Hollywood loves its teen flicks. But not all teen flicks are generic in nature. One interesting kind is the so-called coming of age film, where a young adolescent transforms slowly or abruptly out of innocence, as a result of certain personal traumas or unfortunate life circumstances. Sometimes, the darkness is not overtly revealed, as the teen undergoes and exhibits social awkwardness as a result.
This is basically what the coming of age film Perks of Being a Wallflower is about. The 2012 film features Charlie, a high school freshman who just came out of clinical depression. He finds it hard to adjust back to school again, after being released from a mental health institution. This is where his social awkwardness surfaces, which bungles things in his life from time to time.
Charlie’s school experiences spark unwanted flashbacks which caused his depression in the first place. His repressed memories are rather dark, and the film tackles these heavier themes bravely – and realistically.
If you loved the quiet but powerful nature of this narrative, then you’re sure to love the other movies like Perks of Being a Wallflower in this list. Go see what interests you!
1. Stand By Me
One summer, a group of teenage boys go on an adventure to find a dead body lost in the forest up the mountains. Sounds like a morbidly fun adventure, right? But with a story penned by Stephen King, it’s not really that happy-happy-joy-joy of a narrative, so be ready for the darker themes here.
Stand By Me is a 1986 movie based on King’s novella. It’s about four young adolescents who aren’t exactly school achievers: the bookish Gordie, the streetwise Chris, the jokester Teddy, and the fat kid of the group, Vern. Finding the body of the missing boy gives these young ones a brief purpose, and their friendships also develop further.
During the hike, each kid tells of their own dreams, family troubles, and personal hardships they face in their respective lives. It’s a great example of fleshing out teenage angsts and looking at the troubled sources of such angst. As we get to know each boy deeply, we also understand their social awkwardness, and hope that they become good men towards the end.
2. The Breakfast Club
When talking about high school coming of age films with darker themes, an ‘80s classic immediately comes to mind: John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club. When you watch this film, you will immediately see parallels of why we put that here in the list of movies like Perks of Being a Wallflower.
The 1985 film tells of one Saturday in a high school, where five very different teens are gathered together to spend a few hours of detention in their school library. There’s Andrew the jock, the socialite Claire, the rebel John, the outcast Allison, and the brainy kid named Brian. Their school principal left them an essay to write in their detention time, but of course these kids had other plans.
The teens are obviously from different types of social groupings in high school. It’s quite obvious in their characterizations alone. So if you put these varied personas in one container of a room, what could you expect to happen?
Teasing and bullying are two top things that could happen here, and they do happen. But eventually, some of them start talking to each other in a deeper way, revealing things about themselves. As the day unfolds, a different kind of thing happens.
Each of these angst-filled teens soon reveal the varied pressures they receive from their families. The pressures also explain some negativities in their lives. See what else unfolds here when you watch this classic.
3. Billy Elliot
When situations beyond your control, especially your family life, might be the factors hindering you from achieving your dreams, will you grow up being frustrated with life? That is the main challenged posted to the 11-year-old protagonist of the British movie Billy Elliot.
Set during the coal miners’ strike during the early ‘80s, Billy Elliot is the son of a widower who is a coal miner. He alone takes care of Billy and Billy’s older brother Tony who’s also a coal miner. Imagine growing up in a house like this, with toughened macho men as guardians. Now imagine being a boy, in this household, who wants to become a ballet dancer.
The coming of age challenges in this film is clearly of a gendered kind. As ballet is seen as a “sissy” activity by macho men, Billy is forbidden to pursue this new-found passion. Tension arises when, instead of taking up boxing lessons like what his father wants, Billy secretly pursues ballet instead.
This is the reason why we included this film as one of those movies like Perks of Being a Wallflower, since Elliot also feels such an outcast in his own world. Will he make it big in another world? Watch it and find out!
4. Little Miss Sunshine
Another cute film with a very young adolescent lead in it – one who also has a unique ambition to boot – is Little Miss Sunshine.
Imagine coming of age in a very unique family with very eclectic members. That’s the story of Olive, a nerdy-looking slightly chubby kid whose ambition is to become a beauty queen. She tried to enter beauty pageants, and qualified in one. However, it’s in California, while they live in New Mexico. So the whole family takes a road trip with her for practicality and support as well.
It’s a bit awkward to grow up surrounded by adults who are dealing with their own problems. There’s the gay uncle who survived a suicide attempt because he got dumped by his boyfriend. There’s the older step-brother who is undergoing his own rebellious phase. There’s the grandfather who helps her with preparing for the pageant, even though he swears a lot.
But aside from these relatives, the biggest challenge here is whether the kid herself is ready to join the cut-throat world of beauty pageants. While all of the adults around her know that she doesn’t stand a chance (but they don’t tell her), they support her efforts nonetheless.
Little Miss Sunshine is indeed a good film to watch if you find movies like Perks of a Wallflower very entertaining. See how families – blood or extended – help younger protagonists with their life challenges.
5. Paper Towns
What if you had a good friend when you were young, only to drift apart during adolescence because she became part of the popular crowd, and you remained unpopular? Would you still maintain your childhood infatuation with her? These are the tough coming of age questions that the protagonist Quentin had to face in the film Paper Towns.
Adolescence is truly a challenging time for anyone, and this is where all the awkward stages of life could begin for a boy or girl. In Quentin’s case, it doesn’t help that he remained an awkward teen who’s unpopular in school, while his childhood friend Margo grew up to become one of the most popular girls in school.
But things could always take unusual turns. One night, Margo connects with Quentin again, but only to recruit him to help her exact revenge on her cheating boyfriend. But after this mini-adventure, where will their friendship head? Things indeed take another unexpected turn when Margot suddenly disappears after that.
Based on the popular young adult novel by John Green, this 2015 cinematic version is as intriguing as the book where it came from. Due to the presentations of various coming of age concerns, this film definitely earns its rightful place in our list of movies like Perks of Being a Wallflower. Go watch it as well.
6. Sixteen Candles
Talk about being angst-ridden because your own family forgot your 16th birthday, a milestone in every girl’s life. What would you do, and how would you react? This is the situation that the protagonist Samantha or Sam faces in Sixteen Candles.
Directed by John Hughes, this 1984 film features the life of Sam during the time she was turning 16. Since her older sister was going to get married the day after Sam’s birthday, her whole family is focused on her sister’s big day instead of hers. Imagine coming of age in this kind of situation!
Of course, this situation will produce a very angst-filled reaction to a growing teenager. Add Sam’s dilemmas in school and you also get some sort of awkwardness that goes with this age. As it turns out, Sam is infatuated with an older student jock, who already has a girlfriend. And then there’s an upcoming school dance, where Sam’s grandparents coerced her into taking a foreign exchange student as her dance. Yes, the story is fun as it is complicated or convoluted!
So it’s best to watch this one, and see why we included Sixteen Candles in the list of movies like Perks of Being a Wallflower. These clues ought to tickle your interest enough!
When a film shows a small, nerdy kid who tries out to become a football player in his school, it’s obvious that this coming of age storyline would include bullying, social awkwardness, misplaced infatuations, and high school stereotypes. And in the middle of this would be the young adolescent managing his young life within this scenario. That is what Lucas is all about.
Lucas is a 1986 film starring ‘80s teen heartthrob Corey Haim in the title role. Lucas meets an older girl, Maggie, one summer, develops a crush on her, but finds her unreachable when school started. It wasn’t severe at first, because they remained friends at the beginning. But their obvious age gap and interests put a wedge between their friendship.
This was hard for Lucas, who was always the brainy one, while Maggie wanted to hang out with other students who aren’t exactly the brainy kind. That’s why in one instance, Lucas tried hard to become a member of the football team, even if he didn’t have the body for it.
Oh, what situations we put ourselves in, when we are young. Watch Lucas to see just what else he did to pursue his crush.
8. Rebel Without a Cause
If you want a true classic that belongs here in our list of movies like Perks of Being a Wallflower, perhaps nothing could get more classic than Rebel Without a Cause. This eponymous James Dean starrer put teen angst on the map of pop culture and society.
The 1955 film features Jim, a troubled teen suffering the consequences of fighting parents. Natalie Wood co-stars as Judy, Jim’s new schoolmate who seems to suffer from Electra complex, which irritates her parents. And then there’s Sal Mineo who plays Plato, a rich but lonely outcast who befriends the two.
As one of those movies like Perks of Being a Wallflower, Rebel Without a Cause deals with darker issues that plague teenagers in society. Judy’s complex obviously hampers her to have a good relationship with her mother while Jim finds his father a bit weak when confronted by her mother. Meanwhile, Sal seems to suffer from a closeted case of gayness which peeks out from time to time.
Given that this is the ‘50s, what do you think happens to such characters within the era? This one is a classic that should not be missed!
9. Almost Famous
Do you want to know how it feels like to be a child prodigy growing up during the early ‘70s, and believing you’re 13 years old but you’re actually only 11? This is the very strange circumstances that open the film Almost Famous.
Directed by Cameron Crowe, the 2000 film features the story of child prodigy William, who at age 15 is already a contributing writer of various underground music publications. His dream is to become a rock journalist, and he was given an assignment to cover a concert by no less that Lester Bangs, the foremost rock journalist of that era. However, he encounters problems because he’s underage, so he can’t get inside the concert venue.
While maneuvering these woes, foremost music publication Rolling Stone calls William, and hires him to contribute for them. William ends up hanging out with the rock band Stillwater, where he befriends the band amd the immediate people around him, including the pretty groupies. He even develops a crush on one of the groupies named Penny Lane.
Such an interesting time to come of age, right? This film presents a different darker side of growing up, especially when you’re presented with the ‘70s brand of “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.” How do you think our teenager would cope? Watch the film to find out!
10. Moonrise Kingdom
What if two introverted, socially awkward 12 year olds became friends on paper and later in real life, then decide to run away from their own lives together? What do you think will happen? This is the unique situation that the protagonists find themselves in, in this film called Moonrise Kingdom.
From the imagination of writer-director Wes Anderson, this interesting 2012 film tells of the coming of age of Sam, a 12-year-old smart boy who is scheduled to attend a boy scout camp in a New England island. Sam is intelligent and wise beyond his years indeed, even though he is an orphan who lives with foster parents.
Sam has been corresponding with Suzy, a fellow 12-year-old who’s very smart for her age as well. The two hit it off. And since Suzy lives on the island where Sam will go camping as a scout, they agree to meet up – and run away, together.
The adventures and misadventures of these two young introverts definitely produce many interesting moments in the film. Go watch it to see why we lumped it here in our list of movies like Perks of Being a Wallflower. This one certainly doesn’t disappoint!
11. Lady Bird
One of the latest movies like Perks of Being a Wallflower is Lady Bird. The Academy Award nominated film stars Saoirse Ronan as Christine, who has christened herself as Lady Bird, just because she wants to! The story revolves around her and her quest of trying to convince her parents to enroll her in a college outside of their city.
Lady Bird’s story largely takes place inside a private Catholic high school for girls, where rules for being a teenager seem to be different from those in public high. Lady Bird decides to spend her senior high year differently, which later alienates her real friend.
Social awkwardness is sprinkled in bits and pieces here, but teen angst is all over the film. The film also tackles unusual themes which are sometimes awkward for both teens and adults. And there’s a reason why it got nominated as Best Picture, to boot. So, go see it for yourself and find out why!