The best modern coming-of-age movies don’t just pay homage to classic teen flicks but also reflect on the unique stories of today’s youth. The genre has come a long way from the days when iconic gems like Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) were released. Modern coming-of-age movies explore themes that go beyond love triangles and high school stereotypes. You may have already seen the instantly beloved popular titles like Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012), Lady Bird (2017), Call Me By Your Name (2017), but there may be some underrated flicks that may have escaped your radar. Here are some of the best modern coming-of-age movies that you shouldn’t miss out on.
A sweet flick: The Half of It (2020)
At a quick glance, The Half Of It feels like another reincarnation of the good old plot where a guy asks his girl best friend for romantic advice to date another lady, only to fall in love with her in the end — but it’s not, and that’s not a bad thing. To anyone who grew up watching romcoms in the noughties, the first half of the movie feels eerily familiar. Football player Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) approaches smart yet socially awkward Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) to ask for help to write a love letter to the gorgeous Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). The two eventually bonded and opened up to each other about their personal struggles at home and struck up a friendship. A teen flick with no drinking, partying and explicit content may be hard to sell to some, but in place of these cliches is an engaging sweet, charming tale of friendship, acceptance and moving on to the next stage of your life.
Where to stream: The Half Of It is available to stream on Netflix in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.
About the loss of innocence: Fan Girl (2020)
Not all that we count as the best modern coming-of-age movies are feel-good. After all, growing up isn’t always a lighthearted experience and this Filipino film captures the loss of innocence we experience once we move into adulthood. The story revolves around a very eager teen fan girl (Charlie Dizon) who stalked her idol (Paulo Avelino) and found out that he’s not the dreamy knight in shining armour that she made him out to be. As impressionable teens, we put many figures on the pedestal not knowing that they are also dealing with demons of their own. This film will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and you’ll come out of watching this being grateful that you’ve already passed your naive teen years.
Buddy coming-of-age tale: Booksmart (2019)
Most coming-of-age teen flicks rely on stereotypes — the dumb popular kids, the nerds who become successful after high school and the average ones in the background. While there’s a grain of truth into these stereotypes, we know that they don’t really hold water in real life. Booksmart is one of the select few modern coming-of-age movies that acknowledges this. It starts off with bookish Molly (Beanie Feldstein) confronting her bullies and arrogantly touted the fact that she got into Yale. To her surprise and dismay, she finds out that her classmates also got into prestigious colleges even though they are not as academically dedicated as she was. This kicks off a night of partying as Molly and her friend Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) catch on all the fun they missed. It’s an amusing flick that will lift up your mood!
Pains of growing up: Eighth Grade (2018)
A lot of us may feel that awkward moments from our teenage years are best buried and forgotten, but Eighth Grade will make you see those little embarrassing encounters in a new light and appreciate them for what they are — emotional growing pains. The film is shown from the perspective of Kayla (Elsie Fisher), an awkward eighth-grader. At school, she struggled to make friends and was voted as the “most quiet”. Throughout the film, we follow Kayla as she tries to make genuine connections among her peers. It’s a coming-of-age story with a simple plot but it’s one that will leave a lasting impression on you.
A fresh perspective: The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
It’s a given that our teenage years may not be the most pleasant era of our lives, but we never really reflect on the fact that we may also not be the most pleasant people to be around during those times. Yes, it’s hard to be a teenager but it’s also challenging — if not more — to raise one. This modern coming-of-age movie centres on Nadine who finds herself alone after her best friend started dating her attractive older brother. She deals with feelings of betrayal by lashing out and indulging in self-sabotaging behaviour. As she eventually comes to terms with her actions, she recognises how selfish she was and how she affected those around her. It’s a funny and heartfelt flick that will resonate with your adult self.
Where to stream: The Edge of Seventeen is available to stream on Netflix in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Which of these modern coming-of-age films will you stream this weekend?
(Cover photo from: @thehalfofitofficial)
Next, check out our ranking of Sandra Oh roles in movies and TV.