Engaging students in coming of age education can be a challenge. What better way to introduce them to these crucial themes than through the power of film? In this post, we’ll delve into five remarkable movies that brilliantly portray the transition from adolescence to adulthood, personal growth, self-discovery, and the assumption of new responsibilities. For each film, we’ll provide a brief overview and explain how they illuminate the educational concept of coming of age. We’ll also link to their IMDb pages and parental guides so you can make an informed decision. So, what are the 5 best movies for coming of age stories in the classroom? Let’s dive in!
The K12 Deets
1) Wonder (PG – 2017)
In Wonder, the protagonist Auggie Pullman, a young boy with facial deformities, embarks on the journey of entering mainstream schooling for the first time. As he faces challenges, both due to his appearance and the usual trials of youth, he learns the value of friendship, empathy, and self-acceptance. The struggle against societal prejudices tests his resilience. As Auggie matures, he transitions from a boy defined by his condition to a compassionate and confident young man. Read more about how Wonder can be used in the classroom here.
2) The Outsiders (PG-13 – 1983)
The Outsiders captures the essence of the coming-of-age journey, centered around a gang of boys from the wrong side of town. The young men, led by Ponyboy Curtis, grapple with the harsh realities of life, societal expectations, and their place in the world. Each character’s evolution, particularly Ponyboy’s, underpins the struggle with class, violence, and maturity. By the end, these experiences shape them into adults, forever marked by their adolescent ordeals. Read more about how The Outsiders can be used in the classroom here.
3) Holes (2003)
Holes follows the story of Stanley Yelnats, a teenager wrongfully sent to a desert detention center. There, he uncovers a family curse and a hidden treasure, all while enduring brutal conditions. Despite these harsh trials, Stanley’s transformation is apparent as he develops resilience, bravery, and camaraderie. As he solves the mystery, Stanley steps into adulthood, shedding his passive, unlucky persona. Read more about how Holes can be used in the classroom here.
4) The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
The Diary of Anne Frank portrays a unique and heartbreaking coming-of-age tale, set in the midst of World War II. Anne, a Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis, documents her life in her diary. Through this lens, we witness her growth as she grapples with the terror of war and the pangs of adolescence. Anne’s maturity and philosophical introspection showcase her transition into adulthood, made all the more poignant by her tragic fate. Read more about how The Diary of Anne Frank can be used in the classroom here.
5) Dead Poets Society (1989)
Lastly, Dead Poets Society features the experiences of a group of boys at an elite boarding school. Guided by their inspirational teacher, Mr. Keating, they delve into the world of poetry and learn to challenge societal norms. Facing love, loss, and pressure, they learn to ‘seize the day.’ The boys’ journeys from adolescence to adulthood emphasize the power of individuality and the cost of conformity. Read more about how Dead Poets Society can be used in the classroom here.
Do you want to search for more movies by their educational key concept?
Check out this blog post to discover 21 educational key concepts and find more movies that align with each one!