Whether it’s books, movies, or TV shows, I love a good coming-of-age story. There’s something about the film medium that really makes those stories particularly poignant. Growing up mostly sucks, but there’s moments of realization, maturity, laughter, heartbreak, and all the good (and awful) stuff in between that makes burgeoning adulthood important and memorable. Add the right soundtrack and bam, the perfect recipe for someone like me to turn into a straight up heart-eyes emoji.
There are plenty of amazing high school movies, from Clueless, to Heathers, to Mean Girls. But I think that the high school movies that provide the biggest dose of reflection are the ones set in a character’s senior year of high school. Obviously, by then you’re taking stock of your overall high school experience, how you want it to end, what you wish you did differently, thinking about what you want in the future, and maybe even atoning for mistakes you’ve made in the past. Senior year really is like that, whether you think you’re the sentimental sort or not, and it’s fun to watch fictional characters grapple with those same themes. So, if you’re about to embark on your final year of high school, you need to watch these nine movies. They might not give you the cheat codes to having a fulfilling senior year, but at the very least you might feel a little less alone on your journey.
Dazed And ConfusedDazed and Confused follows the lives of high schoolers on the last day of school in 1976. Most of the characters are going to be seniors next year, while the others are incoming high school freshmen. You've probably heard that this movie is a total stoner movie, and yes, there's plenty of pot smoking in it. But that's not the primary message of this movie! The main takeaway is the importance of figuring out what you actually want to do with your life instead of bowing down to the pressures of others. Hang out with the people you want to hang out with, do the things you want to do, and make peace with your decisions. Oh, and my favorite lesson from this movie: High school should never be considered the best days of your life, but there's nothing wrong with making lasting memories and relationships while you're stuck in that hellhole.
SuperbadNext to Mean Girls, Superbad is the ultimate teen movie of the Millennial generation. This romp about high school losers trying to live it up for their last high school party is absolutely hilarious and will low key convince you to get your high school bucket list out of the way before the last day of senior year.
Romy And Michele's High School ReunionRomy and Michele aren't high school seniors in this movie. In fact, the whole movie is about them reengaging with their high school enemies and selves for their 10 year reunion. But the reason why high school seniors should watch Romy and Michele is because it offers so much perspective on what ends up really mattering when your high school days are over. If your high school experience hasn't exactly been thrilling, this is a must see movie. You'll find it really relieving, actually.
American PieAmerican Pie is crucial viewing for anyone who is a high school senior, but not necessarily because it's full of important life lessons. I mean, this is literally a movie about a bunch of horny teen boys who don't want to graduate high school as virgins. But despite that summary, this movie is a much watch because it is a classic. It is the ultimate teen sex comedy of its time, and some elements of it manage to hold up to this day.
DopeUnfortunately, there aren't too many coming-of-age movies about black characters, let alone college bound characters. But there is Dope, a movie about a black teenage boy who is navigating romance and Ivy League dreams while living in tough Los Angeles neighborhood. Whether you relate to it or not, it's worth a watch.
The Breakfast ClubWhat list of high school movies to watch is complete without The Breakfast Club? To be honest, I'm not sure if they're seniors in this film, but their reputations are so solidified that they might as well be. The Breakfast Club offers a great lesson assumptions, as in, don't make them about people you don't really know. You'd be surprised by how many people you thought had awesome, borderline perfect or drama-free lives come from effed up homes and are miserable on a daily basis. Those people you bet have exciting love lives? Yeah, do you know how many of them have probably never even had sex? Looks can be deceiving, and The Breakfast Club helps make the case for it pretty damn well.
GreaseNot going to lie: Grease isn't exactly brimming with great life advice. If anything, it tells you to change your persona to fit someone else's desires, which is pretty crappy advice. But it's fun, oddly cathartic, and allows you to fantasize about a world in which not knowing WTF to do with yourself after graduation wasn't exactly the end of the world.
American GraffitiAmerican Graffiti isn't the sexiest teen movie, but it's a pretty damn poignant one. Set in 1962, this movie tells the story of a teen boy who is determined to leave his sleepy, boring town and go to college, but his family, friends, and love life are trying to pull him in different directions. If you can relate to that indecision about your future, give American Graffiti a watch. You'll probably have a good cry.
Can't Hardly WaitCan't Hardly Wait is too often considered a third tier '90s teen movie, but I'd argue that it is one of the best of its time. Sure, our protagonist is a total Nice Guy who is trying to declare his love to the most popular girl in school, but this movie actually ventures into deep territory. It touches on friendships drifting, regret, and the dangers of peaking in high school. Give it a watch; it's pretty silly, but it's also oddly touching and will make you consider what's really important in your last year of high school.
What other movies should be on this list? What movie do you think reflects your high school experience the best? Tell us in the comments!