed, or will this Summer get replaced by Autumn? 500 Days of Summer is Marc Webb’s first foray into the land of films, and judging his later movies with the Spider-Man IP, it’s safe to sa that his first film was also his best.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

THE BREAKFAST CLUB | Coming of Age Films

 Five high school students report for all-day detention in the library, each coming from a different clique altogether: pampered Claire, state champion wrestler Andrew, geek Brian, outcast Allison, and delinquent John. Assistant principal Richard Vernon instructs them not to speak, leave their seats, or sleep until they are told. He assigns them a thousand-word essay, in which each must describe who they think they are.
The students pass the hours by talking and arguing. Gradually, they open up and share their secrets, forming unlikely friendships which break the traditional cliques. They come together as one to express themselves as an amalgamation of each clique in the thousand word essay, which Brian writes. John Hughes may have made a ton of films centered around teentagers, but The Breakfast Club is certainly his best.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

10 Things I Hate About You | Films

It is modern-day re-telling of Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, following popular Bianca Stratford (a clever reference to the ‘Stratford sisters’) who is forbidden from dating until her rebellious older sister Kat dates someone. In an attempt to win over Bianca, Cameron (the new kid, who falls in love at first sight with her) attempts to set Kat up with Patrick Verona, another rebel who is the only one capable of winning Kat’s heart. The best part of this movie is (spoilers!) undeniably the scene where Patrick serenades Kat with his rendition of  ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ at soccer practice. Kat’s poem, ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ is so full of emotion, that it is guaranteed to at least give you goosebumps, if not leave you in tears.  The ending is predictable as to who ends up with whom, but this film leaves you with a happy and satisfied feeling.

27 Dresses (2008)

Jane has been the responsible daughter and sister since her mother died, good at taking care of everyone but herself. She has a closet full of 27 bridesmaid dresses, showing the number of times she’s been a bridesmaid. She gets noticed by Kevin, a newspaper reporter for the Wedding column who yearns to leave this column, and write actual columns, who sees her whizzing between two weddings on the same night, and sees her as his big story to leave the wedding column. Jane finds out that Kevin is actually her favourite wedding column reporter, Malcolm Doyle. Her life gets further complicated by the arrival of her younger sister Tess, who immediately captures the heart of Jane’s boss, George, for whom Jane has feelings. Tess enlists her always-accommodating sister to plan yet another wedding, hers and George’s, but Jane has had just about enough and she begins to reexamine her “always-a-bridesmaid” lifestyle.

The Vow (2012)

The Vow | Films

A newlywed couple (Leo and Paige) gets into a car accident that puts Paige in a coma. She wakes up with severe memory loss of the past few years, which includes any and every memory of Leo. It is as if he didn’t exist in her life at all, which makes her parents happy. She goes back to her parents. Leo endeavors to win her heart all over again, without telling her about all her past decisions as he wanted her to learn to love him in her own way. Slowly, Paige fills in the holes in her memory, and learns why she left her family, and made the decisions that she had made in the past.

Dead Poets’ Society (1989)

Welton Academy is a conservative, but well-respected prep school where the routine is rather monotonous. When a new teacher comes to the school, the mindset of the students changes. John Keating is an unconventional professor who introduces his students to poetry, and the ability to think outside their horizons, having a profound effect on his students. Keating urges his students to seize the day (Carpe Diem) and live their lives boldly, and with a free thinking attitude.

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Call Me By Your Name | Coming of age films

It is set in the summer of the early 1980s in Italy, and Elio, a 17- year-old spends his days in an idyllic manner in his family’s villa playing classical music, reading, and flirting with his friend Marzia. His charming and relaxing life is disturbed by Oliver, who comes to spend six weeks with the family, to help Elio’s father with research. These six weeks change Elio and Oliver’s life forever as Elio and Oliver discover the beauty of awakening desire, and experience uncertainty and eventually grief, when Oliver goes back. But they learn and grow from this experience, and instead of forgetting about it, look back at this as a fond memory. It’s one of the most profound films released last year.

Begin Again (2014)

Gretta and her long time boyfriend, Dave, are songwriting partners. But Dave gets a record deal, which gets to his head and he is lead astray by this, breaking up with her, leaving her devastated.
Her world takes a turn for the better when Dan, record-label executive who used to be successful, sees her performing and is immediately captivated by her voice. They collaborate on a music album, making some soul stirring music. The soundtrack is absolutely heavenly, and Keira Knightley’s gentle voice makes it all the more magical.

Boyhood (2014)

Boyhood | Coming of Age Films

This is the only film that has been filmed over 12 years with the same cast, so we see the whole cast growing up right before our eyes. It depicts the special journey of life from childhood to manhood, sharing with us all the ups and downs in the roller coaster that life is. It’s one of those films that make us laugh, and cry along with the actors, share happiness as well as heartbreak that the characters feel. Another one of Richard Linklater’s hits.

Monalisa Smile (2003)

In a time when women’s roles were defined in a very rigid manner, a free-spirited art history professor Katherine Watson begins teaching at the prestigious Wellesley College,which despite its excellent academic reputation, is an environment where a student’s success is measured in terms of how well they marry. She encourages these women to strive for a better and more productive future, to look beyond and break the barriers to consider the possibilities of what their lives could be like if they had independent thoughts, and think of more than just a good marriage as their objective in life.

Annie Hall (1977)

Annie Hall is a comical take on the relationship between a
neurotic, highly insecure and indecisive comedy writer and his aspiring singer girlfriend. They have an up and down relationship, and despite having moved in together, he still overthinks her moves, thinking of it as rejection, leading to a tense situation at home. While her self-confidence grows, his progressively fades. They eventually break up, have a reconciliation, but break up again as their relationship isn’t working out. He tries to understand why they broke up, stages a play on their relationship, with just the ending changed, where they do not break up.

Some honourable mentions: You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless In Seattle, The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants, The Blind Side, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

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