30. Encino Man
Encino Man is your classic early ’90’s comedy. Set at the fictional Encino High School, you’ve got two unpopular kids (Sean Astin, Pauly Shore) looking to prove themselves in a landscape which directly bites back in the opposite direction. Astin’s character uncovers a caveman who was somehow frozen. Once thawed out, the caveman named Link (Brendan Fraser) becomes somewhat of a sensation at their high school. There’s this delicate balance where Astin’s character Dave cares for Link — yet also wants to take advantage of the newfound popularity he’s enjoying. All the while, the popular class bully (played by Michael DeLuise) is looming in the shadows. This film is entertaining — if for nothing else than getting to witness 90 minutes of vintage Shore and all of his Shore-isms.
Image Source: Encino Man Productions/Getty Images
29. Bring It On
Never has competitive cheerleading been this fun. Bring It On features a predominantly white cheerleading squad dealing with the drama of having to come up with its own routine ahead of Nationals. This occurred in the wake of finding out that their past cheer captain had been secretly stealing routines from an underprivileged high school over a hour away (that never had the financial ability to make it to a national competition). Well, that ultimately all changed — setting up for a showdown between the Toros and the Clovers. Kirsten Dunst, Gabrielle Union, and Eliza Dushku shine as the primary leads in this movie.
Image Source: marieclaire
28. She’s All That
We’ve seen this story before. In this adaptation, the most popular kid in school (Freddie Prinze Jr.) makes a bet with his friend to turn the most unpopular girl in school (Rachael Leigh Cook) into the prom queen. Of course, the two fall in love — not before Cook’s character realizes the whole thing was a set-up. This is your classic high school tale full of drama, outdated tropes, and ’90’s goodness. At the time, Prinze Jr. and Cook were among the most popular figures for the ‘teen’ drama. Both star here in what many consider to be their biggest/most noteworthy roles.
Image Source: fringearts
27. Napoleon Dynamite
This quirky story involves nerdy teens from an Idaho high school who live life on their terms. The movie itself was extremely low-budget, and relied heavily on the script rather than any extra frills. Jon Heder was a relative unknown before this movie. The same goes for sidekick Efren Ramirez (Vote For Pedro!). Child actor Tina Marjorino was great as Deb — though the scene stealer above everyone was Uncle Rico (played by Jon Gries). While this movie isn’t for everyone from a comedic standpoint, Napoleon Dynamite does have a loyal cult fanbase.
Image Source: Business Wire via Getty Images
26. Can’t Hardly Wait
One look at the picture above essentially tells you all you need to know about this movie. It’s quintessentially ’90’s — from the script vernacular to the wardrobe. Ethan Embry (pictured center) has a massive crush on Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character, Amanda. The focus of the movie essentially is formed around a traditional high school house party. It’s complete with the familiar bells and whistles one would expect from this genre. Helping to carry this film was the cast — which featured Seth Green, Peter Facinelli, Donald Faison, Jaime Pressly, Selma Blair, and Jason Segel.
Image Source: thatshelf
25. Coach Carter
Coach Carter is one of those inspirational stories transcending the sports genre. It appeals to everyone — even if you aren’t a basketball/sports fan. The backdrop for this tale is a rough-and-tumble high school located in Northern California. Samuel L. Jackson’s task is to turn a rag-tag team into one that wins. Of course, the film is based upon a high school basketball team. But, there’s so much more than that. You see the struggle of people trying to prop themselves out of a tough situation and into a environment where they’d like a better future.
Image Source: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Juno is an off-beat esoteric story focused around a pregnant high schooler (Elliot Page) who wades through life searching for answers. Page’s on-screen parents are highly supportive (J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney), and the relationship between Juno and the baby’s father (played by Michael Cera) is somewhat complicated. Making matters even weirder, Juno somehow gets involved in a bizarre tension-filled situation featuring the father of the couple who’s slated to adopt the baby (played by Jason Bateman). Writer Diablo Cody thrived here in her film debut, as she compiled a compelling yet humorous narrative based around the setting of high school.
mage Source: theaceblackblog
23. Back To The Future
Back To The Future is a very complex film showcasing different settings and even different time periods. The high school scenes — which are said to take place in the ’50’s — are highly nostalgic. We take a step back in time to watch Marty McFly meet his future parents. The trilogy as a whole is quite good. However, the first film in the series really is a terrific example of film. The school dance in particular is among the most rewatchable scenes in the film. From there, the acting in this movie really is top-notch across the board.
Image Source: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
One look at the image above essentially tells you all you need to know about Clueless. The audience gets to watch as a privileged, rich girl named Cher (Alicia Silverstone) who walks through her cushy life in Beverly Hills. This film is pure high school Americana (which is unsurprising given the elite pedigree of writer/director Amy Heckerling). The cast itself is filled with future stars who were just playing ordinary high school kids. Of course, we’re talking about Breckin Meyer, Stacey Dash, Donald Faison, Paul Rudd, and the late Brittany Murphy.
Image Source: Paramount Pictures/Getty Images
21. Some Kind of Wonderful
Another classic teen story penned by John Hughes. Unlike many of his films, this one took place outside of Chicago — and instead in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Keith (Eric Stoltz) is a strange high school nobody from a working class family. He’s obsessed with rich girl Amanda (Lea Thompson) and has the hopes of one day dating here. All the while, his best friend Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) has feelings for him — and is sitting right under his nose as Keith obliviously pines for his high school crush. Many themes from this film are also still applicable today (love, bullying, and the pressures of both school and family).
Image Source: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Wes Anderson’s fingerprints are all over this film. The aesthetics are brilliant, the soundtrack is perfect, and the kooky tone to this film actually does work with considerable aplomb. Jason Schwartzman plays a jack-of-all-trades high school student Max Fischer participating in just about every extra-curricular activity you could think of. Mentor Herman Bloom (the terrific Bill Murray) ends up getting in a competition of sorts with Max over kindergarten teacher Ms. Cross (Olivia Williams). Both fall in love with her despite their age gaps relative to her own. It’s an endearing film — and if nothing else a funny one.
Image Source: worldlifestylenews/J. Merritt/FilmMagic
Here’s our first black comedy on the list. Heathers represents a group of girls in high school (all named Heather) who deal with a killer looking to take them out one by one (with the idea that people would assume each committed suicide rather than being murdered). While this sounds like a demented and rather graphic movie, it’s actually meant to be satirical in how high school popularity can fester in self-destructive and inorganic ways. Winona Ryder and Christian Slater act as leads here — though we also get performances from Shannen Doherty (among others).
Image Source: New World Pictures/Getty Images
This is the film which for all intents and purposes puts Kevin Bacon on the map. He’s a city kid suddenly thrust into a high school in the country. Bacon’s character must adapt to the total culture shift (which also includes navigating the highly conservative scene when it comes to song and dance). The entire narrative between the town, its school, and Bacon/Bacon’s love interest (Lori Singer) is a bit cumbersome. However, it’s a story which belongs among the high school lore for this piece.
Image Source: CBS via Getty Images
17. Sing Street
The Irish film Sing Street still weirdly remains as a vastly underrated film. John Carney wrote/directed this story which features a downtrodden high school student named Conor at a new school (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who aims to create a band. Patching together a group from school, Conor’s main objective is to impress a slightly older street girl named Raphina (Lucy Boynton). The music in this movie is fantastic. The film in general is jam-packed with heart, courage, and the ability to thrive in the face of adversity. It’s a must-watch for anyone enjoying this genre (and if you’re still reading the piece up to this point, we’re guessing you do!).
Image Source: katerinaestrada
The mid-’90’s was a golden age for teen films. Angus was a low-budget movie, though no one would describe it as such. A very strong script was buoyed even further by performances from acting heavyweights Kathy Bates and George C. Scott. An overweight Midwestern high school student named Angus (played by Charlie Talbert) is constantly picked on by the school’s quarterback/high school teammate Rick (played by James Van Der Beek). Of course, Angus is set up to be the Prom King next to his crush as one big joke. Ultimately, however, Angus’ originality and self-belief triumphs over the bullying tactics employed by lowlifes who peak during high school.
Image Source: talkfilmsociety
15. Stand and Deliver
Based on a real-life story, Stand and Deliver is about as high school as you can get. A motivated math teacher named Jaime Escalante (played beautifully by Edward James Olmos) gets a group of underprivileged students to change their mindset as it pertains to academics. By utilizing a number of different tools, Escalante is able to foster an environment where the students beat all odds and pass an AP math exam. The story is heartwarming, inspiring, and timeless. Olmos was fantastic to the point he earned a Oscar nomination.
Image Source: medium
14. Mean Girls
Tina Fey came up with one of the smartest and best comedies of the last 20 years when she wrote Mean Girls. Lindsay Lohan played ‘the new girl’ who went from being unpopular to being a clique member alongside Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, and Lacey Chabert. All of the elements needed for the classic teen movie are here — except elevated due to the brilliant writing of Fey. The dynamic between Lohan and McAdams was great, and we’d love to see more of McAdams in a comedic sense.
Image Source: CBS via Getty Images
13. Cruel Intentions
This is an unconventional high school setting most people don’t get to experience. We’re talking about the rich, privileged nature of teens growing up going to prep school. Deceit, bribery, blackmail, and everything in-between can be seen here with main cast members Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Ryan Phillippe. This movie is highly dramatic, and equally as fascinating. It’s not the typical high school film — though it’s very unique nonetheless.
Image Source: Columbia Pictures/Getty Images
12. Sixteen Candles
A quintessential John Hughes movie, Sixteen Candles features Hughes’ muse in Molly Ringwald. The ’80’s can be encapsulated virtually in all aspects when re-watching this film. From the costumes to settings — to the lingo and everything in-between — you’ve got an idyllic teen high school flick. Ringwald’s character is going for the man of her dreams. All the while, a bunch of shenanigans take place at a school dance with some rather colorful characters (including 1980’s icon Anthony Michael Hall). Anytime a high school and John Hughes are involved, you know you’re in for an instant classic.
Image Source: rogerebert
11. Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights the film was a tremendous look into the American heartland — and how the sport of football is integral to its culture. A small Texas town might be dilapidated or uninspiring on the surface. However, all of that changes when the local high school football team goes to battle on a Friday night. Billy Bob Thornton plays Coach Gaines alongside on-screen wife Connie Britton. We watch as the school and town rallies around this team as it squares off in the state title game versus a much bigger and more physical opponent. The music, performances, and overall story arc really passes with flying colors.
Image Source: thecinemaholic
10. Varsity Blues
Friday Night Lights may have been a better movie than Varsity Blues. The football scenes were certainly more realistic, and the tone was far more serious. However, Varsity Blues hits the high school part of the equation on a much higher level. You get a more lighthearted look at Texas football — where the team parties like crazy after (and even before) games. You’ve got the classic stereotypes of the kid who wants to leave for greener pastures, one who’s the star of the small town, one who loves to party, and one who’s often the slow, dopey joke. Oh — and we even get to see Ali Larter in her famous whipped cream bikini.
Image Source: Getty Images
9. Dead Poets Society
Any time you can see the late Robin Williams on screen, you know you’re in for a treat. He plays an esteemed English professor at an East Coast boarding school. His whole goal is to introduce new methods of teaching as a means to educate his students. Some take to his methods, while others are skeptical. Eventually, a group of the students become utterly obsessive over reading poetry. There are a number of actors in this film that (at the time) were essentially no-name workers. The cast included Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, and Kurtwood Smith.
Image Source: Touchstone Pictures/Getty Images
8. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
The 1980’s teen high school movie scene wouldn’t be complete without Fast Times at Ridgemont High. You’ve got essentially a number of vignettes all intertwined into one big story. The scummy guy selling counterfeit concert tickets, the nerdy guy working at the movies without any courage, the ‘good girl’ who seeks to be more mature, and the kooky girl who has a mysterious-yet-potentially-fake boyfriend overseas that we never see. There’s also the disgruntled fast food worker who wants a better life. All of these characters are packed with a solid soundtrack, vintage ’80’s goodness, and perhaps the best/most iconic Sean Penn performance you’ll ever see in Jeff Spicoli.
Image Source: Araya Doheny/WireImage
7. 10 Things I Hate About You
’90’s nostalgia runs deeeeeep with this film. 10 Things is actually an adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew. Set in modern day Seattle, one younger sister (Larisa Oleyik) can’t date until her older sister (Julia Stiles) dates. Simultaneously, a new student (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to win the heart of the aforementioned younger sister by setting the older sister up with a rough chain-smoker named Patrick (Heath Ledger). It may sound confusing, but the movie flows particularly well. We get the house party, the school dance scene, the long scenes of people falling in love right before us, and everything in-between. Ledger’s performance reminded us why he was such a highly-gifted actor before his sad passing in 2008.
Image Source: Buena Vista/Getty Images
This likely was the best performance of Corey Haim’s career. There was an innocence here that could not be manufactured. As a boy entering high school, he fell in love with the new girl (Kerri Green). Unfortunately for our titular character, so did the school’s top jock (Charlie Sheen). Lucas was ultimately a coming of age story in the best way possible. We saw cameos from Winona Ryder and Jeremy Piven (among others). However, this movie was all about Haim and his desire to fit in with the proverbial crowd.
Image Source: pinterest
Even though most of these ‘high schoolers’ looked to be 30 years of age, Grease remains a giant within this genre — and also the genre of musicals. The love story between Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) is electric. When you throw in the Pink Ladies, the T-Birds, the classic diner, and drag racing, you’re left with a ’50’s feast of nostalgia and goodness. The entire high school narrative is explored here — from Travolta’s attempts at playing every single sport to the famed dance scene.
Image Source: Paramount Pictures/Fotos International/Getty Images
4. American Pie
We can’t forget the raunchy teen high school comedy. We’ve seen plenty of these movies made over the years. With that said, American Pie took it to a whole other level. We won’t say what Jason Biggs actually did to a pie (but you can probably guess). Seann William Scott became a known entity after perfecting the Stifler role. All the while, we watched as four friends aimed to lose their virginity on the night of prom. Toss in the late ’90’s feel, and is there really anything more ‘high school’ than this movie? Plus — special shoutout to Shannon Elizabeth for providing us with the iconic role of Nadia.
Image Source: Universal/Getty Images
Those who went to high school in the 2000’s can relate to Superbad immensely. The dream of throwing the perfect party — exacerbated by the strategy instituted in trying to procure enough alcohol to keep the guests content. As is the case for many movies spread over different genres, it’s more about the journey than the destination. Jonah Hill’s neurotic Seth plays brilliantly against Michael Cera’s laid-back Evan. When you throw in the star of the movie — McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) — the hijinks hit perfectly. We also must give a shoutout to the bumbling cops duo played by the brilliant comedic pairing of Bill Hader and Seth Rogan (who also co-wrote the film).
Image Source: John Shearer/WireImage
2. The Breakfast Club
Among all of the movies John Hughes either penned or directed, none of them were as famous as The Breakfast Club. A total exercise in dialogue study, we get a look at every major high school stereotype when a group of students are forced to spend an entire Saturday in detention. The entire movie takes place at a high school. We delve into the collective psyches of each student (all of whom were big stars throughout the ’80’s). Exclusively reliant upon the dialogue, the group of Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, and Judd Nelson absolutely crushed it. The drill sergeant of a principal (portrayed by the late Paul Gleeson) was also perfectly cast.
Image Source: Universal Pictures/Getty Images
1. Dazed and Confused
This movie has it all. A period piece taking place in a sleepy 1970’s Texas high school, Dazed and Confused really is a step back in time to another era. The keg parties out in the forest, the hazing seniors give to freshmen (though that element didn’t exactly age well), the meet-ups at the local pool halls, the need to pick up beer at the local convenient store…it’s all present. Not only that, but Richard Linklater created a universe which featured some very prominent future actors. We’re talking about Mila Jovovich, Rory Cochrane, Cole Hauser, Anthony Rapp, Ben Affleck, and the film debut of Matthew McConaughey. Plus — the soundtrack is among the best in film history.
Image Source: Gramercy Pictures/Getty Images