When executed properly, coming-of-age movies render emotional impact by sending relatable characters through a series of life-changing events. Put the sub-genre in the wrong hands, however, and it comes off as little more than a predictable rehash of tired formulas. Running over familiar ground, these films pull desperately at the heartstrings and look all the more superficial as a result.
To determine the worst coming-of-age movies, 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. Director credits come from IMDb.
Not all low-rated coming-of-age movies are regarded in the same light. Films such as “Orange County” and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” still land their plot points and tonal punches in spite of their arguable shortcomings, for example. Compare them to something like the 2012 Miley Cyrus vehicle “LOL” or the 2014 melodrama “Endless Love” and one can quickly draw lines in the sand. Some titles are underwhelming while others are just plain terrible. (These, on the other hand, are the 25 best coming-of-age movies.)
Whether the result of poor writing, direction, acting, or all of the above, the worst of the worst coming-of-age movies can be an absolute chore to sit through. When the underlying formula is laid bare, the Hollywood magic lifts away to reveal nothing but shallow tropes and emotional trickery. The guilty pleasures are thus few and far between and better found in other genres. (For instance, here’s a list of recommended sad movies for when you need a good cry.)
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