10 of the best coming-of-age movies

Timothée Chalamet as Elio, in Call Me by Your Name

With sometimes painful, often funny but always moving stories that can define different experiences of adolescence, the coming-of-age genre never loses its power. Here are 10 movies you need to watch for the first time – or all over again


Call Me by Your Name, 2017

Few films have succeeded in capturing the thrill of first love with the same gusto as Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name. Set in the summer of 1983, Timothée Chalamet (in the role that catapulted him to super-stardom) plays 17-year-old Elio, who is staying in his family’s villa in northern Italy. When Oliver (Armie Hammer), a doctoral student interning for Elio’s father, arrives on the scene, the pieces for infatuation, friendship and heartbreak fall into place.

In one of Moonlight’s most powerful scenes, Juan (Mahershala Ali) teaches Little (Alex Hibbert) to swim

Moonlight, 2016

Winner of Best Film at the 2017 Academy Awards, Moonlight is centred on themes of identity, race and sexuality. With a searing portrayal of protagonist Chiron at three different stages of his life – youth, adolescence and early adulthood – Barry Jenkins’ masterpiece serves up a poetic coming-of-age story with none of the genre’s usual pitfalls.

Joy Luck Club deals with issues of mother-daughter dynamics

Joy Luck Club, 1993

Mother-daughter dynamics are the focus of this much-celebrated, touching movie, which is based on Amy Tan’s 1989 novel of the same name. The relationships between four Chinese-American women and their mothers, who immigrated from China, are explored, as they delve into their pasts.

Beanie Feldstein (above left) and Kaitlyn Dever as the studious Amy and Molly in Booksmart

Booksmart, 2019

Starring Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as two soon-to-be high-school graduates, Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is ripe with nostalgia and captures many of the classic characters of teenage school years. When long-time friends Amy and Molly realise on their last day of classes that their serious and studious senior year may have meant some missed opportunities, the pair decides to finally break the rules and party.

Female friendship, race and gender are all explored in Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood

Girlhood, 2014

Céline Sciamma’s French arthouse picture follows four teenage girls living in the outskirts of Paris, in an electric depiction of female friendship and the adolescent experience. Marieme’s life begins to change when she joins an all-girl gang, as they navigate the thin line between childhood and adulthood. Social pressures weigh heavy as she discovers the constrictions she is faced with because of her youth, race, class and gender.

Lady Bird, 2017

Greta Gerwig’s millennial masterpiece broke the box office and gained five Oscar nominations along the way. Loosely based on Gerwig’s youth in suburban Sacramento, Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) is a pink-haired pariah trying to deal with the pressures of prom, sex and friendship at her buttoned-up Catholic school. She chants Alanis Morissette and dreams of college on the East Coast, but her finest moments are with her mom, played by Laurie Metcalf, as they scream, cry and belly-laugh together.

Saoirse Ronan and Lucas Hedges in Lady Bird
Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, the cast of which includes Kirstin Dunst (center), follows the lives of five adolescent sisters in an upper-middle-class suburb of Detroit during the late ’70s

The Virgin Suicides, 1999

“Obviously, Doctor, you’ve never been a 13-year-old girl,” laments Cecilia Lisbon, the youngest of five sisters; a one-liner that sets the tone of this suburban teen tragedy (clue: it’s all in the title). Through Sofia Coppola’s hazy lens, we follow the girls as they navigate the adolescent milestones of desire and heartbreak, under the watchful eye of their controlling parents. Coppola’s deadly debut remains one of her best films.

An Education, 2009

Reality bites in this Nick Hornby-scripted Brit flick. Based on writer Lynn Barber’s early years, An Education is the cautionary tale of bookish schoolgirl Jenny (Carey Mulligan), who falls for the charms of a local scam artist called David (Peter Sarsgaard). He woos her with jaunts to a jazz club and escapades to Paris. But when Jenny loses her place at Oxford and uncovers David’s double life, the life lessons are an education in their own right.

Carey Mulligan (pictured with Peter Sarsgaard) was nominated for an Oscar and won a BAFTA for her portrayal as Jenny
’80s queen Molly Ringwald and Jon Cryer star in the cult classic, Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink, 1986

The original cult coming-of-age movie stars a young Molly Ringwald as Andie, the arty outsider caught in an unlikely love triangle. It’s as much an ode to girl power as it is a tale of unrequited love and high-school high drama. In the end, Andie steps out of the shadows of love-interest object and into center stage in her own life.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post, 2018

The stellar cast of this drama includes Chloë Grace Moretz as Cameron, a teen sent to a conversion camp after being caught kissing another girl. Once there, she finds a tribe of like-minded rule-breakers – including rising star Sasha Lane – not afraid to challenge the status quo. Director Desiree Akhavan (Girls alumnus and the brains behind one of 2014's best indie films, Appropriate Behavior) presents a sensitive and compelling look at the trials of teenage life and self-discovery alongside the travesty of these – very real – conversion camps.


Forrest Goodluck, Sasha Lane and Chloë Grace Moretz star in the award-winning dramedy The Miseducation of Cameron Post

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