This Friday sees the release of The Kings of Summer, one of our favorite movies out of Sundance this year (where it was titled Toy's House) and also one of the best coming-of-age movies in years. It's hilarious, heartfelt and involves a summertime story that's up there with Stand by Me, The Sandlot and Moonrise Kingdom as an immediate classic for the seasonal subgenre.
And the film's director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, certainly knows the body of work he's following. To get the gig he even made a short "tone reel" comprised of clips from such great movies as Stand by Me, Superbad, Mean Creek, Son of Rambow, Millions, The Wackness, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and many others. Fortunately he was very successful in adding something familiar yet highly original to this body rather than delivering a movie that feels derivative or explicitly referential.
The Kings of Summer isn't the only coming-of-age movie arriving in theaters in the next few months. Other Sundance favorites falling into the genre include high school romance flick The Spectacular Now and waterpark dramedy The Way, Way Back. Also out this weekend is the latest from M. Night Shyamalan, After Earth, which is somewhat of a coming-of-age sci-fi movie starring Jaden Smith as a teenager out to prove himself to his military-hero father when the two crash-land on the long-abandoned tiular planet. Later in the year, we get a more anticipated coming-of-age sci-fi film, Ender's Game.
With all these on the horizon, it's time to have a healthy debate about what we consider to be the best title in the genre, which extends through time and over the globe as far as notable examples are concerned. Given that these stories go back before cinema even began, understandably coming-of-age movies have been around since the beginning, including adaptations of Dickens, Alcott, Bronte and other popular authors. Later teen movies became popular in the 1950s and again even moreso in the 1980s, throwing numerous entries onto the pile.
All humans understand the significance of growing up and have rites of passage, so we can see masterpieces out of France (The 400 Blows), India (Pather Panchali), England (Kes), Italy (Amarcord), New Zealand (Whale Rider), Israel (Saint Clara), Argentina (The Holy Girl), Brazil (City of God) and countless others from these countries and elsewhere. American classics will always be favorites for many here, however, and outside of Stand by Me we often think of Hollywood stuff like Rebel Without a Cause, Sixteen Candles, The Karate Kid, The Goonies and even genre crossovers like E.T. and Spider-Man. And it's hard to ignore the whole Harry Potter series.
I'd probably pick The 400 Blows as being objectively the best, but one of my less popular guilty pleasures of the genre is Mermaids.
What is the greatest coming-of-age movie of all time?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter: