Ever since the art of cinema came into the popular consciousness in the late 19650s and early 1960s, there has been one narrative that seems to engage with our humanity more than any other; the coming-of-age story. Now, in 2022, that story feels all the more prevalent.
The reason it feels so important today is that kids are growing up much quicker than they once did. Looking through the array of films below and you’ll notice that in the 20th century, these stories centred around those in their late teens and early twenties, whereas now, the focus shifts to teenagers and pre-teens.
More than ever before, a child can quickly grow up. Emboldened by the internet and the history of information it delivers at one’s fingertips, the need to “find oneself” and “discover the world” feels more distant than ever. With one quick Google, a child can learn their personality type and visit every major town or city in the world.
However, underneath this vision of modernity, there is still a very real story that most of us will go through, even if we were unaware of it at the time. The tale of becoming an adult is often a long and laborious one; however, below with a variety of titles that can scale that back for you.
Below, we’ve got five of our favourite coming-of-age stories on Netflix.
Five incredible coming-of-age stories on Netflix
The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)
Noted for bringing the music of Simon & Garfunkel to the masses, The Graduate is one of the most beloved American comings of age dramas of all time. It also won director Mike Nichols an Oscar and introduced the world to the great Dustin Hoffman, who would go on to appear in another American classic, Midnight Cowboy, in 1969.
The Graduate follows Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman) in a moment of early-adult existential confusion. Having just finished college, he is confused and angst-ridden. Eventually, he strikes up a sexual relationship with an older woman, Mrs Robinson, before becoming sexually involved with her daughter. But this film isn’t really about sex; it’s about age and the power of fantasy. Brilliantly funny and infinitely quotable, it’s no wonder The Graduate was an instant classic.
Watch The Graduate on Netflix now.
All the Bright Places (Brett Haley, 2020)
Starring Elle Fanning and Justice Smith, the film deals with teenage angst and other serious issues, including mental health, suicide, abuse and survivor’s guilt. It also helps trace the journey of the two leads as they slowly start to heal from their respective trauma and start learning to love themselves as well as each other.
Smith said that “it was a really important conversation that [I] wanted to contribute to” and the fact that “the character was in a wheelhouse but still challenged [me]” is what drew him to play Finch.
“I first read the book when I was 14,” said Fanning, who plays Violet, and being in love with filmmaking itself made her fall in love with the idea of the character, which prompted her to take up the role and help steer the conversation regarding such heavyweight issues forward.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky, 2012)
This coming-of-age drama features the life of a teenager named Charlie as he grapples with clinical depression as well as grieves the loss of his best friend to suicide. It also provides an intimate insight into teenage love, friendships, navigating high school and other trials and tribulations that teenagers face.
Starring Emma Watson and Logan Lerman, the film is a delicate tale of love, melancholy, loss, heartache, trauma and more. Emma Watson spoke of how she was “crying after finishing the whole script”, and we cannot agree more with her, given the sheer depth of the characters and the plot. “There’s no way you can read the book having been a teenager and not be able to relate to one of the experiences of the characters”.
The Edge of Seventeen (Kelly Fremon Craig, 2016)
Nadine is having a difficult time adjusting to the rapid changes that are taking place in her life, including her older brother dating her best friend. When all things seem lost, Nadine forges an unlikely friendship that helps her get accustomed to the steady changes.
“As we all know, almost everything in a teenager’s life is, in such a reasonable way, blown so out of proportion,” said Hailee Steinfeld, the protagonist, while talking about Nadine’s struggles. She recounted various experiences that she went through in school similar to that of Nadine’s that helped her relate to the character’s vulnerability.
Watch The Edge of Seventeen on Netflix now.
Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017)
Lambda Literary Award-winning book Call Me By Your Name saw the author Andre Aciman fall in love with his characters while writing a novel that was meant to be a simple diversion. He writes the characters with utmost care and perfection, blending in the perfect amount of intimacy and melancholy. The same is replicated by Luca Guadagnino in his 2017 eponymous film, starring the beautiful Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer in lead roles.
Set in a picturesque setting of northern Italy, Elio is a curious and nerdy bright-eyed 17-year-old who meets the handsome and eloquent 24-year-old Oliver, who immediately catches his attention. Oliver is a student assistant to Elio’s father and stays in their house, occupying a more significant part of Elio’s affection. As they get to know each other, an undeniable forbidden attraction begins to blossom, and they lose control of their emotions. Frenzied nights of hurried lovemaking and passionate fervour against the landscape of a torrid summer romance are gradually met with the reality of love, uncertainty, longing and heartbreak.
Watch Call Me By Your Name on Netflix.