The coming-of-age film is an enduring genre and it’s easy to see why. Who hasn’t looked back on their own teenage years and remembered that one summer, or that one romance, or that one fight with your parents that changed it all? The stories we tell in those movies are premised on relatability: “Hey, that’s exactly how much of an outcast I felt at my high school!” or “Oh my god, that’s my mom and I’s relationship!” But even with those kinds of universal stories, the really good coming-of-age flicks succeed in their specificity. That’s why, as much as you can love, say, Lady Bird, you may find that a film like Real Women Have Curves, which as we’ve discussed here before, covers all too similar ground, resonates more strongly with you.

That got us thinking about what a canon of films about the US Latino coming-of-age experience looks like. The following ten movies may not all boast Latino directors behind the camera but they all tell distinct stories about our community. From a queer Chicana romance and a really dramatic quinceañera, to homeboys out on the town and an all-girl skate crew, these projects showcase just how varied the coming-of-age genre can look when it zeroes in on all kinds of teenagers in the U.S.

1

Raising Victor Vargas

Director Peter Sollet
2nd June, 2014
Country United States
Production Year 2002

Available to stream on Hulu and Amazon. 

Synopsis

Raising Victor Vargas details the romantic foibles of a group of Lower East Side teenagers, featuring breakout actors Victor Rasuk and Melonie Diaz (both of whom will show up in a few years on How to Make it in America.) After getting caught with Fat Donna, Victor sets out to rehabilitate his reputation by getting with Judy, the hottie on the block who has to be careful who she winds up with. The whole film is an ode to stoop sitting, public pools, blaring salsa, and teenage lotharios.

Matt Barbot

Film Details

Director: Peter Sollet
Country: United States
Genre: Drama
Production Year: 2002
Running Time: 60
2

Mosquita y Mari

Director Aurora Guerrero
11th June, 2015
Country United States
Production Year 2012

Available to stream on Hulu and iTunes.

Synopsis

Featuring intimate camera angles and a lilting soundtrack to make US indie filmmakers swoon, Mosquita y Mari is the low-key and personal tale of two young Latinas, Yolanda and Mari, whose burgeoning affection develops under the domineering glare of family tradition. What begins as a friendship energised by the rebellious spirit of adolescence soon becomes something deeper as the girls’ mutual journey allows both to discover their true self. If that sounds corny, the film is anything but, with supreme performances from the two leads. The overriding message is one of positivity and unity, where the decisions we make are ours and ours alone. Not that that stops everyone else from sticking their beak in where it’s unwanted.

Nick MacWilliam

Film Details

Director: Aurora Guerrero
Country: United States
Genre: Drama
Writer: Aurora Guerrero
Producer: Charlene Blanco Agabao, Chad Burris
Production Year: 2012
Running Time: 85
3

Real Women Have Curves

Director Patricia Cardoso
13th August, 2018
Country United States
Production Year 2002
real women have curves_film
"Real Women Have Curves" still featuring America Ferrera. Courtesy of HBO.

Available to stream on HBO, Google Play and Amazon.

Synopsis

Based on Josefina López’s play by the same name, Patricia Cardoso’s Real Women Have Curves was an instant-classic when it premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. Set in East LA, the film follows Ana García (America Ferrera), a young woman who’s torn between her ambitions and the plan her family (especially her strong-willed mother, played by Lupe Ontiveros) has laid out for her: to marry and provide grandchildren. Working alongside her sister, sneaking away to meet with her high school sweetheart, and later needing to confront her parents about her desire to move to New York City for school, Ana offers a quintessential look at the struggles of first generation Latino immigrants.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Patricia Cardoso
Country: United States
Genre: Drama
Writer: George LaVoo, Josefina Lopez
Producer: Effie Brown, George LaVoo
Production Year: 2002
Running Time: 90
4

Don’t Let Me Drown

Director Cruz Angeles
6th June, 2014
Country United States
Production Year 2009

Available to stream on Urban Movie Channel and Amazon.

Synopsis

Don’t Let Me Drown, a kind of spiritual successor to Raising Victor Vargas, is a teenage love story between Lalo (E.J. Bonilla) and Stefanie (Gleendilys Inoa) two lost kids trying to find their feet again just a month after 9/11. After meeting at a birthday party the two begin to fall for one another, anchoring each other in the midst of all the uncertainty and intense emotion that accompanied the city’s struggles. While it’s sometimes rough to look back at 9/11 this funny, sweet movie might just be the best way to do it.

Matt Barbot

Film Details

Director: Cruz Angeles
Country: United States
Production Year: 2009
Running Time: 60
5

Love, Concord

Director Gustavo Guardado Jr.
13th August, 2018
Country United States
Production Year 2012

Available to stream on Amazon and iTunes.

Synopsis

Fun-loving, popular goofball Gerry (Jorge Diaz) is a typical high school student. He plays basketball, spends his time beating video games, and is all about the ladies. But being the class clown can be a real bummer when no one takes you seriously on the important stuff. One day Gerry meets Melinda (Angelina Leon), a straight-laced fellow student who begins to show him that life is about more than just fun and games. Set in the San Francisco suburb of Concord, this charming romantic comedy shows that reaching one’s full potential takes a little bit of humor and a whole lot of sincerity.

 

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Gustavo Guardado Jr.
Country: United States
Genre: Comedy
Writer: Gustavo Guardado Jr.
Producer: Kurtis Lee Hermes, Virginia McCarthy
Production Year: 2012
Running Time: 90
6

Go For It

Director Carmen Marron
13th August, 2018
Country United States
Production Year 2011
Go For It Gina Rodriguez
Courtesy of Pantelion Films

Available to stream on TubiTV (for free!), iTunes and YouTube.

Synopsis

Set in Chicago, this hip hop drama centers on young Carmen (Aimee Garcia) who has big dreams of becoming a professional dancer. With an encouraging friend by her side (played by Gina Rodriguez) and a supportive faculty member who’ll open her eyes to the possibilities of her talent, Carmen will have to test her endurance to see if she has what it takes to go for it. With electric dancing sequences and a Chicago-based ensemble, Go For It is a hip hop coming of age tale unlike any other.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Carmen Marron
Country: United States
Genre: Musical, Drama
Writer: Carmen Marron
Producer: Carmen Marron
Production Year: 2011
Running Time: 105
7

Hangin’ With the Homeboys

Director Joseph Vasquez
2nd June, 2014
Country United States
Production Year 1991

Available to stream on Google Play, iTunes, and YouTube.

Synopsis

Something a lot of you don’t remember is that before The Lord of the Rings, this is exactly the kind of movie New Line Cinema buttered its bread with. But even though this one looks like a lowbrow comedy (you’ll start getting flashbacks to The Pest) it’s a pretty solid early Leguizamo role. His portrayal of the stuttering Johnny is very different from his usual bombast in a movie that asks interesting questions about Nuyorican identity. The womanizing Fernando (Nestor Serrano) goes by Vinny and pretends to be Italian for status… even, apparently, when dating Latinas. As our four heroes make their way from the Bronx through Manhattan, their relationships are put to the test.

Matt Barbot

Film Details

Director: Joseph Vasquez
Country: United States
Production Year: 1991
Running Time: 60
8

Quinceañera

Director Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
10th July, 2015
Country United States
Production Year 2006

Available to stream on Amazon, iTunes and Vudu.

Synopsis

A Sundance and GLAAD award-winner, this unforgettable L.A. classic explores the sexual and racial tensions simmering amongst a traditional Latino family against the backdrop of Echo Park’s rapidly growing gentrification. Helmed by Wash Westmoreland and the late Richard Glatzer, and featuring Emily Rios (Breaking Bad, The Bridge), Jesse Garcia (El Rey Network’s From Dusk Til Dawn), and veteran actor Chalo Gonzales as Tio Tomás, the film resonates as powerfully today as it did upon its first release.


Film Details

Director: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Country: United States
Genre: Drama
Production Year: 2006
Running Time: 90
9

Mamitas

Director Nicholas Ozeki
13th August, 2018
Country United States
Production Year 2011

Available to stream on PopcornFlix (for free!), Vudu, and YouTube.

Synopsis

The day Jordin (E.J. Bonilla) is suspended from school for insulting a teacher, he meets Felipa (Veronica Diaz Carranza), a bookish, no-nonsense New York girl who sees past the swaggering facade. The two clearly move in different circles. He’s the epitome of a bad boy, she’s not like the other girls at their school. But the friendly chemistry between them is undeniable. But will Jordin be able to get out of trouble enough to show Felipa that he can be more than the tough guy act he’s perfected to move through life?

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Nicholas Ozeki
Country: United States
Genre: Drama
Writer: Nicholas Ozeki
Producer: Adam Renehan, Andrew Daniel Wells
Production Year: 2011
Running Time: 109
10

Skate Kitchen

Director Crystal Moselle
9th July, 2018
Country United States
Production Year 2018
Skate Kitchen - Still 2
Rachelle Vinberg, Ajani Russell, Nina Moran and Dede Lovelace appear in Skate Kitchen by Crystal Moselle, official selection at 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Synopsis

Shy, 18-year-old Camille (played by Colombian-American newcomer Rachelle Vinberg) seeks out an all-girl skateboard crew in NYC, a subculture of sexually fluid, cool city kids whose lives revolve around social media and skateboarding. Camille, adopted into their gang, is quickly faced with the complexity of female friendship, loyalty pressures, and singular personalities. So much so she’ll rebel against her mother (Orange is the New Black’s Elizabeth Rodriguez). A breakout darling of the Sundance Film Festival, filmmaker Crystal Moselle (The Wolfpack) perfectly captures the female zeitgeist in her richly textured and atmospheric second feature.


Film Details

Director: Crystal Moselle
Country: United States
Genre: Drama
Writer: Crystal Moselle, Jen Silverman, Aslihan Unaldi
Producer: Lizzie Nastro, Julia Nottingham, Matthew Perniciaro, Michael Sherman, Rodrigo Teixeira Izabella Tzenkova, Crystal Moselle
Production Year: 2018
Running Time: 105