ByJarvis Reddick, writer at
You can find me over at or @jarvisunchained on Twitter
Jarvis Reddick

The coming-of-age story is a tale as old as time. This genre spans pretty much every medium, from books to television and film. The release of Moonlight is a new entry in the genre and explores race, masculinity, love and LGBT identity.

The film has been receiving rave reviews. Whether you've seen it yet or not, you should also definitely check out these films that have similar themes and approaches.

1. 'Boyz N The Hood'

  • Release Date: July 12, 1991
  • Director: John Singleton
  • Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr, Ice Cube, Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Angela Bassett

Singleton's debut movie explores life in South Los Angeles through the eyes of Trey Styles. Moving to the rough neighborhood to live with his father, the film explores Trey during his preteen years as well as his pre-adult life, as he learns valuable life lessons.

The film explores the themes of racial identity as Trey and his friends are young black men in America. Through this spectrum, the film also explores masculinity in the black community. It is subtle, but Trey is the only member of the young cast to have a father in his life. The movie is a poignant view of the lives of young black men in the late '80s and early '90s and it still resonates today.

2. 'Mud'

  • Release Date: April 26, 2013
  • Director: Jeff Nichols
  • Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard, Reese Witherspoon, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, Michael Shannon

The movie about two teen boys, Ellis and Neckbone, who live along a river and meet the mysterious Mud (Matthew McConaughey), a friendly enough guy who is also a fugitive for murdering a man to protect the woman he loves.

Ellis is smitten with an older girl at his school, and Ellis's parents are also headed for a divorce, which fuels his belief that "love should conquer all." Love is the central theme of the movie, and how we'd all like to believe that it's nice and uncomplicated and full of whimsy, whereas it realistically may come with heartbreak and pain (and ultimately cause dumb things to happen).

3. 'The Spectacular Now'

  • Release Date: August 2, 2013
  • Director: James Ponsoldt
  • Starring: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Bob Odenkirk, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler

Sutter Keely is a high school senior who is about to graduate but has no plans for the future, instead living for the moment. Sutter is also an alcoholic, a trait that he has inherited from his absent father, whom he idolizes despite not having seen him for years.

Sutter's life is thrown for a loop when he meets a young woman who has her whole future planned out — the complete opposite of him — as he is forced to accept who he is, who he isn't and what he wants to be in life going forward.

4. 'School Ties'

  • Release Date: September 18, 1992
  • Director: Robert Mandel
  • Starring: Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Chris O'Donnell, Randall Batinkoff, Cole Hauser, Ben Affleck

A young man, David Greene, is brought in by a Christian prep school as a "ringer." The thing is that David is Jewish and from a working class family, while most of his new classmates are anti-semites who come from privilege.

Struggling to fit in while also trying to stay true to himself and his beliefs, David is caught in quite the dilemma. Issues start to arise when David rises up in the ranks of popularity due to his skills as an athlete and his general good attitude, and thus strikes the ire of a jealous classmate. School Ties is an interesting look at how you can check all the boxes to fit into society, yet there will always be those who will feel that you do not belong.

5. 'Y Tu Mamá También'

  • Release Date: June 8, 2001
  • Director: Alfonso Cuaron
  • Starring: Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, Maribel Verdu

The story of two best friends who promise to take a mysterious older woman to an ideal beach. The road trip between the three is filled with sex — sex that they've all had and sex that they want to have. In the meantime, ugly truths are revealed about all three of them, making you question if they won't end up killing one another before they reach their destination.

This is all set to the backdrop of then-current events happening in Mexico, providing a historical context. The film also explores masculinity, sexuality and relationships in ways that are so subtle that it may require additional viewings to get a grasp of what is going on.

These are just some films that hit on similar themes explored in Moonlight. After checking out that movie, or maybe even before you do, it would be wise to watch these ones! They are all expertly crafted films that will stand the test of time. You just don't have to be a someone in their formative years to enjoy these. The best thing about coming-of-age films is that they can resonate with all ages.

What's your favorite coming-of-age story? Let us know in the comments!


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