The “coming of age” genre of film is a rather special one. It has the ability to weave its way into many other different genres such as drama, comedy, action or even horror at times. Coming of age films are typically meant to send some form of a message about youth and how that youth is either changing or evolving as they transition into adulthood. It is a fine line that these films walk between balancing these genres and still being able to deliver these powerful messages. There is a certain energy that comes with coming of age films that is not present in other types of movies. The energy is passionate and meaningful perhaps because it is the most relateable genre.
Another coming of age film that fits this criteria releases this week, Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade.” With the release of Bo Burnham’s directorial debut this weekend, we here at Next Best Picture decided to take a look at the best coming of age films of the past decade. So without further ado here are the ten best coming of age films of the past decade!
Note that the list is just presented in alphabetical order as opposed to an actual ranking.
”Boyhood” might be the quintessential coming of age film simply because of the approach that was taken to make it. Filmed over the course of 12 years with the exact same cast, “Boyhood” chronicles the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from a young boy to his freshman year of college. “Boyhood” is approached in a rather slow manner so that we can fully understand the development of Mason and come to connect with him on a much more personal level. While the same cast members being used over the course of the 12-year journey helps us to connect with this a lot, Richard Linklater made something truly special. “Boyhood” is different because it doesn’t try to be over dramatic in any way. It focuses on a small and relatable family drama. Divorced parents, what it’s like to have a step-family, constantly switching schools, things that don’t seem as interesting of a topic on film. However, director Richard Linklater handles the material perfectly and delivers a once in a lifetime cinematic experience.
Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Choosing one specific topic to focus on or even one experience to focus on really helps a coming of age film deliver its message. It’s more difficult to try and swap between several different topics or experience’s but it has successfully been done. Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name” focuses on the experience of a first love. Following a blossoming romance between seventeen-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and an older student who is studying abroad in Italy, Oliver (Armie Hammer). The two fall in love while enjoying the nightlife of Italy, discovering and dissecting music together, escaping the hot summer days by swimming in the pool, all small interactions that have a lot of meaning and impact on a person. “Call Me By Your Name” succeeds in taking us on a journey of your first love and the feeling when that is ripped from you. The direction from Guadagnino is humanistic and lush while the performances from Chalamet and Hammer are passionate and truly show us what it’s like to experience your first love and what it’s like when it, unfortunately, has to leave you culminating in one of the most stunning final shots of the year.
”Dope” is an exciting and different take on the coming of age film. Chronicling the journey of a young African-American teenager and his goal to get into Harvard University, Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is a geek in a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles. He hangs out with his two fellow geek friends Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori). One night they attend an underground party and their lives now become an insane adventure involving drugs, gangs, and violence. “Dope” is fast-paced and presents itself in a comedic and radical kind of way. The filmmaking is vastly different than most other coming of age films but the flow of the editing and the use of music help us to connect with the characters even more so. The film jumps around a lot between different scenarios but always maintains its core message: just be yourself. Malcolm is an African-American kid from Englewood and nobody at Harvard is going to care if he has straight A’s or not, according to his teacher. But he is just like any other high-schooler trying to get into Harvard, with his own hobbies, interests, and goals. So when trying to decipher why he should be allowed to get into Harvard, the film sums it all up with one perfect line of dialogue; “If I was white would you have to ask me that question?” “Dope” is exciting, funny, emotional, and heartfelt throughout.
The Edge Of Seventeen (2016)
Kelly Fremon Craig’s directorial debut “The Edge Of Seventeen” is an amazing telling of the high-school life and how the drama seems meaningless in hindsight but at the moment, can be one of the most crushing things you ever experience. High-school is already soul-crushing enough for Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) but once her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her brother, things get even more complicated. Craig’s film focuses more on the interactions between characters and gives Hailee Steinfeld a lot of realistic, vulgar and hysterical dialogue to chew on. Instead of trying to do anything fancy with the filmmaking, Craig’s film simply puts the center of attention on the actors and how each one of them interacts with one another. Each character talks to each other differently and has different body language when in a scene together. The direction is ridiculously confident and it is so exciting to watch how Craig directs these actors to their performances. Taking a realistic approach to a fascinating character such as Nadine leaves this coming of age film as one of the more underrated movies of the decade.
Lady Bird (2017)
Greta Gerwig’s first solo directing project “Lady Bird” is a heartfelt and personal project to Gerwig and that shows in every frame on the screen. Simplicity is something that truly works when it comes to the coming of age genre, as we’ve seen with some of the other films on this list, and the simplicity of it all isn’t a bad thing by any means. Choosing to focus simply on the characters, their development, and how they interact with one another is something that will forever work when it comes to this genre. Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) lives in Sacramento, California who wishes to achieve more than what is being presented to her. Instead of doing the comfortable thing and staying in her hometown and going to community college, she wants to experience the world and go to New York for college. The comedy in the film is entertaining and works on multiple levels thanks to Gerwig’s pitch-perfect pacing, direction, and guidance of the performances. The drama is emotional and is heartbreaking at times, the dialogue that is specifically shared between Christine and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) is so well crafted and executed, it definitely deserves all of the praise that it received upon its initial release.
Barry Jenkins’ sophomore film is a downright brilliant one. Not only is it immaculately made but the emotions that seep off of the screen from the performances of the actors is simply beautiful. Chronicling the story of a gay African-American man’s life in a tough neighborhood in Miami through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. The film is not only gorgeously shot, edited and scored but there is a certain energy that comes with Jenkins’ film. While all coming of age films are made with emotion and passion there is a whole other level of this applied to “Moonlight.” We are introduced to Chiron, the main character of “Moonlight,” in close-ups and are meant to figure out who he is through the visuals and the editing of the story. We are intimately more attached to Chiron because of how the camera treats him. The camera treats him as something special, which is how he is referred to by those around him, so we connect with him through this. We see the world through his eyes and understand his emotions. We care for him on a much more intimate level than we do for most other characters in different types of films and that is what makes Jenkins’ film so unique.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
What is probably the most feel-good movie on this list, Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” is a film that chronicles the love between two kids at a summer camp and their escape from that camp which causes an intense search party from the locals. As we know, Anderson is a maestro with his set pieces and with his camera, which results in his distinct style that has garnered him praise from both critics and audiences. But when Anderson chooses to mix his technical ability with an interesting story, his work becomes elevated to a higher level. “Moonrise Kingdom” is a film that is so homey and warm that it is just pure bliss to watch. The interactions between the young couple are innocent and nostalgic, the color scheme is pleasing to look at, and everything that makes Anderson great is turned up to eleven here. “Moonrise Kingdom” focuses more on just an enjoyable viewing experience that is meant to remind you of what its like to be a kid again which is why this particular coming of age film from the famous auteur director works the best.
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)
”The Perks Of Being A Wallflower” is a film that I think a lot of people tend to forget about when it comes to this specific genre. The film focuses on the aspect of friendship within the coming of age genre, which seems to often get overlooked. While this film is told from Charlie’s perspective, played by Logan Lerman, the heart of the film still lies with the friends he makes in Patrick and Sam. The way Charlie, Sam, and Patrick interact feels so authentic and comes across like a purely true friendship. There are arguments, realistic jokes and people making fun of one another. There’s a connection through the music. These are all things which make friends become even better friends and we feel that translated through the screen. “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower” still sticks to the core roots that come with the genre but it also does put attention on what it’s like being in high-school making for a genuine, heartbreaking and touching film altogether.
Sing Street (2016)
Ahh, love and music, two things that just about everyone in the world can relate to. The insanely underrated “Sing Street” is a film that balances both of these life elements flawlessly. It’s a simple story about a new kid at school who starts a band to explore his love for music and then ends up falling in love with a girl and he uses his music to express his love for the girl. The soundtrack is absolutely killer and the stakes are so low in this film allowing us to enjoy the easier aspects of life as they are presented by writer/director John Carney. It’s so lighthearted and one hell of a good time. “Sing Street” focuses on the music and how music can change people’s lives and what the outlet of music can do for someone or in this case how it can help someone grow as a person. “Sing Street” is a small film but with a big heart and the mixture of music and first love is beautifully executed.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Nothing screams “coming of age” like that moment in life when you have to get rid of your favorite childhood toys. “Toy Story 3” brought on the waterworks for a ton of us. It’s as heartbreaking as it is heartwarming. While it holds all of the nostalgia from the first “Toy Story” film, “Toy Story 3” brings on some modern struggles that those who saw it as a kid are facing now as adults. But it brings a lot of human element to the story by constantly involving Andy more so than the other films. Andy is going to college and he has to get rid of his toys and at first, it seems that he doesn’t care about giving them away but as the film progresses he realizes how much they actually mean to him. Everyone has had a favorite toy as a child and everyone remembers the day that they either lost it or had to give it away. The ending to “Toy Story 3” is world shattering and brought tears to every adult in the audience in just about every theater worldwide upon its release. Obviously I’m exaggerating a bit, but this film treats something that seems so meaningless and inconsequential as an act that weighs the weight of the world. It’s beautiful and warm and definitely qualifies as a coming of age film and is easily one of the best.
Are you excited for Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade?” What is your favorite coming of age film from the decade so far? Did we leave anything off of the list that you would like to show some love to? Let us know down in the comments section below.
You can follow Josh and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @josh_williams09