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Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart

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Coming-of-age movies remind us of the awkward, funny, dramatic, limiting, and liberating nature of growing up. A really impactful one profoundly touches your heart. Booksmart, starring Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever is one of the recent coming-of-age movies gaining praise for its funny look at the struggles of growing up. It's also one of the many coming of age films currently available to stream or rent online.

The coming-of-age category describes a broad blanket of films. I define this movie genre as tales of growing up with an emphasis on how that process leads to growth, self-exploration, or a deeper understanding of the world around.

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart

Booksmart (2019)

After spending most of their high school careers being nerds and not socializing beyond each other, high school seniors Amy (Kaithly Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) decide to attend the big year-end party. Their quest to attend this party leads them on a strange adventure that includes drugs, an arrest, porn, and awkward hook-ups.

Booksmart takes some inspiration from coming-of-age movies like Superbad —which just happens to star Feldstein’s brother Jonah Hill-- but it is not just a carbon copy: Booksmart has its own distinct identity and brand of humor. Like Amy and Molly, the film is very comfortable in its own skin and that helps it give a refreshing spin on the high school comedy genre.

Where To Stream: Hulu

Where To Rent Online: Amazon

Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Ezra Miller in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows introvert Charlie (Logan Lerman) through his first year of high school. Two seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) befriend Charlie and take him under their wings. The movie is based on the book of the same name.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower explores serious issues like sexual abuse, domestic violence, and abortion. It tackles these issues with a careful approach and compassionate touch. Charlie’s layered and sympathetic persona makes him a great narrator because he creates an instant connection with the viewers. The three main leads all give some of their best performances in this film.

Where To Rent Online: Amazon

Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, and Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast

The Breakfast Club (1985)

In The Breakfast Club, five students from different high school cliques experience a Saturday together after all being put in detention. Detention brings them together in a way they never expected, and they start to understand each other more. Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, and Anthony Michael Hall star in The Breakfast Club.

John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club has become a teen movie classic, often referenced and sourced in pop culture. This film has stood the test of time because it focuses on characters that are relatable, and highlights that no matter what high school cliché you embody, we all suffer the same feelings of loneliness, fear, and confusion.

John Hughes films in general are very entertaining coming of age stories. A few others to give a try are Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Sixteen Candles.

Where To Stream: Starz

Where To Rent Online: Amazon

Laurie Metcalf and Saorise Ronan in Lady Bird

Lady Bird (2017)

Greta Gerwig directs Saorise Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, and Beanie Feldstein in this coming-of-age story about a combative mother and daughter duo. In Lady Bird, Lady Bird (Saorise Ronan) and her mother (Laurie Metcalf) are constantly at odds, and are both dealing with their own growing pains.

Lady Bird’s biggest strength is the performances by Saorise Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. They both make you frustrated and sympathetic towards their behavior. Despite their fighting, like many mother and teen daughter relationships, both clearly do love and appreciate each other underneath all the disagreements. It’s not easy growing up, and it’s even harder being an adult.

Where To Rent Online: Amazon

Where To Stream: Amazon Prime

America Ferrera and Lupe Ontiveros in Real Women Have Curves

Real Women Have Curves (2002)

Real Women Have Curves stars America Ferrera, Lupe Ontiveros, and George Lopez. It’s about a Mexican-American teen trying to find her own identity and live her dreams while staying true to her culture and heritage.

Real Women Have Curves is a body positive movie a little ahead of its time. It also shows a mother and daughter whose culture and beliefs are often at odds. America Ferrera’s character is learning to love her body and embrace her sexuality, while her mother thinks she should feel shame for both. The film challenges a sense of duty to family, while also showing how cycles of emotional abuse can limit people’s opportunity for emotional and economic growth. Real Women Have Curves is a raw but spirited look at the hardships of growing up, especially with added familial pressures.

Where To Stream: HBO Now

Where To Rent Online: Amazon

Trevante Rhodes in Moonlight

Moonlight (2016)

Barry Jenkins directed Moonlight, a movie that follows Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) from his difficult childhood with drug addict mother Paula (Naomie Harris) to exploring his sexuality as a teen to an adult in desperate need of love and hope.

Moonlight is a gritty look at the difficulties faced by a man with life and society working against him. Chiron suffers many great losses, but the end of Moonlight offers a sense of peace and possibilities. He has had a hard journey but hope still exists.

Where To Stream: Netflix

Where To Rent Online: Amazon

Dev Patel in Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Slumdog Millionaire follows Jamal (Dev Patel), a young man who, throughout the course of the movie, is managing to win his way through the Indian version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? As we through through the course of flashbacks, many of the questions he's given tie into his experiences growing up in some way. Slumdog Millionaire is also the story of Jamal’s love for Latika (Freida Pinto).

Slumdog Millionaire is one of the most exciting coming of age stories as you’re enthralled by Jamal’s journey. Every new question and story, you root and cheer him on, hoping that he wins this million and gains a better life. It thrills from beginning to end.

Where To Stream: Cinemax

Where To Rent Online: Amazon

Fionn O’Shea and Nicholas Galitzine in Handsome Devil

Handsome Devil (2016)

Handsome Devil follows Ned (Fionn O’Shea), a teen who goes to an elite Irish school who is mocked for being different and often accused of being gay. Conor (Nicholas Galitzine) is the new student who is instantly popular for being a good rugby player. The two become roommates and unlikely friends.

The school in Handsome Devil is very homophobic, and the movie reveals early on that Conor is gay. It’s the story of Ned and Conor’s friendship and Conor learning to accept his sexuality. Conor and Ned’s friendship is a very sweet one, especially how they go from believing they have nothing in common to discovering they’re a lot alike.

Where To Stream: Netflix

Where To Rent Online: Amazon

Jason London, Matthew McConaughey, Sasha Jenson, and Wiley Wiggins in Dazed and Confused

Dazed And Confused (1993)

Richard Linklater directed Dazed and Confused, a movie about different groups of students on the last day of school in 1976. The cast includes Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Jason London, Milla Jovoich, Parker Posey, and Joey Lauren Adams.

Dazed and Confused offers a snapshot at the life of high school students in the 1970s, and it feels real because it’s basically just a bunch of kids roaming around looking for something to do. That’s like 90 percent of the high school experience. Dazed and Confused is also just a really funny movie that’s simple and easy.

Where To Stream: Starz

Where To Rent Online: Amazon

Kirsten Dunst, A.J Cooke, Leslie Hayman, and Chelse Swain in The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides (1999)

Kirsten Dunst, James Woods, Kathleen Turner, and Josh Hartnett star in The Virgin Suicides. The film follows the Lisbon family, particularly the Lisbon daughters. Lux Lisbon (Kirsten Dunst) is the main daughter and her sister’s orbit around her chaos.

The Virgin Suicides takes the perspective of Tim Weiner (Jonathan Tucker) and the other boys who watch and love the Lisbon girls from afar. As the girls grow up, their parents try to suppress and hide them from the world, especially the world of boys. This leads to desperate measures. The Virgin Suicides taking the male perspective shows the deep misunderstanding that young boys can have when dealing with women and girls. It also shows the consequences that occur when parents try to stop the growing up process.

Where To Stream: Crackle

Where To Rent Online: Amazon

Jonah Hill and Michael Cera in Superbad

Superbad (2007)

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote Superbad, a coming of age story about two best friends who try to have the night of their lives, but end up going on a crazy adventure on the way to a party. The Superbad cast includes Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, Bill Hader, and Emma Stone.

Superbad is a funny high school adventure movie, but it’s also about drifting apart from your childhood friends as you get older. The film shows that this inevitable outcome is okay because it doesn’t necessarily mean they have to disappear from your life completely.

Where To Stream: Vudu

Where To Rent Online: Amazon

Will Wheaton, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, and River Phoenix in Stand By Me

Stand By Me (1986)

Stand by Me follows four boys who find the dead body of a missing boy. Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell star in this coming of age film based on a Stephen King novella called The Body.

At the core of Stand By Me is a tale of how friendship gets these four young boys through the harsh and cruel nature of life and growing up. The film has excellent performances by the young cast, but River Phoenix especially gives a mesmerizing performance.

Where To Stream: Crackle

Where To Rent Online: Amazon

Victor Rasuk, Krystal Rodriguez, Altagracia Guzman, and  Silvestre Rasuk in Raising Victor Vargas

Raising Victor Vargas (2002)

Raising Victor Vargas is the story of three siblings being raised by their grandmother. It’s also about Victor (Victor Rasuk)’s budding romance with Judy (Judy Marte).

Raising Victor Vargas is a very funny and heartwarming movie about removing your masks to let someone see and love your true self. It is also about family, first love, and growing up.

Where To Stream: Tubi

Where To Rent Online: Amazon

There are many great coming of age movies available to rent or stream online. Here are a few others to consider:

Welcome To The Dollhouse (1996): Rent

The Edge of Seventeen (2016): Rent, Stream

10 Things I Hate About You (1999): Rent, Stream

Rushmore (1999): Rent

Boyhood (2014): Rent, Stream

Say Anything (1989): Rent, Stream

Almost Famous (2000): Rent