The Best High School Movies Of All Time And How To Watch Them

The Breakfast Club cast
(Image credit: Universal)

Whether they were the worst four years of your life or the best four years of your life, it is undeniable that high school serves as the setting of some truly memorable, heartwarming, and hilarious cinematic classics. Allow us to educate you on how you can watch the best high school movies of all time with our guide below.

Efren Ramirez and Jon Heder in Napoleon Dynamite

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

The life and times of a teen outcast (Jon Heder) from a small town in Idaho.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Arguably, the one film that best captures the strange awkwardness of our teen years by making every frame feel strange and awkward is director Jared Hess’ cult favorite indie comedy, Napoleon Dynamite.  

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Buy Napoleon Dynamite on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Jonah Hill and Michael Cera in Superbad.

(Image credit: Columbia)

Superbad (2007)

A pair of lifelong best friends (Jonah Hill and Michael Cera) try to put an end to their losing streak with the opposite sex at the last big party of their senior year.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Branded as the American Pie of its time upon release, Superbad – written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg – might be a sweeter and deeper meditation on friendship and of hormonally-driven behavior that is also one of the best party movies in recent memory.

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Rent or buy Superbad on Amazon.
Buy Superbad on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart

(Image credit: Annapurna Pictures)

Booksmart (2019)

A pair of lifelong best friends and straight-A students (Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein) try to experience the social scene they missed out on before the end of their senior year.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Branded as a gender-flipped version of Superbad upon release (the fact that Feldstein is Hill’s real-life sister, notwithstanding), director Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart is a beautiful story of friendship, but is also concerned with themes of reputation and enjoying life to the fullest.

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Buy Booksmart on Blu-ray on Amazon.

James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Rebel Without A Cause (1955)

A teenager (James Dean), whose ill-mannered behavior forces his family to move from town to town, seeks the connection he has longed for.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Dean gives the definitive performance of his short, yet iconic, career in director Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause.

Rent or buy Rebel Without a Cause on Amazon.
Buy Rebel Without a Cause on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko

(Image credit: Arrow Films)

Donnie Darko (2001)

A troubled youth (Jake Gyllenhaal) receives foreboding messages from a man dressed in a creepy rabbit costume in 1980s Virginia.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Writer and director Richard Kelly’s unsettling cult classic, Donnie Darko, touches on many grounded issues, but also throws bizarre elements like time travel into the mix.

Stream Donnie Darko on Freevee through Amazon.
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Stream Donnie Darko on Pluto TV.
Buy Donnie Darko on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Molly Ringwald and Michael Schoeffling as Sam and Jake Ryan cake kiss moment in Sixteen Candles

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Sixteen Candles (1984)

A young woman (Molly Ringwald) has a rough 16th birthday involving her neglectful family, an awkward love triangle, and other embarrassments.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: The film that made Ringwald the It Girl of her generation was the hilarious Sixteen Candles from writer and director John Hughes.

Stream Sixteen Candles on Tubi.
Rent or buy Sixteen Candles on Amazon.
Buy Sixteen Candles on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Logan Lerman in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

(Image credit: Summit Entertainment)

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)

A young introvert (Logan Lerman) finds friendship with two outgoing high school seniors and step siblings (Emma Watson and Ezra Miller) during an otherwise difficult freshman year.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Stephen Chbosky writes and directs this adaptation of his own novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower – a movie that gets honest about mental illness that teenagers face.

Stream The Perks of Being a Wallflower on Showtime through Paramount+.
Buy The Perks of Being a Wallflower on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Lady Bird (2017)

An outspoken Catholic high school student (Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan) struggles with her dysfunctional relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) in early 2000s California.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-nominated feature-length debut as a writer and director, Lady Bird, is one of the best A24 movies for the compelling performances that enhance its funny, yet unapologetically raw, depiction of teen angst.

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Rent or buy Lady Bird on Amazon.
Buy Lady Bird on Blu-ray on Amazon.

A diner in American Graffiti

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

American Graffiti (1973)

Two best friends (Richard Dreyfus and Ron Howard) on their last night in town and other teens spend a night cruising the streets in search of a good time in 1960s Modesto.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Before George Lucas revolutionized cinema with the Star Wars movies, he captured the evolving social scene in the early 1960s from the point of view of America’s youth with American Graffiti, which boasts a stellar who’s who of rising stars that also includes a Harrison Ford and Suzanne Somers in some of their earliest roles.

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Buy American Graffiti on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Emma Stone walking down in the hall in an outfit with an A on it.

(Image credit: Sony)

Easy A (2010)

An unpopular teen (Academy Award winner Emma Stone in her first leading role) uses the rumor mill to her advantage and to help out a whole slew of socially struggling students.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Taking some inspiration from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Easy A is filled with many memorable, near perfect moments that explore many of the difficult aspects of high school life.

Rent or buy Easy A on Amazon.
Buy Easy A on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.

(Image credit: Touchstone Pictures)

Dead Poets Society (1989)

A group of close knit preparatory high school students find the educational and personal inspiration they longed for from their new, unorthodox English teacher (Robin Williams) in the late 1950s.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Loosely inspired by true events, director Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society is at times uplifting, other times heartbreaking, and also a completely absorbing drama about the pursuit of oneself despite opposing circumstances. 

Rent or buy Dead Poets Society on Amazon.
Buy Dead Poets Society on Blu-ray on Amazon.

The Dazed and Confused cast

(Image credit: Gramercy Pictures)

Dazed And Confused (1993)

The outgoing senior class and the incoming freshman class at a Texas high school come together to celebrate the first night of the summer of 1976.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Even though the majority of one of the best ‘90s movies, Dazed and Confused, does not take place on school grounds, writer and director Richard Linklater does capture the essence of high school life quite authentically with raw depictions of risky behavior and the trials and tribulations of growing up.  

Rent or buy Dazed and Confused on Amazon.
Buy Dazed and Confused on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Christian Slater and Winona Ryder in Heathers

(Image credit: New World Pictures)

Heathers (1988)

A teen (Winona Ryder) joins her high school’s most popular clique, but in realizing just how evil they are, she forms a friendship with a new guy at school, which ignites a mass killing spree.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Also starring Christian Slater, Heathers is one of the darkest coming-of-age comedies of all time and went on to earn cult status and inspire a stage musical and TV series reboot.

Stream Heathers on Amazon Prime.
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Stream Heathers on Starz.
Buy Heathers on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Reese Witherspoon in Election

(Image credit: Paramount)

Election (1999)

The only one standing in the way of a young woman’s (Reese Witherspoon) ruthless bid for student body president is a popular teacher (Matthew Broderick) who is not fond of her goody two-shoes façade.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Director Alexander Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor received Academy Award nominations for their adaptation of Tom Perotta’s Election – an insightful comedy about what it means to take school a little too seriously that features one of Witherspoon’s best performances.

Stream Election on Max.
Rent or buy Election on Amazon.
Buy Election on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Sean Penn, Ava Lazar, and Lori Sutton in Fast Times at Ridgemont High

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)

During a full school year, students experience the struggles of part-time employment, losing one’s virginity, break ups, teen pregnancy, and high school deadbeats.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Cameron Crowe posed as a 17-year-old to authentically capture what it meant to be a high school student from different angles in his screenplay for director Amy Heckerling’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Stream Fast Times at Ridgemont High on Peacock.
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Buy Fast Times at Ridgemont High on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

A fourth-wall-breaking, clever troublemaker (played by Matthew Broderick), his girlfriend (played by Mia Sara), and his best friend (played by Alan Ruck) skip school for an epic adventure through Chicago.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Out of all of writer and director John Hughes’ iconic high school comedies, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off provides the most jovial experience with its almost surreal quirks and hilarious exaggeration of classic coming-of-age tropes.

Stream Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on Paramount+.
Stream Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on Apple TV+.
Rent or buy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on Amazon.
Buy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on Blu-ray on Amazon.

The main cast of Mean Girls.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Mean Girls (2004)

A formerly homeschooled teen (Lindsay Lohan) gets a crash course in the high school social scene when she lands a position with the most popular (and most cruel) clique.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Combine Tina Fey’s witty screenplay along with Lohan in her prime and a breakout performance by Rachel McAdams and you get Mean Girls – a hysterical, yet realistic and thought-provoking comedy that was adapted into a stage musical that inspired a movie of its own in 2024.

Stream Mean Girls on Paramount+.
Stream Mean Girls on Apple TV+.
Stream Mean Girls on Pluto TV.
Rent or buy Mean Girls on Amazon.
Buy Mean Girls on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Alicia Silverstone smiles while sitting behind the wheel of her Jeep in Clueless.

(Image credit: Paramount)

Clueless (1995)

High atop the social scene and easily securing anything she wants, Cher (Alicia Silverstone) goes on the endeavor to try and make others happy, and curb her somewhat innocent selfishness.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Writer and director Amy Heckerling’s funny, hilariously quotable modern reimagining of Jane Austen’s Emma, Clueless, absolutely deserves its cult following, thanks to the relatability and sincerity of Cher’s journey to finding a clue.

Stream Clueless on Paramount+.
Rent or buy Clueless on Amazon.
Buy Clueless on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Paul Gleason in The Breakfast Club

(Image credit: Universal)

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Five teenagers (Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy), each from very different walks of life, find unexpected ways to relate to one another while spending Saturday Morning detention together.

Why it is one of the best high school movies: Arguably writer and director John Hughes’ best high school movie (and, perhaps, even the best film in the category overall) is the ‘80s movie classic, The Breakfast Club for its top-notch performances (also from Paul Gleason and John Kapelos) and insightful and witty look into the inner workings of what it means to be a teenager.

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Buy The Breakfast Club on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Everything you need to know about high school and the life of a teenager can be found in this list of cinematic favorites. Class dismissed.