Coming-of-age stories, sometimes referred to as "bildungsromans" by sophisticates, have been a genre of literature since time immemorial. However, within the world of movies they were much more underrepresented until the 21st century, possibly due to their more intimate subject matter or corporate skepticism about the marketability of such a film. Nowadays, directors seem to be making up for lost time, with at least addition to the genre premiering each year for the past 10 years.
With that in mind, here are some of our favorite coming-of-age films of the past decade.
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Though some of the tropes it pioneered have become more commonplace in the nine years since this movie premiered, this is still a pillar of the coming-of-age genre. Based on the 1999 novel of the same name by Stephen Chbosky, who also directed the film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a heartfelt and realistic testament to the trials and tribulations of adolescence. It stars Logan Lerman from Percy Jackson, Harry Potter actress Emma Watson, and Justice League actor Ezra Miller.
4. The Spectacular Now
A film that is surprisingly dark in places, The Spectacular Now took a sincere and believable look at the lives of American teenagers, sidestepping traditional tropes in favor of serious drama. The movie's success helped elevate Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, and Kaitlyn Dever into the stars they are today. It follows Sutter Keely (Teller), a party animal who falls in love with soft-spoken Aimee Finecky (Woodley) even as their final year in high school comes to a close.
3. Short Term 12
Short Term 12 stars Brie Larson as a supervisor at a home for troubled teenagers, who tries to be supportive even as she deals with her own trauma. This film was Lakeith Stanfield's cinematic debut and another showcase for Kaitlyn Dever's talent; both of them played teenagers under Larson's care. Though depressing in places, the story is deeply human and ends on a hopeful note. Interestingly, its director, Destin Daniel Cretton, went on to direct Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which is about as tonally different from Short Term 12 as possible.
2. Lady Bird
Lady Bird, while not the first coming-of-age film to take a more eccentric approach to the genre, was groundbreaking in its simultaneously deep and comedic perspective on senior year. Emblematic of indie director Greta Gerwig's quirky style, the script balances honesty with absurdity, following Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) as she longs to escape from her hardboiled mother (Laurie Metcalf) and dives into the wonderful world of adolescent dating (Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet) with zest. Gerwig, Ronan, and Chalamet later reunited for 2019's Little Women, another coming-of-age movie.
Booksmart is so much better than it has any right to be. Despite the standard buddy comedy exterior, first-time director Olivia Wilde's film demonstrates a deeper insight into modern teenagers than any other movie on this list. Kaitlyn Dever finally gets a starring role worthy of her talent, teaming up with Beanie Feldstein (who also appeared in Lady Bird) in a cinematic and absurdist odyssey to arrive at their high school's final party. The supporting cast, mostly comprised of unknowns, is uproariously hilarious, but their characters all get moments of multidimensionality and the script never feels inauthentic, even in its most bombastic moments. Booksmart will also be forever renowned as the film that gave us Billie Lourd (Carrie Fisher's daughter) as Gigi.
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