11 of the Best 80’s Coming-of-Age Films

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11 of the Best 80’s Coming-of-Age Films

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Now, I haven’t frequented detention, “borrowed” my best friend’s dad’s Ferrari, or traveled back in time with an estranged scientist to guarantee my own existence, but I have attended high school. I haven’t fallen in love with high school, and I’d guess it’s safe to say that none of you have either; however, the experience itself is something we can all relate to, whether you’ve had the best or worst time of your life. And with that time, I’ve watched a lot of 80’s movies.

There’s an undeniable truth behind what these beloved coming-of-age movies explore- the inescapable reality of growing up.”

The 1980s was a decade of cinematic genius, and its movies are both extremely enjoyable to watch and timeless, especially its coming-of-age films. Why? There’s an undeniable truth behind what these beloved coming-of-age movies explore- the inescapable reality of growing up. Behind all the cliches and predictabilities, the films teach us how to handle growing up, or at least a little bit better, and every film is unique in its methods of delivering that message.

Here’s a list of, in my opinion, eleven (because I couldn’t narrow it down to ten) of the best ’80s coming-of-age films that you can watch in order to procrastinate doing your next research paper. Happy watching! 



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The Outsiders (1983)

Based on the novel by S. E. Hinton, this 1983 crime drama follows a teen gang in rural Oklahoma, the Greasers, who are at odds with a rival gang called the Socials (Socs.) Greasers Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell) and Johnny (Ralph Macchio) get into a brawl that ends with the death of a Social, and the boys are forced to go into hiding. With the help of their friend Dally (Matt Dillon) and the other Greasers, the boys must face the consequences of their violent lives.

 Running Time: 91 minutes


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Sixteen Candles (1984)

With her sister’s wedding being the center of attention, Samantha’s (Molly Ringwald) 16th birthday is completely overlooked by her family. Samantha pines over older senior Jake (Michael Schoeffling) but worries her chastity will scare him off. Meanwhile, Samantha must constantly avoid the affection of nerdy Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), the only boy in school who seems to have any interest in her.

 Running Time: 93 minutes


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The Breakfast Club (1985)

Five high school students- John “Bender” (Judd Nelson), Claire (Molly Ringwald), Allison (Ally Sheedy), Andrew (Emilio Estevez), and Brian (Anthony Michael Hall)- all with completely different personalities-endure Saturday detention under a power-hungry principal (Paul Gleason). Each has a chance to tell their stories, including their reasons for earning detention, making the others see them differently. At the end of the day, they each question whether they will see high school differently and challenge its stereotypes. 

Running Time: 97 minutes


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Back to the Future (1985)

In this 1985 Sci-Fi Fantasy, California teen Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels back in time to the ’50s with his eccentric scientist friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) in a modified DeLorean. In this time, Marty meets younger versions of his parents and must make sure they fall in love or else he will cease to exist; however, Marty also has to travel back to his own time to save the life of Doc Brown. 

Running Time: 116 minutes


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Better Off Dead (1985)

Lane Meyer (John Cusack) is a teen with a peculiar family and a strange obsession with his girlfriend, Beth (Amanda Wyss). When Beth dumps Lane, he decides to kill himself, making ineffective attempts at suicide. Outside of his morbid endeavors, Lane spends time with his odd friend Charles (Curtis Armstrong) and befriends a French foreign exchange student, Monique (Diane Franklin). Lane attempts to win Beth back by challenging her new boyfriend, the captain of the ski team, to a ski race- a sport which he has no prior skill in. 

Running Time: 97 minutes


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The Sure Thing (1985)

Gib (John Cusack), a college freshman, keeps striking out with women. Thanks to his high school friend, he learns that there’s a Californian girl (Nicollette Sheridan) who wants to have a romantic rendezvous with Gib; claiming she’s a “sure thing.” Gib decides to carpool out to the West Coast to meet her, but unfortunately one of the other passengers on the trip is Alison (Daphne Zuniga), who has rejected Gib once before. The journey is nightmare-ish until the unexpected happens- Gib and Alison start to develop feelings for each other. 

Running Time: 100 minutes


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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) has a love for cutting classes, and school altogether, and an uncanny talent at getting away with it. With the end of high school approaching, Ferris has fewer chances to skip school if he wants to graduate in time. However, he attempts to get one last day in, faking out his parents and calling in “sick.” On his day off, Ferris pressures his best friend Cameron (Alan Douglas Ruck) into borrowing his dad’s Ferrari so they can drive around Chicago and sneak Ferris’ girlfriend, Sloane (Mia Sarapochiello), out of school. However, on his tail is suspicious Principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), determined to catch him in the act. 

Running Time: 103 minutes


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Stand By Me (1986)

After learning of the whereabouts of a missing boy’s dead body, four Oregon boys decide to go see it. On the way, Gordie Lachance (Wil Wheaton), Vern Tessio (Jerry O’Connell), Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), and Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman) encounter a rude junk man and a marsh full of leeches, while also learning more about each other’s home lives. What begins as a lighthearted adventure soon becomes a defining journey in the boys’ lives. 

Running Time: 89 minutes


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Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

Nerdy high schooler Ronald Miller (Patrick Dempsey) rescues cheerleader Cindy Mancini (Amanda Peterson) from parental punishment after she accidentally destroys her mother’s designers clothes. Ronald agrees to pay $1,000 to replace the outfit on one condition: that she will pretend to go out with him for one month so he can know what it’s like to be popular. As the month progresses, however, Condy grows fond of Ronald, giving him a reputation with the jocks. But when Ronald’s former best friend gets left behind and becomes the jock’s new target, Ronald realizes that social success isn’t everything. 

Running Time: 94 minutes


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Say Anything (1989)

In a charming, critically acclaimed tale of first love, Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), an eternal optimist, seeks to capture the heart of Diane Court (Ione Skye), an unattainable high school beauty and straight-A student. It surprises just about everyone when she returns the sentiment and goes out of her comfort zone. But Diane’s overly possessive, divorced father (John Mahoney) doesn’t quite approve of Lloyd’s carefree attitude and visions for the future, and it will take more than the power of love to conquer all.

Running Time: 100 minutes


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The Dead Poets Society (1989)

In the autumn of 1959, Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) begins his senior year of high school at Welton Academy, an all-male, elite prep school. He is assigned one of Welton’s most promising students, Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), as his roommate and is quickly accepted by Neil’s friends: Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles), Richard Cameron (Dylan Kussman), Steven Meeks (Allelon Ruggiero), Gerard Pitts (James Waterston), and Charlie Dalton (Gale Hensen). English teacher, and former Welton Academy alumni, John Keating (Robin Williams) inspires his students with poetry and encourages them to look at the world with a different perspective. Upon learning that Keaton was a member of the unsanctioned Dead Poets Society while he was at Welton, Neil restarts the club and he and his friends sneak off campus to a cave where they read poetry and verse, including their own compositions. However, Keating’s teachings and the boys’ newly adopted views of life attract the attention of the strict headmaster Gale Nolan (Norman Lloyd), and they face dangerous consequences. 

Running Time: 140 minutes