70 Best High School Movies of All Time
For some, high school is the peak of their life: You’ve got prom and pep rallies, and homecoming and hormones. For others, it’s the pits because you’ve got…well, prom and pep rallies, and homecoming and hormones. And there to capture every awesome/awful moment are these high school movies which earned high grades from film critics.
Some of these beloved movies (like The Last Picture Show or American Graffiti) take a look back on high school with the clarity of time gone by. Others (like Superbad or Booksmart) make you feel like the high school experience is unfolding in real-time right before your eyes.
The best high school movies reflect discovering one’s self (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), questioning authority (Dead Poets Society), taking wild risks (Better Luck Tomorrow), and working for a better future (Hoop Dreams). And some ask the big questions. Like, what if I was in high school and I was also, you know, a superhero? What if one day I’m driving to school and then I time-travel back to 1955? And what if I had a better idea of what to do with that pie than just eating it?
As the jump-gate into adulthood and beyond, high school can be wild and wondrous and heart-breaking and hilarious. (And usually all at once.) The same can be said for these Fresh and Certified Fresh films (each with at least 20 critics reviews), representing the best high school movies ever, all ranked by Tomatometer! —Alex Vo
Adjusted Score: 67231%
Critics Consensus: So embarrassing it's believable, American Pie succeeds in bringing back the teen movie genre.
A riotous and raunchy exploration of the most eagerly anticipated -- and most humiliating -- rite of adulthood, known as... [More]
Adjusted Score: 69600%
Critics Consensus: Despite the formulaic, fluffy storyline, this movie is surprisingly fun to watch, mostly due to its high energy and how it humorously spoofs cheerleading instead of taking itself too seriously.
The Toro cheerleading squad from Rancho Carne High School in San Diego has got spirit, spunk, sass and a killer... [More]
Adjusted Score: 68883%
Critics Consensus: It won't win many converts, but High School Musical 3 is bright, energetic, and well-crafted.
Amid preparations for a basketball championship, prom, and graduation, sweethearts Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) vow... [More]
Adjusted Score: 69098%
Critics Consensus: Though well-intentioned and serious in its exploration of teen violence, O is an uneven experiment that doesn't quite succeed.
Moving the classic tale of "Othello" onto the basketball courts of a high school, the story focuses on a young... [More]
Adjusted Score: 75253%
Critics Consensus: Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger add strong performances to an unexpectedly clever script, elevating 10 Things (slightly) above typical teen fare.
Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) is beautiful, smart and quite abrasive to most of her fellow teens, meaning that she doesn't... [More]
Adjusted Score: 74435%
Critics Consensus: A promising debut for director Gia Coppola, Palo Alto compensates for its drifting plot with solid performances and beautiful cinematography.
A lack of parental guidance encourages teens in an affluent California town to rebel with substance abuse and casual sex.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 74573%
Critics Consensus: Freedom Writers is a frank, formulaic entry in the inspirational inner-city teacher genre, with an energetic Hilary Swank leading the appealing cast of unknowns.
A dedicated teacher (Hilary Swank) in a racially divided Los Angeles school has a class of at-risk teenagers deemed incapable... [More]
Adjusted Score: 77549%
Critics Consensus: A charming, quirky, and often funny comedy.
In small-town Preston, Idaho, awkward teen Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) has trouble fitting in. After his grandmother is injured in... [More]
Adjusted Score: 78242%
Critics Consensus: The DUFF doesn't achieve teen-movie greatness, but offers enough of a postmodern twist on the genre to recommend -- and boasts typically great work from star Mae Whitman.
Frumpy high-school senior Bianca (Mae Whitman) has a rude awakening when she learns that her classmates secretly know her as... [More]
Adjusted Score: 79468%
Critics Consensus: The movie's spare and unconventional style will divide viewers.
A variety of adolescents at a suburban high school drift through a seemingly uneventful day, until two students arrive with... [More]
Adjusted Score: 80406%
Critics Consensus: Molly Ringwald gives an outstanding performance in this sweet, intelligent teen comedy that takes an ancient premise and injects it with insight and wit.
Andie (Molly Ringwald) is an outcast at her Chicago high school, hanging out either with her older boss (Annie Potts),... [More]
Adjusted Score: 76385%
Critics Consensus: A feel-good story brought to life by a terrific ensemble cast, Mr. Holland's Opus plucks the heartstrings without shame -- and with undeniable skill.
Composer Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) believes that he'll eventually write a transcendent piece of music, but in the meantime he's... [More]
Adjusted Score: 86765%
Critics Consensus: Grease is a pleasing, energetic musical with infectiously catchy songs and an ode to young love that never gets old.
Experience the friendships, romances and adventures of a group of high school kids in the 1950s. Welcome to the singing... [More]
Adjusted Score: 76612%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
World War II veteran Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford) takes a teaching position at a rough New York City school for... [More]
Adjusted Score: 79720%
Critics Consensus: Some Kind of Wonderful is above-average '80s teen fare for people who need as much John Hughes in their lives as possible.
Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz), an artsy high school outcast, tries to land a date with popular girl Amanda Jones (Lea... [More]
Adjusted Score: 78767%
Critics Consensus: Better Off Dead is an anarchic mix of black humor and surreal comedy, anchored by John Cusack's winsome, charming performance.
Lane Meyer (John Cusack) is a teen with a peculiar family and a bizarre fixation with his girlfriend, Beth (Amanda... [More]
Adjusted Score: 85214%
Critics Consensus: The Virgin Suicides drifts with a dreamlike melancholy that may strike some audiences as tedious, but Sofia Coppola's feature debut is a mature meditation on disaffected youth.
In an ordinary suburban house, on a lovely tree-lined street, in the middle of 1970s America, lived the five beautiful,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 83797%
Critics Consensus: While Fast Times at Ridgemont High features Sean Penn's legendary performance, the film endures because it accurately captured the small details of school, work, and teenage life.
Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a pretty, but inexperienced, teen interested in dating. Given advice by her uninhibited friend,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 87041%
Critics Consensus: Horror icon Wes Craven's subversive deconstruction of the genre is sly, witty, and surprisingly effective as a slasher film itself, even if it's a little too cheeky for some.
The sleepy little town of Woodsboro just woke up screaming. There's a killer in their midst who's seen a few... [More]
Adjusted Score: 84949%
Critics Consensus: This entertaining homage to noirs past has been slickly and compellingly updated to a contemporary high school setting.
After receiving a frantic phone call from his ex-girlfriend, teenage loner Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) learns that her dead body... [More]
Adjusted Score: 89922%
Critics Consensus: Matthew Broderick charms in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, a light and irrepressibly fun movie about being young and having fun.
Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) has an uncanny skill at cutting classes and getting away with it. Intending to make one... [More]
Adjusted Score: 86876%
Critics Consensus: Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are just charming, goofy, and silly enough to make this fluffy time-travel Adventure work.
Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are high school buddies starting a band. However, they are about to fail... [More]
Adjusted Score: 83048%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
A teenager (P.J. Soles) and her friends get even with their principal to music by the Ramones.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 84211%
Critics Consensus: A promising work by Lin, the energetic Better Luck Tomorrow is disturbing and thought-provoking.
An accomplished high school student, Ben (Parry Shen) seems to excel at almost everything except winning over his dream girl,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90221%
Critics Consensus: A funny and clever reshaping of Emma, Clueless offers a soft satire that pokes as much fun at teen films as it does at the Beverly Hills glitterati.
Shallow, rich and socially successful Cher (Alicia Silverstone) is at the top of her Beverly Hills high school's pecking scale.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 91080%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully scripted and perfectly cast, Me & Earl & the Dying Girl is a coming-of-age movie with uncommon charm and insight.
An awkward high-school senior (Thomas Mann) and a gravely ill classmate (Olivia Cooke) surprise themselves by becoming inseparable friends.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 87474%
Critics Consensus: An acute survey of the football-obsessed heartland that succeeds as both a stirring drama and a rousing sports movie.
A small, turbulent town in Texas obsesses over their high school football team to an unhealthy degree. When the star... [More]
Adjusted Score: 89148%
Critics Consensus: Confident directing and acting deliver an insightful look at young athletes.
Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) are two childhood friends who both aspire to be professional basketball players. Quincy,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 81953%
Critics Consensus: Just because Fame is a well-acted musical doesn't mean it flinches against its surprisingly heavy topics.
Young men and women audition for coveted spots at the New York High School of Performing Arts. Those who make... [More]
Adjusted Score: 88042%
Critics Consensus: Though Rocket Science appears to be a typically quirky indie, the well-rounded performances and director Jeffrey Blitz's clear affection for his characters gives the film its proper human spark.
High-school student Hal Hefner's (Reece Daniel Thompson) life is falling down around him. His parents have split, his brother picks... [More]
Adjusted Score: 81997%
Critics Consensus: T. Bill debuts as an affectionate director, keenly aware of growing pains.
Clifford Peache (Chris Makepeace) is a sensitive, well-to-do teen who becomes the target of bully Melvin Moody (Matt Dillon) after... [More]
Adjusted Score: 84446%
Critics Consensus: Significantly more mature than the teen raunch comedies that defined the era, Sixteen Candles is shot with compassion and clear respect for its characters and their hang-ups.
With the occasion all but overshadowed by her sister's upcoming wedding, angst-ridden Samantha (Molly Ringwald) faces her 16th birthday with... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90222%
Critics Consensus: Elevated by a brilliant screenplay and outstanding ensemble cast, Mean Girls finds fresh, female-fronted humor in the high school experience.
Teenage Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) was educated in Africa by her scientist parents. When her family moves to the suburbs... [More]
Adjusted Score: 89495%
Critics Consensus: Affecting performances from the young cast and a genuinely inspirational turn from Robin Williams grant Peter Weir's prep school drama top honors.
A new English teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams), is introduced to an all-boys preparatory school that is known for its... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96350%
Critics Consensus: Blockers puts a gender-swapped spin on the teen sex comedy -- one elevated by strong performances, a smartly funny script, and a surprisingly enlightened perspective.
Julie, Kayla and Sam are three high school seniors who make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 86719%
Critics Consensus: My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea's attention-getting visual style matches debuting writer-director Dash Shaw's distinctive narrative approach -- and signals a bright future for a promising talent.
High school sophomores Dash and Assaf are best friends and the only writers for the school newspaper. When the editor... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90204%
Critics Consensus: Hard-hitting and gracefully filmed, Bully powerfully delivers an essential message to an audience that may not be able to see it.
Filmmaker Lee Hirsch examines five cases of youths who endure vicious persecution at the hands of their peers. Ja'meye, 14,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 92584%
Critics Consensus: It owes a huge debt to older (and better) teen comedies, but Easy A proves a smart, witty showcase for its irresistibly charming star, Emma Stone.
Prompted by her popular best friend to spill details of her boring weekend, Olive (Emma Stone), a clean-cut teen, decides... [More]
Adjusted Score: 93523%
Critics Consensus: Chronicle transcends its found-footage gimmick with a smart script, fast-paced direction, and engaging performances from the young cast.
Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is a socially awkward, introverted teen whose main form of escape and expression is a video camera.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 92737%
Critics Consensus: The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a heartfelt and sincere adaptation that's bolstered by strong lead performances.
Socially awkward teen Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a wallflower, always watching life from the sidelines, until two charismatic students become... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95724%
Critics Consensus: A smart, affectionate satire of '80s nostalgia and teen movie tropes, 21 Jump Street offers rowdy mainstream comedy with a surprisingly satisfying bite.
When cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) join the secret Jump Street unit, they use their youthful appearances... [More]
Adjusted Score: 89433%
Critics Consensus: Peggy Sue Got Married may seem just another in a line of '80s boomer nostalgia films, but none of the others have Kathleen Turner keen lead performance.
Peggy Sue Bodell (Kathleen Turner) attends her 25-year high school reunion after separating from her cheating husband, Charlie (Nicolas Cage).... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90892%
Critics Consensus: Richard Kelly's debut feature Donnie Darko is a daring, original vision, packed with jarring ideas and intelligence and featuring a remarkable performance from Jake Gyllenhaal as the troubled title character.
In a funny, moving and distinctly mind-bending journey through suburban America, one extraordinary but disenchanted teenager is about to take... [More]
Adjusted Score: 91510%
Critics Consensus: A harrowing tale of aimless youth, River's Edge generates considerable tension and urgency thanks to strong performances from a stellar cast that includes Crispin Glover, Keanu Reeves, and Ione Skye.
Teenage burnout Samson (Daniel Roebuck) has murdered his girlfriend and left her naked body lying on the bank of a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95523%
Critics Consensus: Featuring a starmaking performance from Shameik Moore and a refreshingly original point of view from writer-director Rick Famuyiwa, Dope is smart, insightful entertainment.
High-school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) bond over '90s hip-hop culture,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96200%
Critics Consensus: Deftly balancing vulgarity and sincerity while placing its protagonists in excessive situations, Superbad is an authentic take on friendship and the overarching awkwardness of the high school experience.
High school seniors Seth and Evan have high hopes for a graduation party. The co-dependent teens plan to score booze... [More]
Adjusted Score: 94915%
Critics Consensus: The Breakfast Club is a warm, insightful, and very funny look into the inner lives of teenagers.
Five high school students from different walks of life endure a Saturday detention under a power-hungry principal (Paul Gleason). The... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96449%
Critics Consensus: This cult favorite is a quirky coming of age story, with fine, off-kilter performances from Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray.
When a beautiful first-grade teacher (Olivia Williams) arrives at a prep school, she soon attracts the attention of an ambitious... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95264%
Critics Consensus: It may adhere to the sports underdog formula, but Hoosiers has been made with such loving craft, and features such excellent performances, that it's hard to resist.
Failed college coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) gets a chance at redemption when he is hired to direct the basketball... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100687%
Critics Consensus: Hairspray is an energetic, wholly entertaining musical romp; a fun Summer movie with plenty of heart. Its contagious songs will make you want to get up and start dancing.
In 1960s Baltimore, dance-loving teen Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) auditions for a spot on "The Corny Collins Show" and wins.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98581%
Critics Consensus: The Spectacular Now is an adroit, sensitive film that avoids typical coming-of-age story trappings.
An innocent, bookish teenager (Shailene Woodley) begins dating the charming, freewheeling high-school senior (Miles Teller) who awoke on her lawn... [More]
Adjusted Score: 97496%
Critics Consensus: Election successfully combines dark humor and intelligent writing in this very witty and enjoyable film.
Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), a well-liked high school government teacher, can't help but notice that successful student Tracy Flick (Reese... [More]
Adjusted Score: 99273%
Critics Consensus: Featuring an excellent ensemble cast, a precise feel for the 1970s, and a killer soundtrack, Dazed and Confused is a funny, affectionate, and clear-eyed look at high school life.
This coming-of-age film follows the mayhem of group of rowdy teenagers in Austin, Texas, celebrating the last day of high... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96723%
Critics Consensus: Featuring one of Tom Cruise's best early performances, Risky Business is a sharp, funny examination of teen angst that doesn't stop short of exploring dark themes.
Ecstatic when his parents leave on vacation for a few days, high school senior Joel Goodsen (Tom Cruise) cuts loose... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100156%
Critics Consensus: Rebel Without a Cause is a searing melodrama featuring keen insight into '50s juvenile attitude and James Dean's cool, iconic performance.
After moving to a new town, troublemaking teen Jim Stark (James Dean) is supposed to have a clean slate, although... [More]
Adjusted Score: 114201%
Critics Consensus: Spider-Man: Homecoming does whatever a second reboot can, delivering a colorful, fun adventure that fits snugly in the sprawling MCU without getting bogged down in franchise-building.
Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker returns home to live with his Aunt May. Under the... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95898%
Critics Consensus: House Party is a light, entertaining teen comedy with an infectious energy.
Play's parents are out of town, and he's planning the house party to end all house parties. His best friend,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 97980%
Critics Consensus: Dark, cynical, and subversive, Heathers gently applies a chainsaw to the conventions of the high school movie -- changing the game for teen comedies to follow.
Veronica (Winona Ryder) is part of the most popular clique at her high school, but she disapproves of the other... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102612%
Critics Consensus: Carrie is a horrifying look at supernatural powers, high school cruelty, and teen angst -- and it brings us one of the most memorable and disturbing prom scenes in history.
In this chilling adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel, withdrawn and sensitive teen Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) faces taunting from... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98783%
Critics Consensus: With acerbic wit, Terry Zwigoff fashions Daniel Clowes' graphic novel into an intelligent, comedic trip through deadpan teen angst.
The story of neo-cool Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) who, faced with graduation from high school, take a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102598%
Critics Consensus: One of the brightest, funniest comedies of the year, Juno's smart script and direction are matched by assured performances in a coming-of-age story with a 21st century twist.
When precocious teen Juno MacGuff becomes pregnant, she chooses a failed rock star and his wife to adopt her unborn... [More]
Adjusted Score: 104208%
Critics Consensus: The Edge of Seventeen's sharp script -- and Hailee Steinfeld's outstanding lead performance -- make this more than just another coming-of-age dramedy.
Everyone knows that growing up is hard, and life is no easier for high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), who... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101127%
Critics Consensus: One of the most influential of all teen films, American Graffiti is a funny, nostalgic, and bittersweet look at a group of recent high school grads' last days of innocence.
From director George Lucas (Star Wars) and producer Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather), American Graffiti is a classic coming-of-age story... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103704%
Critics Consensus: Inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed, Back to the Future is a rousing time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit.
In this 1980s sci-fi classic, small-town California teen Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is thrown back into the '50s when... [More]
Adjusted Score: 116530%
Critics Consensus: Fast-paced, funny, and fresh, Booksmart does the seemingly impossible by adding a smart new spin to the coming-of-age comedy.
Academic overachievers Amy and Molly thought keeping their noses to the grindstone gave them a leg up on their high... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101633%
Critics Consensus: Hairspray is perhaps John Waters' most accessible film, and as such, it's a gently subversive slice of retro hilarity.
When Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake), an overweight teen, auditions for a spot on a popular teen dance show, she beats... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102052%
Critics Consensus: One of the definitive Generation X movies, Say Anything... is equally funny and heartfelt -- and it established John Cusack as an icon for left-of-center types everywhere.
In a charming, critically acclaimed tale of first love, Lloyd (John Cusack), an eternal optimist, seeks to capture the heart... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102276%
Critics Consensus: One of the most critically acclaimed documentaries of all time, Hoop Dreams is a rich, complex, heartbreaking, and ultimately deeply rewarding film that uses high school hoops as a jumping-off point to explore issues of race, class, and education in modern America.
Every school day, African-American teenagers William Gates and Arthur Agee travel 90 minutes each way from inner-city Chicago to St.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 121259%
Critics Consensus: Lady Bird delivers fresh insights about the turmoil of adolescence -- and reveals writer-director Greta Gerwig as a fully formed filmmaking talent.
A teenager (Saoirse Ronan) navigates a loving but turbulent relationship with her strong-willed mother (Laurie Metcalf) over the course of... [More]
Adjusted Score: 111930%
Critics Consensus: Making excellent use of its period and setting, Peter Bogdanovich's small town coming-of-age story is a sad but moving classic filled with impressive performances.
High school seniors and best friends, Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges), live in a dying Texas town. The... [More]