While character growth is fundamental to most Hollywood films, the coming-of-age sub-genre 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. (Here are some sad movies for when you need a good cry.)
It might sound like the stuff of pure drama, but many of the best coming-of-age movies deliver no shortage of comic relief. Take films such as Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore” and Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused,” for instance, which follow a comedic template while simultaneously depicting earnest character growth (or a lack thereof). Even something as bleak as Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting” incorporates plenty of humor as it exposes the darkest side of modern drug culture. (These are the funniest American movies of all time.)
“Trainspotting” also goes to show that the coming-of-age sub-genre isn’t exclusively dedicated to children and teenagers. The recent Norwegian dramedy “The Worst Person in the World” similarly follows post-adolescent characters as they wade through life’s many obstacles and uncertainties. As it turns out, anyone can learn and grow at any time if the right experience or encounter comes along to change them.
To determine the best 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. Directorial credit information comes from IMDb.
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