Every generation, it seems, has its own favorite coming-of-age movies. And though tastes change, as does the definition of “coming of age” — including everyone from preteens to young adults in their 20s — these five films are among the ones that have stood the test of time and inspired generations of filmgoers.
“American Graffiti.” George Lucas’ 1973 ode to cars and cruising set in a small California town in the 1960s. Its cinematic style defined a new kind of American naturalism, and its celebration of youthful aspirations — and dashed dreams — made a lasting impact.
“Dazed and Confused.” Richard Linklater’s 1993 cult favorite is a loose yet insightful portrait of Texas teens finding their way in the 1970s, in a world of football, recreational drugs, mean girls and class differences. It’s a good-natured salute to aimless youth.
“To Kill a Mockingbird.” This 1962 classic directed by Robert Mulligan and based on the Harper Lee novel is an indictment of racism in the South in the 1930s. But its also a tale of how young Scout and Jim learn life lessons from their heroic father, Atticus, played by Gregory Peck.
“Sixteen Candles.” Writer-director John Hughes’ iconic 1980s coming-of-age films were beloved by young audiences and influenced later generations of filmmakers. This 1984 gem starring Hughes favorite Molly Ringwald provided a welcome female perspective on this often male-dominated genre.
“Stand by Me.” Rob Reiner directed this 1986 film based on a story by Stephen King. Combining humor, pathos and horror, it’s often held up as the movie that defines the coming-of-age genre. Though made in the 1980s, it harkens to a more bucolic America of the 1950s.