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This is a comprehensive list of the top 10 coming-of-age movies of the 21st century, based on aggregated opinions of critics, as well as personal preferences.


Top 10 21st Century Coming-of-Age Movies


Title of the Movie
Year / Country / Director / Cast
Movie Description
1 Juno Release Date:
2007

Country:
USA

Director:
Jason Reitman

Cast:
Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Thirlby, Allison Janney, Eileen Pedde, Rainn Wilson, Darla Fay, Daniel Clark, Emily Perkins, Valerie Tian
Juno MacGuff is sixteen and pregnant. The baby’s father is her friend, Paulie Bleeker, a naive classmate who is completely besotted with her. Juno initially decides to have an abortion, but after a difficult visit to the clinic, she changes her mind, opting instead to give the baby up for adoption.

Juno’s parents are supportive of her decision, and she begins the process of finding a good home for her baby. Her friend Leah helps her to search through local ads, and she happens upon a couple called Mark and Vanessa Loring. They have a beautiful home and seem like ideal parents-in-waiting. Juno agrees to the adoption.

Meanwhile, Juno’s relationship with Paulie has deteriorated. Although she pretends to be indifferent towards him, she conceals growing feelings. Paulie, dejected by Juno’s seeming nonchalance, asks another girl to the prom. Juno is incandescent when she finds out, although Paulie counters that it was her behaviour that caused the rift between them and broke his heart.

All is not well in the Loring household, either. Juno has struck up a friendship with Mark, with whom she shares interests. Mark admits he feels stifled by Vanessa and their impending parenthood, and he indicates feelings for Juno, which she finds alarming. Vanessa, meanwhile, focuses most of her attention on the new baby and is blindsided when Mark decides he isn’t ready to become a father. Juno is shocked by the disintegration of their marriage, and the possibility that the adoption will fall through. She leaves a note for Vanessa and leaves before they answer the door.

Juno decides to resolve the situation with Paulie and finally admits her feelings, which he reciprocates. She soon goes into labour, and her decision about the baby’s fate seems to be up in the air. The note for Vanessa reveals her intentions, however. The iconic closing scene encapsulates the charm and humour of this modern coming-of-age classic.
2 Superbad Release Date:
2007

Country:
USA

Director:
Greg Mottola

Cast:
Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bill Hader, Emma Stone, Seth Rogen, Martha MacIsaac, Aviva Baumann, Joe Lo Truglio, Clement Blake, Kevin Corrigan, Erica Vittina Phillips, Marcella Lentz-Pope, Joe Nunez
Seth and Evan are best friends and high school seniors, trying to lose their virginity during the summer before they go their separate ways to college. Evan is besotted with Becca, while Seth has developed feelings for a girl from his home economics class Jules. The boys and Becca are invited to a party at Jules’ house, and the boys decide that their best chance at hooking up with their respective crushes is to get drunk.

They enlist the help of their friend, Fogell, who has a fake ID. However, when they actually check the ID, they find an unconvincing Hawaii drivers license under the name ‘McLovin.’ With no other source of alcohol, they decide to go with Fogell and his McLovin ID.

Just as Fogell is about to pay at the liquor store – his fake ID having seemingly worked perfectly – an armed robber enters. Fogell is punched in the face, and the robber takes off with money from the register. Two police officers arrive, but they’re more interested in having a good time than actually conducting an investigation. They seemingly believe that Fogell’s ID is real, and offer to drive him to the party.

Afraid of being arrested in relation to illegally purchasing alcohol, Seth and Evan flee the scene. Seth is hit by a car, but not badly injured, and the driver offers to take them to a booze-fuelled party in exchange for not informing the police. The boys agree, and hatch a plan to steal drinks from that party, using detergent bottles to store the alcohol. A fight breaks out, allowing Seth and Evan to escape and make their way to Jules’ party.

A heated argument and another accident later, the boys arrive at the party. Whilst we won’t give away whether they achieve their goal, let’s just say that McLovin lives up to his name, for a couple of seconds at least!
3 Easy A Release Date:
2010

Country:
USA

Director:
Will Gluck

Cast:
Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church, Dan Byrd, Patricia Clarkson, Lisa Kudrow, Cam Gigandet, Malcolm McDowell, Fred Armisen, Juliette Goglia, Aly Michalka, Stanley Tucci
Olive Penderghast is a 17-year-old high schooler who, after avoiding a weekend spent with her best friend Rhiannon’s family, lies about losing her virginity. A devout Christian classmate, Marianne, overhears the story and shares it with others in her church group. The news soon spreads through her school, and Olive gains a reputation for being a promiscuous woman.

Her friend Brandon, who is gay but in the closet, persuades Olive to pretend to sleep with him, so he can convince his friends that he’s straight. Olive agrees, and the pair pretend to have sex at a party.

Meanwhile, Rhiannon is baffled by Olive’s change in personality, and after a blowout argument, Olive decides to embrace her new status. She pretends to sleep with several of the boys at school to improve their luck with other girls, in exchange for gift cards.

Matters become complicated when Marianne’s boyfriend, Micah, contracts chlamydia. He blames Olive, but the culprit is actually Mrs Griffin, the school’s guidance counsellor and wife of Olive’s favourite teacher. To spare Mr Griffin from the truth, Olive goes along with the lie.

However, after harassment from Marianne’s church group and a reconnection with Todd, her former crush, Olive has a change of heart, and asks the boys she pretended to sleep with to tell the truth. They obviously refuse, and in a desperate attempt to set the record straight, she tells Mr Griffin about his wife’s affair with a student. He believes Olive, and leaves his wife.

This sets the unravelling of Olive’s lies in motion, and she manages to reconnect with Rhiannon, before accepting Todd’s offer of a date.

Easy A subverts the usual coming-of-age clichés in a heartwarming and hilarious fashion.
4 Call Me By Your Name Release Date:
2017

Country:
Italy, France, Brazil, USA

Director:
Luca Guadagnino

Cast:
Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois, Amira Casar, Vanda Capriolo, Antonio Rimoldi, Marco Sgrosso, Peter Spears, Elena Bucci
Set in Northern Italy, Call Me By Your Name is an Oscar-winning adaptation of André Aciman’s novel of the same name.

We follow the story of 17-year-old Elio Perlman, the son of an archaeology professor, who falls in love with his father’s 24-year-old visiting graduate assistant Oliver. The film chronicles their sometimes difficult, often intense relationship, and explores issues surrounding the complexity of adolescent – and adult – sexuality.

Elio is an introvert, fascinated by books, music, and his girlfriend, Marzia. Oliver, by way of contrast, is extroverted and happy-go-lucky, and shows a keen interest in the local women. Elio has very little to do with Oliver initially, annoyed that he has to give his room to Oliver for the summer.

Things change when they begin spending more time together. Through long conversations and time alone on trips, their relationship intensifies. Confused, Elio begins a sexual relationship with Marzia, but can’t stop thinking about Oliver, who shares his feelings but tries to convince him not to act upon them. After the seeming rejection, Elio grows distant from Oliver.

After some time apart, Oliver relents and asks Elio to meet him at midnight. The couple sleep together for the first time and begin a relationship in secret. Elio breaks up with Marzia and becomes despondent over Oliver’s imminent departure. The two decide to go on a final trip together, with the blessing of Elio’s parents, who knew about the attraction between them.

At the end of their trip, Oliver leaves Italy, and a forlorn Elio adjusts to life without him. A final heartbreaking twist at the end perfectly reflects the sorrow that can accompany young love.
5 Y Tu Mamá También Release Date:
2001

Country:
Mexico

Director:
Alfonso Cuarón

Cast:
Daniel Giménez Cacho (voice), Ana López Mercado, Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal, Verónica Langer, Nathan Grinberg, María Aura, Giselle Audirac, Arturo Ríos, Emilio Echevarría, Andrés Almeida, Diana Bracho
Julio and Tenoch are two Mexican teenagers about to embark on an adventure to Italy. Despite being in committed relationships with their respective girlfriends, they use their trip as an opportunity to live the single life.

They soon meet Luisa, who happens to be married to Tenoch’s cousin, Jano. All is not well in Luisa and Jano’s marriage, however, and it transpires that Jano has cheated on his wife. Luisa decides to leave Jano and join Julio and Tenoch on a trip to a secluded beach.Whilst travelling, the conversation swiftly moves to the boys’ competing sexual prowess. Luisa, meanwhile, seems withdrawn, as she thinks about her first love.

When the trio reach a motel for an overnight stop, Tenoch finds Luisa crying in her room. The two end up sleeping together, much to Julio’s distress. He attempts to get his own back by admitting he has had sex with Tenoch’s girlfriend, but he’s caught out by Tenoch, who has also cheated with Julio’s girlfriend. A fight erupts, which is hastily interrupted by Luisa. She redresses the balance by sleeping with Julio, too.

The next morning, the trio continue their trip and find the beach they have been searching for. The tension has passed, and after a night of heavy drinking, end up having a threesome. The boys are mortified the next day, and decide to go home. Luisa, meanwhile, has already left, deciding to explore on her own.

The trip marks the end of Julio and Tenoch’s friendship, and a there’s a heart-wrenching twist in the final scene. A classic coming of age story, it’s no surprise that Y Tu Mamá Tabién was nominated for an Oscar, Golden Globe, and BAFTA award.
6 The Diary of a Teenage Girl Release Date:
2015

Country:
USA

Director:
Marielle Heller

Cast:
Bel Powley, Willie, Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgård, Miranda Bailey, Abby Wait, Carson Mell, John Parsons, Austin Lyon, Madeleine Waters, Quinn Nagle, David Fine, Davy Clements, Susannah Rogers
Set in 1970s San Francisco, The Diary of a Teenage Girl tells the story of a 15-year-old aspiring illustrator, Minnie, who wants to lose her virginity. She’s self-conscious but popular, and receives plenty of male attention, even from her own mother’s boyfriend, Monroe.

Minnie’s mother, Charlotte, unaware of the attraction between her boyfriend and daughter, encourages them to go out together when she is too busy. They begin flirting, and soon start a sexual relationship. Minnie confides in her friend, Kimmie, and makes a recording on her tape recorder. Minnie and Kimmie then begin sleeping with classmates and strangers.

After Charlotte loses her job as a librarian, Minnie and her sister Gretel ask their stepfather, Pascal, for money. He initially offers them the opportunity to live with him in New York City, but they decline, and he reluctantly sends the money instead.

Minnie and Monroe begin taking acid together, and after a bad trip, Monroe confesses that he loves Minnie. She is freaked out and distances herself. Meanwhile, Charlotte discovers the recording on Minnie’s tape recorder, and is horrified at the betrayal. She instructs her daughter and ex-boyfriend to get married, which prompts Minnie to run away. A shocking experience with a drug dealer convinces her to go home and begin the process of overcoming her experience.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl is grittier than some coming-of-age movies, but it’s certainly an interesting take on the genre.
7 Being 17 Release Date:
2016

Country:
France

Director:
André Téchiné

Cast:
Sandrine Kiberlain, Kacey Mottet Klein, Corentin Fila, Jean Fornerod, Alexis Loret, Mama Prassinos, Rémi Garcia, Gérard Labelle, Jean Corso, Maïté Arraiza, Nicole Ellkésir, Françoise Gaillard, Didier Hougarou
Set in the stunning French Hautes-Pyrénées, this is the story of 17-year-old classmates Damien and Thomas. Damien lives with his mother, a doctor named Marianne. His father is serving abroad as part of the Air Force. Thomas lives on a farm with his adopted parents, who are expecting a baby. Thomas picks on Damien at school, and the two have a frosty relationship.

Matters become complicated when Thomas’ mother is hospitalised with an infection. Marianne offers Thomas the opportunity to come and stay with her and Damien, which he accepts. Damien is outraged that his school bully is living with the family, and the two frequently clash.

At the same time, Damien is struggling to come to terms with his emerging sexuality. He sets up an encounter with an older man, and asks Thomas to drive him to the rendezvous. Damien backs out at the last minute, admitting that he isn’t sure whether he’s gay or has feelings only for Thomas. Another altercation erupts, and Marianne asks Thomas to go home.

At school, however, the boys become close. Their relationship soon turns romantic, although Thomas is often hesitant. The death of Damien’s father, Nathan, sends Marianne into depression. Thomas returns to the home to help look after her, and the boys end up sleeping together. However, Marianne soon makes a decision that could tear Damien and Thomas apart.

Being 17 is a beautifully complex tale that deals with sexuality, masculinity, and loss. It has received numerous accolades and outstanding reviews. A hidden gem.
8 The Perks of Being a Wallflower Release Date:
2012

Country:
USA

Director:
Stephen Chbosky

Cast:
Logan Lerman, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Johnny Simmons, Patrick de Ledebur, Brian Balzerini, Tom Kruszewski, Ezra Miller, Julia Garner, Tom Savini, Nina Dobrev, Nicholas Braun, Paul Rudd, Chelsea Zhang
Based on the 1999 novel, this drama focuses on the coming-of-age story of Charlie, played by Logan Lerman as he navigates anxiety, depression, love and the high school experience. When two seniors take Charlie under their wing, he has to deal with a variety of events like high school parties, accidentally eating a cannabis brownie, and falling in love with senior Sam (played by Emma Watson).

The movie challenges real issues facing teenagers today discussing suicide, sexual abuse and depression while trying to put on a ‘brave face’ and get through high school. It’s all about discovering romance and learning some key lessons along the way so may hit close to home for many. It’s important to note that although this is a romance, it doesn’t tackle the genre in the same way as many others so it’s a refreshing perspective on some of the typical ‘teenage coming-of-age’ movies. This is also one of Emma Watson and Paul Rudd’s lesser known roles but is a firm favourite among fans!
9 Turn Me On, Dammit! Release Date:
2011

Country:
Norway

Director:
Jannicke Systad Jacobsen

Cast:
Helene Bergsholm, Malin Bjørhovde, Beate Støfring, Matias Myren, Henriette Steenstrup, Jon Bleiklie Devik, Lars Nordtveit Listau, Julia Bache-Wiig, Hilde-Gunn Ommedal, Arthur Berning, Julia Schacht, Yngve Hustad Reite
Alma is a 15-year-old girl living in a small Norwegian town, who becomes obsessed with X-rated phone lines as she explores her sexuality. She has a crush on Arthur, a boy from her school. During a party, Arthur exposes himself to Alma, much to her delight, but when she tells her friends what happens, Arthur denies the allegation. She is soon bullied by her classmates for what they perceive as a scandalous lie.

Alma’s mother is shocked when she receives a hugely expensive phone bill, and confront Alma over her use of premium-rate phone numbers. Alma isn’t shy and admits to what she’s been doing, before agreeing to take on part-time work to repay her mother. However, Alma is soon in trouble again after stealing a pornographic magazine from work. In response to her mother’s frustration and the continued bullying at school, Alma briefly runs away.

When she returns, her mother is more sympathetic, and Arthur finally admits his actions at the party, as well as his developing feelings towards Alma. Turn Me On, Dammit! is an interesting take on the coming-of-age comedy-drama, with plenty of quintessentially Scandinavian quirkiness.
10 The First Time Release Date:
2012

Country:
USA

Director:
Jonathan Kasdan

Cast:
Britt Robertson, Dylan O'Brien, Craig Roberts, Joshua Malina, James Frecheville, Lamarcus Tinker, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, Christine Taylor, Victoria Justice, Halston Sage, Chase Levy, Matthew Fahey
High schoolers Dave and Aubrey meet at a house party, where Dave is planning to tell his crush, Jane, how he feels. The two hit it off, and Dave abandons his plans to speak to Jane, in favour of accompanying Aubrey home. Dave admits that he is a virgin, while Aubrey is reluctant to share details of her own life beyond telling Dave that she has a boyfriend. Dave falls asleep in Aubrey’s room, and makes a quick escape the next morning when he is discovered by her parents.

Aubrey, her boyfriend Ronny, Dave, and Jane all end up at the same movie theatre. When Jane flirts with Dave, Aubrey becomes jealous and leaves the theatre. Dave catches her in the lobby, she apologises, and the two share their phone numbers. At a party after the movie, Ronny tells Dave he is planning to sleep with Aubrey that night, which causes an altercation between the boys. Nonetheless, Aubrey leaves with Ronny.

Dave is initially distraught, but soon receives a phone call from Aubrey, asking him to pick her up. They end up revealing their feelings for each other, and decide to sleep together soon afterwards. It turns out to be less than romantic, and the two part ways the following morning. However, they soon realise that an uncomfortable first time is all par for the course, and commit to move past their awkward encounter.






What makes a perfect coming-of-age movie?

Realism
Let’s be real; teenage romance isn’t pretty! A great coming-of-age movie doesn’t gloss over the cringy aspects of being an adolescent – it embraces them! Audiences are tired of unrealistic portrayal of youth; the closer a movie gets to reality, the better.

Humour
Coming-of-age comedies have been a popular sub-genre for decades. There’s a lot of humour to be found in stories of embarrassing first forays into adult relationships. For example, American Pie – the archetypal awkward teenager comedy – spawned a series of eight films.

Relatability
We’ve all been there. The hormones, the painful longing, the chronic awkwardness – it’s all kind of endearingly tragic in retrospect!

It’s appealing, therefore, to be able to relate to the characters on-screen. Very few of us were suave and sophisticated adolescents, and to see perfect teenagers in film simply isn’t reflective of real life. We want our teenage heroes to have at least some flaws, because it’s a true representation of what most of us experience. And, most importantly, we’re rooting for the underdog. McLovin’s literal seconds of romantic glory in Superbad have audiences punching the air in triumph for good reason!

A fresh perspective
The coming-of-age story in its traditional format has been pretty much done to death. The 21st century, however, has subverted most of the usual tropes and delivered angles that were otherwise woefully under-explored. In this list, for example, we’ve chosen movies that reflect international perspectives, life-changing events, and gritty realities. As the genre continues to develop, we’ll see further representation of the complex issues that surround real teenagers.