A coming-of-age story is one that chronicles the passage into adulthood. Coming of age as a theme can also be found in literature and drama, such as Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, which follows Pip’s journey from childhood innocence to adult wisdom.

In this list we’ve selected the best coming of age movies with a young person at their center; some are funny, some are sad, and others are a little bit of both.

So, let’s take a look at the best coming of age movies that everyone (not just teenagers) should watch.

Best Coming Of Age Movies

What Are coming of age movies?

Coming of age movies are sometimes known, are a genre of film that focuses on the experiences of youth, particularly during the period between childhood and adulthood.

The typical coming-of-age drama tends to center on a young person who is going through a tough period of self-discovery and self-definition, and often features a teenage main character.

Titles in this genre may cover subjects such as rites of passage, sexuality and gender roles, oppression and discrimination, bullying, exam stress and first love.



Best Coming of Age Movies

For many of us, the coming of age movie is the first introduction to a life outside of our own.

It’s a glimpse into how our peers live their lives and what they do when they’re not in school.

Sometimes, it’s even a look into how we wish we were living our lives.

Let’s take a look at what we believe to be the best coming of age movies ever made.

Rebel Without A Cause (1955)

Rebel Without A Cause (1955) is an iconic film that captures the essence of teenage rebellion and angst in the 1950s. James Dean’s portrayal of Jim Stark, a troubled teenager who is searching for a sense of belonging and purpose, is electrifying and raw.

From the opening scene, where Jim is brought to the police station after a drunken altercation, to the dramatic final moments at the Griffith Observatory, Rebel Without A Cause takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. The film explores themes of family dynamics, societal pressures, and the struggle to find one’s identity.

Natalie Wood’s performance as Judy, the girl caught between two boys, is equally captivating. Her vulnerability and confusion are palpable, and her chemistry with Dean is undeniable.

Director Nicholas Ray’s use of color and lighting adds to the film’s visual impact, with the red jacket worn by Dean becoming an iconic symbol of youthful rebellion.

Rebel Without A Cause is a timeless classic that still resonates with audiences today. It’s a must-see for anyone interested in the history of cinema or the teenage experience.

Rebel Without a Cause (Blu-ray)
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Various (Actor)
  • Various (Director)
  • English, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

The Graduate (1967)

“The Graduate” is a timeless classic that explores the complexities of youth, love, and societal expectations. Dustin Hoffman delivers a standout performance as Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate who finds himself aimlessly drifting through life until he becomes embroiled in a scandalous affair with the older and seductive Mrs. Robinson, played brilliantly by Anne Bancroft.

As the story unfolds, we witness the struggle of a young man trying to find his place in the world amidst the pressures of conformity and the expectations of his parents. Director Mike Nichols masterfully captures the mood of the era, using Simon and Garfunkel’s iconic soundtrack to set the tone for the film’s underlying themes.

Despite being over 50 years old, “The Graduate” remains relevant today, resonating with audiences who continue to grapple with issues of identity, purpose, and the search for meaning in a world that can often feel overwhelming. This film is a must-see for anyone who appreciates great storytelling, memorable performances, and impactful cinema.

The Graduate (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross (Actors)
  • Mike Nichols (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

American Graffiti (1973)

American Graffiti is a timeless classic that takes us back to the 1960s, a time when cruising and rock n’ roll were the order of the day. Set in Modesto, California, the film follows a group of high school seniors as they navigate through their last night before heading off to college.

The film is a masterpiece of storytelling, with a powerful script and a fantastic cast that includes Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, and Harrison Ford. The film’s soundtrack is also a standout, featuring some of the most iconic songs from the era.

The film beautifully captures the essence of the 1960s, with its fashion, cars, and music. It’s a perfect time capsule of a bygone era that still manages to resonate with audiences today.

Director George Lucas’s love letter to his own youth is a masterclass in creating a film that is both nostalgic and timeless. The characters are relatable, the dialogue is sharp, and the humor is spot-on.

Overall, American Graffiti is a film that will transport you back in time and leave you with a smile on your face. It’s a must-see for anyone who loves classic cinema, rock n’ roll, or just a good coming-of-age story.

More American Graffiti
  • Ron Howard;Cindy Williams;Charles Martin Smith;Paul Le Mat;Mackenzie Phillips (Actor)
  • Bill L. Norton (Director)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

Breaking Away (1979)

Breaking Away (1979) is a coming-of-age film that is sure to leave a lasting impression. Set in Bloomington, Indiana, the film follows a group of four friends who are trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives after high school. The protagonist, Dave, is a working-class kid who dreams of becoming a professional cyclist.

The film is beautifully shot, with stunning visuals of the Indiana countryside that capture the essence of small-town America. The performances are also top-notch, with Dennis Christopher delivering a standout performance as Dave. He perfectly captures the struggles of a young man trying to find his place in the world.

What sets Breaking Away apart from other coming-of-age films is its exploration of class and identity. Dave’s working-class background makes him feel like an outsider in the world of the college students he encounters. The film is a powerful commentary on the American Dream and the challenges that individuals from different backgrounds face in trying to achieve it.

Overall, Breaking Away is a timeless classic that deserves to be watched by anyone who loves a good coming-of-age story. It’s a heartwarming and thought-provoking film that will stay with you long after the credits roll. Highly recommended.

Cotton Candy (1979)

Cotton Candy (1979) is a fun and lighthearted that captures essence of high school the late 70s. Directed by Ron Howard, the film follows the journey of a group of misfit high school students who form a band called Cotton Candy in hopes of winning a music competition.

The film is filled with catchy tunes and energetic performances, with standout performances from Mark Wheeler as the lead singer and Charles Martin Smith as the band’s manager. The chemistry between the cast is palpable, and their passion for music is infectious.

What sets Cotton Candy apart from other high school musical films is its ability to capture the teenage experience beyond just the music. The film tackles issues such as peer pressure, romance, and self-discovery. It’s a reminder of the joys and pains of adolescence, and how music can serve as a form of therapy.

Overall, Cotton Candy is a feel-good film that will leave you tapping your feet and humming its catchy tunes. It’s a must-watch for fans of music and coming-of-age films.

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Heath Ledger, Abbie Cornish, Geoffrey Rush (Actors)
  • Neil Armfield (Director) - Margaret Fink (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Sixteen Candles (1984)

Sixteen Candles (1984) is a classic coming-of-age film that still resonates with audiences today. Directed by John Hughes, the film tells the story of Samantha, a high school sophomore who is struggling to find her place in the world. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, Samantha’s family forgets about her special day, causing her to feel invisible and unimportant.

The film is filled with relatable characters, from Samantha’s crush Jake Ryan to her quirky grandparents. Molly Ringwald delivers a standout performance as Samantha, capturing the emotional highs and lows of teenage life with authenticity and charm.

The film’s themes of teenage angst, identity, and the for love and acceptance still relevant today, making Sixteen Candles a timeless classic. The soundtrack is also a standout feature, featuring iconic 80s hits such as “If You Were Here” by Thompson Twins and “True” by Spandau Ballet.

Overall, Sixteen Candles is a must-watch for anyone who has ever felt like they didn’t quite fit in. It’s a heartfelt and hilarious film that will leave you feeling nostalgic for days gone by.

Sixteen Candles
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Michael Schoeffling (Actors)
  • John Hughes (Director) - John Hughes (Writer) - Hilton A. Green (Producer)
  • Spanish, English (Playback Language)
  • Spanish, English (Subtitles)

The Breakfast Club (1985)

The Breakfast Club is a timeless classic that captures the angst and turmoil of high school in the 80s. This John Hughes masterpiece tells the story of students from different cliques – the jock, the brain, the rebel, the princess, and the outcast – who find themselves in detention on a Saturday morning.

As the day unfolds, they begin to peel back the layers of their personalities and reveal their vulnerabilities, fears, and hopes. The film tackles themes of identity, conformity, peer pressure, and societal expectations with humor, heart, and honesty.


The performances by the young cast are outstanding, with each actor bringing depth and nuance to their character. The standout is undoubtedly Judd Nelson as the tough-talking rebel, John Bender, who delivers some of the film’s most memorable lines.

The Breakfast Club is a coming-of-age story that still resonates with audiences today. It’s a reminder that despite our differences, we all have more in common than we think. This film is a must-watch for anyone who has ever felt misunderstood, out of place, or just trying to figure it all out.

The Breakfast Club
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall (Actors)
  • John Hughes (Director) - Todd Lincoln (Writer) - Ned Tanen (Producer)
  • English, Spanish (Playback Language)
  • English, Spanish (Subtitles)

Vision Quest (1985)

Vision Quest (1985) is a coming-of-age sports drama that follows high school wrestler Louden Swain (Matthew Modine) as he sets out to achieve his ultimate goal: defeating the undefeated state champion. Along the way, he meets a beautiful older woman (Linda Fiorentino) who challenges him in more ways than one.

This film is a classic example of the 80s sports movie genre, complete with a killer soundtrack featuring artists like Madonna and Journey. But what sets Vision Quest apart is its emphasis on character development and emotional depth. Modine delivers a standout performance as Louden, capturing both his determination and vulnerability with nuance and authenticity.

Fiorentino is equally impressive as Carla, the enigmatic artist who becomes Louden’s muse. Their scenes together are electric, filled with tension and longing. And while the wrestling matches themselves are exciting, it’s the personal stakes that make them truly compelling.

Overall, Vision Quest is a well-crafted film that balances heart and grit. It’s a must-see for fans of the genre, and a reminder of why the 80s produced some of the most memorable sports movies of all time.

Vision Quest
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Matthew Modine, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Schoeffling (Actors)
  • Harold Becker (Director) - Terry Davis (Writer) - Adam Fields (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Stand By Me (1986)

Stand By Me (1986) is a timeless coming-of-age classic that captures the essence of childhood friendships and the bittersweet journey of growing up. Directed by Rob Reiner, the film is based on Stephen King’s novella “The Body” and tells the story of four best friends who embark on a journey to find a dead body, encountering numerous obstacles and life lessons along the way.

The film is a beautiful tribute to the innocence of youth and the importance of friendship. The performances of the young cast, including River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell, are remarkable and truly capture the essence of their characters. The chemistry between the four boys is palpable and their conversations are both hilarious and poignant.

The cinematography by Thomas Del Ruth is breathtaking, capturing the stunning landscapes of Oregon and adding to the film’s nostalgic and wistful tone. The soundtrack, featuring classic hits from the 1950s, perfectly complements the film’s setting and themes.

Stand By Me is a film that stays with you long after the credits roll, reminding us of the power of childhood friendships and the importance of cherishing the fleeting moments of youth. It is a true cinematic gem that deserves to be watched and rewatched by generations to come.

Stand by Me
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman (Actors)
  • Rob Reiner (Director) - Bruce A. Evans (Writer) - Andrew Scheinman (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)