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The best coming-of-age movies since 2000

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Being a teenager isn’t easy.

Whether it’s the awkward transition from childhood to puberty or the moment you finally leave home and find your own way in the world, adolescence is a messy, emotionally-fraught business.

Which is probably what makes it so appealing to filmmakers. Coming-of-age movies (i.e. any story that charts the passage from youth to adulthood) have been around for decades, from socially awkward comedies like Booksmart to the poignant nostalgia of Boyhood.

In the list below, from the year 2000 onwards, we’ve picked out some of our favourites…

1. Eighth Grade

What’s it about?

In a nutshell, Eighth Grade is about the hormone-fuelled hellscape of being a 13-year-old kid.

Bo Burnham’s debut follows Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher), an anxious eighth-grader who shares self-help videos on YouTube and struggles to connect with her classmates. At home, her relationship with her single father, Mark (Josh Hamilton), is strained and uneasy; at school, she feels like an outsider, wanting to connect with the popular kids but not really knowing how.

Why should you watch it?

Fair warning: Eighth Grade is not exactly an easy watch. There are moments of comedy, but for the most part, things flit between excruciatingly awkward and incredibly poignant. This is teenage life at its most cringingly realistic, a pimples-and-braces look at just how unpleasant and confusing early adolescence can be.

Burnham’s writing and its delivery by Fisher are top-notch throughout. One particular scene towards the end of the film between a withdrawn Kayla and her dad is particularly heart-wrenching — but in the moving conversation that follows, as well as in the film’s final scenes, there’s a much-needed suggestion of hope. — Sam Haysom, Deputy UK Editor

Eighth Grade is available to stream on in the UK, and in the U.S.

2. Moonlight

What’s it about?

Moonlight is an Academy Award–winning film about a queer, Black boy named Chiron. It focuses on the inflection points of growing up, taking place over a handful of days in Chiron’s childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Each time period features a different actor as Chiron, and each version of himself learns a little more about the social and personal truths that inform who he is and will become. The film is tragic, romantic, and intimate — zeroing in on the realities of Chiron’s fractured home environment and budding sexuality while quietly highlighting the humanity of the characters who have impacted his life for better or worse. 

Why should you watch it? 

Aside from its status as one of the most interesting Oscar-winning Best Films, Moonlight is a masterpiece of emotional filmmaking. Every aspect of this movie, from its careful use of color grading, lingering camera shots, and excellent music, evokes Chiron’s relatable feelings as he matures into a world designed to reject him. The soulful performances from all three Chirons (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) shine through despite the character being a man (and boy) of few words, and Moonlight excels at letting the audience feel the character’s progress in the wordless spaces occupied by long close-ups and intentional silence. Moonlight examines Black masculinity and queerness with a loving, compassionate lens — a feat few movies manage to achieve with such a highly recognized level of success. — Alexis Nedd, Senior Entertainment Reporter

Moonlight is available to rent or buy on Prime Video in the and the

3. Lady Bird

What’s it about?

Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-nominated solo directorial debut revolves around high school senior Christine (Saoirse Ronan), a 17-year-old who defiantly calls herself Lady Bird and has aspirations to move away from her hometown of Sacramento and go to a college on the east coast.

But her family’s financial situation means she’s at loggerheads with her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalfe), who thinks her daughter is an ungrateful snob who should go to a state school instead.

Why should you watch it?

There are a lot of brilliant elements in Lady Bird — the sharp, funny script, the strong performances, Lady Bird’s changing friendship with Julie (Beanie Feldstein) — but the film’s real crowning jewel is its portrayal of Lady Bird’s interactions with her mother.

Their relationship is full of contrasts and sharp edges: they’re close in some ways but vastly distant (and different) in others. Lady Bird’s father tells her at one point that they “both have such strong personalities.” The question of whether or not these personalities will drive them apart, or whether one of them will bend, is what lies at the core of this moving film. — S.H.

Lady Bird is available to rent or buy on in the UK, and stream on in the U.S.

4. Pariah

Adepero Oduye in 'Pariah.'

Adepero Oduye in ‘Pariah.’

Image: Jon Rou/Chicken And Egg/Mbk/Northstar/Kobal/Shutterstock

What’s it about?

Pariah is the story of Alike (Adepero Oduye), a Black lesbian teenager growing up in Brooklyn. Shy but curious, she begins to explore her sexuality with the guidance of her best friend (Pernell Walker) and the appeal of a new crush (Aasha Davis), to the disapproval of her parents. 

Why should you watch it?

As the title suggests, Pariah follows a protagonist who feels like an outcast — not just in society at large, but within her own community and family. Her parents seem barely able to voice their suspicions about her sexuality, let alone acknowledge or accept it; meanwhile, she’s still awkwardly feeling out the local gay scene, trying to figure out how she fits in. But Pariah isn’t the stark tragedy you might assume from the title. Writer-director Dee Rees, who also directed the stellar Mudbound, treats Alike with too much care and empathy for that. Alike’s journey encompasses moments of joy as well as heartbreak, humor as well as sorrow. We watch as she slips between the person she thinks she’s supposed to be, the person others want her to be, and the person she hopes she is, finally reaching, in the end, space to truly become herself. — Angie Han, Deputy Entertainment Editor

5. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

What’s it about?

Based on Jenny Han’s novels, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and its delightful sequel follow the teen dreams and dramas of our girl Lara Jean Covey, a big-time romantic, who once wrote extremely sweet and very embarrassing love letters to every single boy she doth crushed upon. Of course, she didn’t send them, instead putting them wisely away in a box to never see the light of day. Buuuut someone just found them and sent them all out. Oops.

Why should you watch it?

Two of the sweetest teen rom-coms you’ll ever waltz through, To All the Boys… and its sequel hinge on Laura Jean’s complicated journey to confidence and self-love through an endearing, relatable performance by Lana Condor. In the eye of the heart-frazzling storm that is high school, with all its painful crushes and dumb social parameters, Laura Jean truly loves her family, respects her own brain, and isn’t afraid to explore what she deserves in life. But if you’re in need of a TL;DR version? Two words: Peter Kavinsky. — Shannon Connellan, UK Editor

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is available to .

6. Bend It Like Beckham 

Keira Knightley and Parminder K. Nagra in 'Bend It Like Beckham.'

Keira Knightley and Parminder K. Nagra in ‘Bend It Like Beckham.’

Image: Christine Parry/Bend It/Film Council/Kobal/Shutterstock

What’s it about? 

Jesminder “Jess” Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) is the perfect daughter to her Punjabi parents in London — except for her undying love of football. Bend It Like Beckham finds Jess at a crossroads, fresh out of school and thinking about university while her family prepares for sister Pinky’s wedding (Archie Panjabi). In the midst of this madness, Jess starts playing for a local women’s football team, led by Jules (Keira Knightley) and coached by the handsome Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). With her own dreams and her parents’ expectations locking horns, Jess faces massive decisions about her future — and about who she wants in it.

Why should you watch it?

Looking back, Bend It Like Beckham is nothing short of pure cinematic victory. It was written, directed, and produced by a South Asian woman (Gurinder Chadha) with a majority South Asian cast and lead but with distinctly British and wider global appeal. In the oeuvre of “Parents just don’t understand” movies, this one depicts a beautiful, three-dimensional immigrant family whose love and loyalty remain strong even when tested. Nagra and Knightley shine in their early roles and have fabulous chemistry, while Chadha’s script delights to this day, often delivering laugh-out-loud punchlines during heavily dramatic family scenes. — Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter

Bend it Like Beckham is available to stream on in the UK and on Prime Video in the U.S.

7. Call Me by Your Name

What’s it about?

Call Me By Your Name tells the story of an all-consuming holiday romance between 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and 24-year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer). Set in 1983 and based on André Aciman’s novel by the same name, Elio is spending the summer at his parents’ home in northern Italy when a guest comes to stay with the family. That guest is — you guessed it —  Oliver, a graduate student assistant to Elio’s dad, who’s an archaeology professor. For a while, you live vicariously through Elio’s lens, when things are little more than an unreciprocated teenage crush. But things change, transforming this story into a stunning queer coming-of-age romance that will emotionally destroy you. 

Why should you watch it? 

There are so many reasons! First of all, this film is directed by Luca Guadagnino, and every scene feels deeply sensual and erotic while also being infused with a great deal of emotion. It’s hard to watch this movie and not feel transported back to your own adolescence, to holiday crushes and short-lived romances. The film beautifully captures the intensity and intoxication of young love while contrasting it with its transience. Elio and Oliver’s romance is sun-drenched, emotionally-charged, but it is also sadly short-lived. The Sufjan Stevens soundtrack brings a powerful energy to a few scenes and could honestly serve as some kind of anthem to young love. Oh, and you’ll never be able to look at a peach the same way after watching. — Rachel Thompson, Senior UK Culture Reporter

Call Me By Your Name is available to rent or buy on Prime Video in the and the

8. This is England

Thomas Turgoose stars as a lonely 12-year-old kid in 'This is England.'

Thomas Turgoose stars as a lonely 12-year-old kid in ‘This is England.’

Image: Adrian Rogers/Filmfour/Uk Film Council/Kobal/Shutterstock

What’s it about?

Set in England in 1983, the film follows 12-year-old Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), a kid who gets involved with a gang of skinheads in the aftermath of his father’s death.

Although the gang initially seems like the answer to his isolation, things take a darker turn with the return of Combo (Stephen Graham), a racist skinhead who’s just finished serving time in prison.

Why should you watch it?

Writer/director Shane Meadows isn’t for everyone. That’s one thing to make clear. His movies are always spectacularly shot and written, but they’re also grim. This Is England is no exception. Although the cinematography and the soundtrack bring out elements of beauty in the film, it’s the kitchen sink realism that sticks with you.

Despite that, though, This is England is a film I’d always recommend. Few other movies do such an impressive job of capturing both the social fabric of a given place at a given time, and also the loss of innocence that comes with the realisation that not all grown-ups — even the ones you consider heroes — are necessarily a force for good. — S.H.

This is England is available to stream on in the UK and in the U.S.

9. Spirited Away

Chihiro and No-Face, one of the many complex characters in 'Spirited Away.'

Chihiro and No-Face, one of the many complex characters in ‘Spirited Away.’

Image: Studio Ghibli/Kobal/Shutterstock

What’s it about?

While moving house, 10-year-old Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi) and her family accidentally take a wrong turn and end up in the spirit world, where her parents are swiftly transformed into pigs.

On the advice of a boy named Haku (Miyu Irino), Chihiro gets a job at a nocturnal local bathhouse, working for a witch named Yubaba (Mari Natsuki) and encountering a whole host of strange characters in her quest to free her parents.

Why should you watch it?

Hayao Miyazaki’s beautiful film Spirited Away — which he wrote and directed for Studio Ghibli — is a subtle, imaginative coming-of-age journey. The storyline is incredibly original, the characters are full of colourful mystery, and every frame is infused with the kind of wonder you associate with children discovering the world’s secrets for the first time.

And really, that’s the feeling we get as viewers, too. That’s where the coming-of-age element fits in. We follow Chihiro on a strangely nostalgic journey of discovery, mystery, and first love, moving through a world that’s far more complex than simple ideas of good and evil.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that the music – Youmi Kimura’s “Always With Me” – still makes me well up when I think of it. — S.H.

Spirited Away is available to stream on in the UK and in the U.S.

10. Girlhood

Karidja Toure in 'Girlhood.'

Karidja Toure in ‘Girlhood.’

Image: Hold Up/Lilies/Cnc/Arte France Cinema/Canal+/Strand Releasing/Kobal/Shutterstock

What’s it about?

Marieme (Karidja Touré) is a Black teenager in the gritty outskirts of Paris, dealing with an abusive brother at home and facing an uncertain future after high school. She falls in with a local clique of bad girls, finding joy, strength, and a new sense of self in their connection.

Why should you watch it?

Girlhood is the work of French filmmaker Céline Sciamma, a master of coming-of-age narratives: After Girlhood, you’ll also want to check out Water Lilies and Tomboy and, if you haven’t already, Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Her films are specific and layered, eschewing easy formulas and obvious lessons for complicated, sharply-observed truths. Girlhood is no exception. Marieme soars at times and crashes at others. Her girl gang offers solidarity, excitement, and moments of almost transcendent pleasure (the Rihanna’s “Diamonds” scene alone is worth the price of admission); they teach her how to own her femininity and navigate relationships with boys. But they can’t save her, and she can’t save them. It’s bittersweet, but not without hope, and you’re glad, in the end, to have known Marieme, and to have been with her on her journey. — A.H.

Girlhood is available to stream on Amazon Prime in the and the

11. Boyhood

What’s it about?

Everything and nothing — and no relation to the aforementioned Girlhood. Richard Linklater’s award-winning drama was shot over 12 years, using the same group of actors and following the journey of a single fractured family.

In particular, the movie centers around Mason (Ellar Coltrane), whose journey from a six-year-old boy to a 19-year-old college student is chronicled in brief, fleeting windows with year-long jumps in between. As for the plot, there isn’t really much of one. Linklater barely even had a script when he began filming, preferring to work out the specifics as he went along. The end result is basically an entire childhood over 165 minutes, from the lows of family hardship to the mixed highs of first love.

Why should you watch it?

Boyhood isn’t just any coming-of-age movie. It’s pretty much the coming-of-age movie, a real-time chronicling of the steps leading from childhood to adulthood.

Its uniqueness and ambition alone make it worth watching, but the film has way more going for it than just that. It’s also beautifully shot and packed full of the kind of nostalgic moments and memories that make you reflect on the stepping stones that took you on your own adolescent journey, no matter how far back that may have been. — S.H.

Boyhood is available to stream on .

12. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

What’s it about?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse takes the spotlight off the original and most dominant Spider-Man, Peter Parker, and instead focuses on the newer, fresher, and more nuanced Spider-Man: Mile Morales. Thanks to some interdimensional fiddling by the supermassive supervillain Kingpin, a handful of Spideys from alternate timelines are dropped into Miles’ world in a drop-dead gorgeous animated adventure around New York City in order to save the world.

Why you should watch it?

Spider-Verse is one of the most beautifully animated movies in existence. It embraces its comic roots in its art style, which is delightful, but it really shines when it leans into its interdimensional aspects with some truly mind-blowing sequences that take advantage of the animated medium.

This movie is also a refreshing take on the superhero origin story. In focusing on Morales, a half-hispanic, half-Black kid growing up in New York City, it eschews the all-too-common feature of white leads to explore the beginnings of a new Spider-Man in the context of his culture and what that brings with it. The turns Spider-Verse takes as it explores the murky waters of morality, family, and responsibility are surprising and entertaining with a fantastic ending that begs for a follow-up. — Kellen Beck, Entertainment Reporter

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is available to stream on in the UK and in the U.S.

13. Booksmart

What’s it about?

Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut follows two proudly intelligent best friends — Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) — as they navigate a wild night out to celebrate their graduation from high school. Crushes are involved, and as you can probably guess things don’t in any way go according to plan.

Why should you watch it?

As Mashable’s Angie Han wrote when the movie came out, Booksmart is destined to become a classic of its genre.

There are plenty of familiar teen movie elements here — teenagers trying to reinvent themselves; a hectic night out; two best friends learning more about each other through a shared journey — but there’s enough originality to make the movie feel fresh. The characters are relatable, quirky, and memorable, supported by a covetable soundtrack. And above all else? It’s hilarious. — S.H.

Booksmart is available to stream on in the UK and in the U.S.

14. Y Tu Mamá También

'Y Tu Mamá También' takes us on a roadtrip through rural Mexico.

‘Y Tu Mamá También’ takes us on a roadtrip through rural Mexico.

Image: Anhelo Prod/Ifc/Kobal/Shutterstock

What’s it about?

Two teenagers, Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael García Bernal), go on a road trip with an older woman they’ve only just met. As they travel through rural Mexico together in search of a secluded beach, the friends learn about sex, relationships, and the kind of lessons that are capable of changing your life forever.

Why should you watch it?

We couldn’t have a list of the best coming-of-age movies without a solid road movie in there, and Y Tu Mamá También — which Alfonso Cuarón directed and co-wrote with his brother Carlos — perfectly ticks that box. The film is something of blend of genres, splicing together comedy and drama with sex in a way that reflects the messy cocktail of emotions experienced by the teenage characters.

The presence of Luisa (Maribel Verdú) adds an element of mystery, and ultimately poignancy, to the film, drumming home the idea that the journeys we go on when we’re younger can never truly be captured again. — S.H.

Y Tu Mamá También is available to stream on in the U.S.

15. Raw

What’s it about?

Julia Ducournau’s 2016 horror follows a first-year student, Justine (Garance Marillier), who discovers a craving for human flesh after she moves away to university. But after spending more time with her sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf) — an older student at the same uni — Justine realises this dark new urge may not be unique to her.

Why should you watch it?

There are some films that have the ability to lodge themselves firmly in your head and stay there. Raw is like that. The story is compulsive, the writing is excellent, and the body horror is frequent and shudder-inducing.

Horror isn’t typically a genre you associate with the best coming-of-age films (supernatural thriller Thelma is another rare example), but the two blend perfectly here, with Justine’s irrepressible urges becoming tied up with her own sexuality and passage to adulthood.

Just don’t watch this one while you’re eating dinner. — S.H.

Raw is available to rent or buy on Prime Video in the and the

16. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

What’s it about?

A spiky, defiant young teenager named Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) finds himself and his dog Tupac on the lam in the New Zealand bush with a cantankerous and reluctant carer (Sam Neill), pursued by a dogged but well-meaning child services agent.

Why should you watch it?

Taika Waititi’s last NZ-set film, released after What We Do In The Shadows but before Thor: Ragnarok, is possibly one of the most Kiwi movies ever made. Not only does it showcase the lush, misty wilderness of the North Island, but also the clipped tones that make the New Zealand accent one of the most naturally funny in the world (and I don’t mean that in a mean Australian way.) 

The utter genius Rachel House, who Waititi rightly yoinked into the MCU with him in Ragnarok, almost steals the show as the hysterically relentless “villain” of the film (“I’m like the Terminator. You’re like Sarah Connor. In the first one, before she could do chin-ups.”) 

Above all, Dennison is a gift in this, his toughness and sweetness and indignant speeches creating one of the most instantly memorable, lovable teenage characters in recent memory (which he reprised in Deadpool 2). And Neill’s gruff “Uncle” Hec traces the contours of the “taciturn old fella comes to care for the scrappy kid”-arc with so much nuance it feels made anew. 

It’s an occasionally devastating coming-of-age for both of them, a story of the revelation that you can go much farther when you let other people in. But more than anything, it’s hysterically funny. — Caitlin Welsh, Mashable Australia Editor     

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is available to rent or buy on Prime Video in the and the  

17. The Edge of Seventeen

What’s it about?

Nadine Franklin (Hailee Steinfeld) feels truly on edge in every way, still grieving her father’s death and unable to find comfort in her mother and brother. When said brother (Blake Jenner) starts dating her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson), Nadine feels more alone than ever and acts out at the cost of her personal relationships.

Why should you watch it?

While the film’s premise is fairly straightforward, what The Edge of Seventeen has that no other movie can match is director Kelly Fremon Craig’s impeccably sharp script. Particularly in the hands of Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson as her jaded teacher/sounding board, so many lines that could be caustic or cringey reach new heights of dark and distressed comedy gold. Hayden Szeto will steal your heart as Erwin, a boy at school crushing on Nadine, and you’ll root for the two of them and for Nadine and her best friend to pull things back, if only a little, from the edge. — P.K.

The Edge of Seventeen is available to stream on in the UK and rent or buy on in the U.S.

18. Brick

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emilie de Ravin in 'Brick.'

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emilie de Ravin in ‘Brick.’

Image: Steve Yedlin/Focus Features/Kobal/Shutterstock

What’s it about?

After his ex-girlfriend turns up dead, high school loner Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) becomes obsessed with tracking down her killer.

Why should you watch it?

If you’ve seen Knives Out you’ll already know that writer/director Rian Johnson has a knack for pacey crime thrillers, and Brick (his 2005 debut) is exactly that: a neo-noir mystery set in the fictional underbelly of a high school.

Brick is a long way from the realism of films like Eighth Grade (above) or Fish Tank (coming up in this list), but that’s by design — the whole thing has the feel of a graphic novel, a stylised and satisfying thriller about a main character with absolutely nothing to lose.

Like in Mean Girls (also in this list), the high school in Brick is one of larger-than-life characters, hierarchies and stereotypes. But unlike Mean Girls, Brendan’s mission isn’t to fit in — it’s to smash through the system until he gets the answers he’s looking for. — S.H.

Brick is available to rent or buy on in the U.S.

19. Real Women Have Curves 

George Lopez and America Ferrera in 'Real Women Have Curves.'

George Lopez and America Ferrera in ‘Real Women Have Curves.’

Image: Nicola Goode/Lavoo Prods/Kobal/Shutterstock

What’s it about?

18-year-old Ana (America Ferrera) dreams of college, but her mother Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros) wants her to go to work at the family textile factory and start earning. Ana starts reluctant work at the factory while trying to change her mother’s mind, and in a streak of rebellion (or maybe just adolescence) starts going out with Jimmy (Brian Sites). 

Why should you watch it?

Like other movies on this list, Real Women Have Curves is a foundational story about the relationships we have with our parents during our formative years. The tension between Ana and Carmen is central to the film, and starkly familiar to women and mothers everywhere, especially in immigrant families. Carmen is hard on her daughter, critical of her weight, and furious with her secret relationship — but every mother was once a daughter. Though it takes time and work, she tries to see Ana for who she really is — not a girl, but a woman, whose ambitions and desires were made possible because of the woman who raised her. — P.K.

Real Women Have Curves is available to stream on in the U.S.

20. Donnie Darko

Jake Gyllenhaal plays a disturbed teenager in 'Donnie Darko.'

Jake Gyllenhaal plays a disturbed teenager in ‘Donnie Darko.’

Image: Flower/Gaylord/Adam Fields Prod/Kobal/Shutterstock

What’s it about?

A troubled teenager is haunted by visions of a giant rabbit that tells him the world is going to end in 28 days. As his visions intensify, the rabbit starts telling him to do bad things.

Why should you watch it?

Donnie Darko is a mish-mash of several different genres (psychological thriller, mystery, sci-fi), and coming-of-age isn’t necessarily the first one that springs to mind. But all the elements are there. Even as Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) grapples with time travel and giant rabbits, he’s also navigating his tricky path through high school and the world of bullies, overbearing teachers, and first love.

These elements actually help ground the movie, setting up a relatable backdrop that a) makes us more sympathetic towards Donnie’s struggles, and b) makes the movie’s supernatural elements, by contrast, all the more uncanny. 

Am I a massive Jake Gyllenhaal fan, and therefore hopelessly biased in favour of any movie he appears in? Absolutely. But even when you put the Gyllen-ator to one side, Richard Kelly’s 2001 genre-blender is still a masterpiece. — S.H.

Donnie Darko is available to watch on in the UK and in the U.S.

21. Looking for Alibrandi

Pia Miranda, Elena Cotta, and Greta Scacchi in 'Looking For Alibrandi.'

Pia Miranda, Elena Cotta, and Greta Scacchi in ‘Looking For Alibrandi.’

Image: Beyond/Kobal/Shutterstock

What’s it about?

Based on Melina Marchetta’s beloved teen novel, Looking for Alibrandi follows the spritely and stubborn Josie Alibrandi, an Australian-Italian 17-year-old who’s just started her final year at high school in Sydney — with all the painful crushes, unthinkable tragedy, racist and classist school bullying, and estranged family drama that comes with it.

Why should you watch it?

If you went to school in Australia, chances are you’ve already seen, read, studied, and torn apart this film and book. With the talented Pia Miranda in the lead role, Looking for Alibrandi tackles some really tough subjects, all through the lens of a frustrated, boisterous teenager with Italian immigrant parents growing up in the ‘90s. Director Kate Woods steers Josie along the excruciating path of puberty amid themes of identity and family heritage, classism and prejudice, depression and grief, and young love and sex with a big-time ‘90s soundtrack. — S.C.

Looking for Alibrandi is available to rent/buy through Apple TV in Australia.

22. Fish Tank

What’s it about?

15-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis) lives on a London council estate with her single mother, Joanne (Kierston Wareing), and has dreams of becoming a dancer. But when Joanne gets a new boyfriend (played by a very creepy Michael Fassbender), things take a disturbing turn.

Why should you watch it?

Andrea. Arnold. 

OK, admittedly there are a number of good reasons to watch this movie — the performances from Jarvis and Fassbender are both excellent, for instance, and the story told is an important (if dark) one — but Fish Tank‘s writer/director is what really makes this sing.

Arnold’s writing has the gritty realism of This is England, while her direction is infused with the kind of unexpected beauty that her work (Wuthering Heights, Big Little Lies, American Honey) has become known for. — S.H.

Fish Tank is available to rent or buy on in the UK and stream on in the U.S.

23. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Emma Watson and Logan Lerman in 'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower.'

Emma Watson and Logan Lerman in ‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower.’

Image: Moviestore/Shutterstock

What’s it about?

Based on Stephen Chbosky’s 1999 novel (and adapted for the big screen by Chbosky himself), The Perks of Being a Wallflower revolves around a depressed high school freshman called Charlie (Logan Lerman).

After initially struggling to make friends, Charlie is eventually taken under the wing of two seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller) — but the new things he experiences at high school lead to some traumatic memories from his childhood resurfacing.

Why should you watch it?

This one tackles a lot of big issues. It’s not always an easy watch, and to go into specifics would be veering into spoiler territory — but suffice it to say, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a very moving film that sensitively handles a number of disturbing subject matters.

Ultimately, despite its darkness, there’s a message of hope there, too — the idea that if you have the right support network and people you can confide in and trust, even the very worst traumas can be overcome. — S.H.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is available to .

24. Mean Girls

'Mean Girls' is full of iconic characters and moments.

‘Mean Girls’ is full of iconic characters and moments.

Image: Michael Gibson/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock

What’s it about?

After returning to America after 12 years abroad, 16-year-old Cady (Lindsay Lohan) is forced to navigate the tricky world of U.S. high school.

But when she falls in with a trio of girls known as “The Plastics,” led by the manipulative Regina George (Rachel McAdams), she becomes embroiled in a war of words, rumours, and backstabbing.

Why should you watch it?

There are some movies that have become such immovable cult classics that you pretty much have to watch them — even if it’s only to understand what people are banging on about when they use the terms “fetch” or start referring to Glen Coco.

This is Mean Girls, in a nutshell — a teen movie so sharply scripted by Tina Fey that almost every other line seems to have become a timeless quote. The characters are well-drawn and entertaining, the story is relentlessly funny, and the whole thing paints a larger-than-life picture of high school that has its roots in the weird hierarchies we all stumble through in our teenager years. — S.H.

Mean Girls is available to stream on in the UK and in the U.S.

25. Moonrise Kingdom

What’s it about?

Wes Anderson’s adorable picture book of a Bonnie-and-Clyde adventure follows a 12-year-old boy scout, Sam Shakusky, who plots to run away with his penpal, the love of his young life: fierce reader and Francoise Hardy fan Suzy Bishop. A star-studded search party ensues.

Why should you watch it?

Set in the ‘60s and wielding Anderson’s favourite cluster of stars in support, Moonrise Kingdom is as sweet a picture of young love as you can imagine. If you’ve ever wanted to take your beloved by the hand and flee into the wilderness, you should watch this film. As our quietly determined young runaways evade the dreaded grown-ups across the fictional island of New Penzance with limited scout supplies, Suzy’s kitten, a record player, and the will to succeed, their romance blossoms. The pure awkwardness of suddenly being alone with someone you like at that age is immortalised in a delightful cove-dancing scene, a gawky moment of newfound independence and expression in their own little kingdom. — S.C.

Moonrise Kingdom is available to rent or buy on Prime Video in the and the

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