Sometimes it feels as if I were in high school just yesterday; even though in reality it’s been almost nine years since I graduated. High school is quite the interesting time for many of us, and for those of you who are currently still in high school are more than likely going through the coming of age phase. To put it simply, you’re transitioning from a kid to a young adult. And I get it, it’s not easy going through this phase. I know I definitely had my ups and downs, especially since my class was the first graduating class of our high school, so I didn’t have any of the older students to look up to. I was the older student. My high school experience was a lot different because of that, and I honestly wish we would’ve had upper classmen. One of the best ways that I survived my high school was by watching a vast majority of the coming of age movies from the ’80s. And let me tell you, the 1980’s has some of the best movies that fall under that category, and are still relevant to this day. These seven coming of age movies are not only total classics of the decade, but are also perfect choices to watch for those high schoolers who are becoming young adults, and starting to make their way in the world.
1. Stand By Me
This is probably one of my favorite coming of age movies, and what most people don’t realize about this flick is that it’s based on the novella “The Body” by Stephen King. Naturally, they changed the name of the movie to Stand By Me so as not to deter anyone from coming to see it. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t really want to go see a movie called The Body; it makes it sound like a horror movie, which this film is not. This 1986 adventure focuses on four young friends in rural Oregon who find out that a kid their age was killed in a train accident. So, being curious, as boys that age tend to be, they set off on a journey to find the kid’s body, and come across many challenges along the way. Stand By Me perfectly portrays the loss of innocence that we all end up going through at one point or another during our coming of age phase. It also shows the raw emotions one can feel when they finally have to let go of their childhood, and face the reality of the real world. Not everything is sunshine and rainbows, and Chris, Gordie, Teddy and Vern learn that in one of the most tragic ways. I highly recommend this coming of age movie for those of you who may be having a rough time with going through this phase. It’s not easy being an adult, and taking on responsibilities, but this movie will teach you that it’s ok to be emotional about it, and that there’s absolutely no shame in it.
2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Now, I’m sure that some of you have seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but I actually knew some people when I was in high school who’d never seen this John Hughes classic, which totally blew my mind. So, if you haven’t seen this hilarious coming of age movie, then you need to as soon as possible! Ferris Bueller’s Day Off follows the perfect day of one high school senior Ferris Bueller. Naturally, he tags along his best friend, Cameron, who’s also a senior, and his beautiful cheerleader girlfriend, Sloan, who’s a grade younger than him, on a whirlwind adventure in downtown Chicago. Hilarity ensues when the principal of their school gets involved to finally catch Ferris in the act, and teach him a lesson he’ll never forget. This is an amazing coming of age movie, because Ferris realizes that he has to grow up once he graduates high school. So, in one last big hurrah, he schemes up the perfect day of ditching school, and does all the things he wishes to do before he has to make his way out into the real world. I can definitely understand that feeling of not wanting to grow up, and have one last day where you could still be a bit of a kid about stuff, and mess around. And every single high schooler will have this feeling at least once, even those who think of themselves as being grown up and responsible. There’s nothing wrong with feeling that way at that age, but just remember, you have to face the real world sooner or later.
3. Valley Girl
I know that they just recently did a re-make of this movie, and after watching it, I can honestly say that the original 1983 movie was by far superior. Plus, you have young Nicholas Cage, and who doesn’t like a cute adolescent Nick Cage? This so totally awesome coming of age movie focuses on super popular girl Julie, who’s from the Valley, and how she falls for someone outside of her clique, Randy, who’s from Hollywood, and because Randy is not from the Valley, he is ostracized by not just her friends, but her family as well. Randy and Julie have to prove that their love is real, and show her world and his that they just don’t care what everyone thinks. Valley Girl is a wonderful coming of age movie because it not only teaches us not to care so much as to what others think of us, but also that we’re not all that different from each other when you take away the clique aspect. Basically, it’s ok to be friends or in a relationship with people who don’t talk like you, dress like you or even live where you do. That’s not to say you shouldn’t value your friends’ input, but you should also listen to what your heart and head are telling you, because in the end, your heart and head are normally right. High school is definitely the time where a lot of us will experience situations just like this; where you have learn to stand your ground when it comes down to what’s best for you.
Heathers is my all-time favorite dark comedy about high school. I will put forth a word of caution that this 1988 coming of age movie is not for the faint of heart as it involves suicide and murder, which is a very touchy topic for many of us. I don’t want that to deter you from watching this movie though; it’s basically like a darker version of Mean Girls. Heathers follows a popular group of four teenage friends, three of which are named Heather, and the fourth being Veronica. Veronica is the odd duck out of her friend group, and she reiterates throughout the movie that she doesn’t like her friends due to their downright cruel behavior towards others. Because Veronica was friends with them for so long, she’s stumped as to how to get out of the clique without them seeking revenge on her, especially since they made her popular. But when Veronica meets the new mysterious and edgy J.D., things spiral out of control in a series of murder suicides. There’s many lessons to be learned with this coming of age movie, with the most important one being that you shouldn’t be afraid to cease a friendship with someone that you consider toxic. It’s easier to just walk away and deal with the repercussions, than it is to do something that you might deeply regret. Another lesson that this coming of age movie also teaches is that you shouldn’t change yourself just to fit in with another group, because normally you don’t end up liking the person you turn into. I know I did this when I was around that age, and sure it was fun at times, but I didn’t like the person I’d become, and decided I was better off not being friends with those mean girl types.
5. License to Drive
This 1988 coming of age movie is one that is lighthearted as well as hilarious. License to Drive focuses on high schooler Les Anderson, and how he wants nothing more than to get his driver’s license. Les is an amazing driver, but when it comes down to the test portion of driving, he’s less than knowledgeable. He fails his driver’s license test, and returns to his home dejected, but not wanting to disappoint his parents, he lies to them saying that he passed. Naturally, his parents find out the truth, and ground him for lying. And with Les being a teenage boy who is in love, he sneaks out while taking his grandpa’s beloved Caddy for one of the most unforgettable and crazy nights. The most obvious lesson in this coming of age movie is to not lie to your parents no matter how disappointed they may be, because chances are they’ll be even more so if you do decide to lie. And as teenagers, the thing we want most is to avoid the wrath of our parents at all costs. Les learned this lesson the hard way, but in the end redeemed himself in the eyes of his parents by proving himself capable of being a responsible adult. So, to all the high schoolers out there, don’t lie to your elders to save face, and always make sure you study for any important tests. You’ll be grateful in the end, and that much closer to being a capable adult.
6. The Breakfast Club
How could I not include this iconic coming of age John Hughes movie? This is yet another movie that many high schoolers have seen, but not all. I even know some people my age who still haven’t seen it. I remember watching this 1985 hit just before entering my freshman year of high school, and how I loved every minute of it! The Breakfast Club focuses on a Saturday detention group of five high school students who are all from different social groups. Throughout the movie we watch as they confront each other’s stereotypes, and how just because they seem to have it good, that’s not always the case. In the end, these teens realize that they’re just people trying to find their way in a world of constant ups and downs, and how they won’t be defined by the labels given to them by society. There’s plenty of life lessons that you can take away from The Breakfast Club, and one of the most important ones that you should adhere to is that there’s more to a person than meets the eye. This is especially true when it comes down to being in high school; the classic lesson of don’t judge a book by its cover. I understand that it’s tough to do that sometimes, but you might just be surprised as to the person who is behind the mask.
7. Dirty Dancing
Yes, one of the reasons I chose this successful ’80s flick is because Patrick Swayze is super dreamy in it. But I also chose Dirty Dancing because it’s an ideal coming of age movie. In this 1987 hit, we travel back to the 1960’s, and follow the summer experience of Baby Houseman, and how she falls for Johnny Castle, who’s a dance instructor at the resort her and her family are staying at. We witness Baby grow as a young woman throughout the film, and how she finally gets out from under her father’s view of her no longer being a helpless child. Baby proves to everyone else at the resort that she is more than just a daddy’s girl, and that she’s completely capable of being a mature problem-solving adult. One of the most important lessons in this coming of age movie is that you shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself. Baby learns this throughout the movie, and realizes that she can’t conform to the image her parent’s have of her. They still see her as a perfectly fragile little girl who must be protected by the horrors of the real world. Naturally, Johnny helps Baby in realizing this along the way, and how she shouldn’t be afraid to just be herself. This is extremely important when it comes to being in high school; you should never fear being yourself because if you’re apprehensive about it, then you’re just delaying yourself from becoming the young adult you’re meant to be. Always be confident in yourself because it will get you far in life.