Just because you turn a certain age doesn’t mean you automatically feel like an adult. Sometimes you need a little nudge to get you to the rest of the way there. Thankfully, there are lots of movies that depict this kind of story, to remind you that growing pains can happen at any age.
A lot of these films are also be labelled rite of passage films, meaning that they deal with someone changing from a child into an adult. But in terms of films where adults change over time, it’s definitely a much narrower playing field. Here are my favorites, for your enjoyment!
The Princess Bride
Yes, this is a tale of “true love and high adventure.” But it’s also about the Buttercup’s transformation from peasant to princess (and Wesley’s from farmboy to butt-kicking pirate). It’s about more than costume changes — both the characters face death, monsters, and psychological torture. But perhaps even more damaging is how each feels like the other one has betrayed them for a good chunk of the movie. But they learn that having an adult relationship requires faith and trust, even in the face of danger. And of course, giant mutant rats…
This Adam Sandler movie is actually a really poignant story about coming to terms with your own adulthood. Sonny’s living a sweet life — steady money from a lawsuit settlement, an awesome apartment, and a beautiful party-planner girlfriend. But when he gets dumped for not growing up, he’s forced to rethink his way of life. And the pressure’s really on when a kid needing a Daddy Figure lands on his doorstep. Talk about a huge (but really adorable) wake-up call.
Everyone has had a job that they absolutely hated. But what if you still had that job as a grown adult, annoying managers and all? In this movie, Peter is an office employee who is sick to death of being tortured by his boring, dead-end job. He wants to make a change, do something he actually enjoys. So he starts being really honest to everyone about how he feels. That includes his feelings about his annoying boss, his relationships, and especially unreliable office equipment…
Okay, I admit it: This movie involves an adult man having a crush on his daughter’s teenage friend. Creepy. But seeing and spending time with his daughter’s friend actually forces Lester (played really well by Kevin Spacey!) to take a look at his unfulfilling job, his failed marriage, and even his physical health. He starts trying to become who he wants to be, not just what everyone expects him to be. That’s a big part of growing up, and this classic film addresses it with a clear-but-cynical eye.
This 1995 movie isn’t as commonly known as some of the others on this list, but it’s based on one of the longest-running Broadway musicals in history. The name of the game is expectation: What do we really want out of love? If the mate we’ve chosen isn’t perfect, what do we do? Is there such thing as a perfect love? These are the questions that the young Matt and Luisa are forced to answer in this colorful musical movie. While being adorably awkward, of course.
Beyond all the violence and questionable moral lessons in this movie (and we’re only talking about the first one here!), The Godfather is truly the story of Michael Corleone deciding his role within his gangster family. Michael says early on that he doesn’t want to enter into the “family business.” He sees it as black and white, Good versus Evil. But through hardship and a bit of awkward gunplay, Michael eventually starts to see the world of organized crime as the emotional, muddied world that it is. Only then is he able to make an informed, adult decision. Because growing up isn’t about losing innocence — it’s about deciding how much innocence you want to lose.
I gotta admit, this French beauty is one of my favorite films of all time. Amélie has an incredible imagination, but she is also lonely and fearful of establishing any real human connections. After deciding one day that she will help everyone around her to be happier, she slowly realizes that she herself might not ever be happy until she learns to open up to others. But despite what happens along the way, she never loses confidence in herself. Or any of her wonderful quirks!
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Finding your true self is hard, but it can be even harder if you’re part of a close-knit family that expects a lot of you. Toula is a 30-year-old woman who becomes inspired to change her ways after meeting her dream man (insert groans here). But Wedding is more than just a love story (though it’s the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time!). It’s a comedy about being true to who you really are, even when it feels written in stone by a culture bigger than you. There’s also plenty of vegetarian jokes!
Henry and June
Here’s one self-discovery movie you definitely didn’t hear about in middle school. Based on the diary of famed diarist Anaïs Nin, this movie documents one woman’s journey into her own sexual identity. Anaïs loves her husband, but feels trapped by everything that goes with being a wife in the 1930s. And upon meeting the talented writer Henry Miller (and his beautiful, destructive wife June), she decides to risk it all and start living like a Bohemian. Because life’s too short to try to not at least try to find out who you are.
Because you know, being an erotica writer in Paris just isn’t scandalous enough for some people.
A bunch of young people trying to pursue their dreams, while the world works faces a global problem they feel they have no control over. Worrying about keeping their souls and dreams alive in a world run by the rich and powerful. Wondering if love really is all they need to truly survive.
Substitute AIDS for economic recession and you have a story that could have been from today (as opposed to the ’80s). C’mon, like you’ve never though about doing this when you were down and out…
What do you think of these movies? Has a movie ever spoken directly to your adulthood growing pains?