Childhood is Hell

by Alexander Miller

Created 03/10/13

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A list of films that show the not so peachy side of growing up, luckily The Criterion Collection doesn't opt for the squeaky clean type of film. Here's a list of films that portray more than just growing pains.

  • The 400 Blows is largely the reason why I chose this but the whole series deserves to place because Truffaut devoted five films to his own auto-biographical Antoine Doinel character.

  • Quiet and touching, this film captures how confusing the nature of fiction and fear can have on the mind of a child.

  • Not only is the main theme of culture important to address but the opening scene is rather jarring as a father drags his children to the outback with the intent of killing them in a suicide pact.

  • Ricci, and Maguire are perfect in Ang Lee's film about growing up in a blustery New England suburb.

  • The ultimate, youth vs. the system scenario by Anderson, stark and trance like, but louder than bombs. If.... is a must see.

  • Watch the series if you can, but the film is a great work by master director Bergman, sadly, this is referred to as his "upbeat" film but it's a harrowing journey the titular characters go through. Part family drama, part ghost story told from the point of view of yet another autobiograohical

  • Though depressing (even for a movie about children learning to deal with death) Clements film is a perfect platform
    that portrays the effect of war and death on not just children but the world around them.

  • Poor kid, this title speaks for itself. And if you've ever been bullied you'll sympathize with the main character.

  • One of the best modern films that deals with delinquent youth's. Not just your "kids gone wild" film, Fish Tank is relevant to anyone whose ever been an angry teenager.

  • I want to see more films by Pialat because A nos amours is a great film. Great acting and direction make this film believable and intriguing as we see the turmoil and confusion of young love.

  • Early Bergman, and most importantly early Bergman, with the traits that made Bergman his own brand of filmmaker. Summer with Monika moves with great pacing and Harriet Anderson delivers as the lead. "Aww, young love", or "Ahh! young love!" is what I felt while watching this.

  • Solondz epitomizes the sometimes hellish nature of growing up, film improves if you watch Wartime's predecessor Happiness prior.

  • Good adaptation of a great story, it's tough being a kid.

  • A funny Technicolor outing from Ozu, light and telling, very good stuff.

  • Green's film isnt talked about enough, beautiful, and sometimes brutal. With wonderful performances by it's young cast.

  • Growing up Anderson, not exactly "Growing up Green" but as far as dysfunctional families go the Tenenbaums take the cake. Excellent cast, expecially from Hackman and Wilson. Bittersweet, funny, and sad, this is one of Andersons best films.

  • Right on par, with The Royal Tenenbaums with a more romantic story, Rushmore ties with Tenenbaums as far as the theme of tribulations faced while growing up.

  • Colorful tale of growing up in a rural Sweedish town. Hallstrom paints with a wide variety of tones that make an overall wonderful viewing experience. Excellent performance by Anton Glanzelius.

  • Okay, so I obviously cannot relate to this film, but it's one of Tarkovskys more accessible works before his more spiritual films.

  • Not a favorite, though this is a good film it does have a place here in my list.

  • Multiple vignettes that don't really add to much, just like the motivations of the characters themselves. But this doesn'

    t mean Linklater didn't make a great film that captures Americas college town atmosphere in the early nineties. Best watched on a hot summer day.

  • I don't know why this didn't make it until now. Thank you comment thread!

  • I love the films of Ken Loach. Kes is at times hard to watch, but a great film. Other good titles from Loach include "Poor Cow" (footage used in Soderberghs The Limey) "Up The Junction", and "Cathy Come Home".

  • I watched this over the summer on my Hulu Plus station. I loved it. It felt like an even more realistic revision of Truffaut's 400 Blows. I can't wait to see more Pialat come to the collection!

  • I just saw this not too long ago. Great film, very atmospheric. I love the opening scenes with the kid and his pet lizard.

  • Another great Soderbergh movie in the collection. One part slice of life, another part coming of age tale. Incredibly well made, and acted, King of the Hill is a uniquely charming, and heart breaking portrait of childhood and the depression.

  • Every time I see this his dedication to Sharon Tate at the start of the film I tear up, Polanski's heart was in this picture and the tale of innocence betrayed is part catharsis and love letter to his departed wife.

  • Classic Americana/folktale/nightmare tale, with classic performances by Mitchum and Gish.

  • Richly textured imaginative, and yet paired down tale of London in the fifties. Like Davies other films music (notable folk songs), family, the often taxing labors of growing up, and a love for the cinema are explored.

  • This could also qualify as a "Adulthood is hell" entry as well. But we all know that. A very well directed film by Campion.

  • Haunting and extremely telling, Geraldine Chaplin and Ana Torrent are superb. An almost Bergman like study of children confronting death.

  • Divorce must really suck with a mother like this..

  • I love these kids.

  • This could be a the prequel to Lindsay Anderson's If..

  • Before you got cyberbullied you were expected to go to grad school and get married and start cranking out kids before you were thirty, what would you prefer?

  • "Terr loves Tiva" words that are both haunting and cute, René Laloux's masterpiece is great sci-fi and artistic allegory on the nature of existence.

  • Childhood is hell, or motherhood is hell? Well, maybe both apply, this is one of Pasolini's best films.


  • By Craig J. Clark
    November 03, 2013
    01:50 PM

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned Ken Loach's Kes yet. Seems like that one would be a natural for this list.
  • By Alexander Miller
    November 05, 2013
    06:21 AM

    It wouldn't feel right to update the list without a shout to Clark and Collection, thanks!
  • By Nate Studer
    November 13, 2013
    10:36 AM

    The Dardenne's The Kid With a Bike should really be on here.
  • By Brown
    November 23, 2013
    10:27 AM

    Great list. Now with the addition of Soderbergh's King of the Hill to the Collection, maybe it can find a place amongst these wonderful films.
  • By Alexander Miller
    November 23, 2013
    01:16 PM

    Yeah, I am loving the Soderbergh films in the collection. Schizopolis, Che, Traffic, and now King of the Hill, so awesome.
    November 25, 2013
    12:44 PM

    Where is fists in the pocket ?!!!!
    December 04, 2013
    12:24 PM

    Night of the hunter reigns supreme !!!!!
  • By Alexander Miller
    December 05, 2013
    12:12 AM

    If anyone asks me who the boogeyman is I say Robert Mitchum!
  • By Eric Levy
    February 20, 2014
    11:47 AM

    Wonderful list Alexander! Two additions to suggest: You already included IF, so I'd definitely recommend adding its source, ZERO DE CONDUIT. And would TIME BANDITS fit?
  • By Alexander Miller
    February 22, 2014
    10:35 AM

    I am waiting on the Jean Vigo Set, so I have not seen Zero De Conduit. I was thinking about Time Bandits, and although there's a kid in peril it seems he's having more fun. And the fantasy element of the film would seem out of place.
  • By Eric Levy
    March 02, 2014
    06:05 AM

    Back again. I finally watched Rossellini's WAR TRILOGY, and all three films would fit this list. Children play small but crucial roles in ROME: OPEN CITY and PAISAN, and a child is the lead in GERMANY YEAR ZERO. Not easy viewing, but incredible films.
  • By Alexander Miller
    March 03, 2014
    08:12 AM

    I havent seen Rome: Open City in years I'm afraid. I remember it being great though. I still haven't seen Paisan though. I think it might be worth it to just break down and buy this Rossellini set. Do you know when the next Barnes and Noble sale is going to happen?
    • By Eric Levy
      March 03, 2014
      03:07 PM

      They're typically each June and November. I'm planning on getting that set at the next sale too.
  • By Alexander Miller
    March 04, 2014
    09:58 AM

    Those sales are high points of my year! I can't wait for Michael Mann's Thief! The copy I have now is like a VHS rip.
  • By Eric Levy
    April 12, 2014
    01:23 PM

    Back again. I just watched the exquisite THE KID WITH A BIKE. Highly recommended and perfect for this list.
  • By Eric Levy
    July 13, 2014
    08:51 PM

    I agree with Barry about OUT OF THE BLUE, an extraordinary film. A Criterion title one day hopefully... Meanwhile, if you don't mind adding films that are technically bonuses, I just watched Kiarostami's THE TRAVELER, which is included on the CLOSE-UP disc. Amazing, tragic, beautiful. Features the first of Kiarostami's single-minded children, a tradition which would continue in WHERE IS MY FRIEND'S HOME and THE WHITE BALLOON.
  • By Alexander Miller
    July 15, 2014
    12:46 AM

    Linda Manz is great, I just saw Kid With a Bike not too long ago for the first time. Great Film!
  • By Eric Levy
    September 15, 2015
    02:45 PM

    Hi again. Just realized you can add PATHER PANCHALI to this list.
  • By Jake W.
    January 08, 2016
    07:46 PM

    I don't understand why you put summer with monika on this list given you're description.
  • By LawrenceG
    April 13, 2016
    12:39 PM

    Have to agree with Jake W. here. Regardless of age, the film isn't concerned with childhood issues, as the two characters are not children. They have passed childhood and entered the zone the rest of us live in, wherein we spend the remainder of our lives in the process of growing up. The Summer spent together was not spent pranking unsuspecting strangers, excavating holes in the sand and torturing ants. You know, kid stuff. They made with the sex, drinking, more sex, stealing, even more sex, and the tossing overboard and setting fire to their belongings by the jealous maniac. Which led to quite the scrap, nearly culminating in a death. Not kid stuff. I'm thinking, considering the ending, this film could be interpreted as a candidate for a "Life is Hell" list. But then again, her decision at the end to seek the endless Summer could be seen as childish. Not feeling very definitive today, sorry.
  • By Alexander Miller
    June 12, 2016
    06:19 PM

    yeah, but they're still growing up.