The Ultimate 11 Coming Of Age Movies, Ranked

It is quite interesting how our childhood memories often blur altogether, even if we try to recall them. We only know them in bits and pieces through photographs and what parents tell us. But when it comes to our teenage years, we can recall everything vividly and even get passionate about sharing. Whether we remember them fondly or with a grudge, those years are filled with the highs and lows of finding our way.

Coming of age is a universal experience everyone goes through, where we learn about friendships, experience our first heartbreak, and discover ourselves. As I said, it’s a universal experience, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we can associate it with coming of age movies. 

After all, coming of age movies also show the confusion, excitement, and growth of teenage years. They capture the moments of becoming who we are. By watching, we relive those years, by experiencing the character’s coming-of-age which is also filled with emotions, struggles, joys and lessons.

So, here are the best coming of age movies that beautifully capture this pivotal time. Each film offers a unique perspective, taking us back to when we discovered ourselves and the world around us.

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (United States) - IMDb 7.9 / 10

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of the top coming of age movies directed by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the novel. The film’s portrayal of teenage dread, mental health, and the search for belonging has made it a modern classic in the genre.

The film is about Charlie, who’s a shy and introverted teenager trying to cope with the recent suicide of his best friend and his own troubling past. As Charlie enters high school, he feels like an outsider until he befriends a group of seniors. Through these new friendships with Sam and Patrick, Charlie begins to open up and experience life more fully.

However, not everything is smooth as his journey is marked by joyous and painful experiences. He finds solace in the music and literature shared by his friends. However, he also grapples with darker issues, including childhood trauma and the challenge of supporting friends who are also struggling. The balance of these moments, makes this movie one of the best coming of age movies about highs and lows of growing up.

You can check The Perks of Being a Wallflower as a book on Amazon Prime and Stream movie on YouTube.

2. Boyhood (United States) - IMDb 7.9 / 10

“Boyhood” is one of the best coming of age movies ever made as it was filmed over 12 years with the same cast. A 12-years making makes for an intimate viewing as Mason, the main character, journeys from childhood to adulthood. 

Mason Evans Jr. is a six-year-old boy living with his divorced mother, Olivia, and older sister, Samantha. The camera captures everyday moments in Mason’s life, such as moving homes, starting new schools, and relationship with his parents. His father, Mason Sr., who initially lives separately, becomes an increasingly significant presence. His presence provides a contrast to Olivia’s more stable efforts to raise her children.

As Mason grows older, the film delves into his teenage years. Jason, just like many of us, experiences first loves, heartbreaks, and the search for his identity. However, it’s his relationship with his parents’ new partners and his changing bond with his father that shaped his adolescent life.

The movie’s realist meditation on time and the human experience makes it one of the best coming of age movies. Its innovative filmmaking approach, especially Mason’s transition from boyhood to young adulthood makes this movie a must-watch. The film was nominated for 6 Oscars and Patricia Arquette won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.

3. Stand by Me (United States) - IMDb 8.1 / 10

If you are intrigued by the title and have already started humming 

So darlin’, darlin’, stand by me

Oh, stand by me

Oh, stand

Stand by me, stand by me

You are not alone. Stand by Me is one of the finest classic Jazz songs by the legendary Ben E. King which I covered in best jazz albums. Here, we have the movie of the same name as well.

Although Stand by Me is categorized as an adventure/thriller movie, I don’t think it’s just an adventurous movie. After all, why would Gordie, one of the characters, be writing a memoir when the movie is ending and reflecting on friendships? So, in my opinion, this is one of the best 80s coming of age movies based on Stephen King’s novella “The Body.” 

As for the plot, it follows four boys who sneak from their homes to find the body of a missing boy rumored to be lying somewhere near their small town. Along the journey, however, their own traumas haunt them. Gordie grapples with the death of his older brother and the emotional distance of his parents. Chris regrets his family’s poor reputation and Teddy dislikes his abusive father. All these 3 friends and others tease Vern for being overweight and naive.

As the boys face challenges like trains, leeches, and hostile older boys along the journey, they also confront their fears and insecurities. This journey forces them to confront harsh realities about life and death. The movie is a classic and one of the best coming of age movies you can stream on Amazon Prime.

4. Nairobi Half Life (Kenya) - IMDb 7.3 / 10

Nairobi Half Life is one of the best Kenyan coming of age movies directed by David “Tosh” Gitonga. The film is about the dreams and struggles of a young man trying to make his way in the big city.

Mwas is a young aspiring actor from a rural village who dreams of making it big in Nairobi. So, he leaves his home and travels to the city, only to find himself engulfed in a chaotic and dangerous underworld. His hopes take a toll as he falls victim to theft and is arrested for the uncommitted crime.

In jail, he befriends a gang member who introduces him to a life of crime as a means of survival. Eventually, Mwas struggles to balance his crime life with his dreams of acting. Although, he does join a local theatre group to pursue his passion. However, his dual life as a criminal and an actor puts him in difficult situations.

Overall, this is one of the best coming of age films that explores ambition, resilience, and the pursuit of dreams when adversity comes to haunt.

5. Lady Bird (United States) - IMDb 7.4 / 10

Lady Bird is one of the top coming of age movies written and directed by Greta Gerwig. The same director behind the 2023 blockbuster, Barbie. Lady Bird is a slightly different movie in our list as, unlike tension with fathers, the central tension of Lady Bird is with her mother.

The movie is set in California and follows Lady Bird through her final year of Catholic high school. As a strong-willed teenager, she is desperate to escape her hometown and attend college on the East Coast. It’s her stubborn mother though who doesn’t want her to leave.

This contentious and emotionally charged parent-teen relationship characterizes the movie. Lady Bird’s desire for independence and self-discovery is at odds with her mother’s concerns about practicality and stability. This bone of contention makes it one of the best coming of age movies on family and identity. You can stream Lady Bird on Netflix.

6. Boyz n the Hood (United States) - IMDb 7.8 / 10

Boyz n the Hood is one of the best coming of age movies released in 1991. The movie is set in South Central Los Angeles and shows African American youth dealing with violence, drugs, and systemic racism.

The plot centers around Tre Styles, a 10-years boy who’s sent to live with his father, Furious Styles, to receive better guidance. Furious teaches Tre responsibility, education, and self-respect. As Tre grows up alongside his friends, Doughboy and Ricky Baker, their different upbringing collides in the neighborhood.

Ricky, a talented football player, dreams of escaping the neighborhood through a sports scholarship, while Doughboy becomes entangled in street life. Their aspirations and struggles respectively put them on divergent paths in a system that stifles them.

It’s Tre, who struggles most to stay on the right path despite the temptations and dangers around him. Amid all of their dreams, the constant threat of violence tests their friendship and aspirations.

The movie is an American classic and one of the top coming of age movies that realistically shows the impact of the environment and the importance of positive role models. However, aspirations are not enough to define the destiny of one character as street violence changes everything.

Another somewhat similar movie is City of God, where one character wants to escape gangster life and the other one thrives in it. I talk more about this movie in the best Brazilian movies.

7. Moonrise Kingdom (United States) - IMDb 7.8 / 10

It’s time for one of the best coming of age films that is full of fun and drama. After all, not all coming of age movies are gloomy, as there’s a celebration in many coming of age films as well. Moonrise Kingdom is one of them where an innocent dare leads two 12-year-olds into the wilderness. The movie is directed by Wes Anderson, who’s known for his distinctive visual style and quirky storytelling, making this movie a delightful watch.

An interesting thing happens when 12-year-old Sam Shakusky, an orphan attending a Khaki Scout summer camp, and Suzy Bishop, a troubled girl living on the island with her dysfunctional family. After developing a close bond through their letters, Sam and Suzy escape their unhappy lives. The mission is to find peace and happiness in the island’s wilderness.

However, their disappearance triggers a frantic search by loved ones and a bumbling Scout Master Ward, and police captain Captain Sharp. Things get more interesting when a violent storm approaches, which makes the search party overcome their own shortcomings and conflicts to find Sam and Suzy before it’s too late.

As mentioned earlier, Wes Anderson’s unique visual style, symmetrical compositions, and vibrant color palette make this one of the best coming of age movies. There’s another somewhat similar but then also different coming of age movie where 2 teenagers embark on a journey with an older woman. The movie’s name is And Your Mother Too which I wrote about in best Mexican movies.

8. We Are The Best! (Sweden/Denmark) - IMDb 7.1 / 10

We Are The Best! is one of the best Swedish coming of movies released in 2013. The movie is set in Stockholm in the early 1980s and captures the vibrant energy of adolescence and punk rock. The director Moodysson adapted his wife Coco Moodysson graphic novel “Never Goodnight” to celebrate friendship, rebellion, and youthful creativity.

The movie follows Bobo and Klara, two twelve-year-old misfits who feel out of place in their school. Despite being told that punk is dead, they decide to start their own punk band as a means of expressing their middle-class frustrations. Interestingly, they don’t have any musical instruments and they also lack musical skills. 

Yet, they recruit Hedvig, a shy and talented classmate who plays classical guitar to make a punk trio. They practice in a local youth centre, write songs about their everyday annoyances, and bond over their shared love of punk music. Along the way, they face various obstacles, including conflicts with their peers, scepticism from adults, and their own insecurities. However, their unwavering friendship helps them grow more confident in themselves and their music.

We Are The Best! Is one of the best coming of age films if you are looking for an uplifting watch over the weekend. You can stream the movie on Amazon Prime. I also recently wrote about the Mustang in Turkish movies post. Mustang is also a coming of age movie about the sisterhood and adolescence of 5 sisters in a conservative Turkish village.

9. Persepolis (USA/France/Iran) - IMDb 8 / 10

Persepolis is a critically acclaimed animated film directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, released in 2007. The movie is based on the French-Iranian Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. The unique black-and-white animation style makes Persepolis one of the best coming of age movies where a teenager tries to escape religious fundamentalism. 

The movie is about Marjane, who’s an outspoken girl growing up in Tehran in the 1970s. She witnessed the overthrow of the Shah and the establishment of the Islamic Republic. As the new regime imposes strict religious codes and suppresses dissent, things become difficult for  Marjane’s family. Marjane’s rebellious nature puts her at odds with the authoritarian environment, and she finds solace in Western music and ideas.

As Marjane reaches adolescence, her parents send her to Austria to escape the repressive regime. In Vienna, she struggles to adapt to a new culture while dealing with loneliness, identity crises, and the prejudices she faces as an Iranian immigrant. Eventually, she returns to Iran, where she finds herself once again at odds with her homeland.

Persepolis won the Cannes Jury Prize in 2007 and the César Award for Best Writing. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. This significant work is one of the best coming of age films for its artistic achievement and personal narrative. You can also check some of the other best Iranian movies, especially Children of Heaven.

10. The Fabelmans (United States) - IMDb 7.5 / 10

The Fabelmans is a semi-autobiographical coming of age movie directed by Steven Spielberg. The film gives a personal look into Spielberg’s early years and his journey towards becoming one of the most iconic filmmakers in Hollywood.

Sammy Fabelman is a teenage boy growing up in post-World War II Arizona. He falls in love with movies after his parents take him to see “The Greatest Show on Earth.” As a teenager, Sammy is captivated by the magic of film and starts making his own home movies. The icing on the cake is her mother Mitzi who supports his passion. His father Burt is the opposite though as being practical, he’s a sceptic.

As Sammy’s filmmaking skills develop, he uncovers a family secret that shatters his world. This discovery, captured inadvertently on film, forces him to confront the complexities of his parent’s relationship and his feelings of betrayal. So, the artistic journey of Sammy with his struggles, makes The Fabelmans one of the top coming of age movies.

11. The Quiet Girl (Ireland) - IMDb 7.7 / 10

The Quiet Girl is an Irish coming of age drama film directed which was released in 2022. The movie discusses themes such as family, belonging, and childhood innocence. The movie was also nominated for Best International Feature Film at the 2023 Oscars.

Cáit is a 9-year-old introverted girl living in a dysfunctional and neglectful household. Her parents due to personal struggles decided to send her to live with distant relatives for the summer. Her relatives, Eibhlín and Seán Kinsella are a middle-aged couple who live on a serene and idyllic farm. Initially withdrawn, Cáit gradually opens up as she experiences the warmth that has been absent from her life.

As Cáit settles into her new environment, she forms a strong bond with Eibhlín. Seán, although initially reserved, also begins to show his deep care for Cáit. After some time, Cáit discovers a sense of security and love that transforms her. As the summer progresses, Cáit learns about a tragic loss the Kinsellas have endured, changing her understanding of love and family.

You can stream The Quite Girl on Amazon Prime. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Is another one of the top coming of age movies that you can stream on Netflix.

Recap of the Ultimate 11 Coming Of Age Movies

The list of best coming of age movies usually involves movies that are quite gloomy. However, I have made the list of best coming of age films quite differently. The list includes comedy, drama, semi-biographical and foreign language movies.

After all, not everyone’s coming of age years are 100% sad, happy, miserable or full of adventure. And the list of best coming of age movies exactly does that by balancing the emotions. If you have any particular favorites, do share!

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