The best teen movies about high school can take you right back to that time in your life. You feel those same butterflies in your stomach when your crush says “hi.” Maybe you also feel the same awkwardness. (And, am I the only one who I still dreams about a math test I didn’t study for?)
This list of 10 best teen movies about high school get right to the heart of the high school experience. They’re about first loves, finding friends, being accepted, forging your own path and destroying your enemies! Well, that last bit only applies to Tracy Flick and Max Fischer. (More about them below.)
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10 Best Teen Movies About High School
Because it’s back-to-school season, I put together this list of 10 best teen movies about high school to help you re-live your glory days. Watching with a group of besties? Try my Romantic Comedy Bingo or Drama Bingo. Movie bingo just adds an extra layer of fun to the party.
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#10 The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower was released in 2012. It’s about a shy, naïve, freshman boy who can’t find his place in high school.
He’s also dealing with some heavy things, like his own mental health issues and the suicide of a good friend.
Lucky for him, two seniors take him under their wings. One of those seniors is played by Emma Watson, which was a big deal when The Perks of Being a Wallflower came out; it was the first time Emma Watson starred in a film that wasn’t a Harry Potter movie. Everyone had their eye on her and she did a fantastic job.
Logan Lerman, who you might remember as Percy Jackson, stars as the shy freshman.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower won the People’s Choice Award for best drama, as well as two GLAAD awards.
Clueless is a classic teen movie. When Clueless was released, it was one of the first times a daft, vapid, female with a cellphone was introduced to pop culture. The girls in Clueless are the Kardashians before there were Kardashians.
Clueless was released in 1995 when cellphones were still gigantic. The story is that two rich and popular girls (hey, this is a theme!) take a new girl under their wings. They give her a makeover, push her out into the world and try to fix her up with a boyfriend.
Alicia Silverstone plays the lead, Cher. Along the way Cher decides that maybe it’s time for her to get a boyfriend, which leads her to some soul-searching. Clueless also stars Paul Rudd as Cher’s stepbrother.
Believe it or not, this teen movie about high school was nominated for a Writer’s Guild of America award for it’s screenplay. Wow. That means that someone was nominated for the line “as if.” Clueless also won the MTV movie award for best female performance.
(No, Wonder isn’t technically a teen movie about high school, but it’s so good I just had to include it on this list.)
Wonder is about a beautiful young boy who’s been home-schooled for years, but now has to go to public school. He doesn’t want to go because he has a deformed face.
Wonder a beautiful story about courage, social norms and acceptance.
Julia Roberts stars as his mother and Owen Wilson plays his father. Young Jacob Tremblay, whom you might have seen in Room, plays the lead role of Auggie
Wonder was nominated for an Academy award for makeup.
#7 Pretty in Pink
Pretty in Pink was filmed in 1986, at the height of John Hughes’ teen movie career. Pretty in Pink is about a girl who is torn between two different boys. Her best friend, whom she has known her whole life, has a bad crush on her. However, being from a poor family, she’s smitten with a rich kid who takes notice of her. She’s forced to choose between the boy with money or the old life with her best friend.
Pretty in Pink kicked off the careers of some of the cast members and reaffirmed others as the stars they already were. Molly Ringwald, who has a recurring role on Riverdale, plays the lead, Andie. Jon Cryer, who starred in Two and a Half Men, plays her best friend, Duckie. Iona is played by Annie Potts, who went on to do Ghostbusters and Designing Women. Andrew McCarthy, who was a heartthrob at the time, plays the rich kid. Now he directs several TV shows, including Orange is the New Black.
#6 Love, Simon
Love, Simon is a coming of age story with a little bit of a twist. Simon is getting along great; he has great friends and he has a great family. Everything seems fine, but, he has a big secret: He’s gay. Love, Simon is about Simon coming to terms with his sexuality, coming out and the domino effect that has on the lives of everyone around him.
Nick Robinson, from Everything, Everything, plays Simon. Jennifer Garner stars as his mom and Josh Duhamel plays his dad. You might recognize another cast member, Keiynan Lonsdale, who plays Wally West on The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.
Love, Simon won two Teen Choice awards, for best comedy and break-out movie star. It also won the MTV movie award for best kiss.
#5 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is another classic ’80s teen movie. I remember when I saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; I was in San Francisco with my dad on a business trip and we both went to the movie theater. I kind of dragged him, but he made it the whole way through.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is about Ferris Bueller, played by Matthew Broderick, who is smarter than just about everybody he knows. He decides he wants the day off from school. He invents a very elaborate scheme and puts a plan in place that will help him and his two friends play hooky.
Alan Ruck and Mia Sara play his best friend and his girlfriend, respectively. (I always wanted Mia Sara’s hair!)
Matthew Broderick was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.
Speaking of Matthew Broderick…
He stars in Election but, in this movie, he’s a faculty member.
Election, which was released in 1999, is the story of an overachiever named Tracy Flick, who is running for president of the student body. However, she has a secret and Matthew Broderick is on to her. He takes a disliking to her and vice versa. They go head to head in a battle of wits and wills. And while her star is rising, his life is falling apart.
Election is a wonderful, very dark comedy. It was nominated for an Oscar for an adapted screenplay. Reese Whitherspoon, who stars as Tracy Flick, was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance.
#3 The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club was released in 1985. It’s about five high school students who are stuck in Saturday morning detention for various reasons. They each represent a different clique: Emilio Estevez plays the jock; Molly Ringwald plays the prom queen; Anthony Michael Hall plays the nerd; Ally Sheedy is the — what? weirdo; and Judd Nelson plays the stoner.
The Breakfast Club was groundbreaking because it talked about the social pressures of drugs and sex in a way that was relatable, but not condescending.
The Breakfast Club won MTV Silver Bucket of Excellence award.
Rushmore put Wes Anderson on the map. This teen movie about high school was released in 1998. Jason Schwartzman stars as Max, a very unusual student. He’s all about extra curricular activities. He has established nearly after-school activity that he’s part of but, meanwhile, he’s about to flunk out. He does everything he can to stay enrolled in school, except actually get passing grades.
Bill Murray stars as the dad of twins who go to school with Max. He ends up being a rival suitor for the affections of one of the teachers at school, played by Olivia Williams, who now stars in Counterpart.
Rushmore won two spirit awards, for best director and for Bill Murray for best supporting actor. Murray was also nominated for a Golden Globe.
#1 Dead Poets Society
Dead Poets Society was released in 1989, and launched the careers of several young men, including, Ethan Hawke.
Dead Poets Society is about a very shy boy at a private boarding school who is mentored by one of his teachers, played by the late Robin Williams. That teacher then becomes beloved to a small group of boys who are looking to forge their own paths.
Dead Poets Society was powerful enough when I watched it in the theater in 1989. But watching it now is doubly hard because of the incredible performance of Robin Williams; it just makes you feel his loss all over again. (My guess is that someone on the Parks and Recreation writing staff was also a fan of Dead Poets Society because they reference the moment when Ethan Hawke stands on his desk and calls “captain, my captain” two separate times.)
Dead Poets Society won an Oscar award for best original screenplay. It was also nominated for three Golden Globes including best director, best picture and, of course, best actor for Robin Williams.
I hope you find something on this list of high school movies that you haven’t seen, or maybe something you haven’t seen for a couple of decades that you would like to see again.