Best Coming of Age Movies

Last week, the fantastic adaptation of Me and Earl an the Dying Girl hit theaters in a limited run, and this week the lively Dope also arrives on the big screen. Both are spectacular coming of age tales from two very different sides of the spectrum, but they both have wonderful young characters, engaging relationships, and are special in their own ways.

And with these two magnificent coming of age movies hitting the big screen recently, we thought it was a good time to look back at some of the great films to come out of this subgenre. But since everyone has gushed over films like Stand by Me, The Breakfast Club and Say Anything for years, I decided to put a more modern focus on coming of age films by counting down my picks for the Top 25 Best Coming of Age Movies of the Past 25 Years. That means you won’t find anything on here from before 1990. Do your favorite movies make the cut?

Check out my list of the Top 25 Best Coming of Age Films of the Past 25 Years after the jump!

Before we begin, just remember that this is all subjective. There are tons of coming-of-age movies, and I had a hard time putting together my list of films that are great and also have touched and stayed with me over the years. That’s why this list will be drastically different from yours, and isn’t meant to be an objective list at all. So keep that in mind as we get to the countdown…

#25. The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now

This film jumped on the screen back in 2013 with a much praised debut at the Sundance Film Festival that year, and director James Ponsoldt‘s adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel of the same name is poignant, honest and moving. Miles Teller puts in one of several breakthrough performances over the past couple years as Sutter, a life-of-the-party high schooler with a drinking problem, and his romance with Shailene Woodley (their best big screen pairing) is perfectly doomed because of it. We’ve seen plenty of teenage romances like this, but not with a character troubled like Sutter.

#24. Blue is the Warmest Color

Blue is the Warmest Color

A breakout hit of the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, this is one of the rare coming-of-age movies about a young girl discovering her sexuality. More specifically, it’s about a teenage girl (Adèle Exarchopoulos) exploring her newfound lesbian tendencies and the fiery, erotic romance that unfolds with a fascinating, confident, hip young woman (Lea Seydoux). This is quite the steamy romance, with very graphic and extended sex scenes, but they’re also beautifully shot, and act as real insight into the passion that exists between these two girls.

#23. School Ties

School Ties

Released in 1992, this story actually goes back to the 1950s. Brendan Fraser plays David, a young, middle class boy asked to play football at a prep school where most of the upper-class jocks end up being not too kind when one member of the team (Matt Damon) reveals that David is Jewish. It’s wild to think that this was ever an issue just over 60 years ago, but people can be cruel. Keep an eye out for young Ben Affleck in this film written by Law & Order creator Dick Wolf.

#22. Mean Creek

Mean Creek

Macaulay Culkin may not be a prominent actor anymore, but his younger brothers turned in some fantastic work, especially in the coming-of-age department over the years. This time it’s young Rory Culkin (Signs) as Sam, a bullied young man who sets out to teach a lesson to George, the kid doing the bullying (a chubby, young Josh Peck). With the help of his friends and brothers, the plan seems to be going all too well until the unthinkable happens and George dies. Haunting and stupendously acted, I believe this is the closest story we have to Stand by Me in the past 25 years.

#21. Garden State

Garden State

I know that there are many who think Garden State has aged well over the past decade, but this film holds a special place in my heart. Along with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this film served as my gateway into the world of independent film, and from this point on I’ve been hooked on indie films from the past and present. For a directorial debut by Zach Braff, this film is gorgeously shot, funny and has quite the impressive cast. As time has gone on, the film doesn’t feel quite as genuine as it once did, but I still find it to be great.

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