The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “coming-of-age” as “the attainment of prominence, respectability, recognition, or maturity.”
Rite of passage movies are a major part of the Hollywood playbook. The age ranges can be different. Middle-aged people move into old age. Children press into the teenage years. These make for stories that reflect part of the normal human experience.
While character growth is fundamental to most Hollywood films, the coming-of-age subgenre employs it as a primary narrative device. Examples date back throughout history and tend to center on young protagonists who are undergoing a transformative experience or contemplating their futures and learning something as a result. Their journey often functions as an analog for the lessons we all learn when maturing into adulthood and leaving our innocent past behind.
To determine the best coming-of-age movie, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of April 2022, weighting all ratings equally. Only films that follow a young protagonist transitioning from youth to adulthood were included. We only considered films with at least 5,000 audience votes on either IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes. Directorial credit information comes from IMDb.
The best coming-of-age movie Is “Spirited Away,” released in 2001 and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Here are the details:
- IMDb user rating: 8.6/10 (721,622 votes)
- Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 96% (337,467 votes)
- Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (194 reviews)
One of the greatest animated films of all time sends a young girl into a perilous netherworld, where humans become beasts and mystical creatures roam the skies. A perfect summation of Miyazaki’s talents and obsessions, it uses boundless imagination as a gateway to coming-of-age themes. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and currently ranks at number 31 on IMDb’s list of the Top 250 Movies.
Click here to read about the 50 best coming of age movies.
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