Whether you’re in high school or about to graduate from college, watching a fictional movie about high school can be a great way to escape the stress of everyday life. We all have our favorite classic high school films that remind us of the great times we had — or are still having — with our friends during our teenage years. These movies will remind you of all of the great things high school has to offer.
1. Mean Girls (2004)
This is probably the most classic high school film of our generation. With Lorne Michaels as a producer and a Tina Fey-penned screenplay, you know it has to be funny. But this movie is more than just cheap laughs: It has a heartfelt message and shows that being unkind is never a good idea, a lesson particularly relevant to high school-aged women. You can never watch Mean Girls too many times—people really do still quote it in college—so plan a girls’ night in with your friends to watch this classic film.
2. The Breakfast Club (1985)
The ‘80s were before most of our time, but it was a decade when tons of classic high school movies were produced, and The Breakfast Club might be the best one. A group of strangers from various high school cliques come together for a day of bonding and troublemaking, learning more about each other and having meaningful conversations along the way. Even though they only spend a day together, they dispel the stereotypes they each held about each other and form unexpected bonds.
Whether or not you identify with the characters, you’ll love hearing their stories and seeing how they interact with people who are incredibly different from them. From Molly Ringwald’s popular-girl Claire to troubled criminal John Bender (Judd Nelson), the five high schoolers get to know each other during their time in detention. You’ll meet tons of people in college who you might not have much in common with, so being able to get along with people of various personalities is a useful skill.
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
We recommend reading the book before seeing this film, because the novel’s author, Stephen Chbosky, wrote its screenplay. The movie is set in the ‘90s, but the lessons protagonist Charlie learns are timeless.
After his friend Michael’s suicide, Charlie has trouble fitting in until he meets dynamic duo Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson). They guide Charlie through first romances, the high school social scene, and self-discovery. If you’re going through a struggle of your own, or if you just want to hear a great ‘90s soundtrack, you’ll love this film.
4. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
You’ve probably heard someone recite this quote when a room is filled with silence, but if you don’t know its origin, it’s time to brush up on ‘80s movies and watch Matthew Broderick at his finest. Though your high school experience likely didn’t include the antics Bueller and his friends got into, you’ll love seeing him go out of his way to cheer up his friends, even if that entails missing a few days of class.
5. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
The sitcom adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew was great, too, but we’re partial to the ‘90s film. Heath Ledger showed his sweet side, and a pre-Inception Joseph Gordon-Levitt was an adorable nerd.
Whether it’s the endearing friendship between Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) and Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), or Kat (Julia Stiles) learning to get along with her sister and father, the relationships develop over the course of the film in a way that makes us sympathize with each of the characters in their own way. Most of us can relate to their struggles, whether it’s fighting with your parents or disagreeing with your siblings. Seeing these characters interact will help remind you that what you’re going through is totally normal and that you can always mend broken relationships by showing you care.
6. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a coming-of-age story about high school students over the course of a school year. Brad Hamilton’s (Judge Reinhold) life goes into a dangerous downward spiral after his girlfriend, Lisa (Amanda Wyss), dumps him. The film also follows several other characters through dramatic issues, including a visit to an abortion clinic.
Hopefully, your high school experience was much more tame—and safe—than the Ridgemont High students’ experiences were!
7. Clueless (1995)
Alicia Silverstone stars as Cher, the lovable high school student who just can’t seem to get her life together. She and friends Dionne (Stacey Dash) and Tai (Brittany Murphy) navigate relationships, academics and the high school scene—often unsuccessfully—though they learn valuable lessons along the way. And let’s not forget Paul Rudd as Josh, Cher’s adorable love interest.
Clueless is also a favorite movie among fashion lovers. Hey, it’s okay if the film was the first place you heard of Azzedine Alaia. Cher’s signature plaid skirt and knee socks continue to inspire fashionistas today: Wildfox Couture recently produced a Clueless-inspired lookbook for their Spring 2013 collection. If you want to watch a “chick flick” with your friends or just relive the glory of the ‘90s, Clueless is on Netflix Instant, so there’s no excuse not to re-watch it.
8. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Vote for Pedro! Napoleon Dynamite isn’t the deepest movie, but it’s quickly become a cult classic among collegiettes of our generation. The simple comedy of watching Napoleon (Jon Heder) struggle through a day of high school without Chapstick or fighting with his nerdy brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) can be the perfect way to de-stress and zone out after a midterm or finishing a long paper. If you want a mindless comedy about day to day high school life, Napoleon Dynamite is a safe bet.
9. Grease (1978)
Even past its thirtieth anniversary, Grease continues to be a favorite among viewers of all ages. The sweet romance of Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta) is timeless, even if her poodle skirts aren’t. The film is more than just romance, though.
In Grease, we see the very real struggles that many students face, including the heartache of long-distance relationships, realizing you might have a different life goal than you originally intended and even the scare of teen pregnancy. These are issues that girls still deal with today, and Grease will help you remember that you’re not the only one going through something tough. Your friends will be there for you if you reach out to them.
10. Rushmore (1998)
This Wes Anderson classic follows the life of Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), a student at Rushmore High who’s not exactly at the top of his class. Fischer over-applies himself in extracurricular activities, particularly in his production of plays. Fischer is a genius and an overachiever but doesn’t apply himself in his classes, and he eventually has to face the consequences.
Rushmore is complex and has a lot going on, not to mention the fact that it’s beautifully produced and has an amazing soundtrack. If you’re a Wes Anderson fan or want to become one, Rushmore is a great place to start.
Do you have a favorite movie about high school? Let us know in the comments section.