20 Movies High Schoolers Must Watch Before Graduation

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February 5, 2021
20 Movies High Schoolers Must Watch Before Graduation

There are many movies that try to show the teen experience and what it’s like to be in high school, but a lot of them just don’t hit the mark. There are a number of potential reasons for this; the movie could be too cheesy, have bad acting, or just doesn’t resonate with the new generation of kids. Yet amongst these, there are many movies that do show what it feels like to be a high schooler, movies that no matter their age show the confusion, anxiety, joy, and truly capture what being in high school is like. Of course, everyone has different difficulties all throughout their lives and every movie might not be a perfect representation of your experience, but the following twenty movies capture what it’s like being a teenager in a public school.


1. The Breakfast Club

This is a movie about a group of kids from different social cliques who all end up together in detention for various reasons. They slowly bond with each other and become friends. They talk about the struggles they go through and how these affect how they feel. A lot of people claim that they think this movie’s issues are as relevant today as they were back in 1985. 1985, Rated R

2. Mean Girls

A movie about how popularity can control what you do. This movie is very funny and even though the slang in it is very early 2000’s the story still holds up and has some genuinely good advice. 2004, Rated PG-13

3. Perks of Being A Wallflower

A very deep movie that goes into how it feels to be alone in your freshman year, the process of forging new friendships all the while trying new things. This movie also goes into mental health and sexual assault. While it is a serious movie it is still a very good movie that feels very realistic and has some funny moments. 2012, Rated PG-13

4. Rebel Without a Cause

This movie might be old but it still is very prevalent, with a main character who is very emotionally confused and rebellious. It also has a character played by a gay actor and the movie has some underlying lgbtq themes. The movie criticizes certain parenting styles and is meant to show the generational gap between parent and child. 1955, PG-13

5. Booksmart

A film about two best friends who have spent all their time in high school studying trying to get into good colleges, but now it’s the last few days of school and they didn’t get to do anything fun. After realizing that all of the people who did go out partying and had fun also got into good schools they decide they have to go to a party. It touches on the topic of friendship and what it means to be a good friend. It also has a good gay main character. But it’s plot is very similar to that of Superbad. 2019, Rated R

6. Juno

A love story about a girl who gets pregnant her sophomore year. The whole plot is her dealing with her being pregnant while being in love and trying to give the baby up for adoption. It touches on topics of teenage pregnancy and the drama of teen romances. It’s a very sweet movie and has a spectacular cast. 2007, Rated PG-13

7. Napoleon Dynamite

An odd movie about a weird and eccentric guy who lives his life in high school. Is there any underlying message? -I don’t know but it’s great movie and encompasses the awkward feeling of being a teenager. 2004, Rated PG

8. Dazed and Confused

A day in the life movie of teens in the late 70’s on the first days of school, dealing with drugs, sex, hazing, and making friends. A very odd movie with very little plot than what I just explained. It still however gives off the perfect average american high school vibe. It’s hilarious and is so fun to watch. There isn’t much of a message other than, have fun with your life especially when you’re young and dumb. 1993, Rated R

9. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

An absolute classic about three friends ditching school and going out on the town. On the surface, it doesn’t have anything deeper but it does. It touches on living your life to the fullest and to not to live for others just for you. To quote Ferris “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” 1986, Rated PG-13

10. Easy A

A movie about a girl who lies about having sex to her best friend and the rumor spreads like wild fire. She then starts to pretend to have sex with people if they pay her. This movie’s basic lesson is that gossip spreads and that what two consenting people do behind closed doors is no one else’s business. This movie makes reference to a lot of 80’s teen movies as well as the book “The Scarlet Letter ”. 2010, Rated PG-13

11. Pretty in Pink

This is our third movie that John Hughes helped with so you know it’s going to be good. It’s about a love triangle and a poor girl who wants to go to prom. It’s just a very sweet movie and is oozing with 80’s charm. It also touches on the struggle to fit in when you are poor and the emotions of how to go about when you know the person you like doesn’t have the same feelings for you. 1986, Rated PG-13

12. Love, Simon

A coming out story about a boy who is gay, it touches on the topic of homophobia in school and has fun character that are very easy to root for. 2018, Rated PG-13

13. Grease

A fun musical journey through 1950’s high school and teen love. It’s very silly and high energy. There isn’t much of a message but it still has a lot of spunk and high school feeling to it. 1978, Rated PG

    14. Footloose

In a small town dancing is outlawed, but through the help of a new kid, they fight to dance and fight against high school struggles. This touches on trying to stifle the creative outlets of kids. 1984, Rated PG

15. 10 Things I Hate About You

A guy is paid to go out with a girl so someone else can date her sister. Based on the taming of the shrew, it talks about feminism and what love can grow into if given a chance. Instead of alienating the weird characters or popular characters they make everyone a well rounded and deep person. 1999, Rated PG-13

16. American Graffiti

A group of high school graduates have fun on the night after graduation. Riding around and enjoying their youth. It touches on how to have fun with the little time you have and how the feeling of uncertainty post high school. It is an older movie but still touches on a lot of topics that seniors will relate to. 1973, Rated PG

17. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Funny, silly, and wacky are the best way to describe this film. Slackers have to travel in time and talk to historical figures to get an A on a project and if they don’t get an A they will fail the class and one of them will have to go to military school. Talks about friendship and the bonds you can make with your best friend, but is also surprisingly insightful for a stupid 80’s comedy. 1989, Rated PG

18. Back to the Future

Another time travel movie, where a high schooler from the year 1985 travels back to the year of 1955 and tries to make sure he is born after a young version of his mom falls in love with him. Not much of a message or anything deeper than an amazingly classic adventure into 1955. 1995, Rated PG

19. Say Anything

An amazing romantic film with the most iconic boombox seen in any film ever. A high school valedictorian, Diane Court falls in love with the notorious underachiever, Lloyed Dobler. It dives deep into their pure love and what that means to them. How love can make you feel and how it feels especially when you are this age. Funny, extremely cute, romantic as hell, and a great coming of age film. 1989, Rated PG-13

20. Superbad

And lastly Superbad, in the same vein as Booksmart. A great teen raunchy comedy about a group of “losers” who want to go to a party but instead their night turns into utter chaos. It dives into the feelings of friendship and the feelings of growing as friends even when times are tough. 2007, Rated R

I took a survey of 57 students asking if they had seen any of these movies. 38 Juniors, 15 Seniors, 2 Sophomores, and 2 that didn’t give a grade.  These were the results