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Back to school cinema


Reading + Entertainment

  • Popcorn and movies

Jessica, Preston | September 1, 2019

School is back in session, and we have a suggestion for celebrating the end of summer that doesn’t involve homework: binge-watching teen movies set in high school!

High school movies provide a snapshot of a generation: the pop culture, the music, and the up-and-coming movie stars of the time. Perhaps more importantly, the really good ones capture the universal agony and ecstasy of teenagerhood. Whether you’re a student yourself or high school is but a distant memory, that’s one thing we can all appreciate.

Read on for some of our favourite high school flicks through the decades:


Easy A21 Jump StreetMe and Earl and the Dying GirlEdge of SeventeenLove, Simon

The last decade has provided a slew of great high school cinema. We’ve had an embarrassment of riches when it comes to teen comedies, with movies like Easy A (2010), 21 Jump Street (2012), Project X (2012), The Duff (2015), and Dope (2015). If you’re more into drama, you might enjoy Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015), Paper Towns (2015), or the tragically underrated Edge of Seventeen (2017). One of the decade’s best Marvel movies featured a teenage superhero in Spider-Man Homecoming (2017). And we’d be remiss if we forgot to mention the ground-breaking coming of age tale that was Love Simon (2018).  


Bring it onMean GirlsNapoleon DynamiteSuperbadJuno

The teen movies of the 2000s launched many a modern movie star: Garrett Hedlund, Jonah Hill, Ellen Page, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, and Channing Tatum, just to name a few. And the movies themselves have staying power: some inspired successful TV series (Friday Night Lights (2005)), others inspired Broadway musicals (Mean Girls (2004)), and many more offered up memorable lines we still quote today. Whether you’re looking for a comedy that’s upbeat (Bring It On (2000), The Princess Diaries (2001), She’s the Man (2006)), raunchy (Superbad (2008)), or quirky (Napoleon Dynamite (2004), Juno (2008)), high school movies from the 2000s will keep you laughing. If you’d prefer to cry, try A Walk to Remember (2002).


Dazed and ConfusedCluelessScream10 Things I Hate About youVirgin Suicides

Classic high school movies of all genres premiered in the 1990s. If you want a stoner comedy, you can’t do better than Dazed and Confused (1993), the movie that launched Matthew McConaughey to stardom. If you’d prefer a truly great romcom, try Clueless (1995) or 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). Horror? Watch the movie that launched a thousand sequels, Scream (1996). If you’re looking for something more thoughtful, be sure to check out Sophia Coppola’s gorgeous directorial debut, The Virgin Suicides (1999).


Fast Times at Ridgemont HighFootlooseThe Breakfast ClubFerris Bueller's Day OffHeathers

The ‘80s was the golden era of high school movies. This is thanks in large part to writer/director John Hughes, who was responsible for such classics as The Breakfast Club (1985), Pretty in Pink (1986), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), as well as for launching the careers of an entire generation of young stars. In addition to Hughes’ “Brat Pack,” we wouldn’t have movie stars like Sean Penn, Tom Cruise, or Kevin Bacon without movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), Risky Business (1983), or Footloose (1984). And our pop culture vernacular would sound a lot different without quotable movies like Back to the Future (1985) and Heathers (1988).


Rebel without a causeTo Sir, With LoveThe Last Picture ShowAmerican GraffitiGrease

The 1980s teen movie golden age wouldn’t exist without the great classic high school flicks from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. James Dean was the quintessential teen bad boy in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Sidney Poitier was one of the original inspirational movie teachers in To Sir, with Love (1960). And though they were released in the 1970s, The Last Picture Show (1970), American Graffiti (1973), and Grease (1978) all provided nostalgia for the teenage experience of the 1950s and 1960s.

Check out all the high school-centric movies available from Idea Exchange, and be sure to let us know in the comments below which high school movie is your all-time favourite!