High school movies are a popular genre that explores the joys and challenges of teenage life. These films often tackle themes such as friendship, love, self-discovery, and coming-of-age, providing relatable and entertaining stories for both teenagers and adults alike.
High school movies can range from lighthearted comedies to intense dramas, and they often feature a cast of young actors who go on to become major stars. They are a reflection of the experiences and concerns of young people, and they have become a staple of popular culture.
Whether you are looking for a feel-good comedy, a heartwarming romance, or a thought-provoking drama, there is a high school movie out there for everyone.
Best High School Movies
In this guide, we’ll explore some of the best high school movies of all time, each offering a unique perspective on the teenage experience.
1. The Breakfast Club (1985)
“The Breakfast Club” is a 1985 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film directed by John Hughes. The film follows five high school students from different social groups who are forced to spend a Saturday together in detention.
The students include a popular girl (Molly Ringwald), a jock (Emilio Estevez), a rebel (Judd Nelson), a nerd (Anthony Michael Hall), and a weirdo (Ally Sheedy).
As the day goes on, the students initially clash and try to maintain their social personas. However, as they begin to open up to each other and share their personal stories, they start to see beyond their stereotypes and connect on a deeper level.
The film explores themes of identity, stereotypes, and the struggles of adolescence.
“The Breakfast Club” has become a cult classic and is widely regarded as one of the greatest teen films ever made. It has been praised for its honest portrayal of high school life, its memorable characters, and its iconic soundtrack.
The film has also had a significant impact on popular culture, with many of its quotes and scenes becoming legendary.
2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is a 2012 coming-of-age drama film based on the novel of the same name by Stephen Chbosky, who also directed the film.
It stars Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller as high school students who form a bond over their shared experiences of isolation and struggles with mental health issues.
The film is known for its honest portrayal of adolescence and its themes of friendship, love, and self-discovery. It features standout performances by Lerman, Watson, and Miller, as well as supporting roles by Paul Rudd, Nina Dobrev, and Mae Whitman.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and it has since become a cult classic of the coming-of-age genre.
The film has been praised for its poignant storytelling, empathetic characters, and memorable soundtrack, which features songs from artists such as David Bowie, The Smiths, and Sonic Youth.
3. Mean Girls (2004)
“Mean Girls” is a 2004 teen comedy film directed by Mark Waters and written by Tina Fey. The film stars Lindsay Lohan as Cady Heron, a teenage girl who moves to a new school and becomes involved with a group of popular girls known as “The Plastics”.
One of the key characteristics of “Mean Girls” is its satirical and humorous take on high school cliques and the dynamics of popularity. The film uses sharp and witty dialogue to skewer the social hierarchies and toxic behaviors that often exist in teenage social circles.
Another characteristic of the film is its memorable characters, particularly the members of “The Plastics”, who are portrayed with exaggerated personalities and quirks.
The film’s quotable one-liners and humorous scenes have become iconic and have helped to cement the film’s place as a beloved classic.
In addition, the film also touches on themes of friendship, loyalty, and self-acceptance, as Cady learns to navigate the complicated social landscape of her new school and ultimately learns the value of being true to herself.
Overall, “Mean Girls” is a smart, funny, and entertaining film that has resonated with audiences for years. Its humorous take on high school politics, memorable characters, and themes of self-discovery and acceptance make it a timeless classic in the teen comedy genre.
4. American Pie (1999)
“American Pie” is a coming-of-age comedy film released in 1999, directed by Paul Weitz and starring Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, and Tara Reid. The movie follows a group of high school friends who make a pact to lose their virginity before graduation.
The film is known for its raunchy humor and frank depiction of teenage sexuality, which helped to establish it as a cult classic of the late 1990s.
It features a mix of slapstick comedy, gross-out gags, and witty banter, and explores themes of friendship, love, and identity.
The cast delivers strong performances, with Jason Biggs in particular earning praise for his portrayal of the awkward and endearing protagonist, Jim Levenstein.
“American Pie” spawned a successful franchise of sequels and spin-offs, and helped to launch the careers of several of its young stars. The film’s mix of humor, heart, and youthful energy continues to resonate with audiences today, making it a beloved classic of the teen comedy genre.
5. The Last Picture Show (1971)
“The Last Picture Show” is a 1971 American drama film directed by Peter Bogdanovich. The movie is set in a small town in Texas in the early 1950s and explores the lives of several characters who are struggling to find their place in the world.
It is a coming-of-age story that deals with themes of loneliness, alienation, and sexual awakening.
The film received critical acclaim upon its release and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning two for Best Supporting Actor (Ben Johnson) and Best Supporting Actress (Cloris Leachman).
It is considered to be one of the greatest American films ever made, and its realistic portrayal of small-town life and its complex characters have made it a classic of American cinema.
6. Election (1999)
“Election” is a 1999 satirical comedy-drama film directed by Alexander Payne and starring Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, and Chris Klein.
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Tom Perrotta and follows a high school teacher named Jim McAllister (Broderick) who becomes embroiled in a bitter student council election against an ambitious and manipulative student named Tracy Flick (Witherspoon).
The film is known for its biting satire and sharp wit, as well as its strong performances and complex characters. It explores themes of power, ambition, and morality, and features a unique narrative structure that allows the audience to see events from multiple perspectives.
“Election” was a critical success upon release and has since become regarded as a classic of the teen movie genre. It has been praised for its incisive social commentary, dark humor, and insightful portrayal of the American high school experience.
7. Heathers (1988)
“Heathers” is a 1988 black comedy film directed by Michael Lehmann and starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater.
The film follows Veronica Sawyer (Ryder), a high school student who becomes disillusioned with her popular clique, the Heathers, and falls for a new boy in school, J.D. (Slater), who has a dark side.
The film tackles themes of bullying, teenage suicide, and social hierarchy, and it is known for its dark humor and biting commentary on high school culture. “Heathers” has gained a cult following over the years and is often cited as one of the best high school movies of all time.
The film’s sharp writing, memorable characters, and iconic dialogue have made it a classic of the genre. It has also inspired numerous adaptations, including a TV series of the same name that aired in 2018.
8. Dazed and Confused (1993)
“Dazed and Confused” is a 1993 coming-of-age comedy film directed by Richard Linklater. The film is set in 1976 and follows a group of high school students on their last day of school before summer break.
The film features an ensemble cast of young actors, including Jason London, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, and Matthew McConaughey, among others.
The plot centers on the seniors’ tradition of hazing incoming freshmen, but the film also explores the larger themes of teenage rebellion, social hierarchies, and the search for identity.
“Dazed and Confused” has been praised for its realistic depiction of teenage life, its iconic soundtrack, and its use of humor to address serious issues.
The film has become a cult classic and has had a significant influence on popular culture, with its catchphrases and fashion trends continuing to be referenced today.
9. American Graffiti (1973)
“American Graffiti” is a 1973 coming-of-age comedy-drama film directed by George Lucas and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, and Mackenzie Phillips.
The film is set in the early 1960s and follows a group of high school graduates as they spend one last night cruising the streets of Modesto, California, before heading off to college.
The film is known for its nostalgia-inducing soundtrack, featuring iconic songs from the era, as well as its ensemble cast and sympathetic portrayal of teenagers trying to navigate the transition to adulthood.
“American Graffiti” was a commercial and critical success upon its release, and it has since become a classic of the coming-of-age genre.
The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won the award for Best Original Screenplay.
“American Graffiti” helped to launch the careers of many of its young stars and established George Lucas as a director to watch in Hollywood. The film’s impact on popular culture has been significant, with its influence being felt in subsequent coming-of-age films and television shows.
10. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
“10 Things I Hate About You” is a 1999 romantic comedy film directed by Gil Junger and written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith. The film is loosely based on William Shakespeare’s play “The Taming of the Shrew” and stars Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger in the lead roles.
One of the key characteristics of “10 Things I Hate About You” is its use of witty dialogue and clever wordplay, which adds humor and charm to the film’s romantic storyline.
The film also features a strong ensemble cast, with memorable performances from Stiles, Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and others.
Another characteristic of the film is its focus on the themes of identity and authenticity. The main characters struggle to navigate their high school social circles while remaining true to themselves, and the film explores the challenges and rewards of being honest and vulnerable.
Additionally, the film’s setting and soundtrack, which features music from the late 90s alternative and pop-punk scene, add to the film’s charm and nostalgia.
Overall, “10 Things I Hate About You” is a well-crafted and entertaining romantic comedy that has become a cult classic over the years. Its clever dialogue, memorable characters, and themes of authenticity and self-discovery continue to resonate with audiences today.
11. Scream (1996)
“Scream” is a 1996 horror film directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson. The movie follows a group of high school students in the town of Woodsboro who are targeted by a masked killer known as Ghostface.
The killer begins by taunting and harassing his victims with phone calls before moving on to violent attacks.
The film is known for its self-referential and meta approach to the horror genre, as the characters are aware of and reference horror movie tropes throughout the film. This has led to the movie being credited with revitalizing the slasher genre in the 1990s.
The film features a talented cast including Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette. “Scream” was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $173 million worldwide and spawning several sequels and a television series.
12. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” is a 1982 coming-of-age comedy film directed by Amy Heckerling and written by Cameron Crowe, based on his own book of the same name.
The film is set in a California high school and follows a group of teenagers as they navigate the trials and tribulations of adolescence, including relationships, sex, drugs, and social pressures.
The film features a talented ensemble cast, including Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, and Forest Whitaker.
It is known for its humor, frank depiction of teenage life, and memorable soundtrack, which includes songs by The Go-Go’s, Jackson Browne, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” has become a classic of the teen movie genre, and is often cited as one of the best and most influential films of its kind.
It has been praised for its realistic portrayal of teenage life, its witty and insightful script, and its iconic characters, many of whom have become cultural touchstones.
13. Ghost World (2001)
“Ghost World” is a 2001 comedy-drama film directed by Terry Zwigoff and starring Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson. The film follows the lives of two teenage friends, Enid and Rebecca, as they navigate their way through high school and into early adulthood.
The film explores themes of disillusionment, alienation, and the struggle to find one’s identity in a world that seems increasingly artificial and shallow.
Enid and Rebecca’s journey is a relatable one for many teenagers who feel like outsiders in their own communities, and the film’s humor and pathos have made it a cult classic among fans of the coming-of-age genre.
“Ghost World” is also notable for its strong performances, particularly by Birch and Steve Buscemi, who plays Seymour, a lonely collector and record store owner who becomes a friend to Enid.
The film’s soundtrack, which features a mix of classic blues and vintage rock, adds to its nostalgic and melancholic tone.
14. Clueless (1995)
“Clueless” is a 1995 comedy film written and directed by Amy Heckerling. The film is a modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel “Emma” and is set in Beverly Hills, California.
The film stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz, a popular and wealthy high school student who takes it upon herself to give a makeover to a new student, Tai (Brittany Murphy).
As the story unfolds, Cher realizes that she has been clueless about the real problems of the people around her, including her ex-stepbrother Josh (Paul Rudd) who she initially despised but ends up falling in love with.
“Clueless” is known for its humorous take on high school life, its memorable fashion choices, and its use of witty dialogue.
The film was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $56 million worldwide, and has since become a cult classic. The film also spawned a television series and several spin-off books.
15. Say Anything (1989)
“Say Anything” is a 1989 romantic comedy-drama film directed by Cameron Crowe and starring John Cusack and Ione Skye.
The film follows the story of Lloyd Dobler (Cusack), an underachieving high school graduate, who falls in love with Diane Court (Skye), the valedictorian of their graduating class.
The film is known for its iconic scene of Lloyd holding a boombox playing Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” outside Diane’s window, as well as its honest portrayal of young love and the challenges of growing up.
“Say Anything” has been praised for its smart writing, strong performances, and memorable soundtrack, which features songs from artists such as The Replacements and Joe Satriani.
The film was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and it has since become a classic of the romantic comedy genre.
“Say Anything” has been cited as an influence on subsequent coming-of-age films and television shows, and its impact on popular culture can still be seen today.
16. Easy A (2010)
“Easy A” is a 2010 teen comedy film directed by Will Gluck and starring Emma Stone in the lead role.
The film is loosely based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel “The Scarlet Letter” and follows a high school student named Olive Penderghast, who becomes the subject of rumors and gossip after she pretends to have sex with a friend to help him save face.
One of the key characteristics of “Easy A” is its sharp wit and clever humor. The film’s script is full of clever references and pop culture nods, and Emma Stone’s performance as Olive is both charming and hilarious.
Another characteristic of the film is its exploration of modern-day high school culture and the impact of social media and technology on teenage relationships.
The film examines the pressure to conform to social norms and the consequences of standing out or breaking the rules.
Finally, “Easy A” is also notable for its diverse and talented ensemble cast, which includes actors like Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, and Thomas Haden Church, all of whom deliver memorable performances.
Overall, “Easy A” is a smart and funny teen comedy that offers a fresh take on the high school movie genre. Its sharp writing, strong performances, and exploration of modern-day teenage culture make it a must-see for fans of the genre.
17. Carrie (1976)
“Carrie” is a horror film released in 1976, directed by Brian De Palma and based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King.
The movie follows a high school student named Carrie White, who is bullied and ostracized by her classmates due to her shy and awkward demeanor. However, Carrie possesses telekinetic powers that she gradually learns to control and use against those who have mistreated her.
The film is known for its intense performances, particularly Sissy Spacek’s portrayal of the titular character. The movie explores themes of teenage angst, bullying, and the abuse of power, and features iconic scenes of horror and suspense.
The film’s use of split-screen and slow-motion cinematography has been praised for its innovative and artful approach to storytelling.
“Carrie” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and has since become a cult classic of the horror genre. It has been adapted into several sequels, a Broadway musical, and a 2013 film remake.
The movie’s enduring popularity is a testament to its enduring themes and ability to thrill and terrify audiences.
18. Superbad (2007)
“Superbad” is a 2007 coming-of-age comedy film directed by Greg Mottola and produced by Judd Apatow.
The film follows two best friends, Seth and Evan, who are about to graduate from high school and are preparing to attend different colleges. In an effort to make their last days together memorable, they plan to attend a party and try to score alcohol and girls.
The film stars Jonah Hill and Michael Cera as Seth and Evan, respectively, and features a supporting cast that includes Seth Rogen and Bill Hader. “Superbad” was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $170 million worldwide.
The film is known for its raunchy humor and realistic portrayal of teenage life, and has since become a cult classic. It is also notable for launching the careers of several of its cast and crew, including Jonah Hill and director Greg Mottola.
19. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
“Napoleon Dynamite” is a 2004 comedy film directed by Jared Hess and written by Hess and his wife Jerusha.
The film follows the quirky and socially awkward Napoleon Dynamite, a high school student in rural Idaho, as he navigates his way through the challenges of adolescence and tries to find his place in the world.
The film features a cast of largely unknown actors, including Jon Heder in the titular role, as well as Efren Ramirez, Tina Majorino, and Jon Gries. It is known for its deadpan humor, offbeat characters, and unconventional style.
“Naoleon Dynamite” was a surprise hit upon its release, and has since become a cult classic. It has been praised for its originality, its quirky characters, and its warm and affectionate portrayal of small-town life.
It has also spawned a number of catchphrases and cultural references, such as “Vote for Pedro” and “Gosh!”
20. She’s the Man (2006)
“She’s the Man” is a 2006 romantic comedy film directed by Andy Fickman and starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum.
The film is a modern retelling of William Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night” and follows Viola Hastings (Bynes), a teenage girl who impersonates her twin brother Sebastian at a new high school in order to play on the boys’ soccer team.
The film explores themes of gender identity, self-discovery, and the pressure to conform to societal expectations. Viola’s journey to assert herself in a male-dominated environment resonates with many young people who struggle to find their place in the world.
“She’s the Man” is known for its witty writing, slapstick humor, and strong performances by its lead actors. Bynes and Tatum’s chemistry on screen has made them a beloved on-screen couple, and the film’s feel-good message has made it a popular choice for teen audiences.
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21. Never Been Kissed (1999)
“Never Been Kissed” is a 1999 romantic comedy film directed by Raja Gosnell and starring Drew Barrymore.
The film follows the story of Josie Geller, a 25-year-old copy editor for the Chicago Sun-Times who is assigned to go undercover as a high school student to research a story.
Josie struggles to fit in with the other students and relive her own high school experiences, including her disastrous first kiss. However, she finds herself falling for her English teacher, Mr. Coulson (Michael Vartan), and is torn between her assignment and her newfound feelings.
The film received mixed reviews from critics, but was a box office success, grossing over $84 million worldwide. It has since become a cult classic among fans of romantic comedies.
The film also features notable supporting performances from David Arquette, Molly Shannon, and John C. Reilly.
3 Characteristics of High School Movies
Focus on Adolescent Experiences: High school movies often focus on the experiences and struggles of adolescents as they navigate the challenges of growing up, exploring issues such as identity, relationships, and social hierarchies.
These movies often portray high school as a microcosm of the larger world, where teenagers learn important life lessons that help shape their future.
Stereotypical Characters: High school movies often feature stereotypical characters that audiences can easily relate to or identify with, such as the jock, the nerd, the popular girl, the outcast, and the rebel.
These characters are often used to highlight the different cliques and social groups that exist in high school, and to explore the tensions and conflicts that arise between them.
Iconic Moments: High school movies are known for their iconic moments, such as proms, homecoming games, and graduation ceremonies.
These moments are often used as a backdrop to the story, and are used to highlight the emotional highs and lows that teenagers experience as they transition from adolescence to adulthood.
These moments also serve as a way to create a sense of nostalgia and sentimentality, as viewers are reminded of their own high school experiences.
3 Reasons To Watch High School Movies
Here are three reasons why you should watch high school movies:
Nostalgia: High school is a unique and formative time in many people’s lives, and watching movies set in that world can evoke feelings of nostalgia and bring back memories of your own high school experiences.
It can be a way to relive those moments and connect with your own past.
Escapism: High school movies often depict a world of youthful innocence, carefree attitudes, and endless possibilities. Watching these films can be a way to escape from the stresses of adult life and take a trip back to a simpler time.
Universal Themes: Despite being set in a specific time and place, high school movies often explore universal themes such as friendship, love, identity, and personal growth.
Watching these films can be a way to reflect on your own life and experiences, and gain new insights and perspectives on the challenges and joys of growing up.
Best High School Movies – Wrap Up
In conclusion, high school movies have always been a beloved subgenre of film that captures the essence of teenage life, the struggles, the drama, and the joy of growing up.
From the classic coming-of-age stories like “The Breakfast Club” and “Dead Poets Society” to the modern-day favorites like “Mean Girls” and “Easy A,” these movies have entertained and inspired generations of viewers.
Whether you’re looking for a relatable story, a heartwarming romance, or a hilarious comedy, high school movies have something for everyone. They offer a nostalgic look back at a pivotal time in our lives and allow us to revisit our own memories and experiences.
So, if you’re in the mood for a trip down memory lane, or if you’re just looking for a fun and entertaining movie to watch, be sure to check out some of these classic and modern high school movies.
You’re sure to find something that will bring a smile to your face and make you feel like a teenager again.