collage made by Jess Daninhirsch

If you do anything before you graduate high school, it should be to watch these movies.

Top Movies to Watch Before You Graduate

These eight movies will hopefully inspire you to maximize your youth before leaving high school.

January 26, 2022

The second semester of the 2021-2022 school year has begun, and graduation is so close you can taste it. It can be overwhelming, looking back on all the memories you’ve made throughout your time in high school, but you are not alone. Many find comfort in movies, especially when the storyline mirrors your own life. Seniors, with half a school year left until you go off to college or start working towards your career, I’ve compiled a list of the best high school-themed movies you must watch before you graduate.

Juniors, this one’s for you, too. Don’t forget to make the most of your final year and a half of high school. Hopefully this list will inspire you to live life to the fullest.

Booksmart (2019)

poster for Booksmart (IMDb.com)

Director: Olivia Wilde

Rated: R

Where to watch: Hulu

What better movie to capture the last special moments of high school than Booksmart? This film tells the story of two girls who are about to graduate high school and go off to the most prestigious colleges when they realize they never had a true high school experience like the ones they see in the movies. On the night before graduation, Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) decide to shove four years of adventure into one night.

This movie is just simply fun to watch. I recommend it because it captures all the possible memories and experiences associated with the stereotypical high school experience and compiles them into 102 minutes. It will inspire viewers to live life to the fullest and make the most out of your childhood while it lasts.

Moxie (2021)

poster for Moxie (IMDb.com)

Director: Amy Poehler

Rated: PG-13

Where to watch: Netflix

I believe everyone should see Moxie before leaving high school simply because of the important and powerful message it sends. Moxie centers around Vivian (Hadley Robinson), a junior who is just trying to get by and go unnoticed at school. When a new girl, Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña), comes to school, Vivian’s perspective changes. Lucy gets harassed by football team captain Mitchell Wilson (Patrick Schwarzenegger), but after talking to the principal about it, it becomes clear that the school cares more about censoring girls and glorifying boys than it does about the safety and well-being of the students. Inspired by Lucy’s outspokenness and her mother’s (Amy Poehler) teenage feminist rebel past, Vivian anonymously publishes a zine called “Moxie” and spreads feminist messages around the school, ultimately creating a club with the same name. The group exposes sexist students and policies found throughout the school and creates a revolution.

High schools should not be policing girls and placing boys on a pedestal, but rather uplifting the girls’ voices and holding boys accountable. It’s about time for a change, and Moxie will inspire viewers to break out of the mold and speak up in the name of gender equality.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

poster for The Perks of Being a Wallflower (IMDb.com)

Director: Stephen Chbosky

Rated: PG-13

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Perks is the ultimate coming-of-age film set in our hometown. Based on the book by Pittsburgh native Stephen Chbosky, the story centers around a literature-loving freshman named Charlie (Logan Lerman) who is dealing with depression. As he tries to navigate the bouts of high school, two seniors–Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller)–take Charlie under their wing and help him break out of his shell. Charlie has experienced lots of trauma in his childhood, including the loss of his only true friend before entering high school, so he has many different coping mechanisms. However, even though Sam and Patrick’s group of misfit friends has accepted Charlie as one of their own, he feels that one wrong step could damage his relationships with them all.

With the help of his new friends, his coping mechanisms, and the discovery of the truth about his deceased Aunt Helen, Charlie survives his first year of high school with a new perspective on friendship, love, and loss.


The Breakfast Club (1985)

poster for The Breakfast Club (IMDb.com)

Director: John Hughes

Rated: R

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

A 1980s cult classic, The Breakfast Club follows the story of five stereotypical high school students who have nothing in common nor would have any connection to one another. The five students, in the “simplest terms and the most convenient definitions,” would be described as a brain (Brian Johnson, played by Anthony Michael Hall); an athlete (Andrew Clark, played by Emilio Estevez); a basket case (Allison Reynolds, played by Ally Sheedy); a princess (Claire Standish, played by Molly Ringwald); and a criminal (John Bender, played by Judd Nelson). The five students are stuck in a nine-hour detention at Shermer High School and are instructed to write a one thousand word essay about who they think they are and about what they did wrong. Instead, the group wreak havoc on the overbearing principal, Mr. Vernon (Paul Gleason), and get to know each other in a way they never would have expected. 

The film demonstrates that there is more to everyone’s story underneath the stereotypical label given to them by their peers. It shows that people can make a connection with anyone by simply opening up and spending time with them.


The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

poster for The Edge of Seventeen (IMDb.com)

Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

Rated: R

Where to watch: Netflix

High school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is experiencing the growing pains that go along with high school. When her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her golden-boy brother Darian (Blake Jenner), and her mother (Kyra Sedgewick) begins dating again, she feels more alone than ever, only confiding in her teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson). Nadine forms an unlikely friendship with a soft spoken, thoughtful kid in her class, Erwin (Hayden Szeto), who helps her realize that she is not alone in this crazy, mixed-up, high school life of hers. This movie is proof that even when you feel lost and lonesome, there will always be someone who is willing to cheer you up and help you through whatever it is you’re going through.

Better Off Dead (1985)

poster for Better Off Dead (IMDb.com)

Director: Savage Steve Holland

Rated: PG

Where to watch: Amazon Prime (Purchase or Rent)

Trigger Warning: This film discusses attempted suicide.

In this comedic 1980s John Cusack film, high-schooler Lane Meyer (John Cusack) gets dumped by his girlfriend Beth (Amanda Wyss)–who he is completely obsessed with–for the jock captain of the ski team, Roy Stalin (Aaron Dozier).  As he trains to race Roy in the most dangerous ski slope, he forms a friendship with the French foreign exchange student, Monique (Diane Franklin), who doesn’t speak a word of English and is staying with his next door neighbor Ricky (Dan Schneider). The film is full of memorable one-liners and ridiculous scenarios that only a true 1980s classic could have. The moral of the story is, no matter how terrible you may think your life is–no matter how much you think you’d be better off dead–there is always something better and brighter coming your way.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

poster for 10 Things I Hate About You (IMDb.com)

Director: Gil Junger

Rated: PG-13

Where to watch: Disney+

Adapted from Shakespeare’s comedy The Taming of the Shrew, Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) is an ill-tempered intelligent senior who believes dating is pointless. Her younger sister Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) is not allowed to date anyone until Kat does, according to their father (Larry Miller). Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the new kid, is determined to go out with Bianca, but to do so, he has to set Kat up with someone who she will actually tolerate and respect–supposed criminal Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger). Cameron and his new friend Michael (David Krumholtz) devise an elaborate plan, using the most popular kid in school, Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan), as a pawn, and offering to pay Patrick to take out Kat (who both begin to fall for each other). This movie is one of the most beloved staples from the 1990s. Everyone should see it before they leave high school just because it is that good, and it’s re-watchability never fades.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

poster for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (IMDb.com)

Director: John Hughes

Rated: PG-13

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Another 1980s classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off shows that you only live once, so you better make your youth count while it lasts. High school senior Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) is determined to play hooky from school in the most elaborate way possible with his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck). Ferris has come up with an incredibly sophisticated and detailed plan to ditch school and spend the day in Chicago while staying one step ahead of the principal, Mr. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), or Ferris’s nosy sister, Jeanie (Jennifer Grey). Cameron is reluctant to succumb to Ferris’s plan out of fear of getting caught–both by the principal and his father, from whom they borrow a Ferrari to get around Chicago–but Ferris and Sloane are determined to get him to take chances once in a while. After all, to quote the wise Mr. Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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About the Writer
Photo of Jess Daninhirsch
Jess Daninhirsch, Photography Editor

Following her stint as the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the NAEye sophomore year and Junior Photography Editor last year for the Uproar, Jess Daninhirsch is ecstatic about being the Photography Editor and a staff writer this year on The Uproar. Jess dreams of becoming a journalist and a photographer one day and documenting the world. Outside of school, Jess actively participates in BBYO, an international...

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