Being in the stage of life that we millennials and especially the 90s kids are, coming-of-age films is probably the one sub-genre in cinema that is the most alluring, simply by virtue of it being relatable. The genre’s universal appeal stems, despite the cultural and geographical differences, from stories of children evolving into teenagers or teenagers evolving into adults essentially embodying the same essence everywhere.
As humans, as we grow up, everything seems new and it is a time of discovery, and the transition is essentially what it’s all about: the first relationship, the first kiss, the first heartbreak, the first sexual contact or discovery, the first feeling of responsibility, the first feeling of leaving something behind: it’s an age of firsts. Luckily for us, Netflix really has a long line-up of such films, which is also a testament to the genre’s popularity. The films range from cult classics to dramas with depth to simple-natured teen comedies, all in the same vein of growing up. So, here’s the list of really good coming-of-age movies on Netflix that are available to stream right now:
15. Dude (2018)
Another typical high school Netflix original rom com, ‘Dude’ too joins the ranks of ‘To All the Boys I Have Loved Before’ and ‘Sierra Burgess is a Loser’, but provides nothing new. The film is about a series of firsts faced by a group of four high school girls and how they come to terms with it, growing up in the process. Usually in a list of finer films, it would have either not made it or my advice would have been to skip it, but as I said before, Netflix is able to dominate the landscape when it comes to coming-of-age high school romcoms.
14. The Kissing Booth (2018)
The second one in the series of run of the mill Netflix romantic comedies, ‘The Kissing Booth’ is about a teenage girl and how she must choose between her crush who she shares a kiss with at a kissing booth she sets up during the school carnival, or her friend and their pact that forbids her from having a crush on each other’s siblings. The outcome is inevitable and predictable, as are the proceedings as young Elle navigates her way through high school love. A very passable film at best if you have the taste for the kind. Read along. The better ones are right around the corner.
13. Sierra Burgess is a Loser (2018)
Another less superior addition to the list of Netflix original romantic comedy films on this list, and both of them, safe to say are in more or less the same vein, albeit this one is comparatively a more by the books take. Sierra Burgess is considered a loser in school and when a case of mistaken identities pits her with the most popular girl in high school, the two must struggle to work together to win over their crushes. I am not all with its dividing ending that kind of sends the wrong message, but this film scored quite the numbers for Netflix when it released. Side note: this film stars Noah Centineo too.
12. To All the Boys I have Loved Before (2018)
‘To All the Boys I have Loved Before’ is typical teenage mush, albeit an extremely popular one at that, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being that if you got the taste for it. The Netflix film sure wasn’t looking to get nominated for film awards, and it plays out as such: mostly harmless, entertaining stuff. The film is about a teenage girl who privately writes a letter to every guy she has had a crush on, only to have the letters by herself. Her love life is thrown into the wind when the letters are posted and all of the boys she has ever loved before confront her about it.
The film released not too long ago, and I still remember how virtually every girl I knew or didn’t was weak in the knees for Peter Kavinsky, played by Noah Centineo. A good news for them? The film is soon going to have a sequel with Centineo returning, and at this point, that is all you need to know to tell yourself you are going to stream it the minute it is out.
11. The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
‘The Edge of Seventeen’, while not breaking any of the familiar tropes one comes to associate with teen films, feels inherently fresh in its treatment. The film is about Nadine, a high schooler, whose life gets tougher as her popular older brother starts dating her best friend, and she grows more alone than ever, when she finds the unlikely friendship of Erwin to make her believe that things might not be that bad after all. With the exception of the ending, ‘The Edge of Seventeen’ is a perfectly passable fun teenage film, one that is also an inherently feel good movie and a relevant coming of age movie. Its plot wouldn’t feel like much, but let’s face it: high school was an awkward time and we have all been there.
10. The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)
Apart from being an amazing travel film with virtually all the “life changing” quips of the sub-genre present, ‘The Fundamentals of Caring’, a film that stands true to its name, is based on the 2012 novel, ‘The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving’ by Jonathan Evison. It tells the story of Trevor, a specially-abled teen who is unhappy in life and angry after his father left him when he was young. His caregiving is undertaken by a retired writer, Ben, played by the almost ageless and ever charming Paul Rudd, as the story of the film involves the two undertaking an impromptu road trip, wherein they end up learning a thing or two about each other as well as the fundamentals of caring. One of the better Netflix originals in recent years, this one is a heartwarming experience, yet tender and funny.
9. Alex Strangelove (2018)
Now this is a teen comedy that I happened to love. Alex Truelove, the central character from a nice twist on whose name the film receives its title, is the perfect kid, with a great academic score and a great girlfriend, with a bright future ahead of him, until he encounters a charming gay kid and goes on an exploration of his own sexuality. It is a liberating film, one that doesn’t take itself too seriously but at the same time knows what it’s doing. It’s funny and charming and ticks off all boxes on what a perfectly watchable teen rom-com should be. Completely recommended.
8. Carrie Pilby (2016)
If you need a nice break from the kind of coming-of-age films stated earlier, most of them dealing with high school transformations and journeys, ‘Carrie Pilby’ should be the answer to your search. The film is about the titular character, a child prodigy and Harvard graduate residing alone in New York city, when her therapist makes her a list of tasks to increase her social interaction and bring her out to the world. The tasks include making friends, getting a job, going on a date, taking care of a pet and so on. As she fulfills those one by one, her views on love, life, sexuality and the world overall begin to change. A breath of fresh air and one of my personal favourites in the sub-genre, ‘Carrie Pilby’ pits great, funny writing with a winning performance from Bel Powley.
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7. Udaan (2010)
It must feel quite unusual to see a single Indian film among a host of American and British English language films in the category, but trust me when I say that it is completely and honestly worth it. Growing up in a conservative town in India is quite different from growing up in the States, and while Bollywood rarely does quality movies on growing up, ‘Udaan’ would certainly top that list for me, if there were enough to make a list that is. Featuring a winning performance from Rajat Barmecha and Ronit Roy who is terrifyingly cruel as the authoritarian dad, and a beyond extraordinary score by Amit Trivedi that is the soul of this film, ‘Udaan’ is a heartfelt ode to your days in school, and what it felt like leaving your friends behind and starting a completely new life for those who can relate. Exceedingly well done, Vikramaditya Motwane!
6. Tall Girl (2019)
Starring Ava Michelle, Griffin Gluck, Sabrina Carpenter, and Paris Berelc, ‘Tall Girl’ is a teen romantic comedy film directed by Nzingha Stewart. As the name suggests, the movie centers upon Jodi, the tallest girl in the high school who has been struggling with bullies and insecurities for years. However, when her eyes fall on a handsome foreign exchange student, she falls madly in love with her. Although she has tried to avoid any attention all her life, Jodi finally gathers the courage to be more vocal about herself and learns that she is not limited by her insecurities in any way.
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5. The Half of It (2020)
Alice Wu’s ‘The Half of It’ is a coming-of-age teen drama movie that centers upon themes like the nature of love and acceptance. The Leah Lewis and Daniel Diemer-starrer revolve around friendless student Ellie Chu, who earns a few quick bucks by helping her fellow classmates with her homework. The straight A-student is approached by Paul Munsky, the inarticulate football player who wishes to express his love for his crush Aster Flores through letters. While Ellie is more than happy to help, she finds herself in a constant state of conflict as she falls for Aster as well. With Paul depending on her, does Ellie decide to keep her feelings to herself? Or does she risk opening up about her love?
4. Let It Snow (2019)
Inspired by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle’s novel of the same name, ‘Let It Snow’ is a Christmas romantic comedy film produced by Dylan Clark and Alexa Faigen. The Luke Snellin directorial focuses its attention on a small midwestern town that is hit by a snowstorm on Christmas Eve. By pure coincidence, the bad weather brings together several high school students who have plenty of free time on their hands to connect with each other. While the following interactions bring some of them closer, others struggle with their love life, and the morning after Christmas Eve changes everything.
3. After We Collided (2020)
Roger Kumble’s ‘After We Collided’ is a romantic drama film that is based on Anna Todd’s 2014 fictional novel of the same name. The Josephine Langford and Hero Fiennes Tiffin-starrer follow Hardin Scott and Tessa Young, two madly in love couple that decides to part ways after differences between them appear too big for any kind of reconciliation. However, one month after it, drunk dialing by the latter leads to an unpleasant confrontation, and the two eventually end up having sex. The following morning their old arguments sadly begin to surface as their complicated relationship hangs in the balance.
2. Through My Window (2022)
Inspired by Ariana Godoy’s novel of the same name, ‘Through My Window’ is a teen romance film that features talented actors like Julio Peña, Clara Galle, and Pilar Castro. The movie revolves around Raquel, a young adult who is madly in love with his next-door neighbor. Despite the many warning of his family, he has not given up on her and continues to secretly keep a close eye on her. Never having the courage to start a conversation will not solve his problems, but does he have enough courage to express his feelings boldly and win her heart?
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1. To All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021)
Based on Jenny Han’s 2017 fictional novel, ‘To All the Boys: Always and Forever’ is a teen romantic comedy film that stars Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, and Anna Cathcart. The third installment in the popular series follows Lara Jean, who is now in senior year and has just recently returned from her Korean trip. Now she faces several tough choices in her path as her complicated relationship with Peter has put her in a spot. Furthermore, she must also come up with her college plans while dealing with her emotional woes, for which Lara needs a clear career path, something she obviously needs.
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