The Best High School Movies to Make You Feel All the Nostalgic Feels

Photo credit: Abby Silverman From Cosmopolitan From football games to lunchroom fights to ruthless competition

Photo credit: Abby Silverman
Photo credit: Abby Silverman

From Cosmopolitan

From football games to lunchroom fights to ruthless competition for the title of prom king or queen, high school is filled with enough angst and Hollywood-level theatrics to keep things interesting year after year—and movie after movie. Who doesn’t love watching a coming-of-age melodrama filled with actors who are not-so-secretly well above the legal drinking age? Makes me wonder where all the guys with chiseled jawlines and good style were when I was in school, but that’s beside the point.

Sure, some high school movies tend to be a little, shall we say, larger than life—I mean, how many high schoolers just happen to find out they’re royalty à la Princess Diaries? But who cares! Watching all of those extremely complicated friendship (and romantic) dynamics play out on the big screen is like a familiar (albeit slightly triggering) hug. From oldies like Sixteen Candles to newer hits Lady Bird, here are the 30 best high school movies to make you feel like a teen again (but only for, like, two hours, don’t panic).

Easy A

Scandal-less student Olive Penderghast sheds her nobody status after making up a story about losing her virginity, which spreads around school faster than the common cold. She uses her new-found cool-girl reputation to help other misfits by pretending to hook up with them. Oh, high school.

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Mean Girls

Lindsay Lohan plays the previously-homeschooled Cady Heron as she enters the political world of public high school and its complicated social scene for the first time. I’m guessing you don’t need me to tell you this, but it’s one of the most iconic movies in this genre, and it pretty much launched Rachel McAdams’ career.

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Sixteen Candles

A timeless John Hughes classic starring both Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall. High school sophomore Sam thinks her 16th birthday is gonna be an epic new beginning to her high school life….but then her family completely forgets it’s her special day. And her crush Jake Ryan still has no idea she exists!

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Breakfast Club

Another John Hughes classic about five students from different high school groups who are forced together for one day while they serve detention. They start out thinking they have absolutely nothing in common but soon learn there’s more to each of them than their stereotyped exterior.

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Grease

If you don’t already know every single lyric to every single song that John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John sing in this charming (but at times, pretttttty problematic) movie, you need to stream it right freaking now. Get ready for poodle skirts and big hair galore.

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Clueless

Even if you’ve seen this cult-favorite rom-com 75 times, the ’90s fashion and the lingo will hook you over and over again.

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Princess Diaries

Having Julie Andrews show up and inform you that she’s your grandmother and you’re actually a princess in line to take over the throne of a small European country sounds like a dream come true—well, for everyone except Mia Thermopolis.

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Hairspray

If every high school had a singing, dancing, coiffed-beyond-belief Zac Efron to gaze at longingly throughout all of class, attendance would be 100%.

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Lara Jean Covey writes letters to all the boys she’s ever loved in her life and then stashes the notes away in her room. But when these letters somehow get mysteriously mailed to each of her intended recipients, Lara has to deal with the hot mess that is now her love life. (Psst! This is one of those YA movies that even YA haters can’t help but love.)

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Wild Child

Spoiled L.A. teen Poppy gets sent to boarding school in England after her dad decides she’s gotten too out of control. This movie is super cute and pretty funny, and if nothing else, watch it so you can hear Alex Pettyfer’s dreamy British accent.

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Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging

Speaking of British movies, Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging captures exactly what it’s like to be a teenage girl, down to the ever-changing friendship dynamics, insecurity, and desperate desire for the hot new older kid to notice you. By the way, this one’s based on the 1999 book “Angus, Thongs, and Full-Front Snogging.”

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Superbad

A little raunchier than your average high school movie, this Judd Apatow comedy will make you laugh out loud no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Two high school boys (Jonah Hill and Michael Cera) want to live it up before they go off to college, which means, in other words, they want to party their butts off and lose their virginities.

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10 Things I Hate About You

New kid Cameron can’t get a date with hottie Bianca until her anti-social older sister, Kat, has a boyfriend. So what does Cameron do? Pays bad boy Patrick to try to charm Kat, duh. The cast on this one is the very definition of stacked: I’m talking Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

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High School Musical

Yes, this is the Disney film that introduced Zac Efron and his luscious locks to the world. Don’t act like you don’t still fantasize about meeting your own Troy Bolton on a New Year’s Eve vacation with your family. This film—about a high school full of unrealistically talented students—will forever be a fave.

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Drive Me Crazy

Melissa Joan Hart and Adrian Grenier become the unexpected high school “It” couple of the year, as Britney Spears’ greatest hit plays in the background. What more could you want?

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Dope

Dope got rave reviews for a reason: high school senior Malcolm struggles to find the balance between being a geek, trying to be cool, getting into Harvard, and impressing a girl by going to a party that almost ruins his life. (We’ve all been there.)

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John Tucker Must Die

Just four badass girls getting the ultimate revenge on a high school playboy. Watch solely for pleasure or for personal revenge inspo.

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Bring It On

This cheerleading classic follows national high school cheer champions the Toros after Torrance (Kirsten Dunst) finds out their winning routines have actually been stolen from other teams. Cue spirit fingers.

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Never Been Kissed

Drew Barrymore goes undercover as a high school student only to fall for her new English teacher. It’s got everything: ’90s fashion, high school cliques, and, of course, the prom.

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A Cinderella Story

Hilary Duff is fabulous as ever as the school nerd who falls in love with the football star (AKA Chad Michael Murray). You can find him on Riverdale reruns, by the way, if you’ve been missing him.

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Love, Simon

This coming-of-age (and coming-out) movie is worth the tears. Seventeen-year-old Simon comes to terms with his sexuality while dealing with his family, friends, and the anonymous guy he fell in love with online.

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The Hate U Give

Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) for prez, please. After witnessing a close childhood friend get shot and killed by a police officer, Starr is forced to come to terms with how racial identity affects her community…and her relationships with the teens at her super white private school.

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The Edge of Seventeen

Hailee Steinfeld’s best friend starts dating her older brother (ugh), but don’t worry—Woody Harrelson is there to help her figure it all out.

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Election

Reese Witherspoon plays Tracy Flick, a slightly unethical high school student—who could be a young Madeline Mackenzie, TBH—running for class president. Oh, and she stages a war with her history teacher, played by Matthew Broderick. Good ol’ high school politics.

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The Spectacular Now

Another high school movie about the popular jock going for the “nerdy” girl. (Is this a real thing?) Regardless, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are still cuter than cute. We stan.

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Take the Lead

God, 2000s dance movies were SUCH a time. Antonio Banderas teaches “troubled” high school kids how to succeed at ballroom dancing and so, so much more.

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Heathers

Winona Ryder plays a bad-girl-gone-good who leaves her clique of ladies literally all named Heather, and tries to stop her boyfriend from full-on MURDERING people at their high school. It’s hilariously dark, but that’s kind of the point.

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Can’t Hardly Wait

A classic story about high school seniors throwing an infamous last-day-of-school banger before going off to college. Think American Pie…but less creepy.

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Booksmart

Yet another end-of-high-school-extravaganza film, Booksmart is Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut about two academics who try to make the most of their last night before graduation.

Lady Bird

Yes, that movie everyone’s been talking about ever since it came out in 2017. It’s Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, and stars not only Saoirse Ronan but also Timothée Chalamat *and* Lucas Hedges. If you haven’t seen Lady Bird yet, honestly IDK what you’ve been doing.

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