Ah, to be 13 again. Just kidding—being 13 was awkward enough the first time. And since it's much less embarrassing and much more fun to reminisce about adolescence by proxy than it is to relive those actual "firsts," let's watch some coming-of-age movies instead. Added bonus: You get to witness all the excitement of growing up from the comfort of your adult sofa.
If you want to take a break from adulting with us, you're in the right place. We curated a watchlist of the 22 best coming-of-age movies, from the classics to the newcomers. Some are sweet and some are gritty, but they're all thoroughly entertaining.
Here are our picks for the best coming-of-age movies right now.
My Girl (1991)
Here's an American classic that also happens to be a heartbreaker. It touches on themes of friendship, and reveals what it's like to grow up in a happy house that doubles as a funeral home. This movie will teach you the most epic "see food/seafood" pun, and it will also give you an irrational fear of bees—all the more reason to tune in and be charmed by My Girl.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)
Lighthearted and fun to watch, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a coming-of-age movie that emphasizes the strength of female friendship, especially during those tricky teenage years. It also might make you miss the good ol' days when a three-month summer break was a thing.
This movie is emotionally moving, introspective, intimate, evocative, and illuminating. That may sound generous, but if you've seen it already, you know what we mean, and if you haven't yet, you're in for a treat. It follows a boy named Chiron as he grows up in Miami, navigating his sexuality, finding mentorship, and learning about love from unconventional figures in his life. Though there are many moments of heartbreak, there are so many small but beautiful gestures of empathy and revealing representations of all sorts of love, along with the challenge to establish self-love when we can't seem to find it externally.
If you grew up in the '80s and '90s, you definitely watched this movie and sang along with J. Lo's rendition of Selena's bubbly hits. And then your heart broke at this real-life story's tragic ending—but we won't give it away for those who haven't seen it yet (we're jealous of you first-timers).
The Graduate (1967)
A young Dustin Hoffman floating in his Pasadena pool—that opening scene is so iconic that we can't think of anything that can top it. Between the melancholic Simon & Garfunkel score, iconic love affair, and resonant post-college mood, it's hard to pick just one reason we love The Graduate. Though it's a bit more innocent and playful than the other films on this list, it still has a fun "forbidden love" angle that's fun to watch unfold. There's also plenty of room for laughter and delight.
Pariah is one of the most visually striking films of our time, but it digs way deeper and goes far beyond aesthetics alone. It follows an intelligent, curious, and confident young woman as she navigates her sexuality and what it means for her relationship with the rest of the world. Watch this if you love family dramas and moving coming-of-age tales with seriously strong female leads.
Almost Famous (2000)
A high school kid tours with a rock band in the '70s to write about the experience for Rolling Stone… Now that's a premise we'd like to watch unravel. If you haven't heard the soundtrack nor seen all of Penny Lane's (Kate Hudson) costumes in this film, you're in for a treat. Beyond the plethora of well-curated psychedelic style moments, there are also plenty of life lessons to learn, and each character is so interesting and lovable.
American Beauty (1999)
Similar to many of the films released in 1999, this movie explores the male gaze and the sexualization of teenage femininity, as well as the simultaneity of dystopia and beauty in a banal suburban existence. As expected with such complex yet accessible themes about the tensions that arose in the new millennium, expect to pause this movie every two seconds just to take in the captivating cinematography.
Definitely one of the grittier movies on our list of the best coming-of-age movies, Thirteen paints a very real image of the pressures and emotions that teenagers wrestle with as they grow and learn. It's loosely based on the life of Nikki Reed, the screenplay writer. There are tons of drugs (inhalants, weed, alcohol, you name it), sex, and a lot of other risky behaviors, so it's probably not the best choice for a Friday night family film, but it's still a phenomenal watch for other occasions.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
This movie is a cult favorite for a reason (and so is the book—read that before you watch this if you haven't done either yet). It's about a young teenage boy named Charlie, the wallflower referred to in the title, as he navigates adolescence. He struggles to find a sense of belonging and cope with loss and family tragedy all while bonding with new friends and falling in love.
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
Call Me by Your Name has everything you could want in a film. It's set in a fantastically romantic seaside town on the Italian coast, there are tons of coming-of-age lessons about self-discovery and sexuality, and you won't be able to get enough of the sweet and steamy romance. Both uplifting and heart-wrenching, it'll make you feel it all and yearn for young love and an Italian vacation (or both, preferably at the same time).
Boyz in the Hood (1991)
Three young men in South Central Los Angeles navigate life and overcome a variety of setbacks in this critically acclaimed coming-of-age movie. The characters are so well developed and portrayed, and the sense of friendship and community will restore your faith. But there's also plenty of action for any thrill-seeking movie watchers out there.
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Sofia Coppola's iconic directorial debut will delight all your senses (save maybe taste and touch, unless you BYO popcorn). From aesthetics to themes and casting, this film is one of the best adaptations ever made. Set in '70s suburbia, The Virgin Suicides traces the mysterious lives and deaths of five teenage sisters from the external perspective of their neighborhood admirers. The narrators are men reflecting on a neighborhood tragedy they witnessed as teens, and this approach makes the ideas of projection and fantasy that much more convincing.
Name a more quotable movie with a catchier soundtrack—we dare you. Food baby, anyone? Featuring what is perhaps the best script and lineup of tunes ever, Juno is one of those movies you can watch over and over again. It traces a 16-year-old as she navigates her unplanned pregnancy, as well as her relationship with her equally charming family, friends, and boyfriend.
Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
Join a trio made up of two teenage boys and a beautiful older woman who venture out on a road trip together in Mexico for a coming-of-age adventure. It's also laugh-out-loud funny and will inspire plenty of wanderlust and late-'90s style. What more could we ask for? And it's also on Netflix, which makes life so much easier.
When a transgender sex worker is released from a short prison sentence, she and her best friend come up with a plan to get revenge against her abusive pimp. And while the gripping plot is certainly reason enough to watch it, the bond between the two young women makes it even more emotionally affecting.
Wes Anderson fanatics, this dramedy is for you. It's set at a prep school and focuses on the relationship between two men who both try to woo a first-grade teacher. Aside from the hilarious, quirky humor, Rushmore is as stylistically and aesthetically delightful as you'd expect from Anderson.
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
This revolutionary film breaks boundaries in every sense, offering a fresh coming-of-tale that fits within the general parameters of the genre while offering a new perspective. Following two young girls as they fall in love and explore their budding sexuality, it's as poetic, thought-provoking, and intoxicating as its title implies. It's an artful, engaging, and relatable movie that taps into the coming-of-age and romance genres.
This is not your average coming-of-age film, but who wants to be average anyway? That being said, here's fair warning that it definitely pushes every boundary you can think of. As a result, it's a raw (and controversial) film. The basic premise is that it follows a day in the life of young teens from New York City as they navigate a variety of traumas and "firsts." It also happened to be Chloë Sevigny's and Rosario Dawson's first movie.
Available on: Amazon Prime Video
If you've already devoured all of Sofia Coppola's coming-of-age films and just can't get enough of that mood-driven, pastel-washed aesthetic, brace yourself. Instead of being transported to somewhere melancholy in America, Mustang hones in on a remote Turkish village where five orphaned sisters are put on lockdown after they're caught playing in the water with boys. It revolves around similar themes of the bond of sisterhood and the policing of female sexuality.
Available on: Amazon Prime Video