A young man on the edge of society finds himself at a crossroads. He’s at that point in life where full-blown adulthood is inevitable, but not at all appealing. So he resists. But then he starts to learn things, finds a mentor or two, grows, changes and gradually accepts the transition. Oh, and he meets a hot girl. He always meets a hot girl.
That’s the basic premise behind the coming of age film, one of cinema’s most beloved sub-genres. What we’ll be covering here, however, is the hot girl aspect — those cute, quirky free-spirit types who sweep into the protagonist’s life at the just the right moment and teach him a thing or two about love and life. Here are a few of our favorites:
Almost Famous – Kate Hudson as Penny Lane
Kate Hudson’s classic portrayal of messianic rock-devotee Penny Lane made men everywhere wish they could travel back to the seventies and hit the road with a typewriter and a bottle of Jack. Wait a minute — what’s stopping us? Oh yes, the time travel aspect. Whatever.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers
Not only was Ramona Flowers super hot, mysterious and thoroughly badass, she also fought people with a giant hammer and had a brief lesbian tryst with an insane wizard girl. Basically the perfect woman.
At this point in her still-young career, Emma Roberts has firmly established herself in the “quirky teen actress” camp. Her role in The Art of Getting By finds her playing love interest to a young male protagonist. It’s not her first time doing so (she took on a similar role in It’s Kind of a Funny Story) and it likely won’t be her last.
Youth in Revolt – Portia Doubleday as Sheeni Saunders
As far as coming of age chicks go, Sheeni Saunders was kind of a wild card. What were her motives? Why was she so detached? Who the hell came up with the name “Sheeni”? Still, she drove men crazy. Crazy enough to blow up cars and stuff.
Summer was the perfect girl, the worst girl and the weirdest girl all at once. We love her and hate her separately, then simultaneously, then not all. And goddamn if she didn’t drive protagonist Tom up the wall and back down again. But hey, if any woman’s going to push us to the brink of depression, it’s going to be Zooey Deschanel.
The Squid and the Whale – Anna Paquin as Lili
Lili is a strange case. She never shows much interest in the protagonist, but she still manages to influence him in more ways than one. She’s the un-gettable girl who still hangs in the back of your mind for years and years after the fact. It’s not sex, and it’s not exactly romance, but it’s something.
Rushmore – Olivia Williams as Rosemary Cross
Rosemary Cross was different in that she and protagonist Max Fischer never really entered a romantic relationship; not in the traditional sense anyway. She was out of reach, ideal but unattainable. Which was frustrating to Fischer, but transformative at the same time.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Mia Sara as Sloane Peterson
Sloane Peterson isn’t a coming of age girl in the way that the others on this list are. She doesn’t enter the protagonist’s life partway through the movie and help him understand himself; rather, she’s there all along, sharing in the adventure from the very beginning. She was also the coolest girlfriend of all time.
The Graduate – Katherine Ross as Elaine Robinson
Perhaps the original coming of age girl, Elaine Robinson gave Dustin Hoffman’s titular character a sense that there was something bigger in life, something worth fighting for. She also put up with the fact that he had slept with her mother. Not sure how to feel about that one, but we’ll chalk it up to “she’s very understanding.”