5 Classic Coming-of-Age Movies

The stars of The Kings of Summer pick their nostalgia-inducing favorites.
Jeffrey M. Anderson Guest Blogger | Movie/DVD reviewer | Dad of one Categories: Screen Time, We Recommend
Guest Blogger | Movie/DVD reviewer | Dad of one

The Kings of Summer is this spring's much-talked-about coming-of-age movie about a trio of young teens -- Joe (Nick Robinson), Patrick (Gabriel Basso), and Biaggio (Moises Arias) -- who decide to get away from their parents by building their own house and living in the woods. So we asked the three stars to pick the coming-of-age movies that inspired them. They chose these five classics:

  • Stand by Me (1986)
    Rob Reiner directed this lovely, funny, and profound adaptation of Stephen King's story "The Body" about four boys (Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O'Connell) who set out on a life-changing journey to find a dead body rumored to have been left in the woods. It delves into the characters' fears and insecurities, as well as their little joys and obsessions (Cherry-flavored PEZ). There are moments of terror, as when an older boy (Kiefer Sutherland) threatens them; moments of sadness (memories of a dead older brother, played by John Cusack); and moments of beauty (sighting the deer). In the middle of it all is the funniest vomiting scene this side of Monty Python. Ironically, Stand by Me was rated "R" for language, so kids the same age as the main characters weren't supposed to see it.
     
  • The Goonies (1985)
    This breezy, high-spirited adventure (produced by Steven Spielberg) is set in a damp seaside town, where the "Goondock kids" are in danger of losing their homes to an evil corporation. Hoping to find the money to save them, the gang sets off in search of lost pirate treasure. Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, Jeff Cohen, and Ke Huy Quan play the main kids, with Josh Brolin as the older brother and Kerri Green and Martha Plimpton as the girls who decide to come along. One particularly touching aspect is the friendship that develops between the overweight "Chunk" and the deformed character "Sloth." The movie has been criticized for its noise level (the kids often shout and talk over one another), but they do learn to work together to solve their problem.
     
  • The Sandlot (1993)
    Dave "Mickey" Evans wrote and directed this one-of-a-kind baseball movie, which is more focused on fitting in than on winning the big game at the end. (In fact, there is no big game at the end.) Set in the 1960s, The Sandlot is drenched in nostalgia, telling the story of Scotty (Tom Guiry), the new kid in town who desperately wants to play baseball with the other guys but doesn't know how. He finally gets his chance ... but then must face the terror of the Beast, a monstrous dog of legend that lives on the other side of the fence and eats any home run balls that fly over it. Denis Leary, Karen Allen, and James Earl Jones co-star.
     
  • E.T. (1982)
    Steven Spielberg's sci-fi classic centers on the simple friendship between a boy and an alien, rather than a violent invasion. The story feels modern rather than nostalgic, and the kids -- Elliot (Henry Thomas), Gertie (Drew Barrymore), and Michael (Robert MacNaughton) -- are realistic (meaning they use some strong language, as well as testing and insulting one another -- and adults -- but they're genuinely curious and good-spirited). Much of the movie is sweet and funny, but it gets pretty intense when E.T. falls ill and government agents descend upon Elliot's house. Young and old alike will find it difficult to choke back tears at the movie's final goodbye, but all in all, this is a deeply felt, warm-hearted classic.
     
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
    Upright lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is the center of this story set in the Depression-era South. His defense of unjustly accused black man Tom Robinson (Brock Peters) in court provides the movie's climax, but most of its events are seen through the eyes of the curious, intrepid young Scout (Mary Badham) and her brother Jem (Phillip Alford). Even with the grim realities around them, their world still holds hope and wonder, mainly in the form of the mysterious neighbor Boo Radley (Robert Duvall). Based on Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, this drama was seen as a timeless, important work of art almost immediately; it received eight Oscar nominations and won three.

Most of these movies seem to take place over the summer (except E.T.), when kids have a tendency to really sprout and grow. They show that having a sense of curiosity and wonder about the world and accepting the strange and unusual is part of natural growth -- and can lead to great rewards. It's also important for parents and grown-ups to retain a sense of childlike exploration, which makes these movies perfect watch-together fare.

Which movie(s) would you add to this list? Add your picks in the comments below.

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About Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey was welcomed as a movie and DVD reviewer for Common Sense in 2009 when his son was just 3 years old and had already watched Babe 50 times. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in cinema from San Francisco... Read more

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Comments (7)

Educator written by Jennifer_a15

Is anyone else bothered that there are no female-driven movies on the list. Yes, Goonies and ET have girls, but the story is decidedly from a male perspective. I would love to add a few stories from a girl's perspective: - Now and Then: A wonderful story telling of four girls going through the big change and how it affects each one. Although it takes place in the 1960's or 70's and was filmed in the 90's, the feelings remain the same--the first crush, the first budding underneath the shirt, and other very important issues girls deal with are all done in a comical but insightful way. - My Girl: Not only is Vada coming of age--she almost totally devoid of a female role model in her life. Her mother passed on when she was too young to remember, and she lives in a funeral parlor so she has constant reminders of death surrounding her. Her only break is when she's with her best friend Thomas J and she can be herself. Not only does it talk about seeing death for the first time, but during the movie, Vada "hemorages" (I'll let you guess what that means) and wears make up for the first time. She even discusses romance with Thomas J (though nothing happens). P.S. If you haven't seen it, make sure you have tissues, you'll need them.
Kid, 10 years old

Is stand by me a movie a book or somthing cause I want it. Inless you made it up your self that's good if you did!
Kid, 10 years old

I like the king of summer what they said inspierd me like when you said they packed there bags and ran away sometimes I feal like I'm going to run away .