The 25 Best High School Movies of All Time
High school: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It doesn’t matter if you were head cheerleader or the reigning chess champion, a little teenage nostalgia never hurts from time to time. So, whether you’re “old enough…to party” like McLovin’ from Superbad or “a virgin who can’t drive” like Tai in Clueless, you’ll want to relive your glory (or nightmarish) days with these 25 iconic high school movies. They’ll be much better now that you finally got your braces off.
After years of being over achievers, with nothing but good grades and zero high school party memories to show for it, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are determined to have the night of their lives ahead of graduation. Ultimately, high jinks ensue that their booksmarts can’t save them from. It may be a newcomer to the high school movie hall of fame, but this Olivia Wilde-directed film definitely makes the grade in our book.
2. ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’
Calling all Spicolis and Stacys! Fast Times at Ridgemont High has been the pinnacle of high school sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll since it hit theaters in 1983. Just a warning: You might not want to watch this with your actual high schooler, lest they get any ideas.
One night, one bottle of Goldschlager and one opportunity to land the girls of their dreams: Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) might not have what it takes to be the life of the party in the everyday high school landscape, but when they offer to supply alcohol for a classic kegger, their wildest dreams (and biggest nightmares) start coming true. Oh, did we mention Fogell/McLovin’ (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is just the greatest?
4. ‘The Princess Diaries’
Sure, maybe Mandy Moore wasn’t the mean girl of your school and you didn’t find out you were the Princess of Genovia in high school. But we can all relate to this coming-of-age comedy starring young Anne Hathaway as Mia thanks to the unruly hair, teen angst, awkward romances and friends who stick around through it all.
5. ‘Breakfast Club’
What happens when you put five drastically different high school students together for one Saturday school detention? They realize they’re all a lot more alike than they previously thought. Consider this required watching.
6. ‘10 Things I Hate About You’
Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) is the most popular girl in school, and she’s dying to go out on a date, but house rules say she can’t until her older sister, Katarina (Julia Stiles), does. The problem? Most of Katarina’s peers think she’s weird. So Bianca does what any little sister would do and tries to get the school bad boy, Patrick (Heath Ledger), to woo Kat. What could go wrong?
7. ‘Mean Girls’
You might be a cool mom (not a regular mom) now, but this teen comedy written by Tina Fey will make you feel all the cringey high school feels and remind you that, yes, butter is a carb, in their universe, at least.
8. ‘Dazed and Confused’
Nope, this isn’t about how you feel after waking up from a nap. This 1993 comedy stars Matthew McConaughey as Wooderson, who, with his high school pals (aka a ton of other familiar faces), parties it up on the last day of school. Alright, alright, alright.
9. ‘Pretty in Pink’
Andie (Molly Ringwald) is a girl from a poor family stuck between a handsome, rich, sensitive guy named Blane (Andrew McCarthy) and the boy next door, Duckie (Jon Cryer), who’s been pining over her for years. Who will she choose? You better watch and find out.
Once upon a time in Beverly Hills, cell phones were a novelty, skater bros were totally “as if” and Cher (Alicia Silverstone) was just a benevolent rich girl trying to help boost the new girl’s popularity. If only that revolving closet were real…
11. ‘Napoleon Dynamite’
This cult classic shows how one very, very strange high schooler with an affinity for Ligers and tater tots named Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) goes up against the popular kids to win the class presidency. Spoiler alert: He has some pretty sweet moves.
12. ‘Bring It On’
As much as we wish high school was a “cheer-ocracy,” it’s definitely more of a “cheer-tatorship” in Bring It On. When the Toros find out former head cheerleader Big Red (Lindsay Sloane) stole all of their cheers from the Clovers, it gets a little cold in the atmosphere of Rancho Carne High School (sorry, had to).
13. ‘She’s All That’
With prom on the horizon, a high school jock named Zack (Freddie Prinze Jr.) makes a bet with his friends that he can turn unpopular Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook) into prom queen just by dating her. The catch? He develops feelings just as she learns why he started dating her in the first place. Your loss, Zack.
14. ‘Sixteen Candles’
Samantha’s (Molly Ringwald) sweet 16 is supposed to be everything she’s ever dreamed of, but it turns out to be her worst nightmare when every conceivable thing goes wrong. Ugh, we’re having flashbacks to our own 16th birthday.
15. ‘Easy A’
A riff on The Scarlet Letter, Easy A stars Emma Stone as an entrepreneurial high school student who uses the rumor mill to help her friend and make some money in the process. But things inevitably get way out of hand, as they do when teenagers and hormones are involved.
16. ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’
Life’s no fun when you’re always playing by the rules—at least that’s Ferris Bueller’s (Matthew Broderick) motto. So, he grabs his best friend, Cameron (Alan Ruck), and his girlfriend, Sloane (Mia Sara), and takes them on the ditch day adventure of a lifetime. If only we could say no Ferraris were hurt in the making of the movie.
Summer lovin’, a good girl who falls for a bad boy and an aspiring hairdresser who drops out of beauty school? Grease may be set at ’50s-era Rydell High, but this story of trying to fit in and nurture young love still rings true—plus it stars a hunky John Travolta as Danny and gorg Olivia Newton John as Sandy. Did we mention they sing?
18. ‘Never Been Kissed’
Remember stressing about getting your first kiss? Where would it happen? Who would it be with? Would you be decent at it? Drew Barrymore plays a journalist who—wait for it—has never been kissed and is sent back to high school to carry out an investigative report. Spoiler alert: She finally lands a smooch and it’s pretty romantic.
19. ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’
Based on the novel of the same name by Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is off the beaten path as far as classic high school movies go. Instead of centering on partying and popularity, it tells the story of a young man (Logan Lerman) who struggles to fit in until he finds his people in two seniors.
Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) loves extracurriculars (French club! Fencing team! Kung Fu club!), but when he’s put on academic probation he decides to pivot his interests to a teacher named Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams). The only problem? There are already a couple of other guys in her age range that have beaten him to the punch. Rushmore is classic Wes Anderson with a little high school twist.
Before there was Big Little Lies’ Madeline Martha Mackenzie, there was Tracy Fleck and her stop-at-nothing-to-win attitude. When a high school teacher complicates her election for school president with “rules,” she makes it her personal mission make his life a living hell, all while wearing a big smile.
22. ‘Lady Bird’
On the cusp of graduation, Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) decides she hates her mom and Sacramento. She wants to hang out with the popular kids and go to NYU. But there’s no money for college and, honestly, being Lady Bird isn’t all she expected it to be. This one will make you cry, call your mom and recall your teenage self. In short, it’s hella good.
23. ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’
Lara Jean (Lana Condor) has written a letter to every boy she’s had a crush on in her short life. But when her younger sister, Kitty (Anna Cathcart), decides she needs to get out of the house a little more, she leaks the letters and Lara Jean finds her love life in shambles…until an unexpected perk named Peter (Noah Centineo) comes out of it.
24. ‘The Heathers’
In an effort to get out of her uppity high school click, which is seriously messing with her reputation as a good-girl, Veronica comes up with a diabolical scheme to kill the cool kids. Winona Ryder (Veronica) and Christian Slater (J.D.) star is this dark ’80s comedy.
When a loner named Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) finally reaches her breaking point after being terrorized by the popular kids, she uses her telekinetic powers to wreak havoc and make her classmates feel as bad as she does. Sure, it’s not the most upbeat teen movie there is, but it’s a definite classic.
What are you waiting for? Better start watching.