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The 50 Best Coming-of-Age Movies

Ah, to be a teenager. It’s an exhilarating time in our lives, when we put away the dollies and toy trucks of youth and start macking on the opposite sex. But let’s not kid ourselves — for every thrilling first kiss and illicit sip of adult beverages, there are heartbreaks and breakouts, sudden, mysterious estrangement from parents, perilous feats of social acrobatics… and worse.

Whether suffering the wackness of adolescence or just remembering the fast times from a safe distance, we can all identify with the ecstasy and the misery of our favorite movie characters as they grow up on the big screen. In honor of the joyous agony of youth in this week’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” here are our favorite coming-of-age movies, counted down by Max Evry, Jenni Miller and Loquacious Muse.

Coming of Age Movies50. “Spider-Man” (2002)
This version of the Spider-Man tale sticks with the radioactive spider-bite theory, which turns dorky Peter Parker into a web-slinging bad ass. Spider-Man manages to woo dreamy Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) while he’s getting revenge on the jerk who killed his Uncle Ben and fighting crime and becoming the do-gooding-est Public Enemy #1. Sure, it’s not your typical teen’s life, but it’s one of the most iconic out there. — Jenni Miller

49. “Igby Goes Down” (2002)
Unfortunately, this dramedy about 17-year-old cynical misanthrope Igby Slocomb (Kieran Culkin) rebelling against his wealthy East Coast upbringing and self-absorbed family, didn’t make much a blip when it was released ten years ago. The all-star cast featuring Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Susan Sarandon, Ryan Phillippe, Jared Harris, Amanda Peet and more are in top form here, none moreso than Culkin, establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with (can someone please capitalize on that already?). While somewhat criticized for being a “Catcher in the Rye” wannabe, the film has also been praised for its dark wit, originality and bold point of view. — Loquacious Muse

48. “Roll Bounce” (2005)
There are only a handful of great coming-of-age films that center on the African-American experience — “Crooklyn” and “George Washington” coming to mind — but “Roll Bounce” covers that territory in the most accessible way possible. It centers on a boy named Xavier (Bow Wow) trying to cope with the death of his mother by winning a roller skating competition with his friends, all while courting his beautiful childhood friend, Naomi (Meagan Good). — Max Evry

47. “Can’t Hardly Wait” (1998)
It seems like a lot of folks wrote this off at the time, only to discover its awesomeness as a coming-of-age movie in recent years. One big party brings together all strata of high schoolers, from Seth Green’s secretly nerdy wanna-be hip hop kid Kenny to creepy prepster Mike Dexter, played by a pre-”Twilight” Peter Facinelli. And never forget Jason Segel as a watermelon-loving dude way before he was into puppets. Fun and fluffy with a cool ensemble cast and a big heart, this movie socks it to us in a sweet place. — JM

Coming of Age Movies46. “Camp” (2003)
One of those movies you’ve either never heard of or seen upwards of thirty times, “Camp” shows what happens when a bunch of teens — some popular, some socially unaccepted and a few somewhere in between — come together to pursue their passion for singing and performing. Sound familiar, Ryan Murphy? Overweight girls and cross-dressing boys learning to accept themselves, an unappealing male love interest and the dorky girl who wins his heart, the bitchy pretty girls, and the instructor who ends up finding more joy teaching a group of kids than he ever thought possible, “Camp” precedes “Glee” in just about every area, and introduced Anna Kendrick to the world. And how could we forget the epic Stephen Sondheim cameo?! While “Camp” isn’t a “good” or particular “well made” movie per se, it has a certain je ne sais quoi borne out of an earnestness rarely allowed on screen. — LM

45. “Saved!” (2004)
After getting knocked up by the gay boyfriend she desperately tries to convert, Mary (Jena Malone) finds herself ostracized at her Christian high school. In a bit of a reversal on the ol’ tropes of a coming-of-age story, Mary finds her true self with help from a group of rebels (Macaulay Culkin, Eva Amurri). In this case, though, the rebels are good for her, showing the devout Christian that it’s acceptance and goodness that she should strive for, not close-mindedness and blind faith. In this teen satire, religion is ripped apart in a progressive, subversive way, as issues like homophobia and teen pregnancy are tackled genuinely, though with a bit of tongue-in-cheek. The film developed a strong cult following after its release, and was even later turned into an Off-Broadway musical. — LM

44. “Empire of the Sun” (1987)
One of Steven Spielberg’s few box office misfires, this World War II survival story has been re-evaluated in years since and is now considered one of Señor Spielbergo’s true accomplishments. Christian Bale gives one of the all-time great child performances as Jim, a young British schoolboy living the high life in Shanghai before he is separated from his parents and winds up in a Japanese internment camp. Spielberg is at the peak of his powers here, especially in the final heartbreaking scene in which Jim returns to his family a wholly different person. — ME

43. “Thirteen” (2003)
“Thirteen” had parents peeing their pants at the sight of nubile, well, thirteen-year-olds experimenting with body piercing, self-harm, booze, boys and drugs. It happens, people! Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”) co-wrote the script with future “Twilight” star Nikki Reed, who also appears in the movie. Reed’s character Evie is a little bit of a bad influence on the already troubled Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood in a breakout performance), much to the consternation of Tracy’s mom (Holly Hunter). Although Hardwicke gets a lot of crap for directing “Twilight,” her ability to find talented young actors that zing onscreen shines here (and, let’s face it, she did get R.Patz and K.Stew together, right?). “Thirteen” might not be for teens, but it’s definitely showing some teen realness, whether parents want to see it or not. — JM

Coming of Age Movies42. “Adventureland” (2009)
Coming off of the smash success of his previous coming-of-age laugher “Superbad,” director Greg Mottola made this smaller, more personal comedy about a virginal college grad named James (Jesse Eisenberg) whose first taste of adulthood is a dead-end summer job at an amusement park. He meets several oddballs working the game booths, played by the likes of Ryan Reynolds, Martin Starr, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. At the center is his blossoming romance with Emily (Kristen Stewart), which even by the end seems like doomed wishful thinking on both their parts.

41. “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” (2006)
Unlike Cameron Crowe or Barry Levinson, writer/director Dito Montiel is ballsy enough to actually name his protagonist after himself. Indeed, Dito (Shia LaBeouf) grew up on the mean streets of Astoria, Queens, and over the course of this autobiographical story, he does everything he can to break free of the troubles and family ties of the old neighborhood. The flash-forwards to an adult Dito (Robert Downey, Jr.) show the heartache in coming to terms with one’s past. Channing Tatum gives a standout, career-making performance as the volatile Antonio, a friend who makes a grave sacrifice for Dito. — ME

40. “Garden State” (2004)
Definitely one of those “Aren’t you coming of age a little late here, guy?” films, “Garden State” follows Andrew (Zach Braff) going off of his depression meds, and in the process, finally realizing how life can be worth living. Of course, the primary catalyst for this change is the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl to end it all, Natalie Portman’s epileptic and pathological, but super super cute, Sam. While both Andrew and Sam start out lost, through each other they find the light at the end of the tunnel. Star/writer/director Braff has yet to follow up the now classic, so it may remain forever a one hit wonder of sorts, but a one hit wonder that introduced The Shins to the mainstream, so hey! — LM

Coming of Age Movies39. “American Pie” (1999)
Don McLean definitely didn’t have this movie in mind when he was warbling about the day the music died. This pie is freshly baked and quickly befouled by Jason Biggs in an icky, sticky sex (?) scene. That’s just one of many ridiculously silly and gross things that the crew get up to, like band camp shenanigans (where did you put that flute, Willow?), explosive bodily functions and a horny cougar of a mom. We look forward to growing old with the “American Pie” gang and greatly anticipate “American Pie: Old Folks’ Home” in the year 2062. — JM

38. “Juno” (2007)
Has the backlash to the backlash to the backlash over this precious indie ended yet? Delightful Diablo Cody penned this Oscar-winning script about a young girl named Juno (Ellen Page) who gets knocked up by her nerdy best friend Paulie (Michael Cera). She finds two seemingly perfect birth parents (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman), and things seem on the up and up for this “fertile Myrtle” and her fetus when she learns that love just isn’t always what it seems to be. Olivia Thirlby, Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons round out a solid cast in this deliciously, deliberately odd movie about growing up. — JM

37. “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” (1993)
In small town Iowa, Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp) spends all of his time caring for his disabled brother (Leonardo DiCaprio, proving his chops and receiving his first Academy Award nomination) and obese mother. Then he meets Becky (Juliette Lewis), a young woman traveling through town, who inspires the whole family to better themselves. Peter Hedges adapted the screenplay from his own novel, which was directed beautifully, with an emphasis on elegiac atmosphere and care for the actors, by Lasse Hallstrom in one of his first English language features. — LM

Coming of Age Movies36. “Easy A” (2010)
This 21st century take on “The Scarlet Letter” made us want to be BFF with Emma Stone immediately, and also be adopted by her awesome onscreen parents, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson. When Olive’s reputation begins to get a little tarnished around the edges because of a complete misunderstanding, she decides to embrace her new social standing with zest. A delightful throwback to ’80s John Hughes movies with an Internet twist, “Easy A” scores big among movie fans. — JM

35.“Let the Right One In” (2008)
Who would have thought the story of a centuries-old hermaphroditic child vampire forming a friendship with a 12-year-old Swedish boy would be so damned sweet and tender? While still maintaining all the bloody jeepers creepers moments a horror fan could ever ask for, it finds its emotional core in connecting two outcasts together. It also has one of the greatest scenes of bully comeuppance in cinema history, a.k.a. the “swimming pool scene.”

34. “The Sandlot” (1993)
It’s the summer of 1962 and the new kid in town, Smalls, befriends a motley crew of young boys as they play baseball together on a small field known as the Sandlot. Through a series of misadventures, Smalls is eventually accepted and discovers the passion that will carry him through adulthood. “The Sandlot” is essential viewing for anyone born in the ’80s and is perhaps the only kids’ sports movie to ever secure cult status. It has spawned not one, but two direct-to-video sequels, including 2007′s science fiction-esque “The Sandlot: Heading Home” in which Luke Perry’s Tommy Santorelli travels back in time to relieve his childhood. — LM

33. “Mermaids” (1990)
Post “Beetlejuice,” “Heathers” and “Edward Scissorhands,” Winona Ryder garnered great acclaim for her role opposite Cher in this drama about an unusual mother-daughter relationship. Here, Ryder portrays celibate 15-year-old Charlotte, who is obsessed with Catholicism despite the fact that she is Jewish and determined to get her promiscuous, free-spirited mother Rachel to grow up. Both mother and daughter experience a coming-of-age in this film, albeit one very, very latently, as their lives take drastic twists and turns around them. “Mermaids” also features Christina Ricci in her very first film role, as Charlotte’s younger sister Kate, and Bob Hoskins as the new man is Rachel’s life. — LM

Coming of Age Movies32. “Superbad” (2007)
Although “Superbad” traded on some typical tropes — nerds trying to get booze and impress girls! — the hilarious writing and cast has made this a modern teen classic. Whether it’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse trying to buy beer with an ID that reads McLovin’ or Jonah Hill and Michael Cera cementing their bromance while high as kites, “Superbad” is chock full of giggles. Cameos by Bill Hader, Seth Rogen, Joe Lo Truglio, Kevin Corrigan, Martin Starr, Danny McBride, and Lauren Miller (“For a Good Time, Call…”) add to the fun. “Superbad” also offers us an early peek at the adorable and dynamic force of nature that is Emma Stone. Director Greg Mottola and writers Seth Rogen bring a certain sweetness to the randy stoner humor that is so very super-good. — JM

31. “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” (2005)
While the title may illicit chortles in the uninformed, don’t be fooled. This drama based on the best-selling young adult novel is secretly fantastic, as it should be with a cast consisting of Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera and Blake Lively. Right before the four best friends leave for the summer, marking the first time they are separated, they encounter a pair of pants that fits them each perfectly, despite the fact that they have completely different body types. They pledge to each keep the good luck charm for one week at a time before sending it off to someone else in the group. Each character has qualities any young girl watching can relate to, and through it all, they maintain important and life-long friendships with the other equally unique young women in the film. “Traveling Pants” is exactly what it wants to be and what the audience expects of it. It should be so much cornier than it actually is: a faithful adaptation and touching, positive portrayal of female friendships. — LM

30. “Dazed and Confused” (1993)
As in “American Graffiti” and “Fast Times” in the decades before, Richard Linklater managed to score a cast who would later become some of the most prominent actors of their generation: Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Renée Zellweger, to name a few. With dozens of peripheral characters floating in and out of the picture, Linklater takes an honest, rambling look at the inaugural night of the summer of ’76, with plenty of boss tunes, bitchin’ wheels, plentiful pot and hot babes. As McConaughey’s Wooderson exclaims poetically, “That’s what I like about these high school girls, man; I get older, they stay the same age.” — ME

Coming of Age Movies29. “Mean Girls” (2004)
It’s weird to turn a non-fiction book about girls being mean to each other into an effective comedy, but somehow Tina Fey’s screenplay makes it work. Lindsay Lohan plays Cady, a sweet-faced young redhead who, after years of home-schooling and traveling the world, has to figure out the shark-infested waters of high school. She becomes friends with some so-called nerds named Janis (Lizzy Caplan, who is amazing) and Damien (Daniel Franzese), who encourage her to spy on the mean girl gang The Plastics from the inside. Somehow, though, Cady gets a little too close to the subject matter — including alpha Mean Girl Regina’s ex-BF. (Regina is played to bitchy perfection by Rachel McAdams. Of course, Ms. Norbury, aka Tina Fey, lectures the girls on calling each other bitches, so, sorry.) Will Cady remember her non-mean roots? Will Lindsay Lohan ever put in a performance as good as this again? Can Amanda Seyfried really fit her whole fist in her mouth? The world may never know. — JM

28. “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982)
Writer Cameron Crowe actually went undercover by enrolling in a San Diego high school and based the resultant book and screenplay on his experiences. Even though Sean Penn’s goofball surf stoner Spicoli is the film’s mascot, freshmen Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Mark Ratner (Brian Backer) and their struggles with romance is its heart. Amy Heckerling’s direction is also sensitive, and, in many ways, brings a perfect balance of comedy (ordering pizza in class) and lightly dramatic beats (an abortion scene) that Crowe himself has struggled to repeat in his own hit-or-miss directorial outings. — ME

27. “Precious” (2009)
This adaptation of the book by Sapphire racked up awards and controversy for its bleak portrayal of an abused young woman growing up in New York City in the ’80s. Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) is barely literate and pregnant with her second child; the father of her children, as we learn in flashbacks, is her own father. Precious is brutally abused by her own mother Mary, who is played with a wide-eyed ferocity by Mo’Nique. There is a glimmer of hope for Precious, though, in the form of a class headed up by a caring teacher; as she learns to read and write, she finds her own voice, as well as friends among her classmates and strength in herself. — JM

Coming of Age Movies26. “The Wackness” (2008)
Jonathan Levine (“50/50″) made this overlooked gem about a recent high school graduate named Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) who trades marijuana for therapy from his very screwed-up shrink (the excellent Ben Kingsley). Over the course of his last summer before college, Luke decides to save his financially ruined family by selling pot and lose his virginity to his therapist’s daughter, both of which go about as well as you’d expect. With style to spare and a savvy selection of mid-nineties hip hop (Wu-Tang Clan, Biz Markie, A Tribe Called Quest), this is a must-see of the genre.

25. “The Karate Kid” (1984)
No one likes to be bullied, but is fighting back really the answer? Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio) takes up karate so he can fight the jerks, but his teacher Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) shows him there’s more to life than a sweet crane pose. Yeah, there’s a cute girl (Elisabeth Shue) on the scene and an angry ex-boyfriend who trains under a war-hardened sensei, but Mr. Miyagi’s lessons are all about the bigger picture: life, love and honor. Of course, a sweet crane pose doesn’t hurt. — JM

24. “An Education” (2009)
This dreamy, stylishly mod movie snagged young Carey Mulligan an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of restless ’60s chick Jenny Mellor. Peter Sarsgaard plays David, a charming older man who is so delightful that he manages to win over Jenny’s parents and even the audience despite the inappropriateness of their relationship. The excellent ensemble cast, which includes Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike as cool but concerned friends of David, wonderful screenplay and ace direction make this a humdinger of a heartbreaker. — JM

Coming of Age Movies23. “Sixteen Candles” (1984)
Before there was “The Breakfast Club,” there was “Sixteen Candles.” All Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald) wants for her sweet 16 is a glance from school hunk Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling — whatever happened to him?!). Unfortunately, she doesn’t get jack s**t because her entire family is obsessed with her older sister’s wedding and they totally forgot about her birthday. (Her grandmother does note that she’s grown “boobies,” which is nice.) Sam’s night is saved by a giant party that, while it does include various humiliations, a ridiculously racist Asian character named Long Duk Dong, and perhaps a date rape at the hands of Farmer Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), eventually saves her birthday from being a complete flop. — JM

22. “Clueless” (1995)
Amy Heckerling mastered the art of teen girl lingo before Diablo Cody ever took to the Internet. This unforgettable comedy stars Alicia Silverstone as a seemingly dippy princess who loves to play matchmaker, and even takes over the life and style of weird new girl Tai, played by the late Brittany Murphy. This is also one of Paul Rudd’s earliest “adorable dude” roles, which in and of itself makes “Clueless” a must-see. Bonus points to Heckerling for making this not-so-clueless flick a loose adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Emma.” — JM

21. “Whale Rider” (2002)
Adapted from the novel by the same name, “Whale Rider” tracks the story of a pre-teen Maori girl (the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand) who dreams of becoming chief of her tribe, despite the fact that her elders believe only men should be allowed such an honor. Although she is technically in line to inherit the title, she must prove herself to the village in order to demolish the antiquated gender roles. “Whale Rider” is so beloved because it manages to avoid any obvious clichés, trading in cheese and predictability for fresh storytelling and emotional authenticity. It and netted an Academy Award nomination for the outstanding lead Keisha Castle-Hughes, marking her as the youngest to ever be nominated in the Best Actress category. — LM

20. “A Bronx Tale” (1993)
In this Robert De Niro adaptation of a Chazz Palminteri play, an Italian-American teen is forced into adulthood by way of the mob after he is taken under the wing by a man with questionable morals. The film tackles the pitfalls of idealization and the consequences of unrepentant racism, and it elegantly displays the struggle between good and bad. It also acknowledges how coming to terms with the grey area is what makes us grow. — LM

Coming of Age Movies19. “The Craft” (1996)
Who said a coming-of-age tale can’t also be a genre flick? This supernatural teen horror film from the underrated Andrew Fleming (“Dick,” “Hamlet 2″) focuses on four girls who start a coven, and unfortunately for them, each spell they cast spirals out of control. The naturally witchy new girl Sarah (Robin Tunney) finds herself hanging out with the outcast group at her new school (Rachel True, pre-”Scream” Neve Campbell and Fairuza Balk at her Fairuza-est), and soon she joins their coven. As their magical dabblings start going really wrong, she realizes how power-hungry and warped they’ve become. After she single-handedly puts an end to the havoc, she finally discovers how to live a life of serenity, using her powers for good and not making other girls lose their hair. While seen as campy and unoriginal at the time, make no mistake: “The Craft” made an impact on an entire generation of teenage girls and kickstarted the teen horror/thriller/supernatural trend of the late ’90s. — LM

18. “The Squid and the Whale” (2005)
Through some divine cinematic miracle, the films of Noah Baumbach always seem to transcend their solipsistic New York head case characters by touching on elements of the personal that resonate with us all. This film is a perfect example, focusing on two brothers, 16-year-old Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and 12-year-old Frank (Owen Kline), as they absorb much of the collateral damage in the wake of their parents’ divorce. Though their folks (Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney) try their best, they’re self-absorbed Park Slope literati of the highest caliber, which means they know little-to-nothing about the pain they’re inflicting on their children. — ME

17. “Diner” (1982)
The first of four films set in mid-20th century Baltimore (followed by “Tin Men,” “Avalon” and “Liberty Heights”) by writer/director Barry Levinson, this one revolves around a group of twenty-something pals reuniting for a wedding and realizing how much they regret their newfound adulthood. The movie’s loose structure and semi-improvised banter created the template for Judd Apatow and others, but a great cast of Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Timothy Daly and Paul Reiser make male bonding look downright warm… unless a roast beef sandwich is involved. — ME

Coming of Age Movies16. “Dirty Dancing” (1987)
Often imitated but never duplicated, this tale of love and sexy dancing in the Catskills among Jewish tourists and the gentiles who entertain them practically induced puberty in all the teens who saw it. Featuring Patrick Swayze’s smooth moves and Jennifer Grey’s old nose, “Dirty Dancing” tackled all sorts of real-world problems, from abortion to class issues. Let us never forget Jerry Orbach’s role as the dad who was instructed to never put his daughter in the corner. And so it was. — JM

15. “City of God” (2002)
This Brazilian crime drama, adapted from the 1998 novel of the same name by Paulo Lins, was nominated for four Academy Awards, thanks to its realistic and visceral look at the drug war in Rio de Janeiro that dominated the 1970s. The film follows Rocket, a good-natured boy who aspires to be a photographer and manages to stay out of the crime scene that has sucked in his teenage peers. He comes into his own mostly through observation, yet another subversion of the coming-of-age story. — LM

14. “Rushmore” (1998)
Jason Schwartzman’s first acting role, Wes Anderson’s follow up to his acclaimed “Bottle Rocket” and the beginning of Bill Murray’s “second career,” “Rushmore” is important to cinema on multiple levels. The dark comedy tracks a quirky love triangle between Schwartzman’s teenage Fischer, Murray’s wealthy businessman Herman Blume and the beautiful grade school teacher Rosemary Cross, played by Olivia Williams. Smart, poignant, strange and unlike most anything that came before, this original take on the coming-of-age story, where everything from the teen doing the growing up to the methods that force him there are as eccentric as it gets, has become a hallmark of quality indie film-making. — LM

13. “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (2001)
At a low ebb in his career after a string of high-profile flops, director Alfonso Cuarón took on this simple, small-scale road movie in which two horndog Mexican boys Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) take an impromptu road trip with an older Spanish woman named Luisa (Maribel Verdú). Their sexcapade turns increasingly intimate as every angle of their love triangle gets exploited, if you know what we mean. A sobering coda forces the audience to reevaluate the wild romp they’ve just been on, and adds a layer of meaning absent from your average sex comedy. — ME

Coming of Age Movies12. “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955)
One of James Dean’s three starring roles, “Rebel,” directed by Nicholas Ray, tells the tale of Dean’s Jim Stark, a rebellious teenager who gets in over his head trying to defend his manhood against a bully (you know how nobody calls Marty McFly a chicken? Well, nobody called Jim Stark a chicken first). It results in a fever dream of a coping mechanism, as Jim, Judy (a stunning Natalie Wood) and Plato (a heartbreaking Sal Mineo) hole up in an abandoned mansion acting out a fantasy family, reaching the film’s climax at the Griffith Observatory. While the film is never clear about its homosexual undertones, Plato’s inability to be himself and resulting struggle is evident today, and proof of how ahead of its time “Rebel” was.

11. “The Last Picture Show” (1971)
What’s wonderful about this lyrical black and white exploration of small town youth is that, despite its classic, John Ford-inspired shooting style and 1950s setting, it was (and still is) a very modern look at romantic longing vs. sexual reality. Its disparate group of characters, including high school footballers Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges), pretty rich girl Jacy (Cybill Shepherd) and beleaguered town patriarch Sam the Lion (Academy Award-winner Ben Johnson) all seem to be in a state of personal purgatory which they may or may not escape. — ME

10. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (2012)
This beloved young adult novel is finally making it to the big screen with Logan Lerman starring as our hero Charlie, a new freshman who feels especially vulnerable after the loss of his best friend to suicide. Emma Watson and Ezra Miller play Sam and Patrick, the step-siblings who introduce him to the world of awesome music, parties, sex and assorted harsh realities of high school. Paul Rudd appears briefly as the teacher who gives him awesome books to read along the way, while Mae Whitman plays Charlie’s punky first girlfriend. “Perks” author Stephen Chbosky adapted his own novel for the script and directed it on location in the ‘burbs of Pittsburgh, and no, they didn’t skimp on the soundtrack. — JM

9. “Carrie” (1976)
“They’re all gonna laugh at you!” Before Columbine, there was Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), a wackadoo Christian fundamentalist’s screwed-up daughter, whose sheltered rage manifests itself in psychic powers. Carrie tries her best to cope with the ridicule of classmates and indifference of teachers, but a class prank in which she winds up looking like a pigs’ blood-dipped ice cream cone lets the telekinetic tiger out of the cage. The resultant mass slaughter made a generation of teens reconsider just how relevant the prom was anyway. — ME

Coming of Age Movies8. “The Goonies” (1985)
Misfits alert! A bunch of socially awkward youngins go on a quest to find a buried treasure in a cave, leading them to eventually save their hometown from “evil land developers.” This action adventure kids’ flick is nostalgically beloved and stars a who’s who of ’80s child stars, including Corey Feldman, Sean Astin, Josh Brolin and Martha Plimpton. An atypical take on the coming-of-age story, this journey belongs mostly to Astin’s Mikey, the leader of the group who didn’t know he had it in him. — LM

7. “400 Blows” (1959)
French New Wave filmmaker François Truffaut practically invented the coming-of-age movie with this unflinching look at the life of troubled 12-year-old Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud). The Balzac-worshipping kid clearly has his heart in the right place, but is so utterly misunderstood by his parents and teachers that, as he stands by the shore in the final frames, we recognize a soul that is utterly alone in the world. Truffaut would chronicle the life of Doinel in four subsequent films, but this first one is the most groundbreaking and enduring. — ME

6. “The Graduate” (1967)
What’s left to be said about Mike Nichols’ zeitgeist-defining look at post-college malaise? With its crafty, cynical screenplay by Buck Henry, it revolves around the shiftless Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) whose ambition doesn’t extend much further past his parents’ swimming pool. An affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) leads in the most convoluted of ways to Ben falling in love with her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross), but the final famous shot of the two of them escaping their families’ clutches told a generation that “happily ever after” sometimes only lasts for a minute or two. — ME

5. “Big” (1988)
A boy unsatisfied with his life as a 12-year-old makes a wish on a Zoltar Speaks machine that he could be “big.” The next thing you know, he is a 30-year-old Tom Hanks working in an office and touching a pretty lady’s boobies. An odd duck in the pantheon of coming-of-age movies, “Big” sees a child accept himself and develop an appreciation for childhood through actually becoming an adult. A play on the theme, certainly, but as he does make a mental leap to adulthood by the end, one that still counts. The comedy netted Oscar nominations for Hanks and the original screenplay, and is regarded by multiple institutions as one of the greatest comedies ever made. — LM

Coming of Age Movies4. “Almost Famous” (2000)
Cameron Crowe opened the files on his precocious years as a 15-year-old rock journalist for Creem Magazine and Rolling Stone for this comic semi-autobiography. As little baby Cammy Crowe did when touring with ’70s power groups like Led Zeppelin and The Eagles, William Miller (Patrick Fugit) loses his virginity, effectively separates from his worrywart mom (Frances McDormand), then gets demystified and ultimately re-mystified about the music world. — ME

3. “The Breakfast Club” (1985)
Arguably one of the best John Hughes films about growing up, this club is actually a group of high schoolers from every possible social group thrown together for a Saturday morning detention. Attentive viewers learned how to put on lipstick with their cleavage thanks to Molly Ringwald’s Claire, what it’s like to be a super nerd as per Anthony Michael Hall’s Brian, how much it can actually suck to be a jock courtesy of Emilio Estevez’s Andrew Clark, why it’s a bad idea to dump the contents of your purse out for all to see via Ally Sheedy’s Allison, and why a bad boy can be dangerously adorable by way of Judd Nelson’s John Bender. Secrets, beauty tips and diamond earrings are shared, all to the best ’80s tunes. If you don’t tear up at the end, you might be a robot. — JM

2. “Dead Poets Society” (1989)
A group of students attending a stuffy prep school in the late ’50s have their eyes opened through their unorthodox English teacher (Robin Williams in an Oscar-nominated turn) in this oft-referenced Peter Weir drama. “Dead Poets Society” is a given on any coming-of-age list, as it tracks a group of boys from a conservative upbringing realizing their own creative potential and ability to stand up for what’s right — even if that confidence comes into play too little too late. Uplifting, inspiring and heart tugging, “Dead Poets Society” won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Tom Schulman and the BAFTA for Best Film. — LM

1. “Stand By Me” (1986)
This lyrical tone poem to youthful exuberance chronicles four 12-year-old boys as they venture into the woods to find a dead body. Though the movie takes place in 1959, it’s proven effectively timeless as a rite of passage story of Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Teddy (Corey Feldman), Chris (River Phoenix) and Vern (Jerry O’Connell) becoming men without even realizing it. It’s peppered with hilarious swear-laden back-and-forths about Goofy, “Wagon Train,” and the greatest campfire vomit tale ever told, but the scene where Phoenix breaks down to Wheaton about a teacher who betrayed him is devastating. — ME


Categories: Lists, Top 50

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