Ten Coming of Age Films all High Schoolers Must See Before Graduating


From Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

What is a coming of age movie? It’s a lesson, a teaching experience. We get to watch characters transition from childhood to adulthood, and see all the bumps along the way. We get close to the characters, sometimes too close for comfort. We see ourselves in these characters, and we learn from their mistakes. These are our ten favorite coming of age films. 


  1. Nate: Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Unlike many bland “feel good” movies, Little Miss Sunshine does not encourage its viewers to feel better. It instead wraps a warm blanket around the viewer, telling them that it is okay to not feel good. Focused on one of my favorite fictional families of all time, the film pushes its viewers not to force positive emotions. The dysfunctional group includes, Sheryl, an overworked mother, Richard, a motivational speaker who can’t stop losing, Dwayne, who has taken a vow of silence, Frank, who has recently been released from a psych ward, and the youngest daughter, Olive. There are very few characters that feel more real to me than the ones in this movie. Using stars Steve Carrel, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, and Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine shows how six year old Olive learns the educational value of a loss. 


  1. Liam: Love Simon (2018)

A moving film that left me with a warm feeling in my chest. I had great hopes for this film, and they were all exceeded! The performances were fantastic, and the story, albeit cliche at times, kept me hooked from beginning to end! The search for Blue was entertaining, intriguing, and even heartbreaking at times. Even the antagonist, if that is what you want to call him, had his own reasons for what he was doing and had the decency to want to make amends. Overall, a fantastic film. I strongly advise anyone organizing a movie night to watch it. The topic of homophobia and coming out is a hot problem in today’s culture, thus this film was long overdue.


  1. Nate: Moonlight (2016)

An epic period piece spanning decades, Moonlight depicts the struggles of growing up gay and black in 1980s Florida. We follow our protagonist Chiron as he struggles for years with understanding his sexuality and how it defines him as a person. Using separate timelines, the character is portrayed by three different actors. One playing him as a child, one as a teen, and one as an adult. The story is devastating, building up Chiron as relatable and sympathetic, only to crush him in a new way in all three stories. 


  1. Liam: The Breakfast Club (1985)

The Breakfast Club is the story of five high school students who rank high and low in popularity and who are forced to spend nine hours together in Saturday detention. Without the whole school watching, Brian “The Brain” , Claire “The Princess”, Andy “The Jock” , Allison “The Basket Case” , and Bender “The Misfit” eventually discard their differences, discussing the events that brought them to detention. Gradually they come to realize that underneath the trappings of the high school social scene, the problems they face are more similar than they think. Brian suffers extreme pressure by his parents to maintain a perfect grade point average. Claire insists that being rich and the most popular girl at school has its downfalls. Andy wants only to please his father, even if it means acting against his own moral code. Allison seeks attention from her father through aberrant behavior. And Bender reacts to physical and verbal abuse at home by defying authority, committing petty theft, and damaging school property. This movie depicts different social groups and shows how similar everyone is.


  1. Nate: The Graduate (1967)

The only person who isn’t infatuated with Benjamin is himself. The Graduate follows a twenty something year old Benjamin Braddock as he struggles to find his passion post-college. After becoming intimate with an older woman, Benjamin becomes entangled with her and her family, and must question who in his life is helping him and who is hurting. 


  1. Liam: Heathers (1989)

Heathers is one of those rare cases where the premise is so outrageous that it can’t help but work, the story is uncannily prescient, casting a long shadow over high school tragedies for many years to come, and most importantly, Veronica Sawyer’s infinite and frankly inspiring power to master her destiny. Heathers is, in my opinion, a must-see film that is funny, violent, dark, smart, fast, epically cut, and beautifully sound-tracked. To be honest, it’s one of the best American films ever created. If you haven’t seen it yet, I pity you. I’ve seen it at least twenty times and am looking forward to seeing it at least twenty more times.


  1. Nate: Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Taking place in Italy, this film depicts the unconventional romance between 17 year old Elio and 24 year old Oliver, who has come to stay with Elio’s family while studying abroad. Director Luca Guadagnino displays a heartbreaking and unhealthy relationship between the two as they learn more about each other and their own identities. 


  1. Liam: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller is a charismatic, free-spirited, and inventive student in high school. He’s well-liked, with a sultry girlfriend, a true blue pal, and adoring parents. He also has a grumpy sister who is envious of him – and rightfully so: Ferris is a gifted young man who achieves his goals. Ferris decides to skip school on a beautiful spring day. He persuades his parents that he is sick, and then gets Cameron, his best buddy, to “borrow” his father’s Ferrari. After viewing this, you’ll understand why the film is considered an all-time masterpiece.


  1. Nate: Rushmore (1998)

Precocious teen Max Fischer is unlike many others his age, specifically because he is passionate about his school. He is in every club and becomes involved in everything he can. After being expelled from the school he needs to discover his identity outside of school. All while Max and his middle aged friend Howard fight for the love of a teacher working at Rushmore elementary.


  1. Liam: Superbad (2007)

This movie will reign as my favorite comedy of all time. This movie works so well with two characters doing one thing and another character doing another thing. It works so well which was very unexacting. This movie is like South Park but in real life and for any adult watching this film you will at some point have a flashback to your years in high school, same as for teens. You can really connect to a character or even all of them and that is why this movie is a 10/10 for me.


  1. Nate: Lady Bird (2017)

Christine, or as she likes to be called, “Lady Bird,” feels stuck in her life. In her senior year of high school, she desperately wants to go to an east coast college in attempts to explore. However her complicated relationship with her mother, her family’s low economic status, and her painful love life threaten to stop her from discovering herself in the years to come. 


  1. Liam: Eighth Grade (2018)

‘Eighth Grade’ is a candid and sympathetic look at adolescence. It’s almost impossible to watch at points, but it does a fantastic job of making you care about the protagonist. It’s a cringe that many people, including me, are familiar with when it comes to embracing it. Bo Burnham depicts the awkwardness of adolescence brilliantly with awkward close-ups and a camera fixed on Kayla, highlighting her solitude. Who’d have guessed a comedian would go on to become a well-known director? Elsie Fisher (the coolest girl on the planet) is so amazing that I forgot she was acting. She was previously unknown, but now considers herself to be well-known as a result of this. Josh Hamilton is also terrific as Kayla’s adoring father. There isn’t a single performance in this film that I didn’t enjoy. Despite the anguish and the adversity, by the end, there is light in the most difficult times.


  1. Nate: The Florida Project (2017)

In a cheap motel just outside of Disney World, six year old Monee and her friends do their best to let their imaginations distract them from their poverty. Monee’s loving mother Hailey often gets her money under suspicious circumstances, if she even gets any. As the two of them weave in and out of trouble, they do what they need to survive in the strangely magical atmosphere.


  1. Liam: Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

I don’t often say this about media, whether it’s movies, books, television series, or music, because I rarely feel reflected in them or find it difficult to see the true fine personable details and struggles of a character represented in them, but I love this movie, especially the characters, because they feel authentic and close to reality. Logan Lerman’s portrayal of a shy, uncomfortable child navigating the rigors of a scary high school while drowning in silent loneliness is all too frequently a very relatable example to many living through such difficult times. Because of Charlie’s soft spoken attitude and a synthetic grin that hides a chasm of childhood trauma, loss, and pain, I found Logan’s acting to be really enjoyable. Many Teens relate to these topics so seeing it on the big screen brings light to these situations.


  1. Nate: La Haine (1995)

Being painfully realistic, La Haine is a vital piece of the coming of age genre. Focused on the political and social climate of 1990s France, the film faces issues such as classism and police brutality, portraying a story disturbingly similar to today’s America. All of which is seen through the eyes of three reckless kids. The film uses average teenager interactions to relate to viewers, combined with brutal but necessary messages on the dangers of discrimination to get its message across.


  1. Liam: Thirteen (2003)

“Thirteen” centers on Tracy Freeland , a 13-year-old “good girl.” She struggles with depression, which is generally unnoticed by her mother Melanie , who is dealing with overcoming her own demons. When Tracy meets and befriends the popular Evie Zamora, she’s suddenly thrust into a world of petty crimes, drugs, and risky behavior. The film as a whole is mildly disturbing as it depicts young teens in mature situations, but it ultimately serves as a warning that anyone can end up going down a dangerous path. The ending of “Thirteen” is also unlike what we see in typical coming of age stories, because it doesn’t offer any answers


  1. Nate: Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

In an innocent and but saddening take on love, director Wes Anderson beautifully creates a young love story in this summer romance. Pre-teens Sam and Suzy feel oppressed by their guardians, and decide to run away together. The film masterfully depicts child innocence and how it can interact with love. 


  1. Liam: Legally Blonde (2001)

This may be a little biased because this is my favorite movie ever. Elle Woods isn’t your run-of-the-mill blonde. She may appear superficial and materialistic, but she actually knows a lot more than you might imagine. But she didn’t anticipate her law-studying sweetheart, Warner, to abandon her the night before he was supposed to propose. If he wants to go to law school, he believes he needs a serious girlfriend. Elle subsequently takes desperate attempts to win him back, enrolling in Harvard alongside Warner in the hopes of reuniting with him. So, how can a popular, free-spirited fashion design major fit at a staid, conservative law school?


  1. Nate: Y tu Mamá También (2001)

Arguably one of the most impactful movies of the 2000s, Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu Mama Tambien is the story of two immature teens and their road trip with an older woman across Mexico. Cuaron does not hold back, giving the audience an up close and personal view of these characters and their relationships with each other. Being incredibly progressive for its time, the film breaks boundaries unlike any other. 


  1. Liam: Little Women (2019)

Despite the fact that it’s been 150 years since Louisa May Alcott’s iconic novel was originally published, Greta Gerwig’s second picture argues that it’s still as relevant as ever. Despite these lofty ambitions, the “Lady Bird” filmmaker avoids being preachy or heavy-handed in her compassionate portrayal of the March sisters, who were always seen as vastly different expressions of growing womanhood, even in the mid-nineteenth century. Instead, Gerwig’s version focuses on the titular small women through bold storytelling tactics that unexpectedly modernize the book’s timeless story.