Top 10 Coming of Age Films

Life is tough, and when you're a kid coming to terms with life, it can be especially so. Here are the films that collectively got us through:
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Life is tough, and when you're a kid coming to terms with life, it can be especially so. Here are the films that collectively got us through:

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10. Whip It

Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut is about as predictable a film as you’ll ever see, taking a classic narrative and placing it in the high-octane, all-female world of roller derby. Sure,  you know full well that Ellen Page’s mum will eventually come round to the idea that, y’know, they’re different people, but it’s still a really enjoyable ride.

9. The Wackness

The Wackness is a gloriously nostalgic film that encapsulates that time in your life when you’re on the cusp of adulthood, feeling simultaneously excited and scared as hell. Matched to a great hip-hop soundtrack, this is a flick you shouldn’t let slip under the radar.

8. Juno

If one thing is going to force you to grow up it’s a good old fashioned teenage pregnancy. Ellen Page and Michael Cera are perfectly cast as the star crossed lovers forced to deal with the reality of their situation. The characters arcs of both are tragic, hilarious and, moreover, hugely believable, the one thing that makes the film such an enduring watch.

7. Garden State

Another classic American-indie flick from the pen of Mr. Scrubs Zach Braff no less! Ok, so maybe it’s not as good now as it was when I was 15, but it still has its moments, as well as a killer soundtrack of indie-folk-electro loveliness. Peppered with Scrubs like humour throughout, one to watch for sure, especially if you like Natalie Portman and want to see her being a bit quirky and stuff.

6. Fish Tank

A beautifully understated film of how small town life can choke the life out of you unless you fight your way out. Katie Jarvis gives a stunning performance here as the young protagonist wooed by Michael Fassbender’s rough-edged charms (who could blame her, to be fair), nearly getting led down a dangerous path before sorting herself out just in time for the credits to roll. At times bleak and uncomfortable, but containing a realism that British films do so, so well.

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5. Little Miss Sunshine

A fresh take on the classic American road movie with Abigail Breslin in the starring role, supported by impeccable performances from Paul Dano, Alan Arkin and Steve Carrell. Now, as everybody knows road movies are massive metaphors whereby the road represents the journey the characters take throughout the film (didn’t do three years of film school for nothing!), therefore they’re perfect vehicles (see what I did there?) for coming-of-age narratives, in this case, pretty much everyone involved. A sweet, poignant and wonderfully directed movie, I’ll even forgive it for launching a whole slew of knockoff indiewood copycat balls.

4. Superbad

Carrying on where American Pie left off, Superbad is that age old tale of trying to get laid  told for the Judd Apatow generation. Rude, crude, and surely responsible for fostering bromances around the world, this is a film that surely won’t date as badly as its crusty predecessor.

3. Stand By Me

This tale of young kids finding a dead body in the woods helped launch the careers of the child stars involved, part of the infamous Hollywood brat-pack that also contained a young Kiefer Sutherland. The maturity of the performances from all four leads belie their tender years. Not as terrifying as some of Stephen King’s other adaptations, but just as captivating.

2. This is England

Quite simply one of the finest British films of recent years. Shane Meadows’ funny, tragic and arresting portrayal of growing up in the 80s is a coming-of-age movie for everyone involved. Everyone’s lives are in-flux it seems, mirroring the fragmented political state of Britain at the time, and the events that occur over the film change everyone irreparably. The two subsequent series’ may have elaborated on the characters and tied up some loose ends, but the original still stands alone as the masterpiece it truly is.

1. All Three Toy Story Films

Hear me out on this one. The Toy Story trilogy is the best trilogy in movie history, and I’ll happily stand on Peter Jackson’s coffee table in my Buzz Lightyear costume to say that. Obviously it’s the story of Woody and co. that carries us through the trilogy, but really, Andy’s character arc is just as, if not more important. Consider the fact that we never see his Dad. Consider the fact that his two favourite toys are strong male role models. Consider how heartbreaking it is when he has to say goodbye to Woody at the end of the third film, the toy whose heart we know is breaking inside unable to say anything back. The Toy Story films have far more layers than they are given credit for, and dammit, I’m happy to stick my neck out for them here.

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