Ah, to be 13 again. Just kidding—being 13 was awkward enough the first time. And since it's much less embarrassing and more fun to reminisce about adolescence vicariously through our favorite characters 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 31 best coming-of-age movies, from the classics to the newcomers. Some are sweet and some are gritty, but they're all thoroughly entertaining.
Below, browse our favorite picks for the best coming-of-age films to escape back to those nostalgic years.
My Girl (1991)
Here's an American classic that's also 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.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)
Lighthearted and enjoyable, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a coming-of-age movie about four friends spending a summer apart—but one special pair of jeans (that fits them all perfectly, seemingly by magic) ties them together. This film will make you miss your childhood besties, want to take a vacation, and reminisce on your teenage years all the same.
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 many small but beautiful gestures of empathy and 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 to top it. Between the 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 other films on this list, it still has a fun "forbidden love" angle that's fun to watch unfold.
Pariah is one of the most visually striking films of our time, but it 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 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 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.
One of the grittier movies on our list, Thirteen paints a very real image of the pressures and emotions that teenagers wrestle with as they grow. 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 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 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, includes 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 yearn for young love and an Italian vacation (or both).
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. 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?
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 tale that fits within the genre with 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? Here's a fair warning that it pushes every boundary you can think of. As a result, it's a raw (and controversial) film. The basic premise follows a day in the life of young teens from New York City as they navigate a variety of traumas and "firsts." It also happens to be Chloë Sevigny's and Rosario Dawson's first movie.
Available on: Amazon Prime Video
The Breakfast Club (1985)
What happens when a group of high school kids—each one representing a different high school trope—is brought together one Saturday morning for a day-long detention? You get a classic coming-of-age movie full of '80s style inspiration.
If you've already devoured all of Sofia Coppola's coming-of-age films and can't get enough of that moody, 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.
Lady Bird (2017)
We're huge Greta Gerwig fans over here, and her 2017 film Lady Bird doesn't disappoint. This critical darling follows Christine, aka Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan), who longs to escape her average life in Sacramento and attend college in a big city on the East coast, despite her family's financial troubles. Through fights with her mom, her relationship with her best friend, and her somewhat tumultuous love life, we can all see a little of ourselves in Lady Bird's journey.
Frances Ha (2012)
Not all coming of age moments happen in your teens. Sometimes, you have a lot of growing up to do in your twenties as well. In this film starring Greta Gerwig, Frances is a dance apprentice in her late twenties and struggling to find her place in life. As her best friend gets more serious in a relationship, Frances is left to find herself on her own.
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
If you like your coming-of-age films with a hefty dose of satirical comedy, this one's for you. Starring "before they were that famous" stars like Bradley Cooper and Elizabeth Banks, this parody of teen comedies deals with plenty of growing-up situations from first loves to heartbreak. Set at a summer camp in Maine in the 1980s, this absurdist film is a cult favorite.
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Pretty in Pink is a certified classic, and we'd be lying if we said we don't use Molly Ringwald's wardrobe in this film as inspiration. Directed by John Hughes, this heartwarming film follows Andie, a social outcast and best friend of Duckie, as she navigates dating outside of her social strata.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
If there's a film that always makes us tear up a little, it has to be this one. In this classic from Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Damon plays a janitor at MIT with a genius-level IQ. When he solves a difficult math problem, a professor takes him under his wing. With amazing performances from Robin Williams and Damon, this film still resonates with viewers all these years later.
When you're looking for a coming-of-age film, but you also want to laugh a lot, this movie is for you. This tale follows a group of nerdy teens as they try to attend one last high school party before graduation takes them in vastly different directions.
Is there a better teen movie on this list? As if! One of our favorite films stars Alicia Silverstone as a spoiled Beverly Hills teen who loves shopping and a good makeover but has a good heart at the end of the day. Based on the Jane Austen novel, Emma, this film is always worth a rewatch.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Another Shakespeare adaptation (The Taming of the Shrew), 10 Things I Hate About You might have one of the greatest ensemble casts of all time. With Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Gabrielle Union to name a few, this film deals with family relationships, college decisions, and love.
In this directorial debut from Olivia Wilde, two best friends who are known as the smart, studious classmates decide to attend a massive graduation party on their final night of high school. Shenanigans ensue, obviously, but the heartwarming friendship they share will make you want to call your besties.