The 16 Best Coming-Of-Age Movies & Tv Shows

Coming-of-age movies are a special type of film. Few movies feel as personal as they do. Something about relating to a character’s experiences makes it more intimate. In particular, relating to the formative coming-of-age period. 

Our teens and 20s are exceptional in their own way. Maybe because that’s when life feels like it’s truly starting. There’s still so much to live, so many experiences to have. It’s terrifying but so exciting. 

Adults tend to say: “You’re young, you have nothing to worry about”. But the way I remember it when you’re young everything feels heightened. Every bad thing feels like the end of the world. Anything exciting feels life-changing. You’re starting to figure out who you are and who you want to be. You start understanding the world a little better. 

I’d say I’m even more nostalgic for my teenage years than my childhood. Most people go through a lot of pain in those years. You don’t see everything with rose-colored eyes anymore. It’s easier to be disappointed. Nonetheless, I look back at those years fondly. I think a lot of us do. Even if we went through hard times. There’s something unique about those years. They’re like a starting line with endless possibilities. 

That’s why coming-of-age movies are so special. They bring us back to that time in our lives. Unlike other genres, most people can relate to the emotions behind coming-of-age stories. The circumstances of each movie may be different but the emotions at the core of the story are the same. The feelings at that age are sort of universal. 

All that being said, we’ve made a list for you of some coming-of-age movies that you can’t miss. 

MOVIES

Mustang

Mustang follows the lives of five sisters in a small Turkish town. You watch them navigate life in a conservative environment and everything that entails. 

After a game on the beach that seems inappropriate. Their family decides to shelter them from anything that could be “corrupting”. They start preparing them for their future: being wives. (Hint: Arranged marriages are still the norm). 

This is a particular coming-of-age story. The sisters’ circumstances are probably not relatable to most. But, you’ll find something to relate to in what they’re going through. In the end, circumstances are different but emotions are universal.  

Anyways, you don’t need to relate to it to appreciate it. It’s a beautiful & captivating film. I’d say it’s one of my favorite movies ever. It’s a moving story that everyone should watch.

The Edge of Seventeen

This movie centers around Nadine. A confused, self-absorbed but good-natured teen girl. You follow her as she navigates through high school and her trauma. The plot unravels when her best (and only) friend starts dating her brother who she doesn’t get along with

The movie deals with difficult subjects like grief and depression. But it brings comedy to them. 

If you’ve been through teen angst (or you currently are), you’ll relate to Nadine. Especially if you were kind of awkward in your teen years.

Boyhood

Boyhood received lots of critical acclaim & attention. It stood out in the media because it took 11 years to film. It picked up with the actors to film once a year. Thus you see the actual actors grow as their characters do. 

It follows the life of a Texan boy from 6 to 18 years old. You essentially watch him grow up. From a young boy to a young adult. You see him through every stage, every major life moment in that span of years.

In Search Of Fellini

Fellini is about a shy & sheltered young woman from Ohio’s journey of self-discovery. She’s someone that thrives on the imaginary over the realistic. She was raised on fairy tales, encouraged to live off of her imagination.

She’s 20-years-old and has never left home, never had a job, never done anything herself. Her mother has sheltered her from the sometimes harsh realities of the world. That is until she decides to go off on her own.

She goes on a trip to Italy, inspired by the art-house Italian director, Fellini. She goes on an adventure to figure out who she is, what her passions are.

It’s about growing up and coming into your own. A coming-of-age story through and through.

Ladybird

This movie follows Christine as she navigates her senior year of high school. 

She’s a girl from a working-class background attending a private Christian school. 

You see her go through the normal tribulations of any 18-year-old. She’s trying to fit in at school, navigating relationships, figuring out where she wants to go to college. And most importantly, trying to get along with her mother. The mother-daughter relationship is a central theme. 

Another main theme of the movie is her future. She has big dreams & expectations for herself. And, like most of us, she’s always worrying about her future. She’s scared she won’t achieve anything or leave her hometown. I’m sure most of us can relate in some way.

8th Grade

This movie is the story of Kayla. A girl who’s about to graduate 8th-grade. She struggles with social anxiety. You watch her navigate her anxiety throughout the movie. Trying to fit in and navigate social situations as best as she can. 

It’s painfully accurate. If you’re past 8th grade, you’ll be brought back to being 13. That being: dealing with braces, teenage moodiness, and feeling awkward 99% of the time. Kayla is going through all that. She’s struggling but she’s really trying to fit in.

The movie illustrates what growing up Gen Z is like. Which is a whole other world. Kayla spends most of her time online. It’s a major way to socialize for kids her age & a huge part of her life. 

In this movie, you’ll watch Kayla go from a girl to a teenager and everything that comes with that.  What does distinguish it from other movies is its focus on social anxiety. 

It’s not the story of the typical popular & extroverted girl growing up. It’s the story of a young girl’s growth while dealing with anxiety.

Moonlight

The beautiful moonlight narrates the life of Chiron. An African American orphan boy growing up in a crime-ridden neighborhood in Miami. It’s separated into three chunks: his childhood, teenage years & adulthood. 

You go with him as he grows up, his struggle with his sexuality always being a central theme in his life. 

Moonlight is a humane, raw but beautiful story. You’ll understand why it won “Best Picture” at the Academy Awards.  Yes, it’s the movie involved in the 2017 Academy Awards scandal.

6 Years

6 Years tells the story of Dan and Mel. A young couple that has been together for (you guessed it) 6 years. 

Their relationship is perfect until it’s not.  Well, it’s not that out of the blue. As their college graduation approaches, their relationship crumbles.

You watch them go through the last year of college. When you get the “what am I gonna do with my life?” crisis. That and the downfall of their relationship make for an intense coming-of-age story.

Booksmart

The movie follows two best friends the night before their high school graduation. They’ve been working hard to get into their dream colleges, neglecting their social lives. 

They realize everyone else got into their dream schools while partying every weekend. They regret missing out so they decide to make the most of their last night before graduation. 

Of course, there’s more than meets the eye. It’s not just a great comedy, it’s also a wonderful story about powerful friendships and growing up. 

If you want a funnier take on the coming-of-age story, this movie is perfect.

The Half Of It

The Half Of It is a Netflix original coming-of-age drama film. Ellie Chu is smart & introverted. The story begins when she’s hired by a football player, Paul Monsky, to write his love letters for him. Ellie does it because she and her father need the money. 

But, as Ellie writes Paul’s letters & texts to their fellow classmate, Aster. It becomes about more than the money, Ellie slowly falls in love with Aster. They connect over their shared love of literature and art. But of course, Ari thinks that she’s corresponding with Paul. 

Through the messy letter writing situation, you see Ellie start coming out of her shell. She experiences love and friendship for the first time. She struggles with family and her identity. 

It’s a sweet & subtle coming-of-age story with some romance mixed in. It doesn’t feel forced, cheesy, or over-dramatic like many teen movies.

Flipped

Flipped is a sweet coming-of-age story set in the 50s in a small town. Julie and Bryce have been neighbors since they were little. And Julie has been in love with Bryce since she first laid eyes on him. Let’s just say Bryce doesn’t feel the same way. 

The unrequited crush Julie has for Bryce is the main storyline. But, the backbone theme of the movie is Bryce and Julie growing up. Going through the changes everyone experiences. 

If you want a comfort film, this is perfect. I could watch it a million times and it never gets old.

TV SHOWS

Looking For Alaska

Looking For Alaska is a limited series based on John Green’s book by the same name. The story starts with Miles, a shy boy from Orlando that decides to go to boarding school in Alabama. 

Miles is looking for his great perhaps, as he calls it. For something that will make his life wonderful, extraordinary. He finds it in his new school. When he arrives, he befriends Chip (The Colonel), Takumi, and Alaska Young. An unlikely group of very different & quirky personalities. 

This new group of friends is everything Miles ever wanted. He falls a little in love with them, with their friendship. And perhaps, a little more with Alaska. 

The story touches on grief, relationships, the meaning of life & obviously coming-of-age. It’s 100% worth checking out.

Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever tells the story of Devi. A girl dealing with the trauma of losing her father while trying to get through high school. She’s particular, to say the least. She’s very competitive, intense, and honestly kind of selfish. 

You watch her get into pretty crazy situations because of her unique personality. But, that’s the cool thing about the show. The main character isn’t perfect, she makes bad decisions. You feel like you’re watching a real person. A multidimensional flawed girl. 

You watch her coming-of-age story full of mistakes and confusion. Like a real growing-up story is like.

Young Royals

Young Royals follows the story of Wilhelm, a Swedish prince. As a prince & possible heir to the crown, there’s severe pressure on him to be the perfect role model. After a fight in a nightclub, he gets sent to Hillerska boarding school. The school most royals in Sweden have attended. 

At his new school, he meets a scholarship student, Simon. Despite their different backgrounds, they form a strong connection and fall in love. 

You watch Wilhelm discover his sexuality, find himself, and deal with the pressure put on him. The show also touches on grief, loss, family & societal expectations, and class. 

I know the storyline sounds super cliche. I thought so at first. But the execution of the show is great. The story never feels too dramatic, it’s subtle but powerful. It’s a pretty realistic take on growing up if you consider the prince plotline.

The Fosters

The Fosters tells the story of the Adams Foster family. At the head of the family are Stef and Lena (the mothers). The kids are Brandon, Mariana, Jesus, Callie & Jude. 

Brandon is Stef’s biological son from a previous marriage. Mariana & Jesus are their adopted twins. Callie and Jude are their foster kids, they’re also biological siblings. The show starts with the arrival of Callie and Jude. 

Through its five seasons, you watch the Adams Foster kids grow up. The show touches on many relevant topics in society nowadays. Including being LGTBQ+, the foster system, racism, identity, family, etc. 

It tackles everything that impacts coming-of-age in the 21st century. It’s one of the most realistic and inclusive coming-of-age shows I’ve watched. 

Good Trouble

Good trouble is a spin-off of The Fosters. It follows Callie and Mariana’s life in Los Angeles post-college graduation. 

It’s a coming-of-age story of a different life stage than The Fosters. The Fosters take on the teen years. Good Trouble tackles coming-of-age during your early to mid-20s. 

You don’t HAVE TO watch The Fosters to understand Good Trouble. There are some references made so it’d probably be better to watch it beforehand. But, you’ll be okay if you don’t.

I’d say good trouble is even better than The Fosters. But that might be because I’m closer in age to Callie & Marianna in Good Trouble. 

Callie and Marianna move to a communal living building called The Coterie. You follow everyone living there and their own struggles as well as Mariana and Callie’s. Every character in the show has an interesting storyline. 

Like its predecessor, Good Trouble touches on a lot of social issues. Callie is a lawyer so the show explores the issues with the justice system in The States. It also touches on themes of racism, sexism, LGTBQ relationships, and body positivity. It even explores polyamory.

The themes are very well dealt with, which is refreshing. It feels like the writers truly care about the subjects they explore. The storylines that touch on these social issues never feel superficial. They always go beyond the surface. 

CONCLUSION

These movies & shows have given me something. Whether that be life advice, a new perspective, or seeing myself in the characters. 

Movies & shows can just be fun. But, they can also be another way of learning about the world and its people, of questioning ourselves. If we choose to let them. If we pay attention. They can give you more than just entertainment. 

Not that pure entertainment is bad, we all need it sometimes. 

I hope you love these movies & shows. I hope they’re fun and comforting to you. That they bring you back to your younger days or give you a glimpse into your possible future if you’re younger. 

If you’re looking for more comforting films. This other The Mind Uncovered article has great recommendations.

TOP 10 MOVIES FOR THE PERFECT SLEEPOVER

10 MUST-WATCH MOVIES FOR HISTORY LOVERS

Now we want to hear from you. What Movie or Tv show on this list sounds most interesting to YOU? Leave us a comment.

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