by ethanael | created - 01 Feb 2015 | updated - 06 Nov 2017 | Public

a collection of films (1921-2016) about a boy´s life in this world - a list which i have made from scratch (and not copying it from other imdb user lists). all these movies represent BOYHOOD in different cultural historical societal religious etc. context and from various viewpoints and ages (the protagonists age being approximately from 1 to 18). most of these films offer an alternative to uninspiringly sweet and stuffy family movies or commercial spectacles (harry potters etc). i think that a constantly and consistently happy boy is a phony anomaly and he is also very boring and disgusting to watch.

if you are a responsible (and perhaps unconventional) adult in a boy´s life you can watch these films together but see and read up my comments and reviews if necessary! many items i have listed here are more or less inapproriate for the youngest viewers or are only relevant for adult audience.

UPDATING OF THE LIST FINISHED AFTER 2016 because of the copycats. I may still add comments and reviews for those films already on the list.

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1. The Kid (1921)

Not Rated | 68 min | Comedy, Drama, Family

The Tramp cares for an abandoned child, but events put that relationship in jeopardy.

Director: Charles Chaplin | Stars: Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Jackie Coogan, Carl Miller

Votes: 103,228 | Gross: $5.45M

a timeless classic; even a smart phone generation will like it. perhaps a little overrated now as all the chaplin films but mostly enjoyable and watchable.

2. Paul Street Boys (1929)


A couple of boy gangs in Budapest constantly fight over the neighborhood turf. One of the Paul Street gang members is a highly sensitive youth that is humiliated and taunted by members of ... See full summary »

Director: Béla Balogh | Stars: Géza Berczy, Ernö Verebes, Imre Kis

Votes: 19

one of the early filmings of the famous novel by ferenc molnar.

3. Emil and the Detectives (1931)

75 min | Adventure, Family, Drama

Emil goes to Berlin to see his grandmother with a large amount of money and is offered sweets by a strange man that make him sleep. He wakes up at his stop with no money. It is up to him and a group of children to save the day.

Director: Gerhard Lamprecht | Stars: Rolf Wenkhaus, Käthe Haack, Fritz Rasp, Rudolf Biebrach

Votes: 529

a german classic. remade in 1954 and 2001.

4. Road to Life (1931)

Passed | 105 min | Drama

Young hobos are brought to a new camp to become good Soviet citizens. This camp works without any guards, and it works well. But crooks kill one of the young people when they try to damage ... See full summary »

Director: Nikolai Ekk | Stars: Nikolay Batalov, Yvan Kyrlya, Mikhail Dzhagofarov, Mikhail Zharov

Votes: 336

this was the first soviet talkie and nikolas ekk´s only prominent work strongly influenced by other soviet masters of the era. the story is of course propagandistic and unintentionally comical for contemporary viewers but disregarding the funny aspects it still remains a fascinating film and also highly influential in world cinema. especially film freaks and history students will appreciate it. recommended.

5. I Was Born, But... (1932)

Not Rated | 100 min | Comedy, Drama

91 Metascore

Two young brothers throw a tantrum when they discover that their father isn't the most important man in his workplace.

Director: Yasujirô Ozu | Stars: Tatsuo Saitô, Tomio Aoki, Mitsuko Yoshikawa, Hideo Sugawara

Votes: 4,488

one of the greatest silent classics in world cinema by the japanese master yasujiro ozu; absolutely charming and very highly recommended.

6. Poil de carotte (1932)

91 min | Drama

A red-haired boy is his mother's punching bag ; only his father's presence is a great comfort to him,but this weak man is under the shrew's thumb.His pain is so great he feels suicidal.

Director: Julien Duvivier | Stars: Harry Baur, Robert Lynen, Louis Gauthier, Simone Aubry

Votes: 544

the suicide of any child is a tragic event, and although relatively rare, it is still a leading cause of death in children under 15 years old worldwide - did you know that? this very old film deals with this painful and terrible topic. of course it is over 80 years old and perhaps handles the theme a bit too lightheartedly but the climax is still horrifying! how rejected and unloved must a child feel that he decides to do the utmost act?

this is not the first cinematic dramatization of the famous autobiographical novel by jules renard (the first was in 1925 by the same director) but i think it is the best and most recommendable. see also comprehensive and illuminating user reviews.

7. Zero for Conduct (1933)

Not Rated | 44 min | Short, Comedy, Drama

In a repressive boarding school with rigid rules of behavior, four boys decide to rebel against the direction on a celebration day.

Director: Jean Vigo | Stars: Jean Dasté, Robert le Flon, Louis Lefebvre, Du Verron

Votes: 7,266

a surrealist french classic; its anarchism is appealing.

8. David Copperfield (1935)

Passed | 130 min | Adventure, Drama, Romance

A gentle orphan discovers life and love in an indifferent adult world.

Director: George Cukor | Stars: Freddie Bartholomew, Frank Lawton, Edna May Oliver, Elizabeth Allan

Votes: 3,522

old and perhaps outdated now but many consider this to be the best interpretation of the novel.

9. An Inn in Tokyo (1935)

80 min | Drama

Unemployed Kihachi and his two sons struggle to make ends meet. But that doesn't keep Kihachi from wooing single mother Otaka.

Director: Yasujirô Ozu | Stars: Takeshi Sakamoto, Yoshiko Okada, Chôko Iida, Tomio Aoki

Votes: 1,177

the last silent film is only a minor piece in ozu´s career but is worth a look if you are a really serious fan of the japanese master.

a czech classic. i have taken all the available measures to watch this film, to no avail (yet). so i cannot give any personal comment or recommendation but read up on the other reviews.

11. Children in the Wind (1937)

88 min | Drama

Two young boys are usurped from being the head of their gang of children by the son of the man who indicts their father on charges of embezzlement. Their father is fired and arrested for ... See full summary »

Director: Hiroshi Shimizu | Stars: Reikichi Kawamura, Mitsuko Yoshikawa, Masao Hayama, Tomio Aoki

Votes: 203

an excellent film by japanese director hiroshi shimizu. highly recommended but the film is unfortunately hard to find.

another marvellous movie about boys life in the 1930s japan, right before WW2; highly recommended. it´s a pity hiroshi shimizu is not so widely known in the west, his films for children are extraordinary!

13. Captains Courageous (1937)

Passed | 117 min | Adventure, Drama, Family

A spoiled brat who falls overboard from a steamship gets picked up by a fishing boat, where he's made to earn his keep by joining the crew in their work.

Director: Victor Fleming | Stars: Spencer Tracy, Freddie Bartholomew, Lionel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas

Votes: 8,152

a little outdated adventure now, still modestly entertaining.

14. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938)

Passed | 91 min | Adventure, Drama, Family

Tom Sawyer and his pal Huckleberry Finn have great adventures on the Mississippi River, pretending to be pirates, attending their own funeral and witnessing a murder.

Director: Norman Taurog | Stars: Tommy Kelly, Jackie Moran, Ann Gillis, May Robson

Votes: 1,632

old-fashioned charm - and in early technicolor!

15. Boys Town (1938)

Passed | 96 min | Biography, Drama

When a death row prisoner tells him he wouldn't have led a life of crime if only he had had one friend as a child, Father Edward Flanagan decides to do something about. An advocate of child... See full summary »

Director: Norman Taurog | Stars: Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Henry Hull, Leslie Fenton

Votes: 4,873

the film is here mainly because of mickey rooney, a big star at the time doing his most memorable role in andy hardy films...

16. The Childhood of Maxim Gorky (1938)

98 min | Biography, Drama

A drama reveals the great writer's inauspicious early years as an orphan raised by conniving relatives.

Director: Mark Donskoy | Stars: Aleksei Lyarsky, Varvara Massalitinova, Mikhail Troyanovskiy, Elizaveta Alekseeva

Votes: 559

childhood of a writer; a soviet masterpiece and therefore recommended.

17. How Green Was My Valley (1941)

Not Rated | 118 min | Drama, Family

At the turn of the century in a Welsh mining village, the Morgans, he stern, she gentle, raise coal-mining sons and hope their youngest will find a better life.

Director: John Ford | Stars: Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp

Votes: 19,809

john ford john ford john ford... an american classic.

18. The Jungle Book (1942)

Approved | 108 min | Action, Adventure, Family

A boy raised by wolves tries to adapt to human village life.

Director: Zoltan Korda | Stars: Sabu, Joseph Calleia, John Qualen, Frank Puglia

Votes: 3,562 | Gross: $2.83M

kipling and korda: an exciting jungle adventure for boys of all ages. note also "the thief of bagdad" (not on the list).

19. Aniki Bóbó (1942)

71 min | Drama, Family

The story takes place in the old streets of Porto and by the banks of the Douro River. A gang of very young kids has just accepted a new member, Carlitos, a shy boy who has "played it tough... See full summary »

Director: Manoel de Oliveira | Stars: Nascimento Fernandes, Vital dos Santos, António Palma, Armando Pedro

Votes: 1,457

a distant mirror into portuguese life in the middle of the global turmoil in 1942 though the thunder of the ww2 seems to be far away. the childrens acting is little akward but it is perhaps forgivable for the first feature of manoel de oliveira who was to become the most famous and prolific director in the country. a curiosity and a national treasure in portuguese cinema.

20. Torment (1944)

95 min | Drama, Romance

An idealistic adolescent, suffering under the thumb of a sadistic schoolmaster, falls in love with a loose girl who is bullied and tormented by another lover.

Director: Alf Sjöberg | Stars: Stig Järrel, Alf Kjellin, Mai Zetterling, Olof Winnerstrand

Votes: 2,970

a swedish curiosity from 1944 is a very dark story; for adults only...

21. A Diary for Timothy (1945)

40 min | Short, Documentary

This brief documentary-style film presents the status of Great Britain near the end of the Second World War by means of a visual diary for a baby boy born in September, 1944. Narration ... See full summary »

Director: Humphrey Jennings | Stars: Michael Redgrave, Myra Hess, John Gielgud, Frederick Allen

Votes: 629

an extraordinary documentary about britain in 1944-45 and about atmosphere of the country during the last year of the war. poetic and poignant and repeating the intimate mood of "listen to britain" (1942) jennings asks baby timothy jenkins a serious question or rather makes a sincere wish that the post-war generation would be wiser to create a better world. but have we succeeded? perhaps a little borderline film in the list but utterly charming and disarming.

22. Shoeshine (1946)

Not Rated | 87 min | Drama

Two shoeshine boys in postwar Rome, Italy, save up to buy a horse, but their involvement as dupes in a burglary lands them in juvenile prison where the experience take a devastating toll on their friendship.

Director: Vittorio De Sica | Stars: Rinaldo Smordoni, Franco Interlenghi, Annielo Mele, Bruno Ortensi

Votes: 5,886

an italian neorealist classic; the tragic end needs little parental guidance but it is a beautiful film, a world cinema gem.

23. The Yearling (1946)

Approved | 128 min | Drama, Family, Western

89 Metascore

A boy persuades his parents to allow him to adopt a young deer, but what will happen if the deer misbehaves?

Director: Clarence Brown | Stars: Gregory Peck, Jane Wyman, Claude Jarman Jr., Chill Wills

Votes: 5,061 | Gross: $5.20M

a charming old-fashioned hollywood film.

24. Great Expectations (1946)

Not Rated | 118 min | Adventure, Drama, Mystery

A humble orphan suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor.

Director: David Lean | Stars: John Mills, Valerie Hobson, Tony Wager, Jean Simmons

Votes: 20,859

a great interpretation of the dickens novel. highly recommended. note also lean´s oliver twist.

25. Oliver Twist (1948)

Not Rated | 105 min | Drama

An orphan named Oliver Twist meets a pickpocket on the streets of London. From there, he joins a household of boys who are trained to steal for their master.

Director: David Lean | Stars: Robert Newton, Alec Guinness, Kay Walsh, Francis L. Sullivan

Votes: 10,592

david lean´s interpretation of the dickens story is quite haunting.

26. Hue and Cry (1947)

82 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime

A gang of street boys foil a master crook who sends commands for robberies by cunningly altering a comic strip's wording each week, unknown to writer and printer. The first of the Ealing ... See full summary »

Director: Charles Crichton | Stars: Alastair Sim, Frederick Piper, Harry Fowler, Vida Hope

Votes: 1,270

terrific and thrilling entertainment and fun for boys of all ages. the first of the famous ealing comedies and one of their best, too. excitingly filmed partly around authentic post-ww2 london and in its destructed buildings. highly recommended.

27. The Fallen Idol (1948)

Approved | 95 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

88 Metascore

A butler working in a foreign embassy in London falls under suspicion when his wife accidentally falls to her death, the only witness being an impressionable young boy.

Director: Carol Reed | Stars: Ralph Richardson, Michèle Morgan, Sonia Dresdel, Bobby Henrey

Votes: 7,262 | Gross: $0.34M

a modest thriller, suitable for boys over 12.

28. Children of the Beehive (1948)

86 min | Drama

The movie focuses on the plight of ten war orphans hailing from different cities across Japan. With nowhere to go, they scavenge around train stations, scratching out an existence by means ... See full summary »

Director: Hiroshi Shimizu | Stars: Shunsaku Shimamura, Natuski Masako, Gosho Shoichi, Kiyomi Imoto

Votes: 162

a heartbreaking film from the post ww2 japan. the total devastation is still overtly and distressingly portrayed in this story about war orphans travelling through bombarded japan looking for a better life - there is even a scene shimizu shot in hiroshima burned to ashes. the film has thus historical and documentary value as well but ABOVE ALL IT IS A SAD STORY (but not without subtle humour) ABOUT THOSE WHO ALWAYS SUFFER THE MOST IN ANY WAR: - even today in syria iraq yemen libya gaza kongo south sudan - THE CHILDREN. but watch it with your kids and do not be afraid of them feeling sad. that is only good for them. the ending is emotionally overwhelming but with optimism and hope! very highly recommended.

29. The Last Vacation (1948)

95 min | Drama, Romance

A schoolboy remembers his last holiday in the big house of his family in the country, before it was sold.

Director: Roger Leenhardt | Stars: Odile Versois, Michel François, Jean Lara, Renée Devillers

Votes: 139

a genuine french classic.

30. Louisiana Story (1948)

Approved | 78 min | Adventure, Drama

The idyllic life of a young Cajun boy and his pet raccoon is disrupted when the tranquility of the bayou is broken by an oil well drilling near his home.

Director: Robert J. Flaherty | Stars: Joseph Boudreaux, Lionel Le Blanc, E. Bienvenu, Frank Hardy

Votes: 1,574

an american semi-documentary drama classic; highly recommended.

31. Germany Year Zero (1948)

Not Rated | 78 min | Drama, War

A young German boy faces the problems of the tough life in the immediate post WWII Berlin.

Director: Roberto Rossellini | Stars: Edmund Moeschke, Ernst Pittschau, Ingetraud Hinze, Franz-Otto Krüger

Votes: 9,274

devastated childhood in the devastated country, a very sad story that is not suitable for the youngest viewers (or only with little parental guidance).

32. The Search (1948)

Passed | 104 min | Drama, War

In post-war Berlin, an American private helps a lost Czech boy find his mother.

Director: Fred Zinnemann | Stars: Montgomery Clift, Ivan Jandl, Aline MacMahon, Wendell Corey

Votes: 3,581

perhaps more a career boost and a vehicle for young montgomery clift. see also a sort of a remake of this film with exactly the same title "the search" made in 2014 (about a chechnyan war).

33. It Happened in Europe (1948)

100 min | Drama

A band of runaways and orphans of the war scour the countryside in search of food and shelter. They invade and then taken in by a musician and former concert pianist who's hiding out in a ... See full summary »

Director: Géza von Radványi | Stars: Artúr Somlay, Miklós Gábor, Zsuzsa Bánki, György Bárdy

Votes: 754

a hungarian classic but not easily available so it is likely to remain unwatched. see other (mixed) user reviews

34. Border Street (1948)

110 min | Drama, War

The story of Polish and Jewish families living side by side in one Warsaw street. Everything changes once and for all with the Nazi invasion.

Director: Aleksander Ford | Stars: Mieczyslawa Cwiklinska, Jerzy Leszczynski, Wladyslaw Godik, Wladyslaw Walter

Votes: 164

holocaust in poland through a boy´s eyes

35. The Quiet One (1948)

65 min | Documentary, Drama

A documentary account of the rehabilitation at the Wiltwyck School of an emotionally disturbed Black boy who is unwanted, misunderstood, and inwardly tortured.

Director: Sidney Meyers | Stars: Gary Merrill, Donald Thompson, Clarence Cooper, Sadie Stockton

Votes: 180

this famous document can be watched free at internet archive.

36. The Boy with Green Hair (1948)

Approved | 82 min | Comedy, Drama, Family

This parable looks at public reaction when the hair of an American war orphan mysteriously turns green.

Director: Joseph Losey | Stars: Pat O'Brien, Robert Ryan, Barbara Hale, Dean Stockwell

Votes: 2,391

a good allegory about racism and prejudice - theme that is always topical, unfortunately...

37. Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Not Rated | 89 min | Drama

In post-war Italy, a working-class man's bicycle is stolen. He and his son set out to find it.

Director: Vittorio De Sica | Stars: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Elena Altieri

Votes: 133,996 | Gross: $0.33M

another italian classic; a milestone in world cinema and very highly recommended.

38. The Winter of Three Hairs (1949)

Not Rated | 74 min | Comedy, Drama

Three Hairs was the name of a popular comic character, a street urchin with a bald head save for three thin stalks sticking straight up towards the sky. After a night on the streets, Three ... See full summary »

Directors: Gong Yan, Ming Zhao | Stars: Zhen Li, Hongda Guan, Chen Huang, Zhen Lin

Votes: 127

39. The Window (1949)

Approved | 73 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller

To avoid the heat of a sweltering summer night a 9-year-old Manhattan boy decides to sleep on the fire escape and witnesses a murder, but no one will believe him.

Director: Ted Tetzlaff | Stars: Bobby Driscoll, Barbara Hale, Arthur Kennedy, Paul Stewart

Votes: 3,193

thrilling, even scary; parental guidance is needed.

40. Youth of Athens (1949)

72 min | Drama, War