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Wisdom From Coming-of-Age Films, From 'The Breakfast Club' to 'Clueless'

Coming-of-age films tell stories of that often tricky, frequently embarrassing, and seemingly monumental transition from childhood to young adulthood. It’s something we can all identify with, whether we’re 16 or 60. The drama of this particular stage of life — often blown out of all proportions, in retrospect — tends to revolve around the angst of social awkwardness, the stomach-flipping possibilities of young love, and the rapidly approaching realization that soon our destinies will no longer be in our parents’ hands, but in ours.

Understandably, it’s a great subject for cinema. The inherent mix of drama, relatability, and humor has given us many classic movies, from A Rebel Without a Cause to The Breakfast Club to Stand By Me. Here are some of the greatest quotes from coming-of-age films, as spoken by the young protagonists as well as their long-suffering teachers and family.

Honey, all you have to be by the time you're 23 is yourself.
— Troy Dyer (Ethan Hawke) in "Reality Bites"

The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.
— Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in "Almost Famous"

I have this theory of convergence, that good things always happen with bad things. I know you have to deal with them at the same time, but I just don't know why they have to happen at the same time.
— Diane Court (Ione Skye) in "Say Anything"

That’s why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they’d call ‘em something else.
— Jim Baker (Paul Dooley) in "Sixteen Candles"

Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all.
— John Keating (Robin Williams) in "Dead Poets Society"

Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.
— Bender (Judd Nelson) in "The Breakfast Club"

We accept the love we think we deserve.
— Charlie (Logan Lerman) in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"

That’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever.
— Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) in "American Beauty"

You see how picky I am about my shoes — and they only go on my feet.
— Cher (Alicia Silverstone) in "Clueless"

In my opinion, 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 going to think the sun shines out your ass.
— Mac MacGuff (J.K. Simmons) in "Juno"

Well, 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...
— Don Dawson (Sasha Jenson) in "Dazed and Confused"

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
— Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"

I woke up this morning, you know... and the sun was shining, and it was nice, and all that type of stuff. And the first thing, I saw you, and, uh, I said, “Boy, this is gonna be one terrific day, so you better live it up, because tomorrow you'll be nothing.” ​​You see? And I almost was.
— Jim Stark (James Dean) in "Rebel Without a Cause"

Calling somebody else fat won't make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn't make you any smarter.
— Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) in "Mean Girls"

We’re all just winging it, you know? The good news is you’re feeling stuff. And you’ve got to hold on to that.
— Mason Evans Sr. (Ethan Hawke) in "Boyhood"

I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?
— The Writer/adult Gordie Lachance (Richard Dreyfuss) in "Stand By Me"

You can dream of a moment for years and still somehow miss it when it comes. You've got to reach through the flames and take it, or lose it forever.
— Toby Wolff (Leonardo DiCaprio) in "This Boy’s Life"

Photo credit: TCD/Prod.DB/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Tony Dunnell
Tony is an English writer of non-fiction and fiction living on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
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