The high school and college experience is ripe with opportunity to redefine yourself amongst your peers, explore new loves and interests all the while figuring out who you really are. It's not all fun and games though, and while it's never easy to leave childhood behind, these movies can help give some perspective. Even if that perspective can get a bit blurry, like in 21 and Over.
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Don't let the hokey name fool you, this warm and touching dramedy about the best-friendship of four girls, played by Blake Lively, Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel and America Ferrera, touches on every aspect of growing up. From dealing with boys to parental problems and even grappling with unexpected death, these girls have each other's backs.
The ultimate high school movie about establishing your place in the social hierarchy, Cady (Lindsay Lohan) finds herself at the mercy of the popular girls at school (Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfreid and Lacey Chabert) and attempts to infiltrate their group before succumbing to the pressures of popularity. Written by Tina Fey, this witty movie is endlessly quotable.
When a young girl (Carey Mulligan) begins to look past her 16-year-old life into adulthood, she meets an older man (Peter Sarsgaard) who promises to show her all the best things in life. This dramatic British tale about a young girl caught between childhood and adulthood earned three Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
Religion divides people, and in this hilarious high school comedy it brings together the popular kids, led by Mandy Moore, in a crusade against the unpopular (Jena Malone, Patrick Fugit and Macaulay Culkin). This cult classic proves that coming of age is never easy, especially when you're misunderstood.
Nothing will cause a young girl to grow up faster than an unexpected pregnancy. Juno (Ellen Page) finds herself pregnant and considering life and adoption for her baby amidst the complications of family life and high school in this touching and hilarious comedy that has plenty to say about difficult life choices and the importance of family.
The master of coming of age movies, John Hughes, outdid himself with this wistful tale of teen love and romance, longing and confusion. Sam (Molly Ringwald) tries to navigate the deep waters of everyday life, even as she falls in love and is overshadowed by her family. Capturing well the uncomfortable questions that surround teen desire and sexuality, this is a delightful exploration of the difficulties of figuring life out on your own.
Beverly Hills is home to Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), a Valley Girl high schooler on a mission. Looking fabulous, shopping at the mall, having fun and acing her classes isn't enough for Cher in this '90s adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. Cher finds herself a project, improving the nerdyTai (Brittany Murphy). When things don't go as planned, Cher finds herself growing up fast and learning more about herself, too.
Wes Anderson's unique look at a high school student like no other, Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is an outsider at Rushmore Academy. A member of every club and activity at school, his grades are failing and he's falling in love with a mysterious teacher (Olivia Williams) while befriending a classmate's father (Bill Murray). Strange, eclectic and wholly wonderful, this is a painfully beautiful look at growing up and moving on.
The Breakfast Club
What list would be complete without the famous five? Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy are five members of different cliques, sent in for a day-long detention. The five discover that they've got more in common than they thought, and define themselves apart from society's expectations. A classic coming-of-age film in every sense of the word.
Falling in love for the very first time changes life for Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and Diane (Ione Skye), who struggle to remain together post-high school, as Diane deals with her overprotective father and Lloyd can't seem to find his calling. Romantic, insightful and moving, this film holds up remarkably well.
Dead Poets Society
Teachers have the absolute power to shape our minds, and Robin Williams does so admirably in this look at a boy's school and the radical idea of living life to the fullest. Lives, minds and hearts are changed as each of the boys begin to choose their own path and come to understand the meaning of "carpe diem" in their individual lives.
10 Things I Hate About You
A fantastic Shakespearean adaptation, this time based on The Taming of the Shrew, pits Julia Stiles against Heath Ledger in this high school battle of wits. As the two tear each other to shreds fighting over every little thing, they slowly discover they've been falling in love and growing up along the way. Check out a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt in one of his earliest roles!
Young love finds Oliver (Craig Roberts) in the shape of Jordana (Yasmin Paige) but his attempts to control the situation and his wild imagination threaten to lose him everything he's won. This quirky and unique British coming of age film will appeal to the erudite and intellectual among us.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Featuring young actors who would go on to enjoy success (Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold) take their turns in this classic comedy penned by Cameron Crowe, that finds teenagers enjoying drugs and malls, working low-paying jobs and exploring their sexuality as they enjoy the first fruits of freedom from childhood.
Kicking and Screaming
Noah Baumbach's movie about the post-college graduation haze perfectly encapsulates so much about the slow process of becoming an adult. Parts of this intellectually satisfying and humorous movie ring as true today as when it was released in 1995, proving that some things never really change.
A young man (Dennis Christopher) stuck in a small town is obsessed with bike riding, and finds himself caught between the old ways of doing things and his new life, ultimately leading to an exciting bike race in which winning is a necessity. His friends, played by the likes of Dennis Quaid and Jackie Earle Haley, find their own way through life in this touching and exciting film.
One girl (Ellen Page) attempts to find her way towards something meaningful, away from the drudgery of beauty pageants. When she discovers roller derby, courtesy of a few older skaters (Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig) she learns more about herself and what she's capable of as she becomes a roller derby champion. Thrilling and hilarious, this one is a must-see.