7 prom movies to help you cope with missing your own
From cult classic 'Carrie' to Greta Gerwig's 'Lady Bird,’ these coming of age films capture the spirit of prom night.
Still from Carrie.
On paper, prom only accounts for one night of the high school year, but the preparation -- picking out the perfect overly sequined dress, ordering a matching corsage (or boutonnière) for your date and planning where you’ll take those awkward couple pics you'll later regret, before heading off to the dance in a limo -- is months and months in the making. And the build up of expectations for the magical night itself? Pastel-hued 80s teen movies and overly-romanticized slow dance scenes, soundtracked to “Forever Young” have had us looking forward to prom night long before we even knew what grinding was.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 lockdowns, prom has pretty much been cancelled this year. While teens around the world have hosted virtual dances and TikTok proms in attempts to make up for it, it's hard to fill the void of one of the most looked-forward-to night of their young lives. Whether you want to reminisce on senior proms past or mourn your own, i-D has put together a list of some of the best prom films ever made to help -- so that the magical night can live on while we're stuck sat on the couch.
Of all the films on this list, Lady Bird boasts one of the most realistic prom scenes of all. Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) thrifts the perfect prom dress -- a 50s rose and sequin-embellished fuchsia number -- with her mom, but the night of the dance, her date Danny decides he wants to skip prom and get drunk at a house party instead. Not wanting to miss the big night, Lady Bird decides to reconcile with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) and the pair attend the prom together. It’s not only a testament to friendship, but it proves that the quintessential prom narrative mustn't always revolve around the perfect date (sorry Timothée Chalamet). Plus, Greta Gerwig even directed the prom scene while wearing a pink taffeta prom dress herself.
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion
Technically, this lovable comedic film takes place nearly ten years after prom, as Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow) try to get themselves together to impress their old classmates at their high school reunion, but it’s not without vivid flashbacks to their former years. The duo, often in matching marabout-trimmed outfits that they've made themselves, reflect on their very 80s prom, and the mono (“like the best diet ever”) that just so happened to get Romy in shape before the dance. All before they perform their unforgettably empowering interpretive dance to Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time."
The prom scene in cult favorite Jawbreaker, aka the original Mean Girls, is not only iconic for it’s oft-emulated 90s styles that live on 20 years later, but because the film’s cool girls (Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart and Julie Benz) must cover up an accidental murder and blackmail the class nerd to get away with. Yet, perhaps more iconic still, is Marilyn Manson’s cameo as a horny, mustachioed bar patron turned sex conquest and suspect. This teen flick has it all.
10 Things I Hate About You
Throughout 10 Things I Hate About You, a 90s film take on Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” various ploys and bets are in play to get around Kat (Julia Stiles) and Bianca Stratford’s (Larisa Oleynik) father’s strict dating rules. The movie’s climax occurs at prom, of course, when Kat finds out about the bet to get her there and storms off on hunky Patrick (Heath Ledger) while Bianca defends her date by beating up cool guy Joey (“Shit Bianca! I’m shooting a nose spray ad tomorrow!”) on the dance floor. It might just be one of the best and most extravagant movie proms ever and it even features a live band -- Letters To Cleo play one of Kat’s favorites “Cruel To Be Kind” per request -- whereas IRL proms are lucky if they even have a decent DJ.
The Virgin Suicides
Sofia Coppola’s debut is one of the most cult films of all time, and though it might not feature a prom scene per se, the very 70s homecoming dance in The Virgin Suicides is worthy of a spot on this list. The Lisbon sisters sport “four identical sacks,” chosen by their Catholic mother for their floral flutter sleeves and modest babydoll necklines, but Lux (Kirsten Dunst) manages to give hers a subtle, playful twist -- writing her date Trip’s name on the outside of her underwear, dotting the letter “i” with a heart. The pair go on to finish off their looks with matching plastic crowns after winning Homecoming King and Queen, and shiny blue and white balloons tumble down from the ceiling in celebration.
“It’s the night of the senior prom,” opens the trailer. “The Bates High School gym is alive with excitement, everybody is there, even Carrie White,” who’s horribly bullied -- and just happens to possess supernatural powers. Having been asked to the dance by the best-looking boy in the senior class, however, Carrie (Sissy Spacek) attends the dance and actually enjoys herself, all before a bucket of pig’s blood is dumped on her head while winning prom queen. Naturally, she unleashes her powers on the crowd, resulting in chaos and an all out prom massacre. This certainly isn’t the romanticized prom we’ve dreamt up for ourselves, but it’s a classic.
She’s All That
In She’s All That, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jodi Lyn O'Keefe play the most popular couple in school, that is until Taylor goes on spring break and leaves Zach for a reality TV star on The Real World. In an effort to get his cool guy reputation back, he enters a bet (yes, another one) to transform Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook) into the prom queen. We won’t spoil it, but this highly-anticipated prom scene includes a choreographed dance-off to Fatboy Slim’s “Funk Soul Brother,” emceed by the campus DJ who also happens to be Usher. It's epic.