Special Report

50 Best Coming of Age Movies

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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.

Click here to see the best coming of age movies

Source: Courtesy of IFC Films

50. Boyhood (2014)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (349,002 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 80% (89,879 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (327 reviews)
> Directed by: Richard Linklater

Director Richard Linklater filmed this drama over the course of 12 years, so as to capture its coming-of-age themes in a literal fashion. It follows a young boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he experiences a series of life changes, including the divorce of his parents.

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Source: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

49. Juno (2007)
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (510,938 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 88% (549,599 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (217 reviews)
> Directed by: Jason Reitman

Balancing comedic dialogue with earnest drama, this modern classic tells the story of pregnant teen Juno MacGuff (Elliot Page). It represents the screenwriting debut of Diablo Cody, who took home an Academy Award for the effort.

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

48. Rushmore (1998)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (181,476 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (186,268 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (105 reviews)
> Directed by: Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson’s sophomore film brought his unique brand of quirky dramedy to a much wider audience. Jason Schwartzman plays private school student Max Fischer, who squares off against a much older man (Bill Murray) over the love of a teacher (Rosemary Cross).

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

47. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (230,329 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (301,920 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (51 reviews)
> Directed by: Lasse Hallström

This slice-of-life drama centers on the title character (Johnny Depp), who sacrifices his own happiness by caretaking for the people he loves. It features an Oscar-nominated breakout performance from Leonardo DiCaprio as Gilbert’s disabled younger brother.

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Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

46. October Sky (1999)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (88,727 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 88% (66,197 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 91% (74 reviews)
> Directed by: Joe Johnston

Witness the true story of Homer Hickam (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), who pursues rocketry against the wishes of his coal miner father (Chris Cooper). “The TV movie subject matter is infused with genuine feeling for the value of learning as a passport to freedom, and an authentic regard for the honest graft of working men,” wrote critic Trevor Johnston for Time Out.

Source: Courtesy of Focus Features

45. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (341,128 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 86% (139,918 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (266 reviews)
> Directed by: Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson wrangled old collaborators and new ones alike for this coming-of-age dramedy. It springs to life in signature color and explores a variety of themes, including biblical floods and youthful romance. At the heart of the story are a pair of young lovers (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward), who decide to flee from their New England island community in 1964.

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Source: Courtesy of Embassy Pictures

44. The Graduate (1967)
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10 (267,545 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90% (183,710 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 87% (83 reviews)
> Directed by: Mike Nichols

This game-changing classic tells the story of college graduate Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman). Unsure of his future, the disaffected young man gets romantically involved with an older woman (Anne Bancroft). More than a critical and commercial smash, the film helped usher in a new Hollywood era.

Source: Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures

43. Dazed and Confused (1993)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (178,098 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90% (236,503 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (61 reviews)
> Directed by: Richard Linklater

Linklater’s legendary cult film takes place on the last day of school in Austin, Texas, circa 1976. As the camera weaves between various characters and storylines, broader themes of freedom and adulthood play out against a soundtrack of rock classics.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

42. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (88,695 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 88% (58,647 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (54 reviews)
> Directed by: Nicholas Ray

This timeless drama was among the first to examine teenage angst and generational differences in middle-class America. James Dean delivers a career-defining performance as Jim Stark, the young man who rolls into town and brings a troubled past along with him.

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Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

41. Dead Poets Society (1989)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (465,537 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (307,400 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 85% (59 reviews)
> Directed by: Peter Weir

Screenwriter Tom Schulman drew from personal experience when crafting the Oscar-winning script for this blockbuster drama. It takes place in 1959 at a private boarding school, where teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) invokes radical thought through the power of poetry.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

40. The Breakfast Club (1985)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (381,962 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (556,994 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 89% (64 reviews)
> Directed by: John Hughes

Five students from different backgrounds convene for Saturday detention in this beloved dramedy from director John Hughes. With the breaking of interpersonal barriers comes a pointed examination of suburban teenage life. The movie’s main stars made up part of the so-called Brat Pack of the 1980s.

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Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

39. Call Me by Your Name (2017)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (252,372 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 86% (16,320 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (363 reviews)
> Directed by: Luca Guadagnino

This coming-of-age drama based on a novel of the same name takes place in 1983 in the countryside of northern Italy. Against a bucolic backdrop, romance blossoms between a male college graduate (Armie Hammer) and a teenage boy (Timothée Chalamet). Upon winning the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay at 89 years of age, screenwriter James Ivory became the oldest person in history to take home a competitive Oscar.

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

38. Moana (2016)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (314,473 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (70,806 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 95% (283 reviews)
> Directed by: Ron Clements & John Musker

This computer-animated classic draws from Polynesian origin myths and presents a small island community with a terrible curse. Heeding the ocean’s call, the fearless Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) embarks on a sea-based adventure to set things right. A follow-up TV series is slated to arrive in 2023.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

37. Breaking Away (1979)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (23,154 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 88% (9,358 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 95% (41 reviews)
> Directed by: Peter Yates

This endearing exploration of small-town life doubles as an inspiring underdog sports movie. It tells the story of Dave Stohler (Dennis Christopher), who dreams of becoming a competitive cyclist. With help from a tight-knit group of friends, his dream just might come true.

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Source: Courtesy of GKIDS

36. The Breadwinner (2017)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (24,518 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 88% (2,086 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 95% (105 reviews)
> Directed by: Nora Twomey

Brought to life in stunning animation, this war drama centers on an 11-year-old girl named Parvana (Saara Chaudry). Living in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, Parvana takes the disguise of a boy so as to earn a living and support her family. “This is a day-to-day survival story that stirs the heart and fires the imagination,” wrote critic Philip De Semlyen for Time Out.

Source: Courtesy of DreamWorks Distribution

35. Almost Famous (2000)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (270,351 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (325,194 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 89% (175 reviews)
> Directed by: Cameron Crowe

Director Cameron Crowe offers a thinly veiled autobiographical portrait of his own coming-of-age experiences as a teenage journalist for Rolling Stone. Playing his alter-ego is Patrick Fugit, who hits the road with a rock band called Stillwater. The film won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

34. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (3,999 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 85% (940 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (09 reviews)
> Directed by: Robert Ellis Miller

Upon moving to a small city, a deaf-mute man (Alan Arkin) changes the lives of those around him in this heartfelt drama. It’s based on the best-selling debut novel by Carson McCullers, which was heralded for its depiction of marginalized individuals.

Source: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

33. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10 (829,320 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90% (1,155,896 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 91% (289 reviews)
> Directed by: Danny Boyle

India’s version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” provides a window to the past in this sleeper hit from Danny Boyle. Accused of cheating on the game show, a contestant (Dev Patel) revisits his tumultuous upbringing while defending his answers. The film earned over $370 million at the worldwide box office and won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Source: Courtesy of Neon

32. The Worst Person in the World (2021)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (39,473 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (500 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96% (222 reviews)
> Directed by: Joachim Trier

This Norwegian dramedy chronicles the romantic misadventures of a young woman (Renate Reinsve) over the course of four years. It unfolds in chapters and incorporates occasional dark humor while painting an empathic portrait of its aimless protagonist.

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

31. Captains Courageous (1937)
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10 (9,535 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (3,819 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (18 reviews)
> Directed by: Victor Fleming

This adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel sends a spoiled brat (​​Freddie Bartholomew) out to sea aboard a New England fishing boat. Forced to adapt, the young boy learns important lessons about the ways of the real world. Actor Spencer Tracy won an Academy Award for his performance as fisherman Manuel Fidello.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

30. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (112,484 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90% (130,932 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (64 reviews)
> Directed by: Ang Lee

Screen legend Emma Thompson wrote the Oscar-winning script for this adaptation of Jane Austen’s timeless novel. She also stars as Elinor Dashwood, one of three sisters who must navigate 19th-century English society after losing their wealthy status.

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Source: Courtesy of Fathom Events

29. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (138,157 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 88% (16,938 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (42 reviews)
> Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

Themes of acceptance and identity come to life as only director Hayao Miyazaki can deliver them in this animated classic. Follow a young witch to a remote seaside village, where her air courier service becomes a vital part of the local community.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

28. Little Women (2019)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (185,694 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (18,204 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 95% (428 reviews)
> Directed by: Greta Gerwig

The latest in a long line of adaptations infuses Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel with a modern sensibility. Set after the Civil War, it chronicles the triumphs and tragedies of writer Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) and her three sisters.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

27. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10 (7,684 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (2,934 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (17 reviews)
> Directed by: Elia Kazan

Director Elia Kazan adapted Betty Smith’s 1943 novel for his feature debut, a film about a poor Irish-American family growing up in Brooklyn. Its coming-of-age themes are channeled by young Francie Nolan (Peggy Ann Garner), who dreams of better things. Actor James Dunn won an Academy Award for his supporting role as the family’s alcoholic patriarch.

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Source: Courtesy of 1091 Pictures

26. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (125,345 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (25,027 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (206 reviews)
> Directed by: Taika Waititi

Director Taika Waititi followed the iconic mockumentary “What We Do in the Shadows” with this endearing adventure dramedy. It sends a juvenile delinquent (Julian Dennison) and his foster “uncle” (Sam Neill) deep into the New Zealand bush. Through their subsequent journey, both characters come of age.

Source: Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

25. Sing Street (2016)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (91,437 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (17,029 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 95% (214 reviews)
> Directed by: John Carney

Against the backdrop of 1980s Ireland, a teenage boy (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) forms a band and tries to get the girl (Lucy Boynton). The acclaimed film is one among a number of beloved musical dramedies from director John Carney. Writing for The Australian critic Iain Shedden called it “a pleasing, heart-warming journey with a tight screenplay and a strong soundtrack.”

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Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

24. Stand by Me (1986)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (389,443 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (270,482 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 91% (57 reviews)
> Directed by: Rob Reiner

One of the most quintessential coming-of-age films of all-time comes straight from the pages of a Stephen King novella. The story, which takes place in 1959, depicts the adventures of four friends as they go searching for a corpse. A nostalgic vibe permeates nearly every scene and so too does an archetypal spirit of youth.

Source: Courtesy of Pinema

23. Trainspotting (1996)
> IMDb user rating: 8.2/10 (668,899 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (313,905 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 91% (88 reviews)
> Directed by: Danny Boyle

Based on the cult novel by Irvine Welsh, this seminal dramedy provided a launching pad for star Ewan McGregor and director Danny Boyle. It puts viewers into the world of a junkie (McGregor) and his closest mates, who maintain comic dispositions in spite of their palpable despair. It’s a coming of age film perhaps, but a bleak one at that.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

22. Boyz n the Hood (1991)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (136,569 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (144,405 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96% (69 reviews)
> Directed by: John Singleton

The feature debut from filmmaker John Singleton sent a shock straight into the heart of American culture. Witness the struggles of ​​three young Black men as they try to survive the violence in Los Angeles’s Crenshaw neighborhood. Shot on a reported budget of $6.5 million, the film made $57.5 million at the domestic box office and helped inspire a sub-genre of similar fare.

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

21. The Iron Giant (1999)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (185,659 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90% (204,978 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96% (142 reviews)
> Directed by: Brad Bird

A commercial disappointment upon its release, Brad Bird’s animated adventure is now considered a cult classic. It centers on a young boy and his giant alien robot friend (voiced by Vin Diesel), who go on the run from paranoid government agents. The director reportedly conceived the idea after asking himself, ​​”What if a gun had a soul and didn’t want to be a gun?”

Source: Courtesy of Savoy Pictures

20. A Bronx Tale (1993)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (137,261 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (66,889 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (30 reviews)
> Directed by: Robert De Niro

A young man (Lillo Brancato) is torn between the criminal life and the blue-collar world of his father (De Niro) in this acclaimed period drama. It captures the 1960s Bronx and tackles multiple subjects, including interracial romance and the prejudice that ensues. Chazz Palminteri – who stars as local mob boss Sonny – also wrote the play on which the film is based.

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Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

19. Persepolis (2007)
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10 (93,241 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (50,471 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96% (162 reviews)
> Directed by: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi

Co-director Marjane Satrapi adapted her own graphic novel when bringing this animated drama onto the big screen. It culls from personal experience and documents her upbringing during the Islamic Revolution. The film premiered at Cannes and won two awards, including the Jury Prize.

Source: Courtesy of Picturehouse

18. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
> IMDb user rating: 8.2/10 (651,461 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (636,927 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 95% (239 reviews)
> Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro’s historical fantasy takes place during the early and violent days of Francoist Spain. Forced to live with her sadistic stepfather, a young girl (Ivana Baquero) retreats into a magical realm of danger and imagination. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning three.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

17. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10 (309,626 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (179,191 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (67 reviews)
> Directed by: Robert Mulligan

Based on the timeless novel, this blockbuster drama witnesses American racism through the eyes of young Scout Finch (Mary Badham). When Scout’s attorney father (Gregory Peck) defends an innocent Black man (Brock Peters) against sexual assault charges, a small town’s deep-seated bigotry is exposed. It won three Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Peck.

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Source: Courtesy of Apple TV+

16. CODA (2021)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (58,087 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (1,065 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 95% (263 reviews)
> Directed by: Sian Heder

This recent Best Picture-winner tells the story of Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), the only girl with hearing abilities in an otherwise deaf family. With the pursuit of a future in music there comes palpable friction between Ruby’s two respective worlds. “No theatrics, no gimmicks—just a wonderful coming-of-age gem that aims directly at the heart and hits the bullseye,” wrote critic Mara Reinstein for US Weekly.

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

15. Inside Out (2015)
> IMDb user rating: 8.2/10 (678,341 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (137,355 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (379 reviews)
> Directed by: Pete Docter

A young girl named Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) comes of age and so too do her personified emotions in this computer-animated smash. The story alternates between Riley’s interior and exterior worlds as she deals with a major move from the Midwest to San Francisco. Viewers are likewise confronted with their own archetypal feelings, making this one of Pixar’s most relatable efforts.

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Source: Courtesy of United Artists

14. Kes (1969)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (20,462 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (9,179 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (32 reviews)
> Directed by: Ken Loach

A bullied working-class boy (David Bradley) forges a unique bond with a pet kestrel in this humane British drama. Director Ken Loach weaves a purposefully simple tale and reaps genuine beauty out of small moments. On BFI’s list of the Top 100 British films, this one holds the #7 position.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

13. The Last Picture Show (1971)
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10 (46,995 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90% (14,202 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (59 reviews)
> Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich

Director Peter Bogdanovich paints a bleak and unforgettable portrait of small-town Texas life in this black-and-white drama. Set in 1951, it follows a group of teens as they amble around and contemplate their futures. The story is based on a novel by author Larry McMurtry, who also co-wrote the screenplay.

Source: Courtesy of 50th Street Films

12. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
> IMDb user rating: 8.2/10 (322,959 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (90,964 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (54 reviews)
> Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

From Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli comes this heartwarming exploration of childhood in post-war rural Japan. Upon moving into a new house, two young girls befriend a cuddly spirit creature named Totoro. The film is ranked #171 on IMDb’s list of Top 250 Movies.

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

11. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (712,132 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (313,007 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 99% (212 reviews)
> Directed by: Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders

Even dragon-fearing Vikings can come of age, as this computer-animated dramedy goes to show. It centers on the bond between young Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and a mysterious Night Fury dragon named Toothless. A full-blown franchise would follow.

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

10. The Lion King (1994)
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10 (1,013,037 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (1,269,333 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (130 reviews)
> Directed by: Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff

This animated musical debuted at the height of the Disney Renaissance and still managed to exceed expectations. Exiled from home after his father’s death, a lion cub returns years later to take revenge and fulfill his destiny. It made a killing at the box office and took home Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Original Score.

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Source: Courtesy of Zenith International Films

9. The 400 Blows (1959)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (114,482 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (38,813 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (65 reviews)
> Directed by: François Truffaut

Director François Truffaut’s seminal feature debut helped usher in the French New Wave movement. It tells the semi-autobiographical story of young Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), who grows up in a troubled household and resorts to a life of petty crime. The character’s story would continue in subsequent films such as 1968’s “Stolen Kisses” and 1970’s “Bed and Board.”

Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

8. Whiplash (2014)
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10 (795,533 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (70,812 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (300 reviews)
> Directed by: Damien Chazelle

A young musician (Miles Teller) hones his craft the hard way in this gripping psychological drama. Co-star J.K. Simmons won an Academy Award for his supporting role as Fletcher, the demanding teacher who drives his students to perfection by any means necessary. It’s based on a previous award-winning short film by director Damien Chazelle.

Source: Courtesy of Miramax

7. City of God (2002)
> IMDb user rating: 8.6/10 (736,119 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 97% (252,381 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 91% (163 reviews)
> Directed by: Fernando Meirelles & Kátia Lund

This masterful Brazilian crime drama brings viewers into the gang-ridden slums of Rio de Janeiro, where one must grow or perish. The story goes from the 1960s through to the 1980s and follows two boys as they take very different paths in life.

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Source: Courtesy of Miramax

6. Good Will Hunting (1997)
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10 (927,601 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (365,185 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (82 reviews)
> Directed by: Gus Van Sant

An MIT janitor (Matt Damon) hides his mathematical genius and emotional vulnerabilities beneath a tough veneer in this blockbuster drama. The young prodigy slowly reveals himself to a brilliant therapist (Robin Williams), who likewise learns important lessons by the story’s conclusion. The film won two Academy Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, respectively.

Source: Courtesy of Edward Harrison

5. Pather Panchali (1955)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10 (30,752 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (6,131 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (72 reviews)
> Directed by: Satyajit Ray

With dreams of a better life, a destitute priest uproots his family from their rural village. So goes the first installment of the heralded “Apu Trilogy,” which depicts a young boy’s journey to adulthood over the course of three Bengali-language movies. “The poetry of the film transcends its locality and speaks to us all,” wrote critic Jonas Mekas for Village Voice.

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Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

4. Coco (2017)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10 (465,720 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (28,761 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (355 reviews)
> Directed by: Lee Unkrich

One of Pixar’s most vivid films to date takes place in Mexico and centers on an aspiring musician named Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez). Pursuing his passion in spite of a family ban, the young boy enters the Land of the Dead in search of a famous ancestor. While delivered with kid’s gloves, the movie’s examination of fame and deceit has dark implications.

Source: Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures

3. La Haine (1995)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (166,023 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (40,887 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (33 reviews)
> Directed by: Mathieu Kassovitz

The title of this French crime drama translates to “Hate” and takes that message to heart. Spend a day in the lives of three angry young men from different ethnic backgrounds, who seek revenge on an oppressive police force. With the introduction of a gun comes a series of intense confrontations and violent misdeeds.

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

2. 3 Idiots (2009)
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10 (380,037 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (22,552 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (13 reviews)
> Directed by: Rajkumar Hirani

Once fellow students at a cutthroat college, two men reunite and go searching for their missing friend in this Bollywood smash. While purposefully silly in execution, the film prompted reevaluations of educational systems around the world.

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Source: Courtesy of Intercontinental Film Distributors

1. Spirited Away (2001)
> IMDb user rating: 8.6/10 (721,622 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 96% (337,467 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (194 reviews)
> Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

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 Hayao 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 #31 on IMDb’s list of the Top 250 Movies.

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