35 pearls of wisdom from coming of age films

Coming of age films are possibly the deepest and most meaningful films about life ever. Packed full of life lessons and pearls of wisdom, we pick out 35 quotes from our fave teen flicks, there’s an answer to all your problems within them…

by Felicity Kinsella
30 August 2015, 12:56am

"You ought to spend a little more time trying to make something of yourself and a little less time trying to impress people." Says the school principle in The Breakfast Club. Everyone realises this eventually, but here it is in case you haven't yet.

"You know what? Fuck beauty contests. Life is one fucking beauty contest after another. School, then college, then work... Fuck that. And fuck the Air Force Academy. If I want to fly, I'll find a way to fly. You do what you love, and fuck the rest." Again, here it is if you haven't yet realised it yet. Thanks Dwayne from Little Miss Sunshine, who has this epiphany after his dreams to be a pilot are squashed into the monochrome hole of colourblindness.

"Just because you're beautiful doesn't mean you can treat people like they don't matter." Cameron aka 18-year-old Joseph Gordon-Levitt, puts beautiful Bianca in her place in 10 Things I Hate About You.

"There are two kinds of evil people. People who do evil stuff, and people who see evil stuff being done and don't try to stop it." As established in The Coming of Age Issue, standing up for someone being put down in a room full of people is possibly one of the bravest things you can do as a young person. Janice Ian from Mean Girls knows it.

"A real loser is somebody that's so afraid of not winning, they don't even try." Grandpa from Little Miss Sunshine says; don't be a loser.

"It's like God gave you something man, all those stories you can make up. And He said, "this is what we got for ya kid, try not to lose it." Kids lose everything unless there's someone there to look out for them." Coming of age is a whole lot easier if you've got people around you who are going to have your back, like River Phoenix has Gordie's in Stand By Me.

"You know that point in your life when you realise the house you grew up in isn't really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone… It's like you feel homesick for a place that doesn't even exist." What Andrew says in Garden State is basically a deeper, more meaningful version of…

"Everyone's home life is unsatisfying. If it wasn't, people would live with their parents forever." It just makes total sense. Thanks Andrew Clarke (the athlete) from The Breakfast Club.

"Obviously, Doctor, you've never been a 13-year-old girl." Cecilia Lisbon replies to the doctor when he says, "What are you doing here honey? You're not even old enough to know how bad life gets," in The Virgin Suicides. Being a teenager sucks, but…

"High school's your prime suffering years. You don't get better suffering than that!" Says Frank from Little Miss Sunshine. Trust us, things can only get better.

"It's just the age… The age where nothing fits." Your clothes don't fit you and you don't fit in, but don't worry, as Judy's mum says in Rebel Without A Cause, you'll grow out of it.

"The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you." This is one of the only glimmers of hope in Lost in Translation so you really gotta cling onto it.

"Searching for a boy in high school is as useless as searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie." Such a great metaphor from Cher in Clueless.

"That's why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they'd call 'em something else." This quote from Sixteen Candles reminds me of that Eminem lyric, "Now you get to watch her leave out the window guess that's why they call it window pane." Everything's got a (not so) hidden meaning.

"You don't buy black lingerie unless you want someone to see it." A sure-fire way of telling if a girl's "done it" or not. Thanks Bianca from 10 Things I Hate About You.

"If you haven't, you're a prude. If you have, you're a slut. It's a trap." Allison Reynolds may be the "basket case" from The Breakfast Club, but she pretty much sums up high school in one succinct quote. You can't win, OK?!

"You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores." Thanks Ms. Norbury from Mean Girls. Stick together girls!

"I always tell the girls, never take it seriously. If you never take it seriously, you never get hurt. And if you never get hurt, you always have fun." But Penny Lane was a mess so maybe don't follow her advice.

"If you can't laugh at yourself, life's going to seem a whole lot longer than you'd like… what do you do? You laugh, you know. I'm not saying I don't cry, but in between, I laugh. And I realise how silly it is to take anything too seriously." Do follow Sam's from Garden State.

"We accept the love we think we deserve." Everyone knows you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. Charlie learns that in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

"When you're young, not much matters. When you find something that you care about, then that's all you got." OK so Telly from Kids was talking about "pussy", but take it out of context and it makes a lotta sense.

"All I'm saying is that I want to look back and say that I did the best I could while I was stuck in this place. Had as much fun as I could while I was stuck in this place. Played as hard as I could while I was stuck in this place." As Dawson rightly pointed out in Dazed and Confused, if you're hate high school, well, there's nothing you can do about it. You may as well make the most of it before…

"The older you get, the more rules they're gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep living, man. L-I-V-I-N." David Wooderson aka Matthew McConaughey, drops this pearl of wisdom in coming of age classic, Dazed and Confused. And he's right man. You won't be able to get away with the under-16-get-out-of-jail-free card forever, but that's ok because there's so much MORE stuff you can do when you're over 18.

"I realised it was ridiculous being afraid, worrying about everything, wishing I was dead. All that shit, I'm tired of it. It was the best day of my life." For all the worriers out there, Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off was one too. Sometimes you gotta stick your toe in unchartered waters to find out what you're missing out on.

"There is a big world out there... bigger than prom, bigger than high school and it won't matter if you were the prom queen, the quarterback of the football team, or the biggest nerd in school. Find out who you are and try not to be afraid of it." If only Josie from Never Been Kissed could have given this information to Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

"I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12… It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of our lives like buhboys in a restaurant." Says the writer in Stand By Me. Basically, be grateful for everything, don't hold onto the past and take this advice:

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." Thanks Ferris Bueller, the wisest boy in school.

"You know how everyone's always saying seize the moment? I don't know, I'm kind of thinking it's the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us." Basically, life is going to happen whether you want it to or not. This is said when Mason is having a DMC with Nicole in the coming of age film of our age, Boyhood.

"We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all." Said by Andrew in The Breakfast Club, this is the sentiment that runs through pretty much all coming of age films, especially echoed by River Phoenix in Stand By Me, when he tells Gordie he is weird, "but so what? Everybody's weird."

"The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman RIP) sums up life in one slick phrase.

"The best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you. The right person is still gonna think the sun shines out of your ass." Following on from the previous point, you should never not be yourself, because everyone's weird and someone will love you for just how weird you are. Thanks Dad from Juno.

"Calling somebody else fat won't make you skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn't make you any smarter… All you can do in life is solve the problem in front of you." This is what the whoooole of Mean Girls boils down to. Be nice to people OK?

"That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age." OK, creepy coming from Wooderson in Dazed and Confused, but whatever, there's clearly a deeper meaning here - there will always be a generation coming of age, and however old you get, youth will never die.

"Screws fall out all the time. The world's an imperfect place." Mind. Blown. Shit happens, you gotta pick yourself up and buy a new screw OK? Thanks John Bender (the criminal) from The Breakfast Club.

"None of this will matter when I'm 38," says Oliver Tate in Submarine. So basically, take everything on this list into account but don't worry too much about it yeah? By the time you're 38 you'll have a whole new bunch of problems and growing up will seem like a piece of cake.

coming of age