The 8 Most Iconic Back to School Movie Moments of the Last 20 Years

Back to School season is upon us, a  time of year that is both wonderful, (fresh starts! Seeing your friends!) and horrible, (stress! Studying!). No matter how you’re feeling, you can get yourself ready for the new term by remembering some of the most iconic back to school moments our generation has had the pleasure of witnessing on screen. Without further ado, here are the most iconic back to school movie moments of the last 20 years:


1. Elle’s conversation with Warner on her first day at Harvard (Legally Blonde, 2001)


The moment: After being dumped by her boyfriend, Warner, for being more of a “Marilyn” than a “Jackie” (ugh), Elle Woods decides to go to Harvard law school to show him that she’s a “serious law student” and win him back. Warner gets the shock of his life when he sees her on their first day of classes.

Why it’s iconic: This moment is a reminder that hard work pays off. Elle may have sacrificed a few parties to study for the LSATs, but it’s all worth it when she achieves her goal and arrives at Harvard. This is also the moment that Warner realizes that Elle is much smarter and more capable than he thought (Fortunately, Elle herself later realizes that she’s too good for Warner anyway).

Notable line: “What? Like it’s hard?”-Elle


2. When Harry and Ron arrive at school in a flying car (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 2002)


The moment: After missing the train to Hogwarts, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley borrow Mr. Weasley’s flying car to get to school. They end up crash landing in the Whomping Willow (a tree that beats them up, FYI) and getting in trouble from Professor Snape.

Why it’s iconic: Harry and Ron win the award for Most Dramatic Entrance on the First Day of School Ever. Don’t even bother trying to outdo them. Also, keep in mind that they were only 12, so the fact that they were even driving is equal parts horrifying and impressive.

Notable line: “Honestly, Professor Snape, I think it did more damage to us.”-Ron


3. When Cady meets The Plastics (Mean Girls, 2004)


The moment: After being homeschooled all her life, Cady Heron attends regular public school for the first time. On her first day, she meets a group of mean girls called The Plastics, who invite her to join their group, under a few conditions…

Why it’s iconic: This scene is the very beginning of all the drama that follows as Cady secretly tries to sabotage Regina and ends up becoming just like her. The scene also gave us some of the most popular movie quotes of our generation (see below).

Notable lines: “On Wednesdays, we wear pink.”-Karen

“If you’re from Africa, why are you white?”-Karen


4. When Viola kicks the winning goal in the first soccer game of the school year (She’s the Man, 2006)


The moment: Viola’s school soccer coach won’t let her try out for the boys’ team because he doesn’t think girls are as fast, strong, or athletic as boys. So she starts her school year pretending to be her brother at a rival school, so she can join their soccer team, play a game against her own school’s team, and prove that she’s good enough. Naturally, she ends up scoring the goal that wins the game and proving that she’s just as good as the boys (or better).

Why it’s iconic: This was a major girl power moment for our generation. Viola’s win was truly a win for all girls who have ever been told they’re not good enough just because of their gender. And as an added bonus, Channing Tatum was present, and Viola made her terrible ex cry. ICONIC.

Notable lines: “That’s my girl!”-Viola’s mom

“It’s not fair! That was a lucky shot!”-Justin


5. Bartleby’s “Welcome to S.H.I.T.” speech (Accepted, 2006)


The moment: After getting rejected by every college he applied to, Bartleby invents a fake college so he can tell his parents he was accepted somewhere. His friend Schrader helps him out by making a website for the fake school, but the website is a little too legit, and hundreds of students are accidentally accepted to the fake school. When they all show up on move-in day, Bartleby realizes that none of them were accepted at any real schools, so he decides to welcome them all and let them learn instead of turning them away.

Why it’s iconic: First of all, pulling off a deception as big as creating an entire fake college is seriously impressive (even if it’s morally questionable). Additionally, Bartleby is able to inspire an entire room of misfits and college rejects by letting them know that they too can be accepted, and they too can have an opportunity to learn.

Notable lines: “I didn’t get in to a real college. Uh, a really, really good college.”-Bartleby

“Welcome to South Harmon Institute of Technology! Welcome to SHIT!”-Bartleby


6. When Mike goes back to school as a middle-aged man in a teenager’s body (17 Again, 2009)


The moment: In his late thirties, Mike’s life is falling apart… Until he wakes up as his 17-year-old self. He decides to return to his high school as a student again under the name of Mark. His friend Ned pretends to be his dad to enroll him, and then gives Mark a makeover to help him fit in at school.

Why it’s iconic: Ned wins the award for Most Awkward Conversation With Your Fake Child’s Principal Ever. We get to witness Zac Efron with long hair in a bedazzled Ed Hardy shirt and sideways hat. And finally, post-makeover Mark is the ultimate Hot New Kid when he shows up in an Audi wearing a leather jacket and aviators,

Notable lines: “I think our hands just made a baby.”-Ned

“Before we get started, I think you should know that Mark’s a bastard. I had him out of wedlock, so I’m single. And I’m very rich.”-Ned

“Your hair is pretty… Would the lady mind if I smelled it?”-Ned

“Bedazzled with rhinestones!”-Mark


7. Jesse’s air guitar serenade (Pitch Perfect, 2012)


The moment: As Beca moves in on her first day of university, she spots Jesse singing in the back of a car. When he realizes she’s looking at him, he begins to sing to her, and even gives her a lovely air guitar demonstration.

Why it’s iconic: Of all the introductions to a love interest in a romantic comedy, this is one of the most unique. It’s also the moment that we first fall in love with Jesse because he’s just so adorable.

Notable lines: The only lines are the lyrics to the iconic-on-its-own song “Carry on Wayward Son”, by Kansas.


8. When Lara Jean kisses Peter on the school track (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, 2018)


The moment: When Lara Jean’s love letters to all her past crushes are mistakenly sent out at the beginning of the school year, it makes for a very interesting semester. One of the letter recipients, Peter Kavinsky, confronts Lara Jean while she’s running laps in gym class. Lara Jean then sees another letter recipient, her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh, approaching with his letter in hand. Realizing the potential conflict with her sister that could arise, Lara Jean kisses Peter to show Josh that she’s not into him.

Why it’s iconic: This movie was THE teen movie of the summer; fans collectively fell in love with Peter Kavinsky and how cute he was with Lara Jean. This moment was iconic because it led to the fake relationship that fans of the movie loved so much.

Notable lines: “If you need me, I’ll be in the nurse’s office, with a migraine, Googling Justin Trudeau shirtless.”-Chris

“Whoa whoa whoa!”-Peter


Now go take advantage of the extra free time you have (before your midterms and assignments start) to watch some Back to School movies. Good luck, and have a great term!