My Favorite Films, by Rich Paschall

We all have to grow up and learn the lessons of life. Some are fun. Some are work. Some are terrifying. Many films show these various aspects of growing up. The movies may be a Risky Business or capture 400 Blows. They can introduce you to Harold and Maude or perhaps to Willie Wonka. You may find a birthday of Sixteen Candles while you are Pretty in Pink. You may find a Rebel Without A Cause or a Lion King. You could be on an island or just at A Summer Place.

As a boy, a teenager, and even as a young man I would identify with the younger heroes of the story, whether they were the lead character or not.  When I saw Swiss Family Robinson, I was more interested in the young son’s adventure (James MacArthur) than the parents who were trying to protect themselves while stranded on an island.  I was quite young at the time but remember it well.  If you saw Disney films in that era, you knew there was a young hero for kids to identify with, who might also own a dog or horse.  I loved those movies.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

As I got older I saw more mature themes.  Some are poignant.  Some are jubilant.  Some are sad.  Since there are so many great films in this category, I could not cut it to a top 10.  My “shortlist” had a lot of entries.  When I subsequently looked at some published lists, it reminded me of others.  There may be better ones that I have not seen, but these are my favorites from my local theater or living room screen.

Since you may be spending a lot of time at home this year, you may wish to add some of these to your playlist:

20. Mysterious Skin.  A young Joseph Gordon Leavitt is a teenage hustler.  This is not your “feel good” movie.
19. St. Elmo’s Fire.  The 1985 Brat Pack classic is about recent college grads.
18. Donnie Darko. The 2001 cult hit stars Jake Gyllenhaal as an odd teenager.
17. Good Will Hunting. Matt Damon is the young math wiz and Robin Williams is the therapist who tries to reach him.  Ben Affleck also stars.
16. The Breakfast Club. If you served high school detention on Saturday morning, you get it. A John Hughes classic film.

Ferris Bueller

Ferris Bueller

15. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Ferris cuts class and comes to Chicago with a couple of friends.  Matthew Broadrick is Ferris.
14. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. A young man (Johnny Depp) and his mentally challenged younger brother (Leonardo DiCaprio).
13. October Sky. Based on the true story of a boy (Homer Hickam) who dreams of being a rocket scientist. Jake Gyllenhaal stars.
12. Big. Tom Hanks stars as the boy in a man’s body. The best movie ever to try this film trick.
11. The Karate Kid. It does not matter which one you see (Ralph Macchio or Jaden Smith). Skip the sequels.

10.  The Last Picture Show.  A black and white film about life in a dead-end southern town.  The 1971 film stars Timothy Bottoms and Jeff Bridges, with Cybill Shepherd and Cloris Leachman.

09.  American Grafitti.  It’s the end of summer vacation 1962 and you are cruisin’ in your convertible and listening to Rock and Roll on the car radio.  You might be getting into a little bit of mischief as well.  The low-budget 1973 film was box office gold.

08.  Dead Poets Society.  High School seniors form a poetry society and learn to “seize the day” (carpe diem) from English teacher Robin Williams.  The setting for the 1989 film was an elite academy in 1959.  The film won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

07.  Billy Elliot.  An 11-year-old boy in a poor northern England town ends up in ballet class one day while going to his weekly boxing class.  The coal miner’s son is in for a rough time but sticks with the dance class against his father’s wishes.  The film’s success led to the eventual Broadway play.

06.  Dirty Dancing.  “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”  Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey get up close and personal on the dance floor in this 1987 film.  It’s forbidden love and hot dancing.  What’s not to like?

05.  Old Yeller.  A boy, his dog, and another Disney tear-jerker.  This one may be for kids but many of them will be crying at the end.  Is this a good lesson for kids?  Next, I suppose you will tell me Bambi’s mother is dead.

04.  Summer Storm (Sommersturm).  This 2004 German-language film follows the friendship of two boys on the rowing team as one learns his feelings for the other.  It was a winner at the Munich Film Festival among others.

03.  The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho). The 2014 Portuguese language, Brazilian film shows the difficulty of seeking independence for a blind boy who does not know the way he looks or if he will be attractive to others.  His life becomes more complicated when he starts to have feelings for another student.  Based on the amazing viral success of a short film, the feature was made soon enough thereafter to star the original three teenagers.  We talked about the development of this film in the article, In Another Language.

02.  A Separate Peace.  Like many of the above, I guess you might call this a “loss of innocence” story.  Based on the 1959 best-selling novel of the same name, the 1972 movie is set in World War II England at an all-boys boarding school.  The author is quick to point out there are no homoerotic implications.  “It would have changed everything, it wouldn’t have been the same story.”  It’s a love-hate relationship between friends.  I have not seen the 2004 Showtime film.

01.  Harry Potter 1-8.  It really is the greatest coming of age movie of all because it is actually 8 movies.  How fortunate that we were able to have the same young actors throughout the ten-year film-making odyssey.  It took all these stories for young Harry to become the man he needed to be to defeat the evil that confronted him throughout.  Daniel Radcliffe will forever be everyone’s vision of the boy wizard who grew up before our eyes.

Click on any movie title above to see the trailer.

See also: In Another Language, SERENDIPITY, July 2, 2017.

Categories: film, Movies, Rich Paschall

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41 replies

  1. “A Little Romance” is another keeper along with “Summer of ’42” which should be a rite of passage consideration.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some great titles! I loved “A Summer Place.” I had a vintage copy of the book and left it at the beach by accident, years ago. I read online that many thought the movie to be much better than the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did not read the book so I don’t know. I saw the movie so long ago it is a distant memory.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Becky, “A Summer Place” is one of my guilty pleasures. Oft watched.
      “Susan Slade” is probably a chart topper because of my “thing” for Connie Stevens. I replay the short scene where she sings “Lullaby” to her baby multiple times with every viewing. 57 years after I first saw this film, I still have a crush on Connie Stevens! (Film includes scene where they play “A Summer Place” theme. Director Delmer Daves who helmed both films was stealing from himself).

      “A Loss of Innocence” (aka “The Greengage Summer”). I also had a gynormous crush on Susannah York. This film hooked me.

      “Stand By Me”. The story and the music still get me.

      Rich, you have a formidable list. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Becky, I read “Parrish” before Delmer Daves and WB bought the rights. Delmer Daves was front and center with those late 50’s and 60’s tearjerkers for the young and young at heart. Daves wrote, produced and directed flicks like “A Summer Place”, “Susan Slade” and “Parrish”, etc ad nauseum.

      They were big favorites at the Drive Ins of my yoot.

      Yes, I found my thrill at one of those Drive In movie nights.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Film lists are tough to make, and I think this is a good one. Just sad to see that my favorite one is missing –Louis Malle’s ‘Au revoir les enfants’. I saw it in Santiago, as an adult man, just days away from the referendum that would mark the downfall of the Pinochet regime (on my first visit to Chile after the coup), so the voiceover at the end made it particularly evocative and poignat. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. The Criterion Collection dvd of it should still be available.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. great choices, I’ve seen many, but not all of these. I always have thought of ‘the graduate’ as my favorite coming of age story, but he was older having just graduated from college and being thrust into the adult world

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Great list Richard.., I have a few of them on DVD/Blue Ray. You may have just prodded me to watch a couple. Thanks

    Liked by 2 people


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