By Neil Baker on Friday, March 1, 2019

Coming of age stories have existed in filmmaking for decades. Offering us a window into the complexity, joy, frustration and urgency of our teenage and early adult experiences. Often reflecting back to us the intense feelings and powerful experiences we have on our journey to adult life. These films play with our notions of childhood innocence versus adult realities. Alongside the expression of rebellion, exploration, friendships and excitement.

As a genre ‘coming of age’ has housed some the most powerful, engaging, funny and emotional films of the past 40 years. The genre adapting over time to reflect the changing experience of children and young people.

We often forget that the ‘teenager’ is a relatively modern label for the transition from child to adult. With film being a major instigator and exponent of its creation. Equally, the notional time taken in transition from child to adult has increased over the decades, as education has expanded and society’s views on childhood and youth have changed. At every step in this journey, the genre has reflected back these changes to the viewer. Sometimes challenging our perceptions, often making us laugh and cry, and always asking us to search our own personal experiences during the most formative years of our lives.

Stand By Me (1986)

Director: Rob Reiner (Columbia Pictures)

Based on the Stephen King novella The Body Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me is one of the greatest coming of age films ever produced. A love letter to simpler times, childhood freedom and the role of friendship in early adolescence. Stand by Me dovetails 1950’s nostalgia with a layered exploration of family, friendship, bereavement and belonging that still feels timeless and fresh.

Stand by Me is at times a celebration of childhood in all its boundless imagination and wonder, and at others a mourning of the transition to a darker adult world. Reiner’s direction alongside a stunning young cast is delicate, energetic, touching, and melancholy. Reminding us all of the conflict between dreams and reality as we take our first tentative steps into adult experiences. The excitement of adult ideas interlocked with a need for comfort, understanding and protection as the child and teenager collide.

Stand by Me is the final summer of childhood innocence for boys on the verge of adolescence. Developing their self-identity on a journey of discovery that captures the vibrance and darkness of a transition we all endure.

"I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12… Jesus does anyone?”
The Writer
Stand By Me

Eighth Grade (2019)

Director: Bo Burnham (A24)

Eighth Grade never seeks to over dramatise the formative years of early adolescence. Providing a beautifully realised snapshot of a girls journey into adulthood that encapsulates the intensity, emotion and humour of teenage life, in way many other films within the genre fail to achieve.

Based around the final year of middle school Eighth Grade follows Kayla (Elsie Fisher), who’s confident video blogging alter ego hides the insecurities of her real journey into adult life. Unlike her confident online presence, Kayla struggles to find her own place in the social structures of middle school, longing for friendship and belonging in peer groups based on popularity and perceived confidence during a transitional year for every young person Kayla meets

American Graffiti (1973)

Director: George Lucas (Lucasfilm/Universal)

Four years before George Lucas became synonymous with Star Wars, he brought us one of the defining coming of age films of the 20th Century.

Launching the film careers of Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, Candy Clark and Kathleen Quinlan. American Graffiti is a love letter to early 1960’s American youth culture, that focuses on the wistful ending of school and emerging realities of adult life.

Despite some booze, fist fights and fast cars American Graffiti looks tame compared to the hard hitting coming of age films surrounding it, but in many ways that was its sole purpose; a reflection on a country on the verge of change and youth sub culture soon to be replaced by politics, protest and anger.

Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987)

Director: Louis Malle (Criterion)

Louis Malles 1987 masterpiece is a truly breathtaking exploration of the end of childhood during war. With natural and unforced performances that display the innocence of youth and its interface with conflict, destruction and hate.

Set in a Catholic boarding school in Nazi-occupied France 1944. 12-year-old Julien (Gaspard Manesse) meets a new boy Jean Bonnet (Raphaël Fejtö), a clever, yet shy young man who is mysteriously protected and checked on by the headmaster at every opportunity. As a close friendship develops between Julien and Jean, secrets are uncovered that Julien cannot protect his friend against. In a community where division and hate interface with selfless love and protection.

Direction and performances are beautiful and heart wrenching in equal measure, as Malle explores the complexity of an occupied country where liberty, rebellion and collaboration sit side by side. Au Revoir les Enfants ability to harness the feelings and emotions of young people forced into the harsh reality of oppression and war is truly stunning. Playing with the confusion, conflicted beliefs and emotion of young adolescence, while also imbedding these into a social culture of fear, control, oppression and darkness.

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Director: Luca Guadagnino (Sony Classics)

Adapted from the novel by Andre Aciman, Luca Guadagnino’s film is a rich exploration of young love, hidden desire, burning want and sexuality. Set in Northern Italy during the early 1980’s, Call Me By Your Name is unafraid to show the complexity of feelings, actions and emotions surrounding sexual desire and discovery. This is a film that understands the intensity of teenage sexuality and the burning want, jealously and vulnerability of early sex and love.

Guadagnino builds at atmosphere of pure intoxicating pleasure, succulent fruits, music and literature and the carved antiquities of male bodies laying hidden beneath sun drenched waters. Playing with sexuality, lust and secret rendezvouses, while reflecting masculinity, male beauty and the depths of male desire.

Timothee Chalamet gives a performance of layered emotion and emerging self confidence. Bringing Elio to life while sharing his inner most feelings with us through a single look, gesture or action. Call Me By Your Name is one of the finest portrayals of teenage love, identity and belonging in a generation.

"Please don't avoid me. It kills me. I can't stand thinking you hate me. Your silence is killing me. I'd sooner die than know you hate me. I am such a pussy"
Call Me By Your Name

Kes (1969)

Ken Loach mixes the isolation and loneliness of a boy suffering bullying and abuse, with the power of companionship only animals can provide.

Kes is a heartfelt portrayal of the journey into adolescence and the interface between hope and social reality. The Kestrel representing the urge for freedom and flight in a boy who does not fit the surroundings he inhabits.

Kes has moments of humour, intertwined with melancholy and sadness as the realities of young lives with limited opportunites are laid bare. In a community where adults can encourage and dismiss in equal measure, and family can dramatically rewrite the ability of a young person to grow and succeed.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Director: John Hughes (Universal Pictures)

A timeless exploration of identity and conformity in teenage life, from the master of 80’s teen filmmaking John Hughes. The Breakfast Club is a still a powerful, humorous and sharp observation of youth sub culture, difference and identity.

While dated in places that play to its 1980s audience, it still manages to be relevant to youth culture today. Exploring the fear, apprehension and joy of teenage life. Alongside the danger of social labelling and need to escape adult confines of expectation.

Breakfast Club dissects 80’s America with humour, heartfelt performances and energy in a way few other films of the decade managed.

The 400 Blows (1959)

Director: François Truffaut (Artificial Eye/Curzon)

One of the finest depictions of young male adolescence in film, Francois Traffaunts 1959 picture is still a template for many others within the genre.

Traffaunts film is intensely powerful in its critique of isolation and escape with Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Lèaud) portraying the emotion, anger and hurt of adolescence with a simple gesture or look. This is a boy who is judged and isolated by his school, parents and community. Misunderstood and desperate for escape.

400 Blows examination of societies that label young people, forcing them to accept the labels they are given is powerful and visually stunning. Its final scenes being some of the most stark and creative in 20th Century cinema. 

Empire of the Sun (1987)

Director: Steven Spielburg (Warner Brothers)

One of the most overlooked of Spielberg’s films, Empire of the Sun adapted from J.G. Ballard’s novel is a beautifully crafted and performed exploration of childhood innocence during war. Following Jim (Christian Bale) through his transition from a wealthy English schoolboy in British controlled Shanghai, to a street wise young teenager in an occupied land.

Empire mixes childhood imagination and dreams with the brutality of war and adulthood in way few films manage. There are moments of childhood wonder and exploration set to a backdrop of violence and control that make this film truly unique.

We see Jim change before our eyes, accepting his need to survive at any cost and fend for himself. While still being a boy who has limited understanding of the events taking place in his surroundings

Mid90s (2019)

During a summer in 90s Los Angeles, 13 year old Stevie (Sunny Suljic) finds belonging and acceptance in a peer group of older skaters, escaping the trappings of his abusive yet conflicted older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges) and tender yet struggling mother Dabney (Katherine Waterson). As Stevie’s bond to the group increases, he is taken on a journey of self discovery, family turmoil and friendship realities, challenging the boundaries of his social and family structures. 

The interface between the peer group and family is beautifully constructed, demonstrating the loss of family influence as Stevie grows in his social confidence. A confidence built on risk taking behaviours that embolden his sense of burgeoning masculinity. Exploration of Stevie’s relationship with his controlling and domestically aggressive older brother (Hedges) changes as the realities of power and control shift; Stevie developing understanding of the family dynamics at play through his peer group. His brother battling his own control issues, as his younger sibling slowly slips through his fingers. 

Mid 90s isn’t afraid to show the positives and negatives of peer influence, demonstrating the dangers of troubled youth acting as influencers, and the flip side of young male bonding in developing emotional support structures.

Ladybird (2017)

Director: Greta Gerwig (A24)

One of the most heartfelt modern films exploring the transition from girlhood to womanhood. Ladybird embraces the complexity of emotion, love and parental conflict present in adolescence.

Ladybird feels almost semi-autobiographical in construct, providing performances that are natural, humorous and full of the anxiety and energy of teenage life. Beautifully timed humour sits opposite the need to belong, and the confusion of creating new personas to fit in. Sex is messy, difficult and ultimately disappointing. Years of excitement and apprehension crashing to earth as the realities of casual sex dissolve any preconceptions of physical intimacy leading to love. Boys are complicated and nuanced, their own sexuality, identity and needs still forming as they attempt to play the roles of men. While class divide and image pull young people into different social groups, that enhance the existing divides wealth and opportunity has already created.

Placing the experiences of young women centre stage, this is a film that understands the turbulence and joy of teenage discovery in equal measure. Mixing the journey of self discovery with the humour, apprehension and peer development of teenage life.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Director: Nicholas Ray (Warner Brothers)

Based on the 1944 book of the same name by Robert Lindner, Rebel Without a Cause is far more complex than a mere critique of the emerging American fear of juvenile delinquency.

Rebel is a truly stunning and nuanced study of youth, family, identity and love, that still speaks to our modern society. Challenging the 1950’s American family construct, while also exploring themes of masculinity, sexuality and love. Rebel is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of the coming of age genre every produced.

Catapulting James Dean to international stardom, while mirroring the eventual cause of his early death, Rebel has earned mythic status in the decades since its release. This is the film that provided a template for teenage filmmaking still in use today.

"It's a zoo. He always wants to be my pal, you know? But how can I give him anything? If he's — well, I mean, I love him and all that type of stuff, and I-I mean, I don't want to hurt him. But then, I don't, I don't — well, I don't know what to do any more, except maybe die... If he had guts to knock Mom cold once, then maybe she'd be happy and then she'd stop pickin' on him, because they make mush out of him, just mush! I'll tell you one thing. I don't ever want to be like him. How can a guy grow up in a circus like that?... Boy, if, if I had one day when, when I didn't have to be all confused, and didn't have to feel that I was ashamed of everything... if I felt that I belonged someplace, you know?"
Rebel Without a Cause

Carrie (1976)

Director: Brian De Palma (United Artists)

Adapted from Stephen Kings book of the same name, Brian De Palma’s 1976 Carrie plays with the coming of age genre and its links to horror. Carrie encapsulates a teenage culture based on popularity, and the horror of difference.

Carrie is extremely clever film making, following its literary roots with reverence, while providing a far more complex portrayal of teenage life than its given credit for. With horror interlaced with bodily change, sex, bullying and parental control. Carrie explores the youthful desire for power to control the situations around you, and the people hurting. Feelings engrained in the experience of teenagers who are victims of cruelty and isolation. Taking the dark experiences of school, and mixing them with the need to be accepted, popular and valued. Carrie twists school life into a web of pure horror.

Far more than just a horror film, Carrie is a coming of age story with horrific conclusions.

Billy Elliot (2000)

Director Stephen Daldry (Universal Pictures)

Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliot provides us with a coming of age story that challenges the boundaries of masculinity in film. It is easy now to underestimate the power of this film on its release, especially in breaking down stereotypes of boys in dance. But Billy Elliot is a truly ground breaking coming of age picture.

Set to the backdrop of the 1980s miner’s strikes in County Durham during a period of social upheaval in Britain. Billy Elliot uses its time and place beautifully in exploring masculinity in communities forged through manual work and divided by economic change. We see Billy struggle with the confines of his community, while still embracing its spirit and history. His conflicted feelings of loyalty, change and escape mixing with a need for self expression as he steps towards teenage life.

Billy Elliot is a portrait of communities in transition and the power of young people to lead change in adults. Billy embraces the need for communities to step outside of the cultural boundaries placed before them, while maintaining their identity and history.

Almost Famous (2000)

Director: Cameron Crowe (Sony Pictures)

Almost Famous is not only a love letter to 1970’s music, but a stunning exploration of the importance of self discovery and freedom in the coming of age process.

Following 15 year old aspiring music writer William Miler, Crowe weaves music and nostalgia with a social commentary on 70’s masculinity and belonging. Dovetailing themes of hero worship and expectation born during childhood with the realities of a confused and imperfect adult world.

There are big social themes held within this warm and comforting film, ranging from sexuality to unrequited teenage love. All wrapped into a picture that touches your heart and soul through music, humour and the pure excitement of youth.

"That groupie? She was a Band-Aid! All she did was love your band. And you used her, all of you! You used her and threw her away! She almost died last night while you were with Bob Dylan. You guys, you're always talking about the fans, the fans, the fans; she was your biggest fan, and you threw her away! And if you can't see that, that's your biggest problem. And I love her! I love her!"
William Miller
Almost Famous

Mean Creek (2004)

Films exploring the dark side of teenage development are often overlooked. They do not give us happy endings, but encourage us to reflect on how the turbulent emotions inherent in teenage life can lead to horrifying acts.

Mean Creek is a masterclass in exploring the emotional development of young people, and the powerful feelings of anger, betrayal and helplessness present in the transition to adulthood.

This is a film that challenges our notions of childhood innocence, while encouraging us to explore the dangerous absence of adult guidance in youth development.

Lean on Pete (2018)

Director: Andrew Haigh (Film 4)

Andrew Haigh’s 2018 Lean on Pete is a masterful exploration of a young mans journey through emotional, social and personal turmoil. While adeptly exploring modern America and the relationship between family, community and opportunity.

Lean of Pete captures the loneliness and isolation of being 15 years old in a world where your options are limited by circumstance and place perfectly. It never sinks into melodrama or over emotional delivery as we follow Charley (Charlie Plummer) and an ageing race horse ‘Pete’ on a journey of self discovery, against a backdrop of poverty and injustice.

Lean on Pete explores the coming of age process from the perspective of a hurt and isolated young man who has lost trust in humans. Finding solace and comfort in an animal who listens without judgement. His journey back to the human world tied to the horse and his own inner strength.

Girl (2018)

Director: Lukas Dhont (Lumiere)

Providing us with a transgender coming of age story Lucas Dhonts debut is not without its controversy, especially in casting a 15 year old non transgender actor in the main role. However, despite these debates, this is a film that offers us a truly immersive journey, and a huge step forward in transgender lives on screen. Film carries a unique power to change public perception and understanding, and Girl does that with beauty and exceptional performances that offer true emotional resonance. 

Sexual awakening, peer groups and gender identity are handled with care, while also allowing the audience to develop their understanding of the challenges faced by transgender young people in a society of set gender boundaries. 

Minding the Gap (2019)

Director: Bing Liu (Hulu)

Exploring the Skateboarding peer group of his youth Bing Liu provides a multi layered documentary that speaks to the challenging journey from boyhood to manhood in a community of limited opportunity. Minding the Gap mixes the adrenaline soaked world of skateboarding culture with a nuanced exploration of masculinity, coming of age and family.

Starting its life as a collection of home shot skateboard videos alongside his friends Keire Johnson and Zack Mulligan. Bing Liu builds on these rough beginnings to create a portrait of his community Rockford, Illinois and the lives of the young men who provided him with the stability of escapism and belonging growing up; the thrill of skateboarding intercut with the realities of dysfunctional family life. Bing Liu clearly demonstrates the importance of youth sub culture in a feeling of belonging and place, while demonstrating its fleeting nature as adult life and responsibility takes hold. 

Key themes of masculinity and its toxic presence in many family structures are unflinchingly explored, alongside the perpetuation of these traits via poverty of opportunity. 

Wildlife (2018)

Director: Paul Dano (IFC Films)

Paul Dano’s directorial debut beautifully explores family breakdown through the eyes of teenage Joe. His dawning realisation that family and marriage can hold secrets, lies and sadness, as he slowly accepts the true nature of the family home surrounding him.

Exploring the hidden depths of relationships alongside the explosion and raging fire of family separation, Wildlife is visually & creatively beautiful throughout. With outstanding performances that play to the slow unravelling of a family unit.

Wildlife’s exploration of repressed emotions, coming of age and social boundaries is multi layered and slowly delivered. Giving the audience time to build understanding and emotional connection with its characters.

The Dreamers (2003)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci (Fox Searchlight)

Bernardo Bertolucci mixes the student protests and riots on late 1960s Paris with themes of emerging sexuality and identity to create to true masterpiece of film.

Buzzing with hormonal energy, excitement and art. The Dreamers captures the intensity of young adult relationships, infatuation and sexual discovery, as American conservatism meets European liberalism in an explosion of youthful energy.

Embodying the power of film and art as escapism. The Dreamers eloquently plays with the boundaries of expressionism and escape in the still forming young adult. Never afraid to take the audience into the blurred realms of the interface between visual and creative art and rebellious sexual awakening.

” Yes, I’m drunk. And you’re beautiful. And tomorrow morning, I’ll be sober but you’ll still be beautiful”
The Dreamers

The Virgin Suicides (1999)

Director: Sofia Coppola (Paramount Pictures)

In suburban 1970’s America, five beautiful sisters are quarantined away from social interaction. While the local boys obsess about the mysterious and reclusive sisters, the girls fates are tied to the parental control and rules that stifle their emerging womanhood.

While elements of Sophia Coppola’s film play with an almost dream like state of teenage desire and mystery. This is a film that also has extremely dark undertones, playing with themes of control, repression and community isolation.

The Virgin Suicides is a still a powerful piece of cinematic art. With love and obsession turning to horror and loss. The boundless energy and sexuality of youth thwarted by parental control and restraint.

Y Tu Mama También (2001)

Director: Alfonso Cuarón (20th Century Fox/IFC)

Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mama También would appear at face value to be a classic teenage sex/comedy. After all, its premise of two hormonally driven teenagers deciding to go on a road trip. Persuading an older woman to join them, sets up the classic sex/comedy storyboard.

However, Cuarón’s film is so much more than it appears on the surface. This is a cutting exploration of teenage sexuality, love and friendship alongside themes of class divide and opportunity. With rampant sexuality and hormone induced decisions testing friendship through jealousy and a changing view of women.

Y Tu Mama También provides a road trip into the final carefree years of teenage life. The realities of an adult world snapping at the heals of the young men, while their roads slowly diverge. Their own love for each tested and explored through the older woman they befriend.

Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Director: Sergio Leone (Warner Brothers)

Charting the journey of four friends over five decades, Sergio Leone’s masterpiece of cinema is rarely explored under the banner of coming of age. Yet this is a journey from childhood to adulthood that encapsulates many of the key themes present in other films on our list. In a sweeping epic of friendship, betrayal and revenge.

From the violence of the opening scenes, we are taken back to the early teenage years of four friends growing up in 1930s New York. Street kids who understand the hidden rules of the backstreets, thriving on low level crime and violence, while ultimately protecting each other. These are young people who understand that power and eventual success comes through notoriety and position, while never understanding the eventual social costs.

Despite the overarching darkness of the film, Leone’s picture transcends the normal gangster movie. Delivering a beautifully framed and performed examination of the choices made in youth and their eventual translation into adult life. The exploration of the perceived invincibility of the young street kids, who play in a no mans land between childhood innocence and dark adult actions, are immaculate in construct. With the devastating conclusion of their journey creating a film that ultimately challenges memories, brings back ghosts of the past and searches adult responsibilities.

Léolo (1992)

Director: Jean-Claude Lauzon (Alliance Films)

Living in an eccentric and volatile family Leo submerses himself in the extremes of his imagination, where fantasy mixes with burgeoning sexual awakening and adulthood.

Often challenging in its portrayal of mental health and teen escapism. Leolo allows the audience to view a complicated world of dysfunctional family life, friendship and difference through the eyes of its young lead. This gives the film a dream like structure in places, and stark and vivid tone in others. Demonstrating the polarisation of experiences and thoughts in a boy who is unable to control his surroundings.

Leolo never resorts to easy social answers. Ultimately demonstrating the power of family, friends and community in providing the stability needed in the transition to adulthood, and the devestating results when this support is absent.

L.I.E (2001)

Director: Michael Cuesta (Belladonna Pictures)

Michael Cuesta’s film is an outstanding exploration of gender, sexuality and isolation in adolescence, that packs a punch in its honest and powerful portrayal of vulnerability and desire in adolescence.

Paul Dano gives an exceptional debut performance that delicately and powerfully explores the turbulence of sexuality and gender alongside the confusion and vulnerability of early love and acceptance.

Controversial from the start to finish in its nuanced exploration of adult grooming, control and belonging. L.I.E is designed to stay with you long after the credits roll. Highlighting not just the vulnerability inherent in young people as they explore their sexual orientation, but also the realities of the control mechanisms that exist when parental support and friendship are absent.

Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)

Director: Todd Solondz (Sony Pictures)

Todd Solondz debut film takes the high school teen movie and adds a reality not seen in many other pictures exploring school life. Welcome to the Dollhouse does not attempt to skim over the isolation, bullying and rejection many children face in school. Here we find no glossy portrait of nice children in a supportive school. Replaced by the stark reality of young people who alienate and divide, often due to their own insecurities during early adolescence.

Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo) is an outcast within the school environment, her looks and awkward personality making her almost invisible entity within a school community of instant judgement and appraisal.

Todd Solondz expertly weaves the grim realities of school life with the strength of those who are alienated within it. Taking a film that could feel negative into the realms of satirical comedy/drama with beautifully realised detail, performances and artistry. In doing so he reminds us all of the realities our school days. While emphasising the awkwardness, volatility and strength inherent in young people who struggle to be accepted, alongside the bittersweet process of early adolescence.

Moonlight (2016)

Director: Barry Jenkins (Altitude)

Barry Jenkins OSCAR award winning film defies the boundaries of genre categorisation. Moonlight is a beautiful symphony of love and friendship, in a society of cultural restrictions and poverty.

Beautifully shot and performed, Moonlight isn’t afraid to challenge its audience and the racial stereotypes born from media and news. Jenkins, three age study, is awash with pure poetry and reflection, deserving every accolade it received in bringing a diversity of life and love to our screens.

"I wasn’t never worth shit. Never did anything I actually wanted to do, was all I could do to do what other folks thought I should do. I wasn’t never myself"

Juno (2007)

Director: Jason Reitman (Fox Searchlight)

Following a first time sexual experience with Paulie (Michael Cera) Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) finds out she is pregnant. Her mind made up, Juno decides to keep the baby and search for adoptive parents.

Set within the classic teenage comedy genre, Juno is far more nuanced in its delivery, offering an extremely smart and tender comedy/drama. Juno is a layered exploration of a young woman forced into adult decisions, and a young expectant father unable to voice his true feelings and thoughts. Highlighting the boundaries of physical attraction, belonging and identity, Juno tenderly explores the true support inherent in the community that surrounds us.

Following a classic three-act structure Juno is warm hearted, funny and tender exploration of the sex, love and identity that deifies many of the normal high school movie tropes in favour of a far richer character study.

Boyhood (2014)

Richard Linklater’s masterpiece of filmmaking, takes us on a truly unique and real coming of age journey as seen through the eyes of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his parents (Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke).

Filmed over 13 years, Boyhood is not only one of the most detailed and exquisite portrayals of the journey to adulthood ever seen of film. But also a glorious technical achievement in filmmaking. This is a film that wears its heart on its sleeve, showing the joy, fear and emotion of coming of age in a way few films before or after have managed to achieve.

The Apu Trilogy (1955 – 1959)

Director: Satyajit Ray (Curzon/Artificial Eye)

Satyajit Rays film trilogy following Apu from childhood to adulthood in a rural Bengali village, changed Indian cinema. Moving the focus from the song and dance of classic Bollywood, to the ultra-realism and authenticity of life in Bengali during the early 20th Century.

Although made separately over the period 1955 – 1959, Ray’s trilogy works beautifully as a single film. Charting Apu (Pather Panchali) from his childhood roaming the forests and fields of his home village, to his eventual adult responsibilities. Apu’s hopes and dreams conflicting with the poverty of his home in a sublime character study that understands the role of place and community in opportunity.

The themes of Ray’s trilogy are timeless, while providing a snap shot of Bengali culture and life that still draws you in to its stunning and unforgettable coming of age journey.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Director: Stephen Chbosky (EOne)

Based on his novel published back in 1999, Chbosky’s own adaptation of his book is full of honesty in its portrayal of the challenges and joy of friendship and self discovery during adolescence. With a talented cast Perks of Being a Wallflower glows with the intensity and need for belonging in youth. Alongside self discovery and realisation that directly affect personal development on the journey to adulthood.

Beautifully exploring the role of friendships and relationships in building identity, Perks is not afraid to show the joy of belonging and fear of isolation in equal measure. While tackling issues of childhood trauma and abuse within a gentle, yet ultimately extremely powerful narrative.

This is a film that explores the individual rollercoaster journey taken from childhood to adulthood and the memories and experiences that have a direct impact on the emerging adult.

The Graduate (1967)

Director: Mike Nichols (United Artists)

Mike Nichols 1967 masterpiece of multi-layered filmmaking is as much a discussion piece on generational change as it is a comedy/drama of youthful sexual adventure. Based on the novel by Charles Webb, Nichols brings together an unlikely cast in a film that still feels as fresh and engaging now as it did on its release in 1967.

Following 21-year-old Ben (Dustin Hoffman) on his return from college, Bens world is thrown upside down at meeting the eloquent but predatory figure of Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft) at a family party. Thrown into a world of secret sex and adult complication, Ben’s real education in relationships becomes tied to the woman who seduces him.

In many ways, the Graduate plays to a classic fantasy of heterosexual college boys. However, in others this is a nuanced exploration of generational and sociatol change in 1960’s America. Eloquently exploring the interface between two generations seeking freedom from a restrictive family, community and society.

This is the last fleeting diversion of young man before he finds his true feelings and place in changing America. For a film so imbedded in its time, it is remarkable that it still manages to find audiences and new create new discussion, placing it as one of the all-time essential films exploring coming of age experiences.

Coupled with beautiful performances and a score that dovetails the emotions, comedy and fumbling explorations of adulthood, identity and choice. The Graduate was and still is a masterclass in filmmaking

Capernaum (2018)

Director: Nadine Labaki (Sony Pictures Classics)

Capernaum is a masterclass in film making, from direction to performances, cinematography and sound.

Nadine Lebaki leads us through the streets of Lebanon with voracity, using the camera to powerfully reflect a young boys view of his world. Creating a film where you feel Zains emotional responses, a boy lost in a big and hectic world desperately balancing the last remnants of his childhood with a forced adult existence.

Zain Al Rafeea’s performance is one of pure authenticity and beauty. You believe in him, root for him and desperately long for him to find happiness. His expressions reflect his world with no speech needed.

Capernaum echoes a Dickens novel. A sharp exploration of the no mans land between childhood and adulthood in the face of poverty, exploitation and oppression. It reminds us that a western utopian view of childhood is still far from reality for many children in our world.

The Ice Storm (1997)

Director: Ang Lee (Fox Searchlight)

Taking place during a harsh winter in thanksgiving Connecticut, Ang Lee combines repressed adult lives masquerading as the perfect family units, with the complexity of adolescent belonging, desire and escapism in a truly stunning character drama. Based in the early 1970’s during a time of social revolution and change, Lee’s interpretation of Rick Moody’s novel, is full of the judgment, insecurity and double standards inherent in parental and teenage relationships. Where parents are desperate to control the sexual awakening of their children while also still exploring their own hidden desires and sexual opportunities, in closed middle class environments where image becomes more important than honesty.

With a truly stunning cast, including Kevin Klein, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Elijah Wood, Christina Ricci and Toby Maguire. Ang Lee takes the key themes of Vietnam and Watergate into the world of sexual turmoil, discovery and liberation inherent in 70’s American society, dissecting the emerging realities of rapidly changing world.

The coming of age story of the children of two families linked by image, desire and secrets is full of satirical wit, while reflecting the interface between emerging adult desire and childhood bonds of friendship, as a foreboding sense of impending family disaster builds.

Sixteen Candles (1984)

Director: John Hughes (Universal)

Sixteen Candles is a true classic of the Hughes teen movie collection, providing beautifully timed and delivered comedy that has stood the test of time. This is a film that encapsulates the anger, joy and urgency of coming of age for girls and boys in a sweet, comedic style that still feels relevant.

Many of the building blocks the would form The Breakfast Club one year later can be found in Sixteen Candles. Especially in its ability to comically critique youth sub culture and imposed identity. And while largely overshadowed by its sister film one year later, Sixteen Candles is an incredibly funny and tender exploration of teenage life.

Dazed and Confused (1993)

Celebrating the last day of school in the summer of 1976 in Austin, Texas. Richard Linklater explores the interface between changing teenage sub cultures in a coming of age film that celebrates the complexity of teenage life and belonging in 70s America.

Just as American Graffiti explored the transition from school to adult life, while encapsulating the final years of 1950’s and early 60’s youth culture. Dazed and Confused captures mid 70’s youth culture before the transition to a 1980’s culture of wealth, power and possessions.

This is a youth culture absent of technology, and powered by alpha male initiations and bonding. Where the prerequisites of masculinity are defined by how cool you are, and whether people listened to your every word. And while many of these cultural tropes would endure into the 1980’s, a media and commercially driven society would slowly change the peer leaders into those with financial status.

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