Turbulent Times: 25 Coming Age Movies

29 mins read

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Director: Stephen Chbosky

Based on the novel of the same name published back in 1999, Chbosky’s adaptation of his book is full of honesty and sincerity in its portrayal of friendship and self-discovery during adolescence. Consequently, shining with the intensity and need for belonging inherent in youth. At the same time, dovetailing this with the self-discovery and realisation of personal development on the journey to adulthood.

Beautifully exploring the role of friendships and relationships in building identity. Perks is unafraid to show the joy of belonging and fear of isolation in equal measure. While also tackling issues of childhood trauma and abuse within a gentle yet compelling narrative.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Graduate (1967)

Director: Mike Nichols

Mike Nichols’ 1967 masterpiece is as much a discussion piece on the generational change of 60s America as it is a comedy/drama. 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.

21-year-old Ben (Dustin Hoffman) returns from college to his old family home to find little has changed. Despite the social upheaval of 60s America. However, Ben’s world is turned upside down on meeting the eloquent but predatory figure of Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft). His need for adventure finally finding a voice in a world of secret sex and adult complications. 

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

Coupled with stunning performances and a score that dovetails the emotions, comedy and fumbling explorations of adulthood. The Graduate is a fascinating journey into youthful rebellion in a changing world of sexual politics.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Ice Storm (1997)

Director: Ang Lee

Opening during a harsh winter in Connecticut, Ang Lee combines adulthood’s repression with a cutting dissection of family trust. Shining a light on the complexity of adolescent belonging, desire and escapism. At a time of social revolution and change in 1970s America, both young and old reevaluating sex, marriage and social place. The resulting film unwrapping the desire of parents to control the sexual awakening of their children. While also exploring their honesty in trying to safeguard their offspring from harm.

With a truly stunning cast, including Kevin Klein; Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen; Elijah Wood; Christina Ricci, and Toby Maguire. The Ice Storm ultimately explores a coming of age journey within the realms of a rapidly changing society.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Murmur of the Heart (1971)

‘Le souffle au coeur’

Director: Louis Malle

Set in Dijon, France, circa 1954, Louis Malle delivers a masterpiece of teenage experimentation, conflict and confusion. Malle’s film is brave and bold in exploring the sexual and emotional confusion of mid-adolescence. Alongside a mother/son relationship teeming with unspoken sexual tension. However, more than this, Murmur Of Heart is an exquisite exploration of family, belonging, and sexual urgency that continues to mesmerise and shock new audiences today.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dazed and Confused (1993)

Director: Richard Linklater

Celebrating the last day of school during the summer of 1976 in Austin, Texas. Richard Linklater perfectly encapsulates the changing teenage subculture of 70s America. At the same time, combining coming of age themes with a wider social rebirth.

Just as American Graffiti explored the transition from school to adult life in the final years of the 1950s. Dazed and Confused captures mid 70’s youth culture before transitioning to a world of 1980’s wealth, power and materialism. Reflecting a youth culture absent of technology and powered by alpha male initiations and bonding. The prerequisites of masculinity defined by how cool you were in the eyes of others. And while many of these cultural tropes would endure into the 1980s. The changing landscape of media and commercialism would equally move its leaders into those with financial status.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Why not also explore Teenage Rebels, Over the Edge (Coming Soon) and Eighth Grade

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