Top 10 Coming-Of-Age Movies Of The 80s And 90s

Do you remember the exact moment when you became an adult? Does it make you cringe? Coming of age is never a particular smooth transition as it involves hormones. And boys. And girls. It’s massively awkward, inevitably messy and it’s the moment that shapes your life.


During the 80s and 90s there were masses of movies that tried to encapsulate this essential moment of our lives. Below we have picked the top 10 coming-of-age movies of all time and we wonder how many on this list were part of your journey whilst growing up.

Take a look and see…

10. My Girl

If you’ve seen this film before then you know the true meaning of trying-to-stop-the-tears-so-hard-you-get-a-massive-migraine. Let’s be honest here, it’s a weepy and unless you’re a psychopath then you’re going to cry watching this. Hard.

Just look at that face…

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My Girl came to our screens in 1991 and saw a very young Macaulay Culkin acting alongside Anna Chlumsky, Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis. This coming-of-age movie follows Anna’s character as she faces a summer of highs and lows.

No you won’t be home alone…

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My Girl pulls all the coming-of-age punches and covers periods, first kisses, love and loss. Anna and Macaulay are ridiculously adorable together which makes the ending of the film all the more DEVASTATING. You have be warned.

Cuteness overload…

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We won’t give the game away by revealing the ending but don’t take it lightly when we tell you that you will need tissues to see you through this film.

9. Stand By Me

Da da dum dum, da da dum dum…come on, it can’t just be us that’s singing the song in our heads, right?

Stand By Me…what a movie.

If you haven’t ever seen it then you’ve obviously been living under that highly subjective rock that everyone always talks about!

A metaphoric journey…

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Based on the short novella by Stephen King called The Body, this film centres around a group of young boys who decide to go on a hike to find the dead body of a missing child in order to be seen as heroes.

Star cast…

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Directed by Rob Reiner, this movie stars Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell and the late River Phoenix who all do a fine job of playing their roles and were allegedly cast because of their likeness to the characters.

We’re off to see the…

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What makes this coming of age movie timeless is that it captures that anxiety and apprehension that we all had when we were teenagers. The scary thing about this film isn’t the dead body of the child, it’s the boys’ individual fears and how they grow through that. Deep.

8. The Outsiders

How many great actors can you fit into one film? Patrick Swayze, Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Ralph Macchio and Diane Lane. Francis Ford Coppola knew exactly what he was doing when he cast these up-and-coming actors for his ‘83 classic.

Swayze wasn’t happy to be attending his first Scientology meeting…

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The Outsiders is an adaption of the 1967 book by S.E Hinton of the same name and centres around a violent gang of broke teens called the Greasers who have rivalry in the form of the Socs, who are the rich kids from the other side of town.

Disney has never looked so tough…

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Gang violence in the movie is pretty intense and some of the actors came away with real-life injuries after shooting the final fight scene in the mud. Francis Ford Coppola wanted it to feel real though and for this reason he did something very controversial…

Tom Cruise wasn’t impressed…

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Francis Ford Coppola wanted the gang rivalry to feel real during filming and so he separated the ‘gangs’ of actors between filming the scenes and gave the Socs better rooms, free room service and more spending money. Ouch.

7. The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club, John Hughes’ ultimate film, centres around a group of teenagers (Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy) who have to spend their afternoon in detention with their strict assistant principal.

Naughty teens…

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There’s an angry-teen theme going on in this movie and many people have likened it to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, saying it’s a darker version of the classic school drama.

Detention for Molly…

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We can’t even put our fingers on what makes this movie such a classic. Everything just works together perfectly – the 80s soundtrack, the angry teen theme, the hair, the clothes. And we didn’t even mention Brat Pack once.

Brat Pack…there, we said it.

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Unfortunately after the movie was shot, the media decided to label the actors the Brat Pack, a label that stuck with them throughout their acting careers. It seems ironic really that the actors who starred in a movie about stereotypes and labels were subject to such stereotypes and labels afterwards.

6. Wish You Were Here

It wouldn’t have been fair to write a coming of age compilation list without including something British and this movie fits the theme perfectly.

The British choice…

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Directed by David Leland, this movie features Emily Lloyd and Tom Bell as the main actors and follows Emily’s character Lynda, as she awkwardly navigates her teen years through a British seaside town.

Up yer bum!

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We know what you’re thinking…what’s a twee British drama doing on this list? Well…this drama wasn’t so twee after all. Especially given that the main character had a habit of shouting “up yer bum” at strangers and lifting up her skirt. The controversy doesn’t stop there either…

Oh she didn’t….

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Sixteen year old Lynda gets herself into some real trouble during the film, when she sleeps with her father’s middle-aged friend and finds herself pregnant. This is no twee drama, on the contrary it covers some pretty hard themes.

5. St Elmo’s Fire

Another prominent Brat Pack movie, St Elmo’s Fire is something that everyone growing up in the 80s/90s has seen a least twice in their lives.

Cosy…

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Directed by Joel Schumacher, this movie features Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Mare Winningham and Judd Nelson. Hello again Brat Pack!

He didn’t know how to tell her about the smoking ban…

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This coming of age film focuses on a cool group of young people trying to navigate themselves through life and understand the complexities of relationships.

Knock, knock…

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This movie really resonated with teens during the 80s and 90s and remains a classic to this day.

4. Clerks

If you haven’t seen this classic 90s movie then where have you been? Don’t be put off by the fact it’s shot in black & white or that it’s super low budget. This film is worth watching at least three times over.

Get back to work, boys…

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This is a movie about a shop but it’s like no other movie you’ve ever seen. Written, directed and co-produced by Kevin Smith this cult-classic was shot on a low budget of under $28K in the shop where he worked in real life. Resourceful chap that Kevin.

More angry teens…

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Featuring the actors Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson, the movie presents a day in the life of the store clerks and it’s up there as one of the most hilarious things we’ve ever seen.

You can tell it was the 90s by the price of those cigarettes…

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Total slackers, the characters in the movie have seemingly inane conversations about everything and anything. Reminiscent of many other teens’ conversations around that time. This ain’t an action movie, it no special effects and it’s shot on a shoestring budget, but believe us when we tell you, it doesn’t need anything shiny to make it such a classic.

3. Dead Poet’s Society

Now back to the classics that everyone knows. Who is going to make it to number #1 on our list? At number three we have Dead Poet’s Society, a film starring the late Robin Williams.

This poster says it all…

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It feels a little sad writing about Dead Poet’s Society since Robin Williams sadly passed away but let’s honour the actor and talk about how this was such a damn good movie.

The original rebel…

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Filmed in 1989 but set in the late 50s, Robin played the part of John Keating, who  taught poetry in an elite and stuffy prep school. The young men in the movie are challenged to become individuals and to disregard the rules. Something that most teens (and probably adults too) aspire to.

O Captain! My Captain!

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Keating’s unorthodox teaching methods aren’t popular with everyone in the film and towards the end backfires for him in the most devastating way. We warn you…when you watch the above scene you will inevitably bawl like a baby.

2. The Karate Kid

DANIEL-SAN! Ah, we don’t know what we would have done without this classic 80s coming of age movie. Featuring Ralph Macchio, Elisabeth Shue and Noriyuku “Pat” Morita (AKA Mr Miyagi), The Karate Kid was to blame for the hundreds of kids that suddenly wanted to take up karate and kick butt.

Admit it, you did this whilst watching…

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Small town kid moves to a bigger school and has issues with bullies. Nothing new with that storyline apart from the bully in question (Johnny Lawrence) is an even bigger idiot as he has been trained by a psychopathic sensei.

It’s ok Mr Miyagi will save you…

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Daniel meets Mr Miyagi who can incidentally catch a fly in his chopsticks in under a millisecond as well as teach a young boy the mastery of karate.

Loving the headband Ralph…

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The film culminates in a scrap, ok a professional karate championship, between Daniel and Johnny where of course DANIEL-SAN wins. Recently Karate Kid made a comeback on YouTube as a follow-up mini-series some 34 years later. It sounds terrible but it’s actually well worth a watch

1. Dirty Dancing

Here it is, our number one coming of age movie of all time is…Dirty Dancing! This classic 80s film has been watched a gazillion times and will be watched at least a gazillion times more.

Saucy…

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What makes this film special is a combination of many different delicious ingredients. Firstly the music is spot on. Filmed in the 80s but set in the 60s we don’t know many people that wouldn’t be able to sing-a-long to most of these tunes. Whether you love them or love-to-hate them is up to you…

Baby face…

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As well as the music the dancing isn’t too shabby either and neither are the main actors Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze. But what makes this movie stand out is the storyline. Everyone loves a plot where the outcast rebels come out top at the end.

Iceberg right ahead…

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Also, Dirty Dancing is totally quotable. “I carried a watermelon” “spaghetti arms” and “nobody puts Baby in the corner” are only a few of the better quotes from this fun, coming of age drama.