Teen stars have a tough time aging before our eyes. For every Ron Howard or Jodie Foster there are others who struggle mightily in their teen years. Yet young actors can capture the confusion of growing up in ways that help generation after generation of viewers.
Consider the following five films as essential material for parents and their pre-teen sons. Some include adult language, sexually explicit behavior and themes that may not be appropriate for casual viewing.
They’re like… life, and are best viewed by the whole family with quality conversations to follow.
“Stand By Me”
It’s an obvious pick for all the right reasons. Today’s teens won’t get the archaic references and goofy styles, but how could they not identify with four best friends on a seemingly impossible quest? Director Rob Reiner captures the humor and aggression that epitomizes teen boys, and his young cast renders their fractured bond as believable and tragic. Rated R
“The Way Way Back”
This 2013 gem casts Liam James as a teen trying to survive summer vacation with his mother’s new beau (a believably broken Steve Carell). Enter Sam Rockwell, as the kind of mentor every young man should have. It’s a classic lesson in male bonding, the power of self-confidence and that moment when everything that matters seems to change overnight. Funny, heartbreaking and carefully observed, “The Way Way Back” will age beautifully and enter the pantheon of coming of age staples. Rated PG-13
Why would boys want to watch two girls (Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed) going through sex and drug-fueled rites of passage? Because they’ll get a better appreciation of what girls their age are going through, explore the toxic nature of peer pressure and see the consequences of some very adult behavior. They might gain empathy toward their female classmates while gaining a healthy fear of what goes on behind the doors of their friends and neighbors. Rated R
“Boyz n the Hood”
The perils of growing up in a dangerous neighborhood stripped of role models haunts director John Singleton’s celebrated debut. It’s violent, disturbing and ultimately uplifting in the way it honors families united not by blood but by through love and survival. Rated R
This Italian import follows an adorable lad who bonds with a local film theater employee. Their relationship deepens over time, and as the boy matures he must reassess what it means to be the older man’s friend. Rich with loving film references, gorgeous imagery and larger than life emotions, the movie illustrates how what matters in boyhood is sometimes left behind as we become young men. Rated R
Photo credit: Columbia Pictures
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