Coming of age. It doesn’t just come with getting older, you actually have to grow up. Just because someone reaches his or her eighteenth or twenty first birthday, doesn’t mean that that person has become an adult. It takes learning life lessons, facing challenges, and being able to survive on your own. These teen and young adult movies are all about the challenges faced by those struggling to grow up and survive.
Here are ten must see movies about growing up and coming of age.
1. Dirty Dancing (1987). Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze star in this movie about a teenage girl who comes of age. She goes to this summer resort with her family an innocent girl. During the movie, she learns how to ‘dirty dance,’ in more ways than one. She has sex for the first time and learns how to stand up for herself. She comes into the movie as a daddy’s girl, but leaves it having found her independence. The key point in the movie is where she risks everything to let everyone know she was with Patrick Swayze all night, so he couldn’t have been the one to steal the wallet. Noone ever stuck up for him like that before.
2. Far and Away (1992). Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman have to grow up, and real fast. They leave England and go to America, to find that things are alot tougher there. They have to fight to survive, at all costs. It doesn’t matter if you have to pluck chickens or become a dancer or fighter, you’ve got to make the money to have a roof over your head and food to eat. But what if you just can’t go against your morals? Then, you’re out on the street. What’s the next plan then? Watch as the two bicker and fight each other, eventually coming to realize that they have to stick together to make it work.
3. Into the Wild (2007). This movie is based on a true story about a 22 year old who decides he doesn’t like his life where everything has come so easy for him. He sets out to find the meaning of life, giving up his possessions to travel around America. The only problem is, that he doesn’t always make the best choices, such as his decision to travel into Alaska as fall and winter approach. He ends up becoming trapped on the other side of a stream that has become a river, unable to get back to civilization. He learns the meaning of life is really about basic survival, but can he do even that? He is now faced with the reality that he has eaten some poisonous berries and cannot get help as the river is too much for him to cross.
4. Coyote Ugly (2000). Violet, played by Piper Perabo, leaves New Jersey headed for the big city. She wants to make it as a singer and songwriter. Her naivete is apparent, as she obliviously thinks that she can just get herself noticed and things will fall into place. When her apartment is robbed, she learns quickly that life isn’t all roses. She gets a job at the Coyote Ugly bar, which doesn’t work well with her innocence. She finds that she’s gonna have to grow up fast if she wants to make it in this setting.
5. Titanic (1997). Kate Winslet, who plays Rose, has always lived under her parents’ rule and has always been obedient to her fiance’. However, when she boards the Titanic, her life is about to change forever. She meets Jack (Leonardo DiCapprio), who shows her that life really is worth living, but not the kind where you follow what everyone else tells you to do. This is about a young girl’s journey into adulthoood as she fights to survive a sinking boat and a sinking heart that has become dismayed about everything life has been so far.
6. Arthur (1981). Dudley Moore is a millionaire, but only by inheritance from his family. He has never really done anything with his life except for become intoxicated every day. His family has found him a wife, but he ends up meeting a lady with no money. He falls for her, and decides this is who he wants to be with. Unfortunately, his family is going to cut him off from his money if he chooses her. Arthur must grow up and smell the coffee, literally, if he is going to make it in the world without his family and keep the heart of the love of his life, Linda (played by Liza Minelli).
7. The Blue Lagoon (1980). Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins star as two children who are alone on a deserted island, after a shipwreck. The two grow up on the island, and learn about the birds and the bees in every sense of the word. Brooke’s character becomes pregnant, and they have a baby. The two find a way to get off of the island, but will they survive their attempt?
8. The Color Purple (1985). Whoopi Goldberg stars as a child who becomes pregnant by her own father. Her children are taken away, and she is sent to become the wife and mother to another man’s family. Talk about having your childhood stolen away! Whoopi Goldberg’s character Celie must grow up overnight. Well, she might have to assume the role of an adult, but it takes Celie many years to actually become one. Eventually, she learns not to take things lying down anymore, and begins to fight for the rights she should have had all along. This is a beautiful journey of coming into adulthood, and coming of age.
9. Good Will Hunting (1997). Imagine being a genius, but you are a janitor at a top university. You look on as others get a good education, but you don’t even care. Your childhood was so bad that you don’t even realize you have goals and aspirations of becoming something great. So, there’s this math problem that noone can solve up on the board in one of the classes. You decide to solve it. You’re discovered. Uh oh, someone’s on to your abilities. Now they want you to go through counseling to learn about yourself and grow up. Just what you needed, right? Maybe it is. Matt Damon stars as the genius, and Robin Williams is the counselor. Add Ben Affleck as the best friend, and you’ve got a great cast for this coming of age film.
10. Munich (2005). Do you remember how a group of athletes were killed at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany? This movie is about seeking revenge for those deaths. Eric Bana stars as a young husband who is sought out to be part of the team who will kill those considered responsible for the deaths of these athletes. He leaves his young, pregnant wife as an innocent man. What he must do is unconscionable, even for him. He finds that he must find a way to let his mind make it okay for him to be a killer and a father at the same time. Is it even possible to forgive yourself for ending someone else’s life? He returns from his killing spree back home to his wife and child, but will things ever be the same? This young man had to grow up in a way that no one ever should.
What are your favorite coming of age movies?