The Top 15 Coming of Age High School Movies

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1. The Breakfast Club (1985)
This John Hughes classic set the bar for high school movies to come. The film is centered around five teens that are all spending an afternoon in detention. Even though each one comes from a different background and clique, the group bonds over the angst each feel. The Breakfast Club is a classic that proves that no matter how different we are from each other—we still have similar hardships to face.

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2.The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Based off of the 1999 book by Stephen Chbosky this film examines the hard paths that youth often travel down when in search of themselves. Through the story everything from sexuality to mental health is depicted in order to show friendship and acceptance as the key pieces needed in order to fully find and embrace the people we are.

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3. Pretty in Pink (1986)
Another 1980’s John Hughes depiction of life as a young adult, Pretty in Pink shows social class and how it changes dating, especially when you are young. A classic tale of class and image versus friendship and love—this film has remained relevant and relatable for almost thirty years. Pretty in Pink is an adorable, yet cliché romance story that perfectly depicts high school cliques and has a great feeling of nostalgia.

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4. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Another timeless film that manages to still link to today’s young adult life–Dazed and Confused is a nineties movie that examines high school life in the seventies. It picks up on the last day of school for a group of upcoming seniors and incoming freshman. The idea of spending youth years ignorantly and using them only for days of fun and teenage mistakes is a constant theme through the film. Pop culture and breaking social norms seem to link the unlikely groups together.

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5. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
An adaptation of Cameron Crowe’s book that was a collection of his experiences under cover at Clairemont High School Fast Times at Ridgemont High accurately and hilariously captures the minds of immature teens everywhere. The film chronicles one year of the lives of two sophomores and their older friends, along with a few subplots that shine a light on other social groups.

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6. Sixteen Candles (1984)
This film focuses on the beautiful yet often time embarrassing memories that are created during the awkward teenage years. From romance to trying desperately to fit in—Sixteen Candles depicts these struggles so accurately. Another film by the master of the “coming of age” genre, John Hughes, this film is sure to last as relatable to teenagers for years to come.

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7. Juno (2007)
A more modern look at teenage struggle, specifically through sexuality and its consequences, Juno is a blunt comedy that manages to add humor to life’s inconvenient situations. The film does a perfect job at weaving in both adult level and youth level soul searching elements. Much of the film’s story line is centered around the idea that you could constantly be looking for yourself and never truly find the right answer, this is explored through the life of a pregnant teen and a young couple. Though the subject matter is rather depressing the unique way of lightening the mood balances it out.

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8. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
A classic James Dean film that tries to depict a growing trend in rebellious teens that stray from common morals, Rebel Without a Cause has great lessons to offer. Questioning the way youths treat one another is one of the many ways this film depicts the decay of the “moralistic American teen”.  Nearing sixty years old, Rebel Without a Cause has many themes that are still relevant today.

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9. Heathers (1988)
Heathers is a dark teen movie that focuses on elements such as the desperate need to fit in. The film centers around a high school outcast who attempts to violently thrash his way to the in crowd. Teen violence and bullying are displayed avidly through out the film to create the more cynical, cult classic tone that the film is now known for. Sexuality, suicide and murder weave through the storyline in order to create a dramatically dark vision of high school and the burning urge to fit in..

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10. Carrie (1976)
Though often times only thought of as a horror movie, Carrie harshly depicts the terrors of bullying. Though supernatural in nature, the film still accurately portrays the way that constant abuse can force someone to break under pressure. The desperate measures that some go to reach out to the title character are even later mistaken as something horrible. Though violent and gorey Carrie, similarly to its book counterpart, does not shy away from forcing the audience to witnesses some of the most horrifyingly realistic obstacles teens have to face.

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11. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Napoleon Dynamite is a lighter and more hilarious look at the misfit groups of high school.  The subject matter consists of school elections and awkward family lives that, under any other circumstance, would be dull or depressing. With strange dialogue and awkward direction, this film comes to life in sort of way that only indie comedies can. Somehow the film still teaches lessons about “misfitting in” and finding yourself.

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12. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
The fourth, and final John Hughes film on this list, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is another 1980’s comedy that shows the lighter, fun side of being a teenager. Skipping school, spending fun times with friends and neglecting all responsibility are shown through one teen who is determined to skip school and have a day away from school.

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13. Grease (1978)
Grease is a classic musical tale about love and high school groups that do not get along. Set in the backdrop of the 1950’s, the film depicts two unlikely lovers who are trying to find a way to make their relationship work. Though the film is a cliché romance it still manages to get a feel good point across that has left audiences talking about it for years.

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14.  Clueless (1995)
Loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, Clueless follows the superficial life of an in-crowd of high school girls. Though hilarious in its writing and nature, this film does not necessarily have any really important lessons to teach, making it feel like it has less to offer than other coming of age high school movies.

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15. Mean Girls (2004)
This film chronicles the climb up the social ladder by a new girl in school. Comedic circumstances and cliché stereotypes pull Mean Girls together in a way that seems awkwardly familiar. The overall film is incredibly quotable and memorable, however, it really is only good for that—there is not much in-depth examination of youth to help build the relatablitity.

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