Some movies are celebrated for their honest portrayal of what it’s like growing up as a teen girl. In recognition, here are five great coming of age movies with female leads.
The coming of age narrative is a popular choice with audiences, whether they’re 15 or 50, because everyone can relate to that awkward transition from teen to adult. It’s a universal story. Classics like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are required viewing, and last year’s award winning Boyhood is sure to join them.
However, one criticism of this subgenre is that too often this ‘universal’ story of growing up is told through a male protagonist. So to redress this problem, here are five great coming of age stories that are female focused.
‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’
Set in 1970s San Francisco, Diary of a Teenage Girl opens on 15-year-old Minnie who has just had sex for the first time. The only problem? It was with her mum’s 35-year-old boyfriend.
The film manages to present the situation without passing judgment, leaving it up to the audience to decide how they feel, and instead focuses on Minnie’s growing sexual awareness. This is a film that doesn’t try and shame Minnie’s desire for sex (which is a rare occurrence in film), but presents it as a natural part of growing up. She’s still struggling to create her own identity and makes mistakes in the process, but the film never belittles her for it.
At times both confident and insecure, Minnie is a character that many girls can see themselves in and should be a must see.
Juno is like any teen, experiencing for the first time love, sex, and the fallibility of adults. She just happens to be pregnant at the time. Although her family and friends want to help her, ultimately Juno is the one who must learn to make her own decisions.
Ellen Page put herself on the map with her portrayal of Juno, and the term ‘adorkable’ was probably created to describe Michael Cera as Bleeker.
Off beat and quirky, with dialogue perfect for quoting, this was an instant hit.
A relatively lesser-known movie, The Duff came out earlier this year. The story revolves around Bianca, who learns at the start of the movie that she is a DUFF. What is that, you may ask? It stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend.
Understandably, Bianca is not a fan, so she enlists the help of Wes (AKA Mr. Popular) to de-duff her, in exchange for helping him pass chemistry. In her attempts to change herself, she increasingly alienates herself and earns the scorn of her peers. With a similar message to Mean Girls, in the end, Bianca must learn to be comfortable with who she is, no matter what labels people stick her with.
The cliques, the constant gossiping, the possessiveness over boys – is there a better movie that conveys the war zone-like experience of going to high school, especially as a girl?
Cady is a naïve girl when she firsts enters high school, but after being initiated into the top clique The Plastics, she must decide who she really is. Tina Fey’s teen comedy masterpiece is very much a female driven exploration into what it exactly means to be a girl in today’s society. This is an important film, although mainly because Tumblr is forever indebted to it for its wealth of memes.
An Education tells the story of 16-year-old Jenny in 1960s England, who is sick of her boring suburban life with her conservative parents. She sees getting into Oxford as a way of escape, or that is until she meets David, a charming and sophisticated older man. Through her relationship with David and his cultured lifestyle, Jenny transforms from a girl to a young woman, a loss of innocence that is her own choice.
An Education and Diary of a Teenage Girl share resemblances, both period dramas revolving around affairs with older men, but it’s in their protagonists’ desire to join the adult world that they are most similar.
Five is a very small number of the hundreds of coming of age movies, so what are some of your favorites?