The 25 Best High School Movies Of All Time
Love it or hate it, we all had our high school experiences – and lived to tell about it. Check out Movie Crunch’s list of the 25 Best High School Movies of All Time. Did we leave any of your favorites off the list?
25. Fame (1980)
Gene Anthony Ray
The School of the Performing Arts, where people break into song and spirited choreographed dance routines! It could happen… but probably doesn’t in real life. Coco, Bruno, Leroy and company have their fair share of real world troubles too though – it’s not all taxi top dance fun.
24. Lucas (1986)
First crushes aren’t easy when you’re a dorky, awkward teenager who gets teased endlessly at school. But you gotta give the kid credit for joining the football team to impress the girl he’s infatuated with. Plus, the nostalgia of a sweet, adorable Corey Haim versus his current washed up status lets us remember Haim in the happy 80s.
23. Carrie (1976)
Oh shit, Carrie is all kinds of creepy, but her whack job mom doesn’t exactly help her fit in at school. And then that disgusting pig blood soaked prom scene. Kids can be so fuckin cruel, but don’t piss off a girl with telekinetic powers. Carrie exacts her revenge in the end. That’ll teach ‘em.
22. Friday Night Lights (2004)
Billy Bob Thornton
Friday Night Lights presents high school football as an obsession for the economically depressed town of Odessa, Texas. With little else going on in this small town, Friday night football is something to look forward to, but hopes of winning the championship is a lot of pressure for these players fighting for an escape from the same dead-end lives their parents endure.
21. Dead Poets Society (1989)
Robert Sean Leonard
Dramatic and truly inspiring, Dead Poets’ English professor John Keating (Robin Williams) teaches his students to seize the day by thinking outside the confines of their prep school. Make sure you have a box of tissues nearby for this high school tale – there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater when I saw it the first go-around.
20. Rushmore (1998)
From the quirky mind of Wes Anderson, we get our first look at Jason Schwartzman as the eccentric over-booked prep school student who finds a father figure and nemesis in Bill Murray – as student and rich dude vie for the affection and attention of elementary school teacher Miss Cross.
19. Donnie Darko (2001)
It’s a cult classic – cue “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” – well, at least as teenager Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) knows, via a big burned bunny. All the sci fi coolness, while hitting the high school themes, Donnie Darko is an original, no doubt about it. We’re still scratching our head about a few things though.
18. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Oh, awkward youth – Napoleon Dynamite has you rooting for this majorly uncool title character with Jon Heder’s brilliant performance. And we never see such energy from the low vibe Napoleon as when he performs his dance routine in front of the entire school. Vote for Pedro!
17. Risky Business (1983)
Rebecca De Mornay
It launched Tom Cruise (for better or for worse) into the stratosphere of super stardom, gave us the memorable air guitar underwear scene – and oh, yeah… one of the hottest sex on a train scenes ever. This is one high school experience that takes Cruise’s straight-laced character, Joel, on a wild ride.
16. Say Anything (1989)
He’s the loveable underachiever – she’s the class valedictorian. The star-crossed lovers in Say Anything are meant to be despite the odds. Check out Lloyd Dobler as he proves his love in that classic boom box scene. Sigh. A million John Cusack fans were born from this movie.
15. Sixteen Candles (1984)
Anthony Michael Hall
Sixteen Candles is when we fell in love with freckly Molly Ringwald – her family forgets her birthday, nerds want to see her panties, and her infatuation with Jake (ultimately) leads to a happy ending. Even nerdy Anthony Michael Hall finds love with the most popular girl in school. So, all’s well that ends well.
14. Hoop Dreams (1994)
The inspiring true story of two kids trying to make it out of the Chicago slums on a basketball dream, this documentary follows both the struggles and the joy, making it a must-watch on our high school film list. Hoop Dreams follows Arthur Agee and William Gates for five years, from high school to college recruitment.
13. Superbad (2007)
Raunchy and ridiculous, Superbad gave us so many things that were oh-so-wrong, yet oh-so-right. The comedy duo of Michael Cera and Jonah Hill combined with a script by Seth Rogan and his buddy struck a chord with audiences with this hilarious high school tale of two buddies. And c’mon… McLovin? It’s all good.
12. Clueless (1995)
Alicia Silverstone is such a Betty in this movie! Plus Clueless put Paul Rudd on the map – so thank the heavens for that. An adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, director Amy Heckerling nailed this funny look at a rich girl who learns there’s more to her than just the superficial, shallow Cher.
11. Boyz n the Hood (1991)
Cuba Gooding Jr.
Boyz n the Hood was a masterpiece for director John Singleton, capturing the gritty realities of high school life for three high school friends on different paths – one an athlete, one with college aspirations and one a drug dealer. Nothing is easy in this tale and Tre, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., learns hard life lessons when his friend is murdered. With guidance from his dad, he escapes the cycle of crime and violence and gets out of the hood.
10. Mean Girls (2004)
Can Tina Fey do no wrong? Mean Girls was a killer script by Fey, featuring Lindsay Lohan before she had a party-girl reputation, and included turns by Rachel McAdams, Lizzy Caplan and Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia) before they were bigger names. Mean Girls confirmed that girls can be so bitchy – and cruel.
9. Grease (1978)
The original High School Musical… well, sorta. Singing and dancing was never so cool as in Grease, what with Sandy, Danny and the gang at 1950s Rydell High. Who doesn’t love the Goody Two Shoes/Bad Boy dynamic in Grease, but please answer this burning question – what the hell with Sandy and Danny flying off in the car at the end? Never got that one.
8. Hoosiers (1986)
Everybody loves a story with heart – small-town Indiana high school basketball underdogs beat the odds and win the state championship in this early-50s tale of redemption. Gene Hackman gives a fantastic performance as a washed up former collegiate coach who has a lot to prove to the town – and himself.
7. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
If you could have gotten away with the shit that Ferris Bueller did when he skipped school, wouldn’t you have done it? Matthew Broderick rocks this John Hughes classic, taking audiences along for one helluva ride – from Ferrari to Abe Froman (The Sausage King of Chicago), to riding atop a parade float. Ditching school has never been more fun.
6. Election (1999)
Forget her Academy Award win for Walk the Line, Reese Witherspoon’s role as uber annoying overachiever Tracy Flick in Election was easily her best work. Ever. Throw in pathetic Matthew Broderick, his contempt for Tracy and his ill fortunes (that’s one mother of a bee sting reaction!), and you’ve got one darkly funny look at the politics of high school.
5. Heathers (1989)
With lines like “Well, fuck me gently with a chainsaw,” Heathers takes high school bitches to a whole new level. Smarmy Christian Slater has never been better and hot fingers Winona Ryder plays bitchy with precision in this dark high school tale. Heathers was a stark contrast to the feel good high school flicks of the 80s, for sure.
4. Dazed and Confused (1993)
This is familiar territory, given that Dazed and Confused topped our Stoner Movies list. Dazed captures the life of seventies high schoolers, as the upcoming seniors ceremoniously haze the incoming freshmen on the last day of school in 1976. Sex, drugs and music of the day comes into play and Matthew McConaughey gives one of the best performances ever with his classic line: “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”
3. American Pie (1999)
Seann William Scott
Thomas Ian Nicholas
When American Pie hit theaters, no one could have guessed how an actual pie would be so affectionately regarded by a horny high schooler. Pie was like the Porky’s of the 90s, with four friends making a pact to lose their virginity by graduation. Plus, American Pie gave us classics like MILF and the ever popular “this one time?… at band camp?”
2. Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Penned by Cameron Crowe and directed by Amy Heckerling, Fast Times introduced us to Sean Penn as ultimate stoner Spicoli and a host of other interesting characters, including Jennifer Jason Leigh and Phoebe Cates (which led to Judge Reinhold’s infamous bathroom scene – yikes). Fast Times was a coming-of-age story that hit all the right notes with audiences.
1. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Anthony Michael Hall
We’ve got the classic high school types (jock, princess, brain, basket case, criminal) locked together for Saturday detention in this John Hughes’ classic. They each learn that they’re not so different after all… and The Breakfast Club became the quintessential high school movie, but seriously? Saturday detention?