10 Best Coming-Of-Age Movies For Every Generation

Some of the best coming-of-age movies of all time include The Breakfast Club, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Dazed and Confused.

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Updated

Dead Poets Society (1989) Directed by Peter Weir Shown: Robin Williams

In every generation, a new coming-of-age movie is released in theaters (or on streaming as is more common nowadays), but whether the film takes place 30 years ago or in the modern day, the themes about the trials and tribulations of growing up are something that everyone can relate to. That’s why we’ve created this list of the best coming-of-age movies ever made, so whether you’re currently going through the drama of being a teenager or if you’re now reliving it through your kids, these movies are something that everyone can enjoy.

Boyhood (2014)
coming-of-age movies

Topping the list as the best coming-of-age movie for every generation, Boyhood, released in 2014, follows the life of a child from kindergarten to graduating high school. Literally. Ellar Coltrane plays Mason from the ages six to eighteen as the movie was filmed one year at a time from 2002 to 2013.

Richard Linklater is the mastermind behind this unique storytelling of adolescence. Linklater (who is also known for another unusual production, A Scanner Darkly) wrote the film one year at a time after watching the previous year’s footage and incorporating changes in the main actors’ appearances and personal life experiences. The film was praised for how the epic production scale managed to tell an intimate story about human life.

In addition to Coltrane, Boyhood also stars Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Elijah Smith, and Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei Linklater as Mason’s sister Samantha.

Lady Bird (2017)
coming-of-age movies

Greta Gerwig is currently making headlines for Barbie, the live-action movie based on the Mattel doll. But before she brought Malibu Barbie to life, Gerwig made her solo directorial debut with Lady Bird in 2017, a coming-of-age movie about an artistically inclined 17-year-old girl.

Lady Bird brings the audience on a journey filled with the trials and tribulations of growing up. With the perfect blend of comedy and drama, Lady Bird stunned critics and was named as one of the best films of the year. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, won two Golden Globes, and was nominated for three BAFTAs.

The film stars Saoirse Ronan as the titular and self-proclaimed Lady Bird, as well as Lauren Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, and Timothee Chalamet.

Eighth Grade (2018)
coming-of-age movies

Eighth Grade comes from the mind of comedy genius YouTuber-turned-stand-up-comedian-turned-actor-writer-and-director Bo Burnham. The film was his writing and directing debut and was released in 2018, three years before his comedy special Inside showed viewers how the pandemic was detrimental to mental health through the lens of dark comedy.

Eighth Grade is a coming-of-age story about an introverted teenage girl who is doing everything she can to survive the last week of middle school before entering the scary world of high school the next year. The film highlights what it’s like to struggle with mental health at a time when social media encourages everyone to post (fake versions) of their life online.

Despite being a coming-of-age story placed in the modern day, this is a film that any generation can enjoy as the challenges the main character, Kayla Day, faces are similar to what we all went through during that time in our lives. The film stars Elsie Fischer as Kayla, Josh Hamilton as her single father, and features appearances by Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan, Daniel Zolghadri, and Fred Hechinger.

Stand by Me (1986)
coming-of-age movies

While Stephen King is known mostly for his horror novels, the author has dabbled in the occasional coming-of-age story, like 1986’s Stand by Me, based on King’s novella, “The Body.”

This coming-of-age movie follows a group of boys who go on a hike into the backwoods of Oregon to find a missing body and the misadventures they face along the way. The original story was based largely on Stephen King’s own childhood. Legend says that when the author saw a screening of the movie, he had to excuse himself for fifteen minutes to compose himself, saying that it was the best film adaption of one of his books made thus far. 

Stand By Me stars Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix (Joaquin Phoenix’s late brother), Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, and Kiefer Sutherland.

Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, is the story of a young African-American man who struggles with his personal identity and sexuality while growing up. The film stars Trevante Rhodes as the adult version of Juan, the main character, and is based on the book, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. It was critically appraised for telling a story that is rarely seen in cinema. 

The film was nominated for a total of 288 awards, including eight Academy Awards, of which it won three (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor – Mahershala Ali, and Best Adapted Screenplay). In addition to Ali, the film also stars Naomie Harris (who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress), and Alex R. Hibbert.

Dazed and Confused (1993)
coming-of-age movies

Dazed and Confused makes for the second Richard Linklater film to make it on the list of the 10 best coming-of-age movies for every generation, only this 1993 comedy is drastically different than Linklater’s Boyhood. Dazed and Confused is a comedy that follows a group of high school and junior high school students on the last day of school in the mid-1970s. The film is made up of an ensemble cast, many of whom later became major movie stars, like Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck.

In the 30 years since the film came out, Dazed and Confused has garnered quite a legacy, including a major cult following. It is also on Quentin Tarantino’s list of his 10 favorite movies of all time. The film has been praised for its funny script, killer soundtrack, and relatable look into the life of teenagers. 

In addition to Affleck and McConaughey, Dazed and Confused also stars Jason London, Milla Jovovich, Cole Hauser, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, Nicky Katt, Joey Lauren Adams, and Rory Cochrane.

Almost Famous (2000)
coming-of-age movies

From the mind of the guy who brought you Tom Cruise’s Jerry McGuire, Almost Famous is the story of a teenage journalist who has the opportunity to tour with and cover a rock and roll band for Rolling Stone magazine. The film was written and directed by Cameron Crowe and stars Billy Crudup, Patrick Fugit, and Kate Hudson.

Almost Famous was released to widespread critical acclaim and quickly became known as one of the best coming-of-age movies ever set to screen. It’s a film that is both funny and heartfelt as well as well-acted and written.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and won Best Original Screenplay for Crowe.

The Breakfast Club (1985)
coming-of-age movies

The Breakfast Club is the coming-of-age movie to end all coming-of-age movies. It’s a film that is required to be watched before you turn 18 or else the government won’t give you your adult card or something. 

Written and directed by the king of coming-of-age films, John Hughes (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, etc.), The Breakfast Club focuses on five high school students who couldn’t be more different from one another as they are trapped one Saturday afternoon in detention together. As they suffer through the hours, they begin to realize that they have more in common with one another than they thought.

The Breakfast Club stars Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall, and Paul Gleason. 

Dead Poets Society (1989)
coming-of-age movies

Robin Williams stars in this coming-of-age movie classic that was written by Tom Schulman and directed by Peter Weir. The movie tells the story of a nonconformist teacher who is determined to use poetry to encourage his boarding school students to find their self-expression. 

When the film was released, critics were torn about whether or not Dead Poets Society deserved the title of being a good film. While some praised Williams for reigning in his outlandish comedic ways and delivering a serious and inspiring performance as the teacher John Keating, others criticized that even without strapping on his full-on comedic buffoonery, Williams was still too silly for the role. But, whether the critics liked it or not, Dead Poets Society has gone down as a beloved classic coming-of-age movie that has been loved for generations.

In addition to Williams, the film also stars Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, Gale Hansen, Dylan Kussman, and Allelon Ruggiero.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
coming-of-age movies

The Perks of Being a Wallflower was based on a book by the same name, published in 1999. Stephen Chbosky wrote the original coming-of-age novel and held out on selling the movie rights until someone came along who allowed him to both write the script of the movie and direct it as well. 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows a high school freshman named Charlie who writes to an unknown friend about the challenges of growing up while simultaneously dealing with (unbeknownst to him) post-traumatic stress disorder. The film stars Logan Lerman as Charlie and Emma Watson and Ezra Miller as his two best friends, Sam and Patrick. It also features supporting appearances from Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott, and Kate Walsh.

The film received generally high reviews from critics, including from the often tough-to-please Roger Ebert, who said his adolescent self would have loved this coming-of-age movie. While the film wasn’t nominated for an Oscar or Golden Globe, it did win the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Dramatic Movie and Favorite Dramatic Movie Actress (Watson).