Whether it’s a teenager who’s struggling to make it through their awkward high school phase or a college grad who feels blindsided by the harsh realities of adulthood, there's nothing quite as inspiring as watching characters evolve through these challenges and find themselves along the way. We’ve enjoyed some of the best coming of age movies that made us reflect on our own transitional period, but what makes this genre especially compelling is that it can resonate with all age groups, from nostalgic adults to younger generations who are practically living what we see on screen. Keep reading on for a full roundup of great coming of age films, including Lady Bird, Boyhood and more.
1. ‘House of Hummingbird’ (2018)
Who's in it: Park Ji-hoo, Kim Sae-byuk, Jung In-gi, Lee Seung-yeon
What’s it about: House of Hummingbird tells the moving story of Eunhee, a lonely eighth grader who's trying to find herself and true love while navigating the highs and lows of girlhood. The movie earned dozens of awards, including Best International Narrative Feature Award at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.
2. ‘Dope’ (2015)
Who's in it: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Kimberly Elise, Chanel Iman, Lakeith Stanfield, Blake Anderson, Zoë Kravitz
What’s it about: High school student Malcolm (Moore) and his buddies are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time when a drug dealer secretly hides drugs in Malcolm's backpack during a nightclub party that turns violent.
3. ‘Crooklyn’ (1994)
Who's in it: Zelda Harris, Alfre Woodard, Delroy Lindom, Spike Lee
What’s it about: Inspired by Spike Lee’s childhood experiences, Crooklyn centers on nine-year-old Troy Carmichael (Harris), who lives with her working-class family in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. After reluctantly paying a visit to her aunt in the South for the summer, Troy returns home to some devastating news, forcing her to confront a harsh reality.
4. ‘Raising Victor Vargas’ (2002)
Who's in it: Victor Rasuk, Judy Marte, Melonie Diaz, Silvestre Rasuk
What’s it about: Victor, a girl-crazy Dominican teenager, decides to shoot his shot with a beautiful girl in his neighborhood named Judy, but he quickly learns that he'll have to work harder to win her over. This heartwarming tale tackles quite a few themes that will make you think back to your younger days.
5. ‘Twenty’ (2015)
Who's in it: Kim Woo-bin, Lee Junho, Kang Ha-neul, Jung So-min
What’s it about: We can all agree that transitioning into adulthood can be just as jarring as growing into your teens. Join three 20-year-old BFFs as they confront all the challenges life throws their way.
6. ‘Cooley High’ (1975)
Who's in it: Glynn Turman, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Garrett Morris
What’s it about: Set in Chicago during the '60s, this compelling drama tells the story of two ambitious high school BFFs whose lives take a dark turn towards the end of the school year. The film will resonate with anyone who grew up with big dreams, regardless of their circumstances.
7. ‘Real Women Have Curves’ (2002)
Who's in it: America Ferrera, Lupe Ontiveros, George Lopez, Ingrid Oliu, Brian Sites
What’s it about: Based on Josefina López's play of the same title, the movie follows Mexican-American teenager Ana García (Ferrera), who feels torn between following her dream of going to college and following her family’s cultural traditions.
8. ‘The Inkwell’ (1994)
What’s it about: While vacationing with his family on Martha's Vineyard, 16-year-old Drew Tate comes across an upper-class, party-loving Black community who call themselves The Inkwell. Before he knows it, Drew is caught up in a love triangle between two attractive women.
9. ‘Jezebel’ (2019)
Who's in it: Tiffany Tenille, Numa Perrier, Brett Gelman, Stephen Barrington
What’s it about: Following in the footsteps of her sister, 19-year-old Tiffany decides to work in the sex industry as a cam girl to support herself financially. Things get messy, however, when Tiffany becomes a top earner and develops a bond with one of her customers.
10. ‘Quinceañera’ (2006)
Who's in it: Emily Rios, Jesse Garcia, Chalo González
What’s it about: With Magdalena’s (Rios) 15th birthday fast approaching, she and her family prepare for the big event to celebrate her transition into womanhood. But the festivities come to a halt when Magdalena learns that she’s pregnant by her friend. Her conservative family’s reaction drives her to leave and move in with her exiled relatives, but unfortunately, things only get more complicated.
11. ‘We The Animals’ (2018)
Who's in it: Evan Rosado, Raúl Castillo, Sheila Vand, Isaiah Kristian
What’s it about: Inspired by Justin Torres's autobiographical novel, the film chronicles the troubled childhood of Jonah, who comes to terms with his sexuality while dealing with a dysfunctional family.
12. ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ (2001)
Who's in it: Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Preity Zinta
What’s it about: Akash, Sameer and Siddharth are three close friends who each fall in love, which puts a strain on the trio's tight-knit relationship.
13. ‘The Diary Of A Teenage Girl’ (2015)
Who's in it: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Christopher Meloni, Kristen Wiig
What’s it about: Based on Phoebe Gloeckner's novel of the same title, it follows 15-year-old artist, Minnie (Powley), who struggles with feeling unattractive. But things take a turn when she has a sexual awakening involving her mother's much older boyfriend.
14. ‘3 Idiots’ (2009)
Who's in it: Aamir Khan, R. Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Kareena Kapoor, Boman Irani
What’s it about: 3 Idiots centers on the bond between three college students who attend a prestigious engineering school in India. From its thought-provoking commentary on India's education system to its hopeful overall message, it's easy to see why this movie became one of the highest-grossing Indian films of the 2000s.
15. ‘The Wood’ (1999)
Who's in it: Taye Diggs, Omar Epps, Richard T. Jones, Sean Nelson
What’s it about: Follow the misadventures of groom-to-be Roland Blackmon (Diggs), and his close friends during their teenage years in The Wood, from awkward school dances to first hookups.
16. ‘The Edge of Seventeen’ (2016)
Who's in it: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick
What’s it about: As if dealing with high school isn't awkward enough, Nadine discovers that her best friend is dating her older brother. This leaves her feeling desperately alone, but things start to look up when she builds an unexpected friendship with a classmate.
17. ‘Miss Juneteenth’ (2020)
Who's in it: Nicole Beharie, Kendrick Sampson, Alexis Chikaez
What’s it about: Turquoise Jones (Beharie), a single mom and former beauty queen, decides to enter her 15-year-old daughter, Kai (Chikaeze), into the local Miss Juneteenth pageant. The film offers some insightful commentary about the dangers of obsessing over other people’s expectations and standards.
18. ‘Bleak Night’ (2010)
Who's in it: Lee Je-hoon, Seo Jun-young, Park Jung-min, Jo Sung-ha
What’s it about: Feeling shaken by his son Ki-tae's (Je-hoon) suicide, a father decides to track down his closest friends and figure own what really happened. However, Ki-tae's friends aren't exactly willing to help. As his father searches for answers, flashbacks reveal what led up to Ki-tae's heartbreaking death.
19. ‘The Man in the Moon’ (1991)
Who's in it: Reese Witherspoon, Sam Waterston, Tess Harper, Jason London, Emily Warfield
What’s it about: Pre-Legally Blonde Witherspoon is nothing short of spectacular in her feature debut, where she portrays a 14-year-old girl named Dani. The close bond between Dani and her big sister, Maureen (Warfield), is broken when both girls fall for a cute local boy, but they’re eventually brought back together after a tragic accident.
20. ‘Love, Simon’ (2018)
Who's in it: Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Katherine Langford
What’s it about: In this charming comedy, Simon Spier, a closeted gay teenager, has yet to tell his family and friends that he’s gay—but that’s the least of his worries. Not only has he fallen in love with a mysterious classmate online, but also, someone who knows his secret is threatening to out him to all of his classmates. Talk about stressful.
21. ‘The Breakfast Club’ (1985)
Who's in it: Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy
What’s it about: Who knew that one Saturday in detention could be so life-changing? In this coming of age classic, six teens from different cliques are forced to spend a day in detention under the supervision of their vice principal. But what starts off as a boring punishment turns into a day of bonding and mischief.
22. ‘Skate Kitchen’ (2018)
Who's in it: Rachelle Vinberg, Dede Lovelace, Nina Moran, Kabrina Adams, Ajani Russell
What’s it about: Camille, an 18-year-old who lives with her single mom, decides to join an all-girl skateboard crew in New York. She forms new friendships within the group, but her loyalty is tested when she develops feelings for one of their ex-boyfriends.
23. ‘Boyhood’ (2014)
Who's in it: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke
What’s it about: Often considered one of the greatest films ever made, Boyhood chronicles the early years of Mason Evans Jr. (Coltrane), from ages six to eighteen. In that 12-year period, we see the highs and lows of growing up with divorced parents.
24. ‘Lady Bird’ (2017)
Who's in it: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein
What’s it about: The movie centers on high school senior Christine McPherson (Ronan), who dreams of going off to college as she navigates her troubled relationship with her mom. This poignant, Oscar-nominated drama will have you sobbing one moment and cackling the next.
25. ‘Juno’ (2007)
Who's in it: Elliot Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J. K. Simmons
What’s it about: Page plays sixteen-year-old Juno MacGuff, who learns that they're pregnant by their close friend, Paulie Bleeker (Cera). Feeling wholly unprepared for the responsibilities that come with parenthood, Juno decides to give the child to adoptive parents, but this only presents even more challenges.
26. ‘Solace’ (2018)
Who's in it: Hope Olaidé Wilson, Chelsea Tavares, Lynn Whitfield, Luke Rampersad
What’s it about: When her father passes away, 17-year-old Sole is sent to live with her estranged grandmother in Los Angeles. But getting used to her brand-new surroundings proves to be difficult, especially since her grandmother is overbearing and she’s secretly battling an eating disorder.
27. ‘Secondhand Lions’ (2003)
Who's in it: Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, Haley Joel Osment, Nicky Katt
What’s it about: Fourteen-year-old introvert Walter (Osment) is sent by his mom to live in Texas with his two great-uncles, who are rumored to be hiding a fortune. Though they’re initially turned off by Walter, they grow to appreciate his presence and develop a special bond, teaching him important life lessons along the way.
28. ‘The Outsiders’ (1983)
Who's in it: C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio
What’s it about: This star-studded feature tells the story of a bitter rivalry between two teen gangs: the working class Greasers and the wealthy Socials. When one Greaser kills a Social member in the middle of a fight, the tension only escalates, setting off an interesting chain of events.
29. ‘Premature’ (2019)
Who's in it: Zora Howard, Joshua Boone, Michelle Wilson, Alexis Marie Wint
What’s it about: Transitioning into the adult world is no easy task, and this film does a stellar job of addressing those challenges. During her final months at home, 17-year-old Ayanna (Howard) finds herself on the cusp of adulthood as she begins an intimate relationship with a charismatic music producer. But this whirlwind romance turns out to be much more complicated than she anticipated.
30. ‘The Hate U Give’ (2018)
Who's in it: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Sabrina Carpenter, Common, Anthony Mackie
What’s it about: In this adaptation of Angie Thomas's best-selling novel, Stenberg is Starr Carter, a 16-year-old girl whose life is turned upside down after she witnesses a police shooting.
31. ‘Rafiki’ (2019)
Who's in it: Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva, Neville Misati, Nini Wacera
What’s it about: The Kenyan drama film follows two young women, Kena (Mugatsia) and Ziki (Munyiva), as they fall in love and navigate their new relationship despite political pressures surrounding LGBT rights in Kenya.
32. ‘Stand by Me’ (1986)
Who's in it: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, Kiefer Sutherland
What’s it about: Gordie (Wheaton), Chris (Phoenix), Teddy (Feldman) and Vern (O'Connell) embark on a journey to find a missing boy in 1959 Castle Rock, Oregon. The classic film offers an honest look at adolescent male friendships and it’s filled with insightful one-liners.
33. ‘Thirteen’ (2003)
Who's in it: Holly Hunter, Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed, Vanessa Hudgens, Brady Corbet, Deborah Kara Unger, Kip Pardue
What’s it about: Inspired by Nikki Reed’s adolescent experiences, Thirteen chronicles the life of Tracy (Wood), a junior high school student who befriends a popular girl named Evie (Reed). When Evie introduces her to a world of drugs, sex and crime, Tracy’s lifestyle takes a dramatic turn, much to the horror of her mother.
34. ‘Call Me By Your Name’ (2017)
Who's in it: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel
What’s it about: If you’re a sucker for gripping tales about the intensity of first loves, then this is for you. Set during the 1980s in Italy, the movie follows Elio Perlman, a 17-year-old who falls for his father's 24-year-old graduate-student assistant, Oliver. The critically acclaimed film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won for Best Adapted Screenplay.
35. ‘The Sandlot’ (1993)
Who's in it: Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna, Karen Allen, Denis Leary, James Earl Jones
What’s it about: The timeless film follows fifth grader Scott Smalls as he bonds with a tight-knit group of young baseball players during the summer of 1962. It's full of heart and guaranteed to make you chuckle.