Best Coming-of-Age Movies

WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley ranks the best coming-of-age movies of all time in the gallery below.

Not seeing your favorite movie? It’s probably in a different genre! Check out the full list here.

30. ‘American Pie’ (1999) – Paul Weitz

“This one time … at band camp” a movie came along that captured Generation Y in the way that “Fast Times” did for Generation X.

29. ‘Rushmore’ (1998) – Wes Anderson

After his breakthrough “Bottle Rocket,” this high school gem starring Jason Schwartzman cemented Wes Anderson as an auteur for a new generation.

28. ‘Roma’ (2018) – Alfonso Cuaron

Alfonso Cuaron’s semi-autobiographical tale of growing up in 1970s Mexico City features some of the most stunning cinematography you’ll ever see.

27. ‘Amarcord’ (1973) – Federico Fellini

Translating to “I Remember,” Fellini’s semi-autobiographical tale plays like a series of nostalgic vignettes in a 1930s Italian coastal town filled with the quirky characters of his adolescence.

26. ‘Mean Girls’ (2004) – Mark Waters

Tina Fey penned a “fetch” script as Lindsay Lohan tries to join the elite clique The Plastics and falls for the ex-boyfriend of Rachel McAdams’ Regina George.

25. ‘Pretty in Pink’ (1986) – Howard Deutch

John Hughes penned this ’80s flick where Molly Ringwald is embarrassed of her low-income status and Jon Cryer’s Duckie is hopelessly in love with her.

24. ‘Clueless’ (1995) – Amy Heckerling

Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd and Brittany Murphy star in Amy Heckerling’s teen comedy touchstone that taught everyone the valley girl phrase, “As if!”

23. ‘Superbad’ (2007) – Greg Mottola

Jonah Hill and Michael Cera cracked us up as a pair of co-dependent buddies booping noses, making fake ID’s for McLovin’ and trying to win the heart of Emma Stone.

22. ‘Closely Watched Trains’ (1966) – Jiri Menzel

The sexual awakening of a young train dispatcher is one of the definitive films from the Czech New Wave.

21. ‘Splendor in the Grass’ (1961) – Elia Kazan

Warren Beatty made his film debut as a high school jock dating the virginal flower of Natalie Wood, who slowly goes insane under pressure by her parents and society as Elia Kazan directs with symbolic imagery.

20. ‘Y Tu Mama También’ (2001) – Alfonso Cuaron

Two Mexican teens embark on a road trip with a stranger in this coming-of-age masterpiece that put Alfonso Cuaron on the map.

19. ‘Saturday Night Fever’ (1977) – John Badham

Few moments are as iconic as John Travolta coming of age in Brooklyn discotheques set to The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” in one of the best-selling soundtracks in movie history.

18. ‘Pather Panchali’ (1955) – Satyajit Ray

“Pather Panchali” not only put Indian cinema on the map, but it also launched the Apu Trilogy for child actor Subir Banerjee.

17. ‘Lady Bird’ (2017) – Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut brilliantly showed the mother-daughter tensions between Saiorse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf.

16. ‘Dead Poets Society’ (1989) – Peter Weir

Robin Williams was the teacher we all wished to have, causing Ethan Hawke to stand on his desk to say, “Captain, my captain!”

15. ‘The Breakfast Club’ (1985) – John Hughes

“Don’t you forget about” this Brat Pack classic that allowed John Hughes to break down high-school cliques.

14. ‘Stand By Me’ (1986) – Rob Reiner

River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell are etched in time as four friends searching for a dead body in Rob Reiner’s adaptation of the Stephen King short story “The Body.”

13. ‘Diner’ (1982) – Barry Levinson

This Baltimore gem made stars of Steve Guttenberg, Mickey Rourke, Daniel Stern, Kevin Bacon, Tim Daly and Paul Reiser.

12. ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ (1986) – John Hughes

“Bueller? Bueller?” Matthew Broderick oozed charisma playing hooky from high school for a Chicago road trip. Oh yeah …

11. ‘The Last Picture Show’ (1971) – Peter Bogdanovich

Youngsters Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd became stars, while Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman showed small-town decay.

10. ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ (1955) – Nicholas Ray

“You’re tearing me apart!” A posthumous James Dean wooed Natalie Wood with “chickie races” and planetarium visits.

9. ‘Boyz N the Hood’ (1991) – John Singleton

Laurence Fishburne’s Furious Styles was the perfect role model for Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube and Morris Chestnut, teaching lessons of gentrification and fatherly responsibility.

8. ‘The 400 Blows’ (1959) – Francois Truffaut

Francois Truffaut’s directorial debut captured juvenile delinquency with brilliant authenticity, launching the career of Jean-Pierre Léaud as Antoine Doinel.

7. ‘Good Will Hunting’ (1997) – Gus Van Sant

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck penned an Oscar-winning script, while Robin Williams took home the gold saying, “It’s not your fault.”

6. ‘Dazed and Confused’ (1993) – Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater captured ’70s high school parties with a classic rock soundtrack and the debut of Matthew McConaughey’s “alright, alright, alright.”

5. ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ (1982) – Amy Heckerling

Sean Penn’s half-baked stoner Jeff Spicoli epitomized this ’80s high school time capsule starring Jennifer Jason Leigh growing up to the timeless tunes of Jackson Browne and The Go-Go’s.

4. ‘American Graffiti’ (1973) – George Lucas

George Lucas’ breakthrough featured a wall-to-wall soundtrack, classic hot rods and a young cast of Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Mackenzie Phillips, Harrison Ford and Suzanne Somers.

3. ‘The Graduate’ (1967) – Mike Nichols

From fish tanks to scuba divers, Mike Nichols delivered the most symbolic directing ever put on film as Anne Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson seduced Dustin Hoffman to Simon & Garfunkel’s iconic ’60s soundtrack.

2. ‘Moonlight’ (2016) – Barry Jenkins

Barry Jenkins landed a deserving Best Picture upset and changed black male stereotypes forever as we watched Chiron’s gradual “coming out” in three slices of life over three different ages.

1. ‘Boyhood’ (2014) – Richard Linklater

The greatest coming-of-age film experiment allowed us to literally watch a kid grow up in real time as Richard Linklater filmed a longitudinal study in annual increments over 12 years for time-capsule snippets of life.

Check out the other genres below!

Action | Adventure | Animation | Biopic | Comedy | Coming of Age | Courtroom | Crime | Documentary | Drama | Epic | Family Comedy | Family Drama | Fantasy | Film Noir | Gangster | Horror | Musical | Mystery | Politics & Media | Prison | Romance | Romantic Comedy | Science Fiction | Showbiz | Silent | Sports | Thriller | War | Western

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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