7 of the best films about high school

From 'The Breakfast Club' to 'Mean Girls,' these movies will have you feeling nostalgic about going back to school.

by Leah Thomas
13 September 2019, 3:00pm

Even though many of us aren't rushing out to buy patterned notebooks and multi-colored flashcards anymore, fall will always remind us of the excitement (and dread) of going back to school. As the temperatures drop and the leaves begin to change, it's the perfect time to cuddle up and transport yourself back to the hallways of high school. We've rounded up seven films that will remind you of the time when your biggest worries were finding a potential homecoming date and figuring out whose parents could pick you and your friends up from the mall.

Dazed and Confused
What originally flopped at the box office went on to become a cult classic — and one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movies. This 1993 film not only gave us Matthew McConoughey and Ben Affleck but also gifted us with a killer soundtrack of the 70s — it was even named after the Led Zeppelin song. It's a good old fashioned film about absolutely nothing but smoking weed, drinking presumably flat keg beer, and celebrating the end of high school in 1970s Texas. And that’s all you really need. In the immortal words of David Wooderson: “Alright alright alright.”

10 Things I Hate About You
Ah, teen angst, portrayed by a young Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger. It’s been 20 years, but this high school film still feels timeless. We’ve all dreamt of our own Heath Ledger crashing our soccer practice to belt out a Franki Valli classic. Kat and Patrick aren’t your typical rom com leads. They’re edgier, angstier, and more Hot Topic than Abercrombie. But the film doesn’t work to change who they are — instead it focuses on finding someone who accepts them, even when no one else gets it.

A dark AF film about cliques, evil girls named Heather, and, of course, murder in Ohio. It’s Mean Girls meets Stephen King. And while it’s still filled with shoulder pads and homeroom drama, it also covers issues like eating disorders, sexual assault, and emotional abuse. It’s got Winona Ryder and Shannon Doherty, and even though it may not be *relatable* (not many of us can say our high school boyfriend was secretly poisoning people he didn’t like) it will have you feeling grateful for your relatively normal high school experience.

The Breakfast Club
Five students realize they have more in common than their different friend groups have allowed them to realize — which is a life lesson you usually don’t learn until college. This John Hughes film has Molly Ringwald — the prom queen of the high school film genre — and covers one of the most inevitable parts of those four years: detention. It’s also the reason why whenever you hear “Don’t You Forget About Me” you’re immediately filled with high school nostalgia — a Pavlovian-like response to this iconic film.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Nothing is more high school (or college) than skipping class. And if you’re going to skip school, you might as well follow the lead of a young Matthew Broderick by borrowing your friends’ dad’s Ferrari, narrowly escaping your borderline psychotic principal, and crashing a citywide parade in the middle of downtown Chicago. Another John Hughes film that’s as notable as Ferris consistently breaking the fourth wall.

Mean Girls
Tina Fey outdid herself turning Rosalind Wiseman’s book Queen Bees and Wannabes into this 2004 film that is arguably the most quotable movie of all time. (There, I said it.) It’s a good movie to help you remember there are better things in life than your 16-year-old clique, those underage parties where the only drink options were Natty Light, and your designated table in the lunchroom.

If Heathers is the unrealistic version of high school, Clueless would be the idealistic one. Beverly Hills high schoolers with conveyor belt closets who wear Alaïa cocktail dresses and drive white Jeep Wranglers, side-swiping cars with no consequences. A timeless film with a timeless wardrobe and a timeless Alicia Silverstone (not to mention, Paul Rudd). When you think of this movie, you likely think of that classic yellow and black plaid two-piece, Cher’s ingenious method of sending herself flowers and chocolate to make a boy jealous, and, of course, those two words that will always be applicable: “As if.”

classic films
Mean Girls
back to school