Coming of Age

Departure
Departure

Teenage years can be a scary experience. They can also be fun, passionate, daring and hugely impactful. In the coming of age film - defined by the transition from adolescence into adulthood through a legal, sexual, spiritual or emotional maturity - these experiences are captured beautifully in a number of different, but equally engaging, ways.

For films which smartly explore transition for younger children, see our separate film list.

Boyhood

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration159 mins

Boyhood(2014)

Shot over 12 years, Richard Linklater follows a boy from Austin as he grows from childhood to college age, in this laidback, poignant and unique epic.

Is Boyhood the most ambitious coming-of-age film of them all? A phenomenon when it hit cinemas in 2014, this is a unique vision from acclaimed director Richard Linklater, mirroring the genre through its production process. It cleverly chronicles the development of Mason – a boy like any other – from the age of six up until the point of leaving home for college.

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Bande De Filles (Girlhood)

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration110 mins

Bande De Filles (Girlhood)(2014)

Energetic and honest coming-of-age drama about a teenager’s new friendship with a group of girls in the suburbs of Paris.

Coincidence or not, films exploring a similar subject often come in pairs; Girlhood arrived in UK cinemas just ten months after Linklater’s film. The material, though, is in many ways a very different beast. It has a streak of maturity running right through it, yet the softer moments, such as the group’s wholehearted version of Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’, are a joy.

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Departure

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration108 mins

Departure(2015)

A teenager falls in love with a local biker boy whilst staying in his French holiday home with his mother.

Exploring a very different side of France – set in the south of the country – is Departure. Taking place across a sizzling summer, it sees a sensitive and precocious young boy called Elliot fall in love with a local biker boy. As well as delicately encapsulating teenage lust and desire, the film also emphasises the bond between mother and son to good effect.

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52 Tuesdays

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration110 mins

52 Tuesdays(2013)

Australian coming-of-age drama about a sixteen-year-old’s weekly meetings with her mother, who is undergoing gender reassignment.

This Australian film puts sexuality under the microscope from an unfamiliar perspective. A parent-daughter relationship is at the centre of the film, with mother Jane undergoing gender reassignment surgery, identifying as James. This provokes a maturity for daughter Billie, with the film – taking its cue from Boyhood – shot over 52 consecutive weeks.

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It Follows

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration98 mins

It Follows(2014)

19-year-old Jay discovers that she’s being relentlessly stalked by a deadly spirit after spending the night with her new boyfriend.

David Robert Mitchell’s debut feature The Myth of the American Sleepover is a well-made coming-of-age film, but his follow-up It Follows is an even more interesting take on the topic. This is a horror inflected gem, marked by the absence of adults. Here it’s sexual awakening under the microscope, with protagonist Jay receiving a sexually-transmitted disease like no other.

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Chronicle

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration85 mins

Chronicle(2012)

Low-budget, sci-fi tale about superpowers, using realistic found footage about three American teenagers developing superpowers.

From horror to fantasy, as the everyday lives of three teenage boys are transformed when they stumble upon a strange glowing substance. Afforded incredible abilities, they soon discover that with great power comes great responsibility. Chronicle demonstrates what happens when matters get out of control, and breathes new life into the found-footage genre in doing so.

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Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration107 mins

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World(2010)

Full of rock music, graphics and hilarious performances, this full-on assault on the senses sees our shy hero Scott fight for the girl of his dreams.

An entirely different type of fantasy on show here, though equally visual, in the form of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. High on video game references (and set within this world), this graphic novel adaptation sees the eponymous Scott having to battle the seven evil exes of his new dream girlfriend. A typically funny, witty and heartfelt delight from director Edgar Wright.

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Sing Street

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration106 mins

Sing Street(2016)

Forced to change schools and fed up of hearing his parents arguing, 15-year-old Conor forms a band to impress a mysterious older girl.

Continuing the musical theme – this time in a more naturalised setting – is an Irish sensation. John Carney has a gift for blending music and film as demonstrated with Once, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Sing Street brilliantly captures the rite of passage triangle that is young love, teenage bands and the trials of youth in this toe-tapping delight.

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American Graffiti

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration112 mins

American Graffiti(1973)

Set in 1962 this bittersweet comedy follows recently graduated high school students as they negotiate the last summer before adulthood.

School and coming-of-age are intertwined topics, and American Graffiti – helmed by Star Wars creator George Lucas – is a film which, much like Dazed and Confused, looks at the dream-like days that bridge adolescence and adulthood. These films can be defined as the end of an era; coming-of-age in all its sentimental, scary glory.

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What Richard Did

Cert15

Age group14–16

Duration88 mins

What Richard Did(2012)

This powerful drama examines what drives seemingly pleasant people to commit terrible actions that have devastating consequences.

But there are far worse things than leaving school behind, and What Richard Did – from acclaimed director Lenny Abrahamson, who would go on to explore emotional immaturity and vulnerability in both Frank and Room – doesn’t let us forget it. An 18-year-old Irish boy seems to have it all, but makes a split-second decision which changes more than one life forever.

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Sunset Song

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration133 mins

Sunset Song(2015)

Adaptation of a classic Scottish novel about a young farmer girl's coming of age at the beginning of the 20th century.

From Ireland to Scotland, another rich resource of vivid stories. Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher has long been a staple of the genre since its turn-of-the-century release, but Sunset Song – an adaptation of one of the country’s classic novels – is a superb contender to the throne from revered filmmaker Terence Davies, with Peter Mullan in typically fine form.

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Submarine

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration93 mins

Submarine(2010)

Coming-of-age comedy following Welsh schoolboy Oliver, who has two objectives; to lose his virginity and to stop his mother from leaving his father.

And on to Wales to complete the Celtic trio, and to Submarine which follows in the footsteps of French New Wave filmmakers such as Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. Swansea schoolboy Oliver Tate desperately tries to fix the love life of his parents – as well as his own – in this darkly comedic, confident debut from all-rounder Richard Ayoade.

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration98 mins

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl(2015)

Outsider-by-choice and keen amateur filmmaker Greg is mortified when his mother forces him to befriend a seriously ill classmate.

From film influences behind-the-camera to filmmaking in front of it, with the subject of terminal illness tackled by this American indie in an eccentric yet heartfelt way. Death is a particularly difficult topic to present on-screen for a teen audience – especially in earnest – but Me and Earl and the Dying Girl reminds us how creativity can serve to strengthen and heal.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration98 mins

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

The joys and heartbreaks of growing up are beautifully handled in this captivating coming-of-age story that balances emotion with humour.

Self-adapted by the author of the book for the big screen, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a beloved creation in both formats. This is another production which doesn’t shy away from darker, tougher themes, but is all the better for it. Counterbalancing these issues with scenes of joy, hope and laughter is no easy task, but Perks does so deftly.

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An Education

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration96 mins

An Education(2009)

A stylish Nick Hornby adaptation which sees bookish Jenny's life take a romantic turn on the eve of her A-levels in 1960s London.

Another adaptation, set back on this side of the Atlantic Ocean in 1960s London. Featuring Carey Mulligan’s breakthrough performance, it provides an alluring opportunity for her character, Jenny, to grow up before her time. However, when all is revealed to be not quite as it initially seemed, what follows is a harsh lesson regarding the folly of youth.

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Juno

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration92 mins

Juno(2007)

Low-budget, hilarious hit film about a smart, independent 16-year-old whose life changes when she finds she's pregnant by a boy at her school.

What’s undeniable about An Education is that it places a feisty, smart, determined young woman at the heart of its story, as does Juno. In this instance, the eponymous protagonist – complete with her acquired taste in music and hamburger phone – is not rallying against her parents, or the education system, but rather society’s treatment of women.

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Microbe et Gasoil (Microbe & Gasoline)

Cert15

Age group14–16

Duration102 mins

Microbe et Gasoil (Microbe & Gasoline)(2015)

Two new friends embark on a road trip in their homemade house-on-wheels in this quirky French coming-of-age comedy.

Though Juno values and appreciates her family, it’s clear that she also becomes aggravated by their advice at times. That frustration is taken a step further here, and provokes Daniel and Theo into drastic action. Craving an escape, the two new friends use their skills impressively to fashion a mobile house, in this sweet and likeable French film from Michel Gondry.

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Little Miss Sunshine

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration101 mins

Little Miss Sunshine(2006)

Big-hearted road-trip comedy about a seven-year-old from a dysfunctional family who dreams of winning a beauty pageant.

Speaking of road trips, Little Miss Sunshine is one of the most treasured of all. Despite the familial chaos occurring all around her, little Olive Hoover’s sunny disposition and curious mind are pure inspiration. This fantastic comedy-drama captures the ups and downs of each of its characters, particularly her elder brother Dwayne, and contains a brilliant ensemble cast.

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The Way Way Back

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration99 mins

The Way Way Back(2013)

Awkward teen Duncan comes of age on a summer vacation to a water park, where the cool staff help him ignore the jibes of his mum's new boyfriend.

Following firmly in the footsteps of Little Miss Sunshine is this, an underseen gem which delves into those excruciating family vacations. Duncan is told at every turn he’s uncool, even in no uncertain terms by his mum’s unkind boyfriend, but upon meeting water park worker Owen – played by the always-charismatic Sam Rockwell – he finds an unlikely friend to look up to.

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The Kings of Summer

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration91 mins

The Kings of Summer(2013)

Sick of their overprotective parents, three friends run away to build their own home in the woods. A joyful coming-of-age tale.

An entirely different way of spending the summer holidays is undertaken here, as three friends – sick of their parents – decide to escape into the woods and live independently. The trio fending for themselves in an admirable manner is a delight to watch, but they soon come to learn that there’s only so far you can run from your problems before they soon catch up with you.

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From Up On Poppy Hill

CertU

Age group7–16

Duration92 mins

From Up On Poppy Hill(2011)

A beautiful animation about a group of teens trying to save their beloved clubhouse from demolition, set around the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

And a third film in which the season of summer plays an important part is From Up on Poppy Hill, an underrated melodrama from Studio Ghibli. The studio’s films usually centre on young children as the central characters, but in this case it’s a group of teenagers whose lives undergo transformations in the run-up to Tokyo hosting the 1964 Olympic Games.

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Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration99 mins

Ferris Bueller's Day Off(1986)

Love him or hate him, the smug truant Ferris Bueller is an iconic character in 80s teen movies.

If the kids in Ghibli’s film have the best intentions at heart for their protest, the same can’t quite be said for the rebellion on show from Ferris Bueller. Simply doing whatever he can to avoid school in order to supposedly seize the moment – doing so with trademark Bueller extravagance – he and his friends learn a lot about themselves over the course of a single day.

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Rebel Without a Cause

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration106 mins

Rebel Without a Cause(1955)

Classic 1950s film about a moody troublemaker - played by legendary actor James Dean, who died in a car crash a month before its release.

But the ultimate rebel – and the original one too – is Jim Stark. Given attitude and charisma by the iconic James Dean, Jim and his friends have problems to deal with, and react by taking it out on society. Like a downbeat version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Rebel Without a Cause is a must-see; coming-of-age, both on- and off-screen, with a subtext of homoeroticism.

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