What does it mean to "come of age"? You could be 10 years old. You could be 20. You could fall in love, overcome a tragedy, or learn a life lesson. However you define it, these coming-of-age movies make for perfect summer viewing.
Stand by Me (1986)
The textbook definition of the coming-of-age movie. Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O'Connell search for a dead body in the woods, and wind up experiencing all the joy and heartache that life has to offer.
Now and Then (1995)
Four girls investigate the cracked grave of a man they call "Dear Johnny;" female bonding ensues. We still don't buy that Christina Ricci somehow grows up to be Rosie O'Donnell, but the movie's still a charmer.
Dazed and Confused (1993)
It's 1976, it's the last day of school, and it's Austin, Texas. With impeccable '70s style and a cast of future stars including Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, and Matthew McConaughey, 'Dazed and Confused' is alright, alright, alright.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Two adolescent misfits run away and fall in love as the summer of 1965 draws to a close. Wes Anderson's trademark attention to detail makes the film's production design as memorable as its appealing cast.
American Graffiti (1973)
Before 'Star Wars' made him a bazillionaire, George Lucas gave us this tender, funny, and somewhat autobiographical movie set in small-town California in 1962. And no special effects were needed.
Courtesy of Spike Lee, we have this rare treat: a coming-of-age story centered around an African-American girl. Zelda Harris sparkles as Troy, whose summer in Brooklyn in 1973 is a blend of sadness, hope and the human spirit.
The Sandlot (1993)
Easily the most lighthearted of all these movies, the scariest thing in this baseball-themed family film is a neighborhood dog nicknamed the Beast. And even he's not very scary. Good clean fun.
The Man in the Moon (1991)
It's not a requirement that a coming-of-age movie take place in the past, but you may have noticed that most of them do. Reese Witherspoon was 14 when she made her debut in this tearjerker set in rural Louisiana in 1957.
The Wood (1999)
This breezy hang-out comedy concerns three close friends who, as the first of them prepares to get married, reminisce about their high school shenanigans in 1980s Inglewood, just south of Los Angeles.
Say Anything… (1989)
Yes! A coming-of-age story not set in the past – although 1989 looks pretty far away today. John Cusack, forever holding his boombox aloft in our hearts, woos Ione Skye after high school graduation in Cameron Crowe's directorial debut.
Whale Rider (2002)
The U.S. doesn't have a monopoly on the coming-of-age genre: this New Zealand drama tells the story of a Maori girl hoping to lead her tribe. Keisha Castle-Hughes scored a Best Actress Oscar nomination at the tender age of 12.
Real Women Have Curves (2002)
Shedding some light on the Mexican-American experience, 'Real Women Have Curves' stars America Ferrera, in her pre-'Ugly Betty' days, as an East L.A. teenager yearning to break away from her mother's traditional views.
Empire of the Sun (1987)
Just 13, Christian Bale showed off his famous intensity in Steven Spielberg's epic about a British boy in WWII China. The film was based on J. G. Ballard's semi-autobiographical novel.
My Girl (1991)
Talk about a three-hankie picture. Macaulay Culkin was already a mega-celebrity in 1991, thanks to the previous year's 'Home Alone,' but 'My Girl' truly belongs to Anna Chlumsky, who grew up to costar in the HBO comedy 'Veep.'
The Outsiders (1983)
Has any film produced as many A-listers as 'The Outsiders' has? As the persecuted "greasers," C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio get backup from Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, and Patrick Swayze. Whew!
The Graduate (1967)
Dustin Hoffman may have been pushing 30 when he played meek 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock, but 'The Graduate' remains the quintessential coming-of-age movie. Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson.