Bond with your tweens and teens when you watch these must-see films
Everyone can relate to a good coming-of-age movie. Parents watch them and get nostalgic for the ups and downs of their youth. Tweens and teens look to them for guidance, advice, or at the very least, some sign that they’re not alone in what they’re going through. Better still, they’re great for helping grown-ups and their kids bond over laughs, adolescent cringe, and real-life lessons. Whether you’re looking for a film that might help you broach a difficult topic with your child or simply want to share some of the films that guided you into adulthood, here are 14 coming-of-age movies you’ll definitely want to bring up during the next family movie night.
This Academy Award-nominated animated film about an adolescent girl who suddenly finds herself being magically transformed into a giant red panda has quickly become a family favorite, and it’s a great one to watch, especially with tweens. Tackling the (taboo for some) topic of menstruation head-on through the lens of an Asian American family is refreshing in terms of subject matter and representation. It’s currently streaming on DisneyPlus.
Stand By Me
Rob Reiner’s film based on a Stephen King novella is a major coming-of-age classic. It follows a group of best friends on their journey to find the body of a missing child, and the challenges they face along the way that alter their lives forever. It touches on difficult topics like bullying, grief, and trauma. Starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell, watch it now on Paramount+.
A semi-autobiographical dramedy co-written by Spike Lee and his siblings Joie and Cinqué, Crooklyn is a heartfelt and hilarious look at black girlhood through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl living in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood one summer in the 1970s. Starring Alfre Woodard, Delroy Lindo, Isaiah Washington, and Zelda Harris, watch it now on Peacock.
Real Women Have Curves
Starring Superstore’s America Ferrera, this film about a young Mexican-American woman caught between her desire to move away for college and her sense of obligation to stay home and help provide for her family brings the first-generation, coming-of-age experience to life. Watch it now on HBO Max.
The Edge of Seventeen
When high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) finds out her brother is dating her best friend, her life begins to spin out. But when a new friend comes alone, she realizes not all is lost—a great lesson for every teen struggling with unwelcome changes. Also starring Blake Jenner, Woody Harrelson, and Haley Lu Richardson, it’s now streaming on Hulu Premium.
While the circumstances and details change, many teens understand what it’s like to be caught between your family’s needs and your own desires. In this Academy Award-winning film, 17-year-old Ruby (Emilia Jones) is stuck between helping her deaf family with their fishing business and pursuing her newfound love of singing. Also starring Troy Kotsur (who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), Marlee Maitlin, and Daniel Durant, you can stream it with your family on Apple TV.
A Wrinkle In Time
Although we remember this as more of a sci-fi story, A Wrinkle In Time is also the coming-of-age story of Meg Murray, who travels through space and time in search of her father while making friends and growing into herself along the way. Directed by Ava DuVernay, this lovely adaptation stars Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Chris Pine, and is available to watch on Disney+.
But I’m A Cheerleader
This black comedy from 1999 stars a young Natasha Lyonne as Megan, a high school cheerleader who gets sent to a conversion camp by her homophobic parents. It’s not as depressing as it sounds—instead, the film highlights why these camps don’t work and helps LGBTQ+ youth feel seen (plus RuPaul is one of the counselors!) Also starring Clea DuVall, it’s now streaming on Paramount Plus and Showtime.
Morris from America
When Morris, a young American teen with dreams of becoming a hip-hop star, moves to Germany with his widowed father, he’s quickly faced with the reality that he’s essentially a fish out of water. It’s a comedy that delicately but still hilariously touches on everything from romance and drug experimentation to racism, grief, and living as an ex-pat. Starring Craig Robinson and Markees Christmas, stream it on HBO Max.
Louisa May Alcott’s tale about the trials and tribulations of four sisters growing up during and after the Civil War remains a timeless treasure. Despite being a period piece, the themes of family, love, rejection, loss, and forgiveness continue to make fans hundreds of years later. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, and Florence Pugh, stream it with the kids on Starz.
This hilarious coming-of-age movie is a must-watch for any femme tween or teen dealing with the inevitable mean girl at their own school. When Cady finds herself in a new school dividing her time between the it-crowd and her “nerdier” best friends, she quickly finds out popularity comes with a price. Stream on Paramount+ or Pluto TV.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
The quintessential movie about skipping school with your best friends and trying to have the best time of your life was one many of us grew up with and can now share with our kiddos. There are art museums, parades, fancy cars, mistakes, regrets, and epic chases throughout this John Hughes classic. Watch it now on Showtime or Paramount+.
The Half of It
Loosely based on Cyrano de Bergerac, this story about a quiet Chinese-American girl—who helps a local jock write the love letters she wishes she were brave enough to write for a girl named Aster—is chock full of heart. It’s a wonderful film that can be especially helpful for young tweens and teens starting to navigate the world of unrequited love. Watch now on Netflix.
Directed by Cameron Crowe, this film follows a 15-year-old aspiring music journalist named William (Patrick Fugit) who lands a dream assignment profiling a rising rock band Stillwater for Rolling Stone Magazine. While his mother reluctantly allows him to go on tour with them, it’s William who eventually recognizes he’s got a lot more growing up to do. A solid coming-of-age movie with a stellar ’70s rock soundtrack, this one is best left for teens. Catch it on Paramount+.