Y Tu Mama Tambien

#5. Y Tu Mama Tambien

Before Alfonso Cuaron went to Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and lost Sandra Bullock in space with Gravity, the director hit the road with Y Tu Mama Tambien. This Mexican tale takes Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal on a trip that has them learning plenty about life, love, sex and each other. And the lessons they learn actually end up involving all of those things at once when they meet the older Luisa (Maribel VerdĂș) at a family wedding. This is steamy, provocative and a fine foreign film.

#4. My Girl

My Girl

For some of the same reasons I love The Sandlot, I actually love My Girl even more. As a boy who grew up in the late 80s/early 90s, there’s very little for me to identify with when it comes to Vada (Anna Chlumsky), a young girl growing up in 1972. I didn’t want to be a writer as a kid, both my parents were alive and together, and I never lost a childhood friend growing up. But there’s something about My Girl that has stuck with me ever since I saw this movie as a kid. It’s so pure and innocent, much like all of our childhoods (for the most part), and the character of Vada is so honest and genuine.

#3. Boyhood

Boyhood

Some may think this placement on the list is a little high considering Richard Linklater‘s chronicle of male adolescence just came out last year, but this is absolutely one of the best coming-of-age films ever made. You can say that the gimmick of following the same actor over 12 years is shallow, but it really adds something to the proceedings. Rather than recreating the reality of a kid each year for 12 years through set design, wardrobe and whatnot, we have a natural representation of each of these years. And watching Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and even his sister Samantha (Lorelai Linklater) grow up over these years adds a layer of sentimentality, making us care about their future.

#2. Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth

What’s so grand about Pan’s Labyrinth, besides everything, is that this coming-of-age tale is told beautifully through the magic of a spooky fantasy world from Guillermo del Toro. In many ways, I think Pan’s Labyrinth has a lot in common with something like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, where a genre style is used to tell a familiar story in a much more interesting way than we’ve seen before. And because this is a del Toro film, all the creatures and sets look astounding. There are plenty of great coming of age movies on this list, but this one is undoubtedly the most intricate and breathtaking.

#1. Almost Famous

Almost Famous

While the rest of this list was hard to sort out, Almost Famous was always at the top for me. It’s one of my favorite movies of all-time, and in it contains one of the coolest ways to start growing up. Patrick Fugit stars in the film, inspired by Cameron Crowe’s adolescence, as a 15-year old prodigy ready to graduate high school. But he’s obsessed with rock music, desperate to become a journalist, inspired by Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his best roles ever), and gets his chance to tour with the rising Stillwater (also my favorite fictional band on film). You learn a lot in your teenage years, but you learn even more on the tour bus of an incendiary rock band that you love.

Honorable Mentions: Rushmore, City of God, Moonrise Kingdom, Kids, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, Orange County, Cemetery Junction, Rocket Science, Liberty Heights, 13 Going on 30, The Kings of Summer, A Bronx Tale, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Life of Pi, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Ghost World, Persepolis, Adventureland, Mud, Real Women Have Curves, Boyz N the Hood, Harriet the Spy, Now and Then, Can’t Hardly Wait, Easy A, The Wackness, Pleasantville, The Way Way Back, Igby Goes Down, Let Me In, Let the Right One In, The Craft, Precious, Super 8, Little Manhattan, Young Adult, An Education, Fish Tank

There are undoubtedly films I missed, likely films I haven’t seen, so feel free to shout out even more great coming of age films in the comments below. This is one of my favorite subgenres in cinema, and I’m always a sucker for even the most cliche coming of age movies.

It’s also worth noting that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Dope are both fantastic, and if they weren’t so fresh in mind, would probably make this list in a couple years or so. But as of right now, I need them to sink in after I’ve seen them a few more times each.

What are your favorite coming of age movies? Which of my picks do you like the most?

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