15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s

15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s
Image credit: Legion-Media,, Universal Pictures, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

You might be of any age, and still relate to the struggle that is transitioning into being an adult.

1. "Stand by Me" (1986)

15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s - image 1

Ever felt like packing your bags and hitting the road with your pals to find a dead body? Neither have I. But four young Oregon lads, led by Gordie, sure did. A corpse, believed to be that of a missing boy, lies somewhere in the woods. It's an adventure wrapped in childhood innocence, albeit a macabre one. They dodge trains, confront bullies, and all the while come to grips with their individual troubles. It's a journey, yes, but where it leads is anybody's guess. Classic Stephen King.

2. "The Breakfast Club" (1985)

15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s - image 2

Five high school archetypes walk into Saturday detention—sounds like the beginning of a joke, right? The jock, the nerd, the prom queen, the rebel, and the weirdo are forced to spend a day together. Yawn! They scribble, they bicker, they share secrets, and hey presto, they discover they're more than their labels. It's a slow realization, like watching paint dry, but when it hits you, it's technicolor. So, detention, huh? If only it was this life-changing for the rest of us!

3. "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986)

15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s - image 3

Ferris Bueller, the guy everyone wants to be but nobody is brave enough to emulate. He's not just skipping school; he's making it an art form. One monumental sick day. That's all it takes for Ferris to lead his girlfriend and best friend through the whirlwind that is Chicago. Cubs game? Check. Art museum? You bet. High-speed car races? Oh, absolutely! Every student's fantasy made celluloid. He dodges the principal, keeps the parents clueless, and makes it home in time for dinner. What's not to love?

4. "Footloose" (1984)

15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s - image 4

Okay, I know what you're thinking. A movie about a town where dancing is illegal sounds ridiculous, right? Ren McCormack, a teen who rolls into this dance-phobic town, would agree with you. He's shocked, he's appalled, and he's determined to make them all cut loose. It's a dance revolution, baby! The uptight Reverend? He's got a lot to learn about the liberating power of dance. Will Ren win? Oh, I bet you can hear the music already.

5. "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982)

High school drama meets teen angst in this sublime escapade. Jeff Spicoli, the surfer dude, is the comedic foil to Brad, who's just trying to make it through high school with dignity intact. Love, jobs, heartbreaks, it's got it all. And also: let's not forget the unforgettable scene with Phoebe Cates and that red bikini; instantly iconic. Whether you get a life lesson from this or just a laugh, that's up to you, though.

6. "Heathers" (1988)

15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s - image 5

Heathers: the dark comedy that gave a cynical edge to the pretty-in-pink, bubbly '80s. Veronica joins a clique of popular girls, all named Heather. When life with the Heathers turns too toxic, enter the mysterious new guy, J.D. Suddenly, dead Heathers are popping up, disguised as suicides. Twisted, right? But oh, so gripping. High school never looked so darkly absurd.

7. "Sixteen Candles" (1984)

15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s - image 6

Imagine your family forgetting your 16th birthday. That's the day in the life of Samantha Baker. She's got eyes for the high school hunk but ends up attracting the geek. Oh, the tragedy! Throw in some drunken escapades, a raucous wedding, and a birthday cake, and you've got a deliciously chaotic mess. It's not just about turning sixteen; it's about surviving it with your dignity somewhat intact.

8. "Adventures in Babysitting" (1987)

15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s - image 7

One night, one babysitter, three kids, and a whole lot of trouble. Sounds like the plot of a cheesy comedy? Think again. Chris, the babysitter, sets out to rescue her stranded friend, dragging the kids along. What follows is one misadventure after another. Mafia, stolen cars, and singing the blues—literally. It's a lesson in how not to babysit.

9. "St. Elmo's Fire" (1985)

Seven friends, fresh out of college, and completely clueless about what to do next. The movie takes us through their highs and lows as they stumble into adulthood. There's love, there's heartbreak, and there's the enduring question: what the heck am I doing with my life? The stakes are higher, the questions are deeper, but are the answers any clearer? Adulting, after all, is not for the faint-hearted.

10. "Pretty in Pink" (1986)

15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s - image 8

Andie, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, is caught between two worlds. There's Blane, the rich, handsome guy who's into her. Then there's Duckie, her quirky best friend who's madly in love with her. It's a love triangle of the '80s, complete with a prom night showdown. Now, the dress might be iconic, but it's the choices Andie makes that steal the show. Which world will she choose? And more importantly, which guy?

11. "Say Anything..." (1989)

15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s - image 9

Lloyd Dobler, ever heard of him? Probably one of the most iconic romantic leads who isn't a jerk. He's just a regular guy who falls for Diane, the class valedictorian. Romantic, yet painfully awkward. Holding a boombox outside a girl's window? Why not. A failed kickboxing career? Sure thing. Despite it all, he wins her heart, and ours. It's a story so simple, yet unforgettable.

12. "License to Drive" (1988)

15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s - image 10

You're 16, you're reckless, and all you want is that piece of plastic granting freedom—your driver's license. Meet Les, who flunks his test but still grabs the keys to his grandfather's prized possession, a Cadillac. Cue the disaster. Dates, chases, car wrecks; it's a textbook lesson in 'What Not to Do.' It's ludicrous but isn't that what being 16 is all about?

13. "Can't Buy Me Love" (1987)

15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s - image 11

Would you pay to be popular? Ronald Miller did. He's your typical nerd who hires the popular cheerleader, Cindy, to be his girlfriend. Lo and behold, he's suddenly Mr. Popular. But what's the cost of losing oneself in this shallow façade? It's a hysterical, yet actually kind of relatable look at teenage social hierarchies.

14. "The Outsiders" (1983)

15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s - image 12

Two gangs, the Greasers and the Socs, are in a turf war in 1960s Oklahoma. The movie focuses on Ponyboy Curtis, a Greaser, who with his buddies gets embroiled in a deadly feud. Lives are lost, friendships are tested, and the age-old adage comes true—violence begets violence. This isn't just some teenage brawl; it's a full-on Shakespearean tragedy set in a mid-century American backdrop.

15. "Risky Business" (1983)

15 Coming-of-Age Movies that Defined the 80s - image 13

Young Tom Cruise sliding in socks and underwear? One hundred percent iconic. But, of course, there's more to it. Joel, while his parents are away, turns his home… into a makeshift brothel to earn some quick bucks. Yep, that's what the movie is about. Crazy? Absolutely. But it's also about those risks that make or break us. Joel learns the hard way, but boy, what a way to learn!