From Frances Ha to Little Women

Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Lady Bird, was an immediate success in 2017 and is now an iconic coming-of-age story. Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) identifies as “Lady Bird,” a signal to others that she is independent and free from social constraints. At 17 years old, her aspirations are to move from Sacramento because it’s the “Midwest of California” so she can finally be cultured on the East Coast. Before going to an out-of-state college, Lady Bird must first finish her final year in Sacramento, confronting all it has to offer – even the Kyles (Timothy Chalamet) of the world. Like many stories that represent a wandering youth in the middle class, the many hurdles for Lady Bird are ostensibly small. However, it’s in reflecting on those obstacles and mundane moments of life that make films like Lady Bird so insightful. The following movies are essential recommendations for fans of Lady Birdeach movie follows characters with journeys to discover their authentic selves buried beneath the messiness of their lives.

RELATED: From ‘Booksmart’ to ‘Lady Bird’: The Best Movies About Graduation


Sixteen Candles (1984)

Sixteen Candlesthe John Hughes story about the transition to adulthood for a teenage girl, and Molly Ringwald‘s performance as Samantha Baker are undoubtedly inspirations for Lady Bird. Sam is 16 years old and is in love with the cool boy (Michael Schoeffling), unfortunately for her, the nerdy boy (iconic Anthony Michael Hall performance) is in her way. With familiar family problems and a love triangle of sorts, Sam is a quintessential character to understand the framework of coming-of-age stories. Her journey through romance and popularity is an essential viewing experience in order to fully appreciate the context of Gerwig’s Lady Bird.

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

If you enjoy complex family dynamics and when Lady Bird asks her mother to give her a number so that she never has to speak to her again, then I have the movie for you. Noah Baumbach‘s The Squid and the Whale isn’t on this list because of his relationship with Gerwig, rather, it’s because of the film’s keen focus on conflict, detachment, and how a lack of vulnerability destroys relationships. The film follows a broken family where two brothers (Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline) who are forced to have stressful conversations with their struggling father and their successful mother. These are all the qualities of a film that investigates the family struggles that are so relatable in Lady Bird.

Submarine (2010)

Something missing from the Lady Bird discourse is how much the story is simply about finding empathy for others. The protagonist complex that we often see haunt young people can dissociate them from their authentic selves, as well as others. unpacking Lady Bird‘s indifference and her neglect to understand others’ circumstances is a key theme of the film. Richard Ayoade‘s submarine follows Oliver Tate (unforgettable performance from Craig Roberts) who is pressured to see the world through the lens of sex at the age of 15, but he ends up learning more about what people do to cope when they are grieving. Oliver has a lot to accomplish before his 16th birthday, follow him on his unique journey to find himself by thinking about others.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Author of 1999’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky directs the movie adaptation. In both mediums, he captures the difficulty of forced socialization and highlights a culture that lacks the necessary tools and outlets to help comfort our youth. A young and introverted Charlie (Logan Lerman) meets Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), two friends who will change his life forever. Follow this group as they discover the joy and sorrow in life. Not even one of the most insightful teachers (Paul Rudd) in recent cinema has enough advice for these traumatized teenagers. This is an essential coming-of-age snapshot that deserves to be in the same tier of movies as Lady Bird. As a warning for sensitive material, this film does include conversations and segments about suicide and sexual assault.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Amy Heckerling‘s Fast Times at Ridgemont High is yes, a teenage comedy, but it also follows a young group of teens in and out of love and others just trying to stay awake in class. If you want to see a young Sean Penn have his own wandering journey, this is a must-watch. At its core, the film actually has a more complex plot line with Stacy Hamilton’s (Jennifer Jason Leigh) story as a young white woman’s high school experience in the 1980s. There are a variety of relatable archetypes and messaging in this film that deals with complicated friendships, love triangle drama, and teenage independence, but as a fan of Lady Birdlook no further than Stacy’s journey.

Frances Ha (2012)

If you like complicated female friendships and a protagonist coming to terms with the beauty in the mundane, Frances Ha is the movie for you. Another Baumbach movie, Frances Ha is co-written by Gerwig, who also stars as the free-spirited Frances. She’s a 27-year-old dancer living in New York paycheck to paycheck and trying her best to live a life with purpose without selling her soul for a desk job. If you want more of the Lady Bird and Julie (Beanie Feldstein) relationship, but as a more aged relationship, then look no further. This movie would work as the perfect double feature with Lady Birdespecially if you watch them with friends.

Brooklyn (2015)

Just like Lady Bird, Eilis Lacey (Ronan) must choose between home and away. Directed by John Crowley and based on the novel of the same name by Colm Toibin, the film follows Eilis as she moves to Brooklyn from her small town in Ireland in the 1950s for a more prosperous life. She meets and falls in love with the Italian Tony (Emory Cohen) and feels like she has finally found her place in the world. But when a tragedy at home calls her back, she finds that home now seems like an attractive choice, especially when she starts spending time with Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson). Brooklyn follows similar themes to Lady Bird of feeling displaced and finding the choice between staying home and going out into the world a hard one. There probably wouldn’t be a Lady Bird without Ronan’s performance in Brooklynso just that alone makes this a required watch.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

The socially awkward Lady Bird has a fierce competitor in The Edge of Seventeen‘s Nadine Franklin (Hailee Steinfeld). Kelly Fremon Craig‘s film focuses on Nadine projecting her insecurities onto everyone in her life after she finds her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson) committing the worst act a best friend can make – sleeping with her brother. The aftermath leads to self-destruction so great that – another insightful teacher – Woody Harrelson has to step in to try and save the day as a mentor. while The Edge of Seventeen messaging isn’t excluding other generations outside young millennials and gen Z, it does feel like the only contemporary Lady Bird-like movie on this list.

20th Century Women (2016)

Coming-of-age stories usually focus on teens, but they aren’t necessarily age-specific. Mike Mills20th Century Women follows 50-something Dorothea (Annette Bening) as the mother of Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) and has a group of women who live in their home, and essentially help raise Jamie. And even though much of the film is through a lens of a young boy, the movie uses Jamie as a vehicle to observe women at different stages of their life who all represent the spectrum of pain women endure in a patriarchal society. This movie acts as a multiverse of Lady Birds – a reminder to viewers that the issues women face transcend any single generation. This is probably the most underseen movie on this list but ironically is one of the best – and it also features Gerwig.

Little Women (2019)

While I personally favor the 1994 version, the 2019 Gerwig adaptation of Louisa May Alcott‘s Little Women is inarguably more in the style of Lady Bird than any previous adaptation. Ronan’s impassioned performance as Josephine March is written with much more context in why she wants independence than Winona Ryder‘s 94’ character. Ronan’s interpretation of Jo follows an arc of finding autonomy in being your authentic self, but with a much more valid and electric argument than previous adaptations. Lady Bird has to first love herself without superficial validation from anyone else in order to be truly happy, and 2019’s Little Women gives you more than enough dialogue to chew on that subject.

The Worst Person in the World (2021)

Undoubtedly one of the best movies in recent years, Joachim Trier‘s The Worst Person in the World is a coming of age masterpiece. We follow Julie (Renate Reinsve) as she traverses through life, living each moment more authentic than the last, but is ultimately indecisive about which moments to hold onto. if Lady Bird forced you to reflect on your younger self, this film will force you to reflect on your current and future self in ways that may literally change your life. If you’re going to watch anything from this list, it should be The Worst Person in the World, so you can follow Julie on her journey to find a connection from within.

Leave a Comment