Your Top Three: Coming-of-Age Movies

Your Top Three: Coming-of-Age Movies

Jul 11, 2014

Your Top Three is a series here at where we choose a topic and you give us your top three picks.

Richard Linklater's Boyhood is not just one of the best coming-of-age movies in years, but it just might be the most genuinely qualified to exempify the genre. Not only does it depict the story of a boy coming of age, but because it was shot over the course of 12 years, it also documents the real-life coming of age of the actor playing that boy. Actual documentaries have done this in the past, but Boyhood one-ups those films by having the parallelling primary fiction narrative.

There is, however, a series of classic French fiction films that's comparable to what Linklater did with his new movie. Francois Truffaut made five movies over 20 years centered on the character Anoine Doinel, who was played by Jean-Pierre Leaud from age 14 through 34. Given that range, as a whole the Doinel series isn't considered a collective coming-of-age work, but the first movie, The 400 Blows, is one of the most renowned ever made, for the genre and all of cinema.

I guess with a tighter amount of time occuring from first to last movie, you could say the Harry Potter franchise is even closer to Boyhood in that manner. 

One thing that can be confusing, especially with most movies not recording years and years worth of footage, is the difference between coming-of-age movies and just plain teen movies. Technically, a coming-of-age movie should at least take place over a number of years, often featuring different actors in the role of the main character as a kid and then a teen. But we tend to accept those movies where preteen or teen characters go through a major ordeal, event or change in their life, maybe over one school year or summer. 

I think both types qualify, though my current favorites consist only of the latter. 


My Top Three Coming-of-Age Movies:


1. Stand by Me (1986)

While set only over the course of a few days, you can really feel the characters in this movie growing up by leaps and bounds during their trek through the woods to see a dead body. As a resultt, for almost 30 years, it's been the movie that immediately comes to mind when I think of the words "coming of age." 


2. The Goonies (1985)

This fellow '80s movie with its own group of boys, one of them played by Corey Feldman, on an adventure is more of a metaphorical tale of coming of age, with everything from a castrated sculpture to a pirate named One-Eyed Willie to family jewels tying into an overarching theme of kids going through puberty and becoming men.   


3. Maidentrip (2013)

A new addition to my favorites, this documentary follows 14-year-old Laura Dekker as she becomes the youngest person to sail solo around the world. It too is full of metaphor as she finds her identity and independence while navigating unknown waters and sometimes just floating through life, literally coming of age in the process. 


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