Movies about Misspent Youth

Young People Wasting Their Youth in the Movies

Not everyone's childhood was as idyllic and uneventful as yours. Here are some movies that portray a few strange routes through that maze.

City of God (Cidade De Deus)

Rocket is a wannabe photojournalist who lives in a particularly rough favala in Rio. He moderates this amusing and violent story of a gang war in his neighborhood. It is well written, well filmed, and especially horrific because it is based on a true story. These thugs can never win and most kids from this neighborhood are destined to die before they reach old age from a combination of ignorance, drugs. and violence. Great if you like gang stories. Directed by Fernando Meirelles. 2 hours. Rated R. Brazilian Portuguese w/subtitles.

The Disappearance of Finbar

Finbar Flynn is a housing project kid from Ireland. He gets his big break as a mascot for a pro football team. He's back at the housing project in short order, and everybody is giving him a hard time about losing his big chance. His best friend Danny is pleased to have his mate home, at least until Finbar woos his girlfriend away. Tired of all the hassle, Finbar jumps off a highway bridge and totally disappears. A search fails to find his corpse. and a year later, there's still no trace of him, until Danny gets a call. By then, Flynn's story has been converted to a rock video, and his story has gone international. Danny sets off to Sweden to link up with his missing friend. That's one way to get out of a dead end life. This suffers a little from poor production, a weak story, and perhaps from being a hybrid Irish Swedish graft, but hey what do we know? Directed by Sue Clayton. 100 minutes.

All Things Fair

City of GodStig is an attractive young man in high school in Sweden during the war. He catches the eye of all the girls who are no competition for his flirtatious teacher. She keeps him after class and his teenage infatuation increases with her attentions. It's apparent their attraction is eventually going to get them in trouble, so if that interests you, be sure and find a copy. Most men fantasize an adolescence like this one. Directed by Johan Widerberg. Rated R.

What Alice Found

Alice sets out from New Hampshire on a drive to Miami. Her car breaks down, and she has her cash stolen before she gets out of New Jersey. Fortunately an older couple, Bill and Sandra, come along in their RV to rescue her. They offer her a ride to Miami, and she learns a few things about the couple along the way. Ivey teaches her a few things about men, and Ivey knows cause she is hooking as they drive south. Meanwhile, Alice sheds some of her New Hampshire ways, and Ivey, who is a retired go-go dancer, spiffs up Alice's appearance and her sensibilities. When Alice finally tried to do a little half price hooking of her own at a truck stop, Bill comes to her rescue. She decides to let him pimp for her. It all seems so easy and her first trick is a well mannered farm boy, and it's more like a high school date. She is blown away by her first paycheck. They screw their way south, and Alice reflects on her white trash life. A little slow at times, but it's an interesting subject and an unusual coming of age story. Emily Grace does a nice job as Alice, and Judith Ivey plays an excellent hard boiled southern mama as Sandra in this well written and somewhat unpredictable tale. Written and directed by A Dean Bell. 2003. Rated R. 93 minutes. English.

Igby Goes Down

Kieraan Caulkin plays the slightly perverse teenager Igby Slocumb, who has decided to get of his never-been-functional family. Dad, Bill Pullman, was never right and has been institutionalized for quite some time. He has been displaced by DH (Jeff Goldblum) as his momís (Susan Sarandon) paramour. Mom is dying of cancer and with the aid of his brother Oliver, they keep trying Kevorkian inspired suicides. So you can see why Igby wants out. In the interim he does some very un-Holden Caulfield things with Suki (Claire Danes) and Amanda Peet. You find yourself rooting for the little tyke, and when you see what heís running from youíll want to give him a boost over the wall. 90 minutes. Written & directed by Burr Stees. 2002. 90 minutes. Rated R.

Far From Home

Sang Woo is a spoiled little city kid who is unimpressed with his mute grandmother and her rustic ways. His mother has left him with Grandma for the summer, and he has a lot of adjusting to do before he sees the values in country living. He is shocked that you canít get batteries for your Gameboy out there, and it's intriguing to see how this odd couple adapts. Far from Home is a really well made story about a cross in generations that truly comes across cultures. Chinese. 2000. 90 minutes.

Ghost World

If this art film passed your neighborhood by, wait a few weeks and it will be available at your local warehouse store. Enid (Thora Birch) is a loser who has no big plans after high school. For some summer entertainment, she and her girlfriend Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) decide to contact someone pathetic from the personal ads. Lo and behold, they stumble upon Steve Buscemi, an even bigger loser than either of them . They follow him home and make a hobby of stalking him . Before long, Enid takes a liking to him, when she realizes you can actually be an outcast right through middle age. He fills her in on geek success strategies and helps her past the last vestiges of her adolescence. Ghost World is directed by Terry Zwigoff, who also gave us Crumb, and in keeping with his cartoon theme, Ghost World is based on the Daniel Clowe's comic book with the same title. A lot of you gave this film an "Eh, it was okay" review but we collectively feel it is a brilliant piece of work. Look for clips and music from the Hindi classic Gumnaam in the opening scene. Rated PG-13. 90 minutes. 2001.


In Rushmore, Max is fifteen, and he's struggling with his grades, his love life and his talent. As a scholarship student in an exclusive private school, Max takes little advantage of the educational benefits but sure likes his extracurricular activities. Bill Murray is a smug industrialist, Herman Blume, who shares Max's view of the privileged Rushmore students and the lovely first grade teacher Miss Cross played by Olivia Williams (besides Rushmore, she was also in Sixth Sense). Anyway Max and Herman make asses of themselves vying for her attention, but not in the ways you'd anticipate. Rushmore is directed by Wes Andersen, who also gave us Bottle Rocket. 93 minutes. Rater R. 1998.


Pica wanders around her neighborhood taking Polaroid's of all the boys in the neighborhood. She's realized that young black men are an endangered species, and she needs to document them while they're still around. It's an unexaggerated view of day to day life in an African American neighborhood as seen through this young woman's eyes. Rated R. 2000. 81 minutes.

Telling Lies in America

Karchy moves to America with his widowed father, and they set out to adapt to their new homeland. In his travels, the teenaged Karchy crosses paths with Kevin Bacon, a sleazoid hipster DJ called Billy Magic. Billy is a pro at payola, and he hires the young Hungarian immigrant as his bagman. Karchy is not a naive as most kids his age, and he figures out pretty quickly that America is not quite as simple as it first appeared. Bill Clinton could take some cues from this kid. 2000. Rated R. 90 minutes.

Cross My Heart and Hope to Die

Otto is the odd man out. Perhaps throwing a rock at the referee's head really was a bad idea, but growing up is filled with wrong decisions. This is a Norwegian version of a favorite cinematic theme, the coming of age film. Since very few of us have a Norwegian perspective on growing up, it is enlightening. Not your usual happy ending boy meets girl storyline. Otto gets more of a slap in the face rather than a pat on the ass to nudge him into adulthood. Very different and very good. 96 minutes. Norwegian w/subtitles. Unrated.

American Desi

Krishnagopal Reddy (Deep Kitdare) is anxious to get out from under his immigrant parents' control so he can shed the last remnants of his Indian heritage. He and his friend head off for their freshman year at Middlesex College in New Jersey with great excitement and big plans. Kris, as he prefers to be called, is horrified when he finds his three roommates are a Sikh, a Muslim and an Indian homeboy. Trying to distance himself from Indian culture only alienates his roomies, who refer to him as an ABCD (short for American Born Confused Desi). It's not until he falls in love with India born Nina (Purva Bedi) that he comes to terms with the benefits of his heritage. The film is well written and quite funny. There is a Canadian film Marsala that takes a different slant on this same theme. Directed by Piyush Dinker Pandya. 90 minutes. English. 1999. Unrated.

Cruel Story of Youth

Director Nagisa Oshima's Japanese juvenile delinquent movie is an Asian offshoot of the James Dean genre. Mayo has fun hitching rides with business men and shaking them down when they hit on her. She and her boyfriend make it into a nice business until the police intervene. Love does not prevail in this Romeo and Juliet update, and they must pay for their social indiscretions. The photography is good, but the social pressures and taboos seem a bit obscure. 1960. Color. Japanese with English subtitles. Unrated.

Central Station

What a pleasure to see a film where the sets are all real, the actors are not all stunning, and the language is Portuguese. A boy, Josuae, is left to a life in the streets after his mother is struck by a bus in front of the Rio de Janeiro terminal. After a few days, he is begrudgingly befriended by a tough old woman, Dora, who works at the terminal as a letter writer. She takes the kid home then sells him to a syndicate for organ transplants. Her neighbor intercedes and guilts Dora into retrieving the kid before he is harvested. She ends up stealing the kid, and they go on the lam. Even in translation, you get good idea of the distrusting love that grows between them as they travel across Brazil in search of Josuae's father. Great story, interesting scenery, difficult language. 1998. Unrated. 120 minutes. Brazilian Portuguese w/subtitles. 8/99.

Next Time

This is a Laundromat tale. A just-off-the-bus artist from Ohio, (Christian Campbell) befriends a streetwise woman (Jonelle Allen) twice his age. She is mystified why this white kid would want to live in south central LA. Over a string of Saturday nights ,she imparts a little of her wisdom, and he transfer some of his optimism to their mutual benefit. Director L. Alan Fraser does an excellent job of keeping this tight screenplay in motion with the help of Allen and Campbell's talent. A First Rites Film. 2000. Unrated. 96 minutes.


The star of Baxter is a French speaking bull terrier who always gets what he wants. His first owner is an old woman whom he kills to get more interesting and active owners. His new owners are great fun until they have a child. Baxter is put up for adoption after he tries to kill their son. His third owner is a disturbing Nazi obsessed little boy who puts Baxter through his paces. Slightly disturbing. Thanks to Dustin Miller for the recommendation. French/Dog w/subtitles. 1991. Unrated.

River's Edge

This must be the teenage version of Stand By Me. Samson kills his girlfriend because she was talking about his mother. He then has a few beers and brings a few friends down to the river to see her corpse. Layne (Crispin Glover) decides they should hide the murder so Samson doesn't get in trouble. Matt, played by Keanu Reeves, has second thoughts and calls the cops. Everyone buys their dope from Dennis Hopper, who is his usual ex-biker, ex-murderer lunatic with an inflatable wife, Elly. Based loosely on a true story. If you can overlook the alienated teens theme it's got some good performances. Directed by Tim Hunter. Rated R. 1987. 99 minutes.

The Animal Room

A Clockwork Orange meets the Jersey shore. Recalcitrant teens are relegated to the 'animal room' in their school's basement. Doug Van Deusen is a gothic bully who enjoys beating up a fellow animal room inhabitant, druggy Arnie. There are some nostalgic 60's drug hallucination sequences but little else of interest. Filled with teenage angst. Kubrick did it better. Directed by Craig Singer. 1999. Rated R.

The Opposite of Sex

If we are not careful, this could become the Christina Ricci page. Written and directed by Don Roos, The Opposite of Sex follows Ricci as Deede Truitt, a sixteen year old hellion who leaves home in Creve Couer, LA and moves in with her gay half brother Bill (Martin Donovan). She trashes her step father's funeral, seduces her brother's lover, and generally has more fun than anyone else in the film. There are some excellent one liners. Lisa Kudrow and Johhny Galecki round out the cast. Better than the coming attractions would have one believe. Rated R. 100+ minutes. 1998.

The Butcher Boy

Francie Brady has an easy life at home with his drunken dad and suicidal mom. If only Mrs. Nugent hadn't called him a pig. Pigs are a recurring theme in this totally Irish film adapted from Patrick McCabe's novel of the same name. In his childish way, Fancie holds the wealthier Mrs. Nugent (Fiona Shawn) responsible for the bad things in his life, and he sets out from the start to make her and her son pay. In addition to pigs, the director Neil Jordan has artfully worked JFK, atomic bombs and the Virgin Mary into almost every scene. In fact. the incarnation of Mary is played by the ultimate Irishperson, Sinead O'Conner. With that one exception, the acting is superb, and Eammon Owens is perfect as the young Francie. Stephen Rey plays Da Brady and Aisling O'Sullivan is Ma. 1997. Geffen Pictures. 85 minutes. Rated R. Thanks Danny for the suggestion. 11/98.


Edward Furlong plays the lead as Pecker in this funny addition to the twisted works of John Waters. It is the usual cast plus Christina Ricci (from The Addams Family) as Pecker's girlfriend, the "Stain Queen", and Mark Joy (Clerks, Chasing Amy) as Jimmy the kleptomaniac. In what might be a semi-autobiographical story, Pecker enjoys photographing his neighbors and Baltimore (Where else? ) neighborhood. He gets discovered by Lili Taylor when he shows his work at the local pizzeria. He becomes the darling of the New York art world, damaging his relationship with family and friends. The story is thin and gets thinner--the joy in this film is Waters' scorching of the SOHO gallery world and of course the host of stupid characters. Music by Stewart Copeland. 1998. 110 minutes. Rated R.


A beautiful young woman is divided between the church and the feudal lord of her medieval patch. The Virgin Mary keeps appearing to her, and she is persuaded by the Bishop to wall herself up in the church and devote herself to her visions. This stark Flemish/English movie give a scary visual rendering to life in feudal Europe. Directed by Chris Newby, Anchoress stars Natalie Morse and Eugene Bervoets. Black & White. Unrated. 108 minutes.


A white trash holiday, this is one strange ass film about life in a lower class Xenia, Ohio. By carefully weaving real interviews and fictional scenes, the director Harmony Korishe leaves you wondering if there is a line between the two. The opening scene is a little kid in rabbit ears and shorts, pissing off an overpass onto cars on the interstate. Then Gummo goes into a series of slightly disconnected vignettes. The lead, Gummo, picks up cash by shooting cats with BB guns so he can sell the meat to the local Chinese restaurant. Brilliant. 1997. Rated R. Thanks to Ola Lundin.

Lawn Dogs

The people of Camelot Gardens housing estates truly enjoy the security and banality of life in an affluent synthetic community. Everyone, that is, except ten year old Devon, who crosses the tracks while on a quest to sell Girl Scout cookies. She meets up with her family's lawn cutter, Trent (Sam Rockwell) while knocking on trailer doors. Despite their differences in social standing, he carefully initiates Devon in the 3D life available outside the gates. There is nothing plausible about any of it, and the director John Duigan reminds you every 90 seconds of the social chasm between the characters. All rich people are boring social climbing dick heads, and the white trash lifestyle is honest and interesting and fatal. None the less, Mischa Barton is great as Devon, and there are pockets of subtlety shining through Naomi Wallace's screenplay. 1997. Rated R. 100 minutes. 1/99.

Ivan & Abraham

There is very little evidence left of eastern European Jewish culture from the period between the wars. Director Yolande Zauberman rounded up the talent, money, and locations to film this tale. Ivan works for Abraham's family in a Jewish Schtetl in Poland. They run away together and link up with a group of gypsies, and the boys learn a few things about life outside the ghetto. Ivan & Abraham is in Polish, Yiddish, Russian and Gypsy. 1997. B&W. 105 Minutes. Subtitled.

The Young Poisoner's Handbook

Hugh O'Conner is a twisted little sod who makes a science project out of poisoning his immediate family. He gets some excellent results, like when all his dad's hair falls out in clumps from arsenic in the tea. Not quite as bizarre as some, until you realize it's a true story. 1995. Rated R. 99 minutes. 1/99.

Ma Vie En Rose

Ludovic is a seven year old boy who is convinced he is a girl. So he dresses as one and is prepared to marry the son of his dad's boss. This is all very awkward for the parents, and their family life strains under their son's harmless obsession. The stressed out parents take Ludo to a psychiatrist, they cut his hair, they forbid him to wear dresses, and still the neighbors shun them. Eventually Dad loses his job, and they move to a less affluent but more accepting town. It's all too allegorical. This is a ham fisted cutesy film that uses an unthreatening kid to prove middle class Belgians are scared of anything strange (I.E. Gay). Who cares? Directed by Alain Berliner. Belgian. 1998. 89 minutes. Rated R. 11/98.

Freeze Die Come To Life

This Russian coming of age movie shares very little with its American counterparts. Filmed in eastern Siberia, a young boy leads a harsh existence among the thieving brutal alcoholic adults that cheer up his day. Filmed at the tail end of the Communist era, it shows Russian life as it may still be today. Filmed in black & white, it helps emphasize the gloominess of the countryside. Amidst the kicks and punches, our young hero manages to keep you amused. 105 minutes. B&W. 1989. Unrated.

Welcome to The Dollhouse

If you have forgotten how much it sucks being thirteen, got get a copy of Welcome to the Dollhouse. This film will give you renewed sympathies for the adolescents around you. Ola Lundin makes a good point when he noted that Dawn (Heather Mattarazzo) didn't need glasses to emphasize her nerdiness. Being from Sweden, however, Ola, you'll have to visit New Jersey before you can appreciate some of the subtler suburban humor. Most reviews of this movie use the word "unsettling" to describe this film, but we didn't. Directed by Todd Solondz. 1996. 90 minutes. Rated R.

The Tin Drum

You want to see a weird childhood? Then sit through this German tale of little Oskar, who refuses to grow while the Nazis were in power. The Tin Drum was adapted from the Gunter Grass novel of the same name. We forgot all about this one until Rebecca Crowlet brought it to our attention. This was recently banned from video stores in Oklahoma City. It's their loss. Rated R. 1979. Really long. German w/subtitles.

The Messenger

Luc Besson's rendition of the Joan of Arc story. Talk about a strange childhood! Kind of a French version of Braveheart, The Messenger is worth watching for the great 15th century battle scenes. Milla Jovovich, who also was in Besson's The Fifth Element, plays a beautiful Joan, and John Malkovich is the prince who sells her out. Way too long and pandering too much to main stream cinema, The Messenger is still a talented piece of work. There are times you may think this is The Sound of Music, but stick it out to see Dustin Hoffman as God.

The Nasty Girl

This is a well told story of a high school girl in Germany who starts out writing an essay on her town during the war. She uncovers a few thing that make most everyone squeamish. 1990. Rated PG-13. 90 minutes. Subtitled/German.


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