As a self-confessed film geek, I tend to pride myself on my film knowledge, however there’s a question I often struggle with: “What kind of films do you like?” Despite my love for the pictures, I’m also admittedly useless when it comes to genres. All my favourite films seem to cover an array of genres, so simply describing them as a “romance” or “tragedy” doesn’t seem to suffice. A question I handle slightly better is that regarding my favourite film; I could reel, (excuse the pun), off a list of what feels like a million and one films that I consider to be my favourite at one time or another. Despite all these films having totally varying storylines and characters, they do seem to have enough in common to consider them “coming of age” films, or what I’d consider perfect for that teen angst phase which I know so well. Anyway, I’ve decided to compile a list of my top 10 absolute must see, changed my life, can’t live without films that fall into this category…
Disclaimer: This list was created in no particularly order, all films are favoured equally just like children ought to be.
- Garden State (2004)
Okay so Zach Braff may not be the fledgling 15 year old you might expect from a coming of age film, but nevertheless the general message of this film does seem to be finding oneself. Garden State has everything you’d want from an indie flick: Endearing characters, a quirky storyline and most importantly, a super awesome soundtrack. It may not top the list of best films critically, but it will likely win a special place in your heart.
2. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Not to be confused with the popular “little miss” character, this film is an absolute must watch for anyone with a decent sense of humour and/or love for Alan Arkin. My first viewing of this film was probably when I was of a similar age to the film’s protagonist, Olive. LMS tells the story of a little girl coming to terms with herself and her rather peculiar family; Somehow managing to be heartwarming without a single cringeworthy moment… That deserves congratulations.
3. Superbad (2007)
Some may consider Superbad a mere stoner comedy, only to be valued for McLovin’s extreme badass-ness or the montage of Jonah Hill vividly illustrating phalli, however I took a very strong message from it as a child – Teenagers are dumb and under no circumstances should you get super drunk and vomit on your crush. There’s little to say about this film other than that it will make you love Michael Cera even more than you already did.
(Also see ‘Youth in Revolt’ and ‘Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ for other cute Michael Cera infused movies).
4. Stuck in Love (2012)
A slightly more recent film than the aforementioned flicks, (damn this list has made me realise how good the 00s were), Stuck in Love also leans slightly more on the romantic side of things as you may be able to tell… This is another one worth watching for the soundtrack and up and coming all star cast including Lily Collins, Nat Wolff and Logan Lerman. There’s also a bunch of good literary references featured, so if you’re a book worm like me it’s a must watch.
5. Almost Famous (2000)
Featuring a baby faced Kate Hudson and Zooey Deschanel, Almost Famous takes you on a journey of the glamour and madness of following a rock band on tour. This is one of the most visually pleasing films on the list, especially if you’re into fashion and eccentricity. One of the primary things I look for in a movie is a strong musical influence, which this film certainly has. Watch this for instant cool points.
6. Pump Up The Volume (1990)
If you can get past the incredibly cheesy name, I cannot recommend this film enough. Pump Up The Volume has had the honour of being referred to as my favourite film on multiple occasions and for good reason too. Not only does it feature the beautiful Christian Slater, but it perfectly captures the dissatisfaction of the common teenager. To summarise, Hard Harry is a pirate DJ trying to ignite some passion in a small town. It’s such a great story that even Disney ripped it off in its own movie, ‘Radio Rebel’, (yes, it is as terrible as it sounds).
6. The Breakfast Club (1985)
A major throwback, and also one of the first John Hughes films I ever had the pleasure of watching. The Breakfast Club’s simplicity is just part of what has made it such an influential film. Despite that, I’m shocked at how few people I know have seen it. TBC has only 4 major characters who initially all seem pretty archetypal but whose true personhood is uncovered throughout; A film full of laughs as well as deep thought that everyone can relate to.
7. Boyhood (2014)
Possibly the ultimate coming of age film, Boyhood was filmed over 12 years using the same cast throughout that time period. This film caught my eye due to its interesting concept and also because it’s a Linklater film, and who doesn’t love Richard Linklater? Well he certainly did not disappoint with this, it deserved far more recognition than it got, that’s for sure. The authenticity of this story is incredible, it’s less about what occurs during the 166 minute flick and more about the transition from childhood to adulthood, (and due to the 12 year filming period each and every gawky teenage haircut and phase is filmed, which is a pretty rare and beautiful thing.) With brilliant performances from Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, this is an unmissable film.
8. It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010)
Again, this flick received pretty unfair reviews gaining a mere 58% on Rotten Tomatoes, but if my experience as a film geek has taught me anything, it’s that you should never ever listen to reviews. Reviews are hugely subjective and critics often neglect to account for the ‘je ne sais quoi’ that makes films great. Anyway, starring the hilarious Zach Galifianakis, (that hairy guy in the hangover), IKFS shows the lives of people living in an adult psychiatric ward – kind of like a more happy go lucky version of ‘Girl, Interrupted’ if you will. This is by no means the greatest film of all time, but it’s something I’d recommend to anyone (teen or otherwise) whose ever felt a little lost or alone.
9. Dead Poet’s Society (1989)
Featuring the late great Robin Williams, Dead Poet’s Society teaches one of the most vital lessons relevant to any good coming of age film – Seize the day. Another great watch for anyone with a passion for literature, this is one of the best films I’ve seen all year… (Yes, it’s been around for 26 years but I’ve only just gotten around to watching it). If you’re a pansy like me, be warned this does have a pretty tear jerking ending…
10. The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Definitely on the more depressing side of the spectrum, but a good watch nevertheless. Sofia Coppola illustrates the lives of five young girls through dreamy shots and eloquent dialogue. Another film that isn’t so much about the story, but about the feelings involved; A group of boys become infatuated with the 5 sisters and try to resolve some of the mystery surrounding them, with little luck…
So my list has come to an end and let me tell you, it was not easy picking a mere 10! By no means is this post pretending to be exciting or original, it’s simply a recommendation of films that have altered my perspective on life in one way or another. Happy watching folks.