20 Great Coming of Age Characters: Part II

This post is brought to you by Out There, premiering tonight at 10:30/9:30c on IFC.

Yesterday we brought you Part I of our 20 favorite coming-of-age characters from movies and TV, spanning from 1985’s Claire “The Princess” Standish to 2007’s Seth from Superbad. Here are our ten remaining picks to further rouse your high school nostalgia and embarrassment, featuring everyone from the uptight best friend to the popular girl-turned-murderer.

Veronica Sawyer (Heathers, 1988)
“Well, it’s just like – they’re people I work with, and our job is being popular and shit.”

Most high school girls can’t escape brooding about the cruel cliquey female drama ju dour, but throw in a young Christian Slater in a duster as the armed and creepy-cute outsider J.D., and Veronica’s melodramatic teenaged gripes result in the murder of her fellow popular girls and the hottest new fad at Westerburg High: Suicide. (Bonus: When she writes in her diary, she always wears a monocle.)

Cameron Frye (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986)
“I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I’m going to take a stand.”

To me, the star of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off isn’t the lazy and overconfident (and arguably imaginary) Ferris but his tightly wound best friend Cameron, who cathartically destroys his abusive father’s prized Ferrari and thus becomes a man.

Donna Pinciotti (That ’70s Show, 1998-2006)
“So, my parents are, like, fighting all the time, and they want me to choose sides. But I can’t, because they’re both idiots.”

Donna’s the most mature of the ’70s Show crew — she’s tall, levelheaded, a self-proclaimed feminist, close with her dad, she could snap her boyfriend’s neck in a fight if she wanted.

Dwayne Hoover (Little Miss Sunshine, 2006)
“You do what you love, and fuck the rest.”

Dwayne goes through quite the moody teenage journey in Little Miss Sunshine, transitioning from a mute lethargic Nietzsche devotee to a resolved teen who has come to terms with life’s inevitable disappointments. His little sister Olive is the only one who can, if only momentarily, snap him out of his jaded cynicism, and in return he’s the best big brother a little girl could ask for, stepping in when needed like a viking of the dance.

Ja’mie King (Summer Heights High, 2007)
“If you’re hot, you get surrounded by bitches, and that’s been the story of my life.”

Ja’mie might be an overprivileged snob who calls her mom a bitch and her public school friends skanks and bogans, but she embodies the backstabbing rich girl so well that even though she’s really Chris Lilley dressed in drag, she’s more believable with every “So random!” She’s also a good reminder that not everyone grows up during high school — especially if they’re popular so have no incentive to — and that teenage girls are just as awful in Australia as they are here in the US.

Mitch Kramer (Dazed and Confused, 1993)
“Just don’t ask her to take it easy on me, please.”

While pretty much every Dazed and Confused character should be on this list, it’s Mitch who undergoes the biggest transformation from shy scrawny freshman to beer-drinking, pot-smoking, keg party-going, chick making out-with high school hero, all thanks to a little manhood initiation ritual involving paddles and a sadistic Ben Affleck.

Jan Brady (The Brady Bunch, 1969-1974)
“Well, all day long at school I hear how great Marcia is at this or how wonderful Marcia did that! Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”

Middle children are a total pain — they’re constantly whining for love and attention, and they’ll take any opportunity to inform others how hard it is to live with Middle Child Syndrome. As a middle child, I feel for the pressure Jan deals with every day stuck between her beautiful and successful older sister and adorably pigtailed baby sister, not to mention three brothers.

Paul Pfeiffer (The Wonder Years, 1988-1993)
“Kev, it’s not the end of the world.”

Paul Pfeiffer is one of television’s most authentic nerdy best friends and is always there for Kevin Arnold throughout his many adolescent sagas, multiple allergies and all. He also went from nerd to hot pre-hipster Harvard grad.

Janis (Mean Girls, 2004)
“Hey, buddy, you’re not pretending anymore. You’re plastic. Cold, shiny, hard plastic.”

Lizzy Caplan as Janis is dark and sarcastic, she embraces all the gossip and insults thrown at her, and she’s the one who first befriends Cady (Lindsay Lohan) and guides her through every high school subculture like some kind of fucked up zoologist.

Brad Hamilton (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982)
“Mister, if you don’t shut up I’m gonna kick one hundred percent of your ass!”

While braindead surfer Spicoli usually gets all the Fast Times catchphrase recognition, the humor behind Stacy’s older brother Brad is much more subtle and tragic. He’s a sweet and protective older brother, total workaholic, and clueless boyfriend who doesn’t stop his downward spiral of embarrassments (including the infamous scene where Phoebe Cates catches him masturbating) until he scalds a twitchy meathead robber and saves the day.

From Our Partners