Before the clumsy, stumbling stages of adulthood, everyone experiences the struggles of growing up. No one is spared the agony of picking up bits and pieces to form an identity in the midst of teen angst along with the awkwardness of puberty. It’s the period of impermanence where the growth you have cultivated will carry on to the next chapters of your life.
Coming-of-age films offer various views on this multiverse that help shape and apprehend the life we have at the moment. It’s a popular sub-genre subsequently giving the assurance and sense that we are not alone in whatever stage in life we’re battling through.
Having said that, whether it’s about the fast life, nostalgia trips, or generalized perils of adolescence, we thought we’d hook you up with nine of the most striking films on the blissful woe of youth to ever grace this lifetime.
1. Bagets (1984)
Ah, the quintessential Filipino coming-of-age movie, at least for those in their 30’s and early 40’s. Four young lads get kicked out of school before they enter senior year. So they transfer to a less exclusive institution and meet a four-time repeater who instantly become the leader of the group. Together, they come of age: they get devirginized, head out for a Batangas beach trip, May-December affairs, and of course, the usual shenanigans involving crushes. The movie, directed by Maryo J. Delos Reyes, mirrored exactly how it was like to grow up in the ‘80s.
Best quote: Can we instead say best moment? Because the “Just Got Lucky” sequence is getting us excited for no reason!
2. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Championing sharp overtones on love, sex, and mischief, Fast Times at Ridgemont High still holds the candle as one of the finest coming-of-age films up to date. Following a diverse set of characters starring Jennifer Jason Leigh (Stacy Hamilton), Phoebe Cates (Linda Barrett), Brian Backer (Mark Ratner), Robert Romanus (Mike Damone), and Sean Penn (Jeff Spicoli), the 1982 teen comedy classic by Amy Heckerling has perfectly bagged such lewd, authentic, and funny storytelling.
Best quote: “You want romance? In Ridgemont? We can’t even get cable TV here, Stacy, and you want romance!”
3. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Granted, almost every teen film directed by John Hughes makes us want to go back in time to know what it’s like to be a teenager from the 80’s, but it’s safe to say that The Breakfast Club is difficult to forget as it is one powerful narrative depicting the young life. With its plot revolving around five high-schoolers from various cliques stuck on a Saturday for detention played by Molly Ringwald (Claire Standish/”The Princess”), Judd Nelson (John Bender/”The Criminal”), Emilio Estévez (Andy/Andrew Clark/”The Althlete”), Anthony Michael Hall (Brian Johnson/”The Brain”), and Ally Sheedy (Allison Reynolds/”The Basket Case”), the classic film remains sensational and germane.
Best quote: “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”
4. Kung Mangarap ka at Magising (1977)
Though it was shown in 1997, this Mike de Leon classic still rings true to this day: Joey is an easygoing, carefree college student who would rather hang out with his friends than, you know, actually study. He is someone you’d call lost; he doesn’t like the course his father has chosen for him, would rather play music in the cool mountains of Baguio. He then meets Anna, an unhappy married woman based in Manila, and they find respite from their drudgery in each other. Reality soon catches up, but not before we feel the same relief and happiness they feel with each other.
Favorite scene: The one where they were walking in the rain and shared the umbrella scene, of course!
5. Stand by Me (1986)
This coming-of-age movie by Rob Reiner lifted out of Stephen King’s The Body features Will Wheaton (Gordie Lachance), River Phoenix (Chris Chambers), Corey Feldman (Teddy Duchamp), and Jerry O’Connel (Vern Tessio). Stand by Me is a realistic masterpiece about the adventure to seek out a common fascination eventually leading to an outlining boyhood experience.
Best quote: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”
6. Dead Poets Society (1989)
Dead Poets Society is a rousing film that will have you falling hard for its cinematic genius. The 1989 screen gem tells the story an English teacher (Robin Williams/John Keating) stimulating the minds of his students with humanities in an all-boys preparatory schools rigid with traditions and practices. Personified by Robert Sean Leonard (Neil Perry), Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles), Charlie Dalton (Gayle Hansen), and Richard Cameron (Dylan Kussman), the movie will undoubtedly pull you in with its brilliance.
Best quote: “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
7. Rushmore (1998)
A glorifying testament to Wes Anderson’s level of artistry is his 1998 film Rushmore. The plot surrounds the life of a peculiar teen named Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) and his mêlée with mogul Herman Blume (Bill Murray) over their mutual love for first-grade teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams). Not only did it have a promising tale to tell, it also claims a stellar soundtrack alongside its aesthetically pleasing cinematography.
Best quote: “You’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then… do it for the rest of your life.”
8. I’m Drunk I Love You (2017)
But of course, we had to include this recently released indie movie. After seven years, Carson is preparing to graduate not just from college, but also from loving her best friend who isn’t in love with her. The movie has all the elements that make it an instant coming-of-age classic: a gay best friend, a beach trip, an annoying rival, that one hot night, a nagging mother, music, and heartbreak.
Most relatable moment: All of Carson and Jason Ty’s drinking scenes, where Carson feels sorry for herself for loving Dio too much.
9. Almost Famous (2000)
Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous couldn’t be any more perfect with its well-crafted scoring and theme centered on a free-spirited journey by 15-year-old teenage rock writer William Miller (Patrick Fugit). Crossing paths with the beautiful and mysterious Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) all the while developing bonds with Stillwater lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) and front man Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee), the Rolling Stone cover story assignment took him on an eye-opening trip with the realities and highs of life and music.
Best quote: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.”
10. Pare Ko (1994)
We don’t know where to begin: The Eraserheads song, Claudine Barretto, or The Gwapings? Pare Ko is arguably the definitive coming-of-age in the ‘90s. There’s the Eraserheads reference, Claudine Barretto, The Gwapings, and hey, Jao Mapa. There’s the element of a rich but troubled family, an uptight chick falling in love with a so-called bad boy, who belongs to the group of pop kids, and fist fights among cute rich boys that were a little too popular in the ‘90s, and upholding friendship over everything.
Best dialogue: “Kung sarili ko ngang problema hindi ko na kayang dalhin eh. Ine-expect niya pa, na ako sumalo sa mga kargada niya.”
“That’s the least you can expect from a friend.”
“Dami ko ng kaibigan ah.”
11. The Kings of Summer (2013)
The Kings of Summer is a unique take when it comes to coming-of-age films. Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ offering circles three teenagers: Joe Toy (Nick Robinson), Patrick Keenan (Gabriel Basso), and Biaggio (Moisés Arias) in a venture to live off the woods to escape lives with debilitated parents.
Best quote: “Have you ever felt this at one with yourself, with your instincts, with nature? This masculine?” – Joe Toy
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