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!
Adjusted Score: 66.604%
Critics Consensus: So embarrassing it's believable, American Pie succeeds in bringing back the teen movie genre.
In this wild Unrated version of the hit comedy, follow the raging hormones of four teenage boys and their girls... [More]
Adjusted Score: 66.988%
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 hard work, dedication, and personal politics behind "rah rah rah!" and "sis boom bah!" go under the microscope in... [More]
Adjusted Score: 67.596%
Critics Consensus: It won't win many converts, but High School Musical 3 is bright, energetic, and well-crafted.
Seniors Troy and Gabriella face the prospect of being separated from one another as they head off in different directions... [More]
Adjusted Score: 67.82%
Critics Consensus: Though well-intentioned and serious in its exploration of teen violence, O is an uneven experiment that doesn't quite succeed.
Deep in the American South, NBA hopeful Odin James is the only black student at an elite private school. Playing... [More]
Adjusted Score: 71.993%
Critics Consensus: Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger add strong performances to an unexpectedly clever script, elevating 10 Things (slightly) above typical teen fare.
Popular, pretty Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik) is in dilemma. A family rule forbids her from dating until her unpopular, rebellious,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 73.628%
Critics Consensus: A promising debut for director Gia Coppola, Palo Alto compensates for its drifting plot with solid performances and beautiful cinematography.
Shy, sensitive April (Emma Roberts) is the class virgin -a popular soccer player and frequent babysitter for her single-dad coach,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 73.836%
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 California teacher finds a way to unify her disadvantaged, racially divided students and to improve their grasp of... [More]
Adjusted Score: 76.793%
Critics Consensus: A charming, quirky, and often funny comedy.
The directorial debut of filmmaker Jared Hess, who also co-wrote the screenplay, Napoleon Dynamite is a quirky, offbeat comedy set... [More]
Adjusted Score: 77.103%
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.
Bianca (Mae Whitman) is a content high school senior whose world is shattered when she learns the student body knows... [More]
Adjusted Score: 77.423%
Critics Consensus: The movie's spare and unconventional style will divide viewers.
A tale about high school violence that unfolds on an ordinary school day, inside an American high school, filled with... [More]
Adjusted Score: 77.703%
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.
John Hughes crafts an exemplary '80s Brat Pack romance out of the standard Cinderella story in Pretty in Pink. Andie... [More]
Adjusted Score: 76.121%
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.
Glenn Holland is an aspiring musician who takes a job teaching high school music classes, just to pay the bills.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 82.74%
Critics Consensus: Grease is a pleasing, energetic musical with infectiously catchy songs and an ode to young love that never gets old.
"Grease," said the poster and the Barry Gibb song, "is the word." Transferring its setting from Chicago to sunny California,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 78.557%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
This gritty, unflinching film centers on Richard Dadier, a war vet who gets a job teaching in a tough inner-city... [More]
Adjusted Score: 76.984%
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.
In a gender-reversed version of his previous hit Pretty in Pink, John Hughes retreads all-too- familiar ground in Some Kind... [More]
Adjusted Score: 77.184%
Critics Consensus: Better Off Dead is an anarchic mix of black humor and surreal comedy, anchored by John Cusack's winsome, charming performance.
After being rejected by the object of his affection and suffering a series of other humiliations, a depressed teenager decides... [More]
Adjusted Score: 80.199%
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.
On the surface the Lisbons appear to be a healthy, successful 1970s family living in a middle-class Michigan suburb. Mr.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 81.445%
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.
Based on 22-year-old Cameron Crowe's undercover exposé on life in a Southern California public high school, this groundbreaking effort presents... [More]
Adjusted Score: 83.034%
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: 84.546%
Critics Consensus: This entertaining homage to noirs past has been slickly and compellingly updated to a contemporary high school setting.
"Brick," while taking its cues and its verbal style from the novels of Dashiell Hammett, also honors the rich cinematic... [More]
Adjusted Score: 86.258%
Critics Consensus: Matthew Broderick charms in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, a light and irrepressibly fun movie about being young and having fun.
Teenaged Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) is a legend in his own time thanks to his uncanny skill at cutting classes... [More]
Adjusted Score: 84.786%
Critics Consensus: Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are just charming, goofy, and silly enough to make this fluffy time-travel Adventure work.
When a couple air-headed rock-star wannabes are faced with the break-up of their band as a result of poor grades,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 82.739%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Vince Lombardi High School continues to lose its school principles. The students are more concerned with rock 'n' roll than... [More]
Adjusted Score: 83.581%
Critics Consensus: A promising work by Lin, the energetic Better Luck Tomorrow is disturbing and thought-provoking.
A group of unlikely high school students take up crime as an extracurricular activity in this independent drama. Ben (Parry... [More]
Adjusted Score: 88.787%
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.
Jane Austen might never have imagined that her 1816 novel Emma could be turned into a fresh and satirical look... [More]
Adjusted Score: 88.941%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully scripted and perfectly cast, Me & Earl & the Dying Girl is a coming-of-age movie with uncommon charm and insight.
Winner of the 2015 Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL is... [More]
Adjusted Score: 86.727%
Critics Consensus: An acute survey of the football-obsessed heartland that succeeds as both a stirring drama and a rousing sports movie.
A drama that chronicles the entire 1988 season of the Permian High Panthers of Odessa, Texas, with football players, coaches,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 85.949%
Critics Consensus: Confident directing and acting deliver an insightful look at young athletes.
A young African-American couple navigates the tricky paths of romance and athletics in this drama. Quincy McCall (Omar Epps) and... [More]
Adjusted Score: 86.206%
Critics Consensus: Just because Fame is a well-acted musical doesn't mean it flinches against its surprisingly heavy topics.
Fame is set at New York's High School of Performing Arts, where talented teens train for show-business careers. The film... [More]
Adjusted Score: 87.298%
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.
Jeffrey Blitz's seriocomedy Rocket Science proves that many a handicap can be overcome, no matter how daunting the obstacle at... [More]
Adjusted Score: 86.206%
Critics Consensus: T. Bill debuts as an affectionate director, keenly aware of growing pains.
In this coming-of-age comedy-drama from director Tony Bill, a diminutive high schooler (Chris Makepeace) decides to defend himself against the... [More]
Adjusted Score: 86.93%
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.
On the eve of her sister's wedding, suburban teenager Samantha (Molly Ringwald) suffers silently as her family forgets her birthday.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 89.29%
Critics Consensus: Elevated by a brilliant screenplay and outstanding ensemble cast, Mean Girls finds fresh, female-fronted humor in the high school experience.
Tina Fey from Saturday Night Live wrote and appears in this comedy about the alternately funny and terrifying pecking order... [More]
Adjusted Score: 88.147%
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.
Robin Williams toned down his usually manic comic approach in this successful period drama. In 1959, the Welton Academy is... [More]
Adjusted Score: 93.539%
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.
When three parents stumble upon their daughters' pact to lose their virginity at prom, they launch a covert one-night operation... [More]
Adjusted Score: 87.278%
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.
From acclaimed graphic novelist Dash Shaw (New School) comes an audacious debut that is equal parts disaster cinema, high school... [More]
Adjusted Score: 89.944%
Critics Consensus: Hard-hitting and gracefully filmed, Bully powerfully delivers an essential message to an audience that may not be able to see it.
Directed by Sundance and Emmy-award winning filmmaker, Lee Hirsch, Bully is a beautifully cinematic, character-driven documentary. At its heart are... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90.647%
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.
Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is re-imagined as a contemporary high school comedy in this tale of a scheming student... [More]
Adjusted Score: 91.786%
Critics Consensus: Chronicle transcends its found-footage gimmick with a smart script, fast-paced direction, and engaging performances from the young cast.
Three high school students make an incredible discovery, leading to their developing uncanny powers beyond their understanding. As they learn... [More]
Adjusted Score: 91.032%
Critics Consensus: The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a heartfelt and sincere adaptation that's bolstered by strong lead performances.
Based on the best-selling novel by Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a modern classic that captures... [More]
Adjusted Score: 93.46%
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.
In the action-comedy 21 Jump Street, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are more than ready to leave their... [More]
Adjusted Score: 88.007%
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.
During her 25th high school class reunion, middle-aged Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) tries to forget her marital problems with husband... [More]
Adjusted Score: 89.55%
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.
Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a bright and charming high-school student who also has a dark and willfully eccentric side; he... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90.706%
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.
Based on a true story, a group of apathetic high school students learn that a friend has killed his girlfriend,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 93.748%
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.
A critical hit and audience favorite out of the Sundance Film Festival, in DOPE, Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is carefully surviving... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95.021%
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.
Operating under the assumption that by procuring alcohol for an upcoming party they will finally be able to break their... [More]
Adjusted Score: 93.679%
Critics Consensus: The Breakfast Club is a warm, insightful, and very funny look into the inner lives of teenagers.
John Hughes wrote and directed this quintessential 1980s high school drama featuring the hottest young stars of the decade. Trapped... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95.732%
Critics Consensus: This cult favorite is a quirky coming of age story, with fine, off-kilter performances from Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray.
"Rushmore" chronicles a year in the life of Max Fischer, a student at Rushmore Academy, one of the finest schools... [More]
Adjusted Score: 94.666%
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.
Nominated for two Oscars (R) and hailed by Sports Illustrated and ESPN as one of the best sports movies of... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98.481%
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.
Sixteen years after the release of the original film, New Line Cinema brings a feature film adaptation of the Tony... [More]
Adjusted Score: 97.339%
Critics Consensus: The Spectacular Now is an adroit, sensitive film that avoids typical coming-of-age story trappings.
With sly humor and an intensity of feeling, THE SPECTACULAR NOW (directed by James Ponsoldt) creates a vivid, three-dimensional portrait... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96.887%
Critics Consensus: Election successfully combines dark humor and intelligent writing in this very witty and enjoyable film.
In this satiric comedy, Jim McAllister is a popular and well-respected instructor at George Washington Carver High School in Omaha,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96.582%
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.
Like George Lucas' American Graffiti, Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused is an affectionate look at the youth culture of a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95.977%
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.
Risky Business is the film in which 19-year-old Tom Cruise dances around his living room in his underwear. He does... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98.398%
Critics Consensus: Rebel Without a Cause is a searing melodrama featuring keen insight into '50s juvenile attitude and James Dean's cool, iconic performance.
This landmark juvenile-delinquent drama scrupulously follows the classic theatrical disciplines, telling all within a 24-hour period. Teenager Jimmy Stark (James... [More]
Adjusted Score: 108.894%
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.
A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his... [More]
Adjusted Score: 94.31%
Critics Consensus: House Party is a light, entertaining teen comedy with an infectious energy.
House Party is an infectious, engaging comedy starring the rap duo Kid 'N Play. Kid (Christopher Reid) decides to throw... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96.882%
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.
A deliciously nasty black comedy, Heathers is set at a cliquish high school in Ohio. The most exclusive of those... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100.199%
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.
This classic horror movie based on Stephen King's first novel stars Sissy Spacek as Carrie White, a shy, diffident teenager... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98.247%
Critics Consensus: With acerbic wit, Terry Zwigoff fashions Daniel Clowes' graphic novel into an intelligent, comedic trip through deadpan teen angst.
Set during the summer after they graduate from high school, two ultra-hip friends, Enid and Becky fear drifting apart when... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101.328%
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 a teenage girl is faced with an unexpected pregnancy, she enlists the aid of her best friend in finding... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.218%
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.
THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN is a new coming-of-age movie in the vein of Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club -... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101.071%
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.
This Academy Award-nominated classic, voted one of the American Film Institute's top 100 Films Of All Time, features the coming... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.252%
Critics Consensus: Inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed, Back to the Future is a rousing time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit.
Contemporary high schooler Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) doesn't have the most pleasant of lives. Browbeaten by his principal at... [More]
Adjusted Score: 112.128%
Critics Consensus: Fast-paced, funny, and fresh, Booksmart does the seemingly impossible by adding a smart new spin to the coming-of-age comedy.
The story follows Dever and Feldstein's characters, two academic superstars and best friends who, on the eve of their high... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100.661%
Critics Consensus: Hairspray is perhaps John Waters' most accessible film, and as such, it's a gently subversive slice of retro hilarity.
Forever interested in the kitsch built into past eras, director John Waters chooses the TV dance show craze of the... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101.154%
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.
A high-school valedictorian begins dating an irresponsible army brat, much to the dismay of her father. After breaking off the... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101.579%
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.
This documentary about the aspirations of high-school basketball players from inner city Chicago won awards from the Sundance film festival,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 116.121%
Critics Consensus: Lady Bird delivers fresh insights about the turmoil of adolescence -- and reveals writer-director Greta Gerwig as a fully formed filmmaking talent.
In Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig reveals herself to be a bold new cinematic voice with her directorial debut, excavating both... [More]
Adjusted Score: 105.922%
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.
Produced by Hollywood iconoclast BBS Productions, film critic-turned-director Peter Bogdanovich's 1971 film pays homage to Hollywood's classical age as it... [More]