How I love coming of age movies! For some weird reason, people started to think that children and pre-teenagers are somewhat naive and keep producing incredibly bad material over the last 10 years. But the British Film Institute made up an amazing list some years ago about 50 movies you should watch before you turn 14. The purpose of this list is to use cinema as a way of education like books and other types of art. Since I love making lists and coming of age stories, I decided to create my own list of 14 movies you should watch before you turn 14. Here they are!
Billy Elliot (2000) by Stephen Daldry
Being one of my favorite movies of all times and featuring one of my favorite actors, Billy Elliot is a classic that still makes me cry. Why is it so important? The film has an incredible sense of identity by portraying a boy who takes interest on doing ballet over boxing and chasing his own dreams not only by coming from a poor community, but also by choosing a feminine activity. Billy’s sexuality is not the main focus of the film, and even though the character shows himself as a straight boy, the movie is about the passion of the things we love, no matter what they are and where they come from.
Where the Wild Things Are (2009) by Spike Jonze
I was 16 years old when I watched this movie and I cried like a baby. Adapted from the book by Maurice Sendak that won the Caldecott Medal for “most distinguished American picture book for children”, Where the Wild Things Are is transformed by the hands of Spike Jonze to give us a beautiful coming of age tale where a boy named Max runs away from home after a fight with his mom and goes to a faraway land full of monsters. There, he claims himself the king and promises everyone that he will make the pain and suffering go away. This journey that mixes reality with fantasy shows Max that things are not always the way he wants to be and that he can’t always live in his own world. The film is not only beautiful, but the soundtrack is composed by Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
The 400 Blows (1959) by François Truffaut
I have mentioned this movie so many times on Papiro and Mint that if you haven’t watched it yet you are simply being stupid. Being also one of my favorite movies of all times, The 400 Blows is unique each time I watch. It’s simply timeless. The first time I watched I was very young and it was one of my first black and white movies and even though I didn’t understand much of cinema, I felt very emotional towards Antoine Doinel because I believe there is a little bit of everyone’s childhood in that film and that’s why it’s so remarkable.
Kes (1969) by Ken Loach
Being a mix of Billy Elliot, The 400 Blows and The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner, Kes is one of the last British new wave films and that also ended up launching Ken Loach’s career. Adapted from the book by Barry Hines, the film talks about a boy named Billy who starts a friendship with a falcon and wants nothing more from his life than spending his time with the bird, which is something no one around him can understand. Extremely realistic and poetic, Kes is also considered one of the movies you should watch before turning 14 by the BFI.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) by Stephen Chbosky
From most of the dramas portraying teenagers in high school that was released over the last five years, I can say that The Perks of Being a Wallflower is by far the best of them. The book itself is already mandatory in some schools, so why the movie wouldn’t be? And the most important, the movie was written and directed by the author of the book, something that we can count on a hand of how many times that happened in the history of cinema. The story is focused on Charlie, a shy high school outsider that has his life changed by two friends he meets in school. The film talks about friendship, relationships, sexuality, sexual abuse and many other tropes we are so used to see in films, but here they are portrayed in an extremely realistic and non-pretentious way.
Stand By Me (1986) by Rob Reiner
There are so many movies from the ’80s that I could have put here but from all of them, I decided to choose Stand By Me. Also considered another classic, Stand By Me is adapted from the book of the same name by Stephen King and tells the story of a group of friends who decide to look for a dead body next to the train tracks of the place they live. The movie is a journey of these friends, their relationship and how that story will change their lives forever. It’s also one of the first movies by River Phoenix.
A Monster Calls (2016) by Juan Antonio Bayona
A Monster Calls is an amazing precious film of 2016. Also based on a book of the same name by Patrick Ness, who also wrote the screenplay, A Monster Calls in a modern version of Where the Wild Things Are with a different message. Conor O’Miley is a young boy who lives in England and struggles with his mother’s terminal cancer, his strict grandmother, his estranged father, and his school bully, Harry. His anxiety and worry make him have nightmares until one night at 12:07 a.m., Conor encounters a tree-like Monster, who tells Conor that he has come to relate to three true stories so that he can understand his nightmares. The result is a dream-like adventure with a message that we have to face our greatest fears.
Here Is Your Life (1966) by Jan Troell
Probably a film you should watch only when you hit 14, Here Is Your Life is a three-hour Swedish autobiographical movie about a boy who leaves home to work and live life. He meets several different people, works in places all over his country and has his firsts sexual experiences. The most incredible thing about the film is its realistic ton and freedom towards the narrative, transforming this three-hour long movie into an intimate and beautiful portrait of youth. Definitely a must watch, especially because it’s not very well known.
My Life As A Dog (1985) by Lasse Hallstrom
My Life as a Dog could easily be known as the European version of A Monster Calls. Lasse Hellstrom’s film, however, came way before and is based on a book by Reidar Jonsson. The film tells the story of Ingemar, a boy who does nothing more than is expected from a boy his age. However, that seems to be too much for his mother, who is going through a serious sickness. Not being able to take care of him and his brother, Ingemar is sent away to his uncle in the countryside, where he needs to start a new life among a small community of people he doesn’t know. The film talks about adaptation, independence and curiosity towards the opposite sex in extremely beautiful ways.
Let the Right One In (2008) by Tomas Alfredson
Let the Right One In may be a horror film, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show it to someone under the age of 14. We watched horror movies when we were kids, so why shouldn’t we watch a horror film which main protagonists are two kids? Being of the best movies I’ve seen in my life, Let the Right One In talks about Oskar, a lonely boy who suffers from severe bullying at school and starts a relationship with his weird neighbor, who reveals to be a vampire. The film is not only extremely interesting by playing with the vampire trope in a child, but also explores very delicate subjects as child abuse, murder, and suicide. Why should a kid watch this? Because I believe the movie talks about violence and abuse in a way that children and pre-teenagers can learn about being careful and the dangers that are out there. Of course you don’t need to show this movie when someone is 6, but 13 and 14 are definitely the age to watch this one!
Paddington (2014) by Paul King
Between Stuart Little and Zootopia, I’ve decided to choose Paddington because of its extremely important subject: immigration. Paddington is the name given to a bear by a family who finds him at Paddington Station in London. Paddington went to England to find a home after his uncle died in a flood in Peru, and wants help from an explorer who knows her uncles, called Montgomery Clyde. The family decides to shelter the bear until he finds who he is looking for, even though the dad of the family is against a bear living under his roof. Paddington finds it difficult to live in the big city and enters a Wes Anderson-like adventure in the city, resulting in a beautiful and funny movie about acceptance and tolerance for people who are not only different from us, but especially, who live in a place different than ours.
“Harry Potter (2001-2011)”
Okay, Harry Potter has eight films in total but we can count the story as one since Harry Potter is not about a movie or two, but the combination of all of them and how they are watched. It’s a story that happens throughout seven years and it was told through ten. It starts when you are eleven and finishes when you are seventeen. At least that’s how you are supposed to watch it, which makes Harry Potter the most important saga when it comes to growing up. The tropes of Potter are huge, going from friendship and parents loss to understanding we both have good and bad inside of us and is the decisions we make that makes us who we are.
Cinema Paradiso (1988) by Giuseppe Tornatore
I only watched this film when I was in college, but if I had watched it when I was a kid, I don’t even know the impact Cinema Paradiso would have on me. The movie is the most beautiful homage cinema had ever received. It tells the story of Totó, a kid who lives in the country-side of Italy during the World War II and spends most of his days at Cinema Paradiso, the only movie theater in town. This period of life changes Totó’s life forever, because is through the screen that he learns about life, love, death, relationships and all the situations cinema can provide. It’s a movie inside of a movie and its ending is probably one of the most beautiful ends in cinema history.
Inside Out (2015) by Peter Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen
Is hard to choose one Pixar movie, but from all the major themes, I chose Inside Out because it talks about feelings in an extremely creative and beautiful way. Not mentioning the kid in the movie is around 11 and 12. As many of you know, Inside Out is told by the point of view of five feelings: Joy, Fear, Disgust, Sadness and Anger. All of them control Riley’s mind, an 11-year-old girl whose life was perfect until their parents decide to move to another city. Riley’s feelings become very complicated, making her mind go crazy through a very unique journey that only Pixar could provide.