By Cameron Wall
The back-to-school season is always an exciting and nerve-wracking time for students, whether it’s the first day of first grade or the last year of high school. This time promises the chance to make friends and learn new things. Alleviate some of those back-to-school anxieties or that first day loathing (or relive your glory days) with movies that depict all of the excitement that comes with going back to school.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
The first of a generation-defining franchise, Sorcerer’s Stone holds all of the real-life magic of being a first-time student—as well as the actual magic—in its wizarding adventure. To be honest, though, any of the Harry Potter movies could be on this list, and we’d encourage marathon-watching all eight to get in the spirit.
School of Rock (2003)
Now a Tony-nominated Broadway musical, School of Rock is a hilarious and classic rock-filled joyride, teaching children to believe in themselves and work together to create something awesome. It has a great soundtrack, too, and it’s easily one of Jack Black’s finest roles.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Based on the Shakespearean play The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You is an incredibly funny movie that enlists the talents of Julia Stiles and the late Heath Ledger for an odd but relatable rom-com, revealing how opposites separated by high school cliques, appearances and popularity can still fall for each other.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Another classic high school movie, The Breakfast Club showcases clique stereotypes in a deep and meaningful manner, as five completely different students who start out at odds eventually connect with one another during Saturday detention. Over the course of their hijinks and newfound romance, the characters learn that, though opposites on the surface, they actually have a lot more in common than they thought.
Easy A (2010)
An amusing take on The Scarlet Letter, Easy A takes the high-school rumor mill and flips it on its head, with Olive (played by Emma Stone) creating and spreading a fictitious story around school and then coping with the fallout. The 2010 movie captures the way rumors spread through a high school so quickly in the modern age.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Not exactly a film to show a room full of high school seniors, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a classic adventure of self-discovery that poses legitimate fears of post-high school life when friends face soon being separated by college. It’s fun, memorable and immensely relatable despite the characters’ highly zany adventures.
Mean Girls (2004)
The contemporary classic Mean Girls is practically required watching for anyone in high school. Cady’s (portrayed by Lindsay Lohan) attempt to infiltrate the popular crowd and dismantle it from within perfectly captures the immense but totally founded absurdity of high school clique-oriented social systems.
Sky High (2005)
The underrated Sky High is a surprisingly relatable coming-of-age tale perfect for anyone in high school. It exemplifies all of the movie tropes of going to high school except here, everyone has superpowers. As the heroes come face-to-face with an evil villain trying to destroy the school, everyone still has to take finals.
Going away to college can be scary, and Accepted dives into those fears in an outrageous way. Bartleby Gaines (played by Justin Long) creates a fake college to avoid telling his parents he didn’t get accepted to a real university. Although it’s one of the more ridiculous plots on this list, Accepted has a very real message about the anxieties and expectations of what college will be like.
National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)
Is any list of college movies complete without Animal House? A perfect depiction of party-obsessed frats, Animal House probably isn’t parents’ first movie choice for teens entering their freshman year, but it’s a classic for a reason. While the brothers of Delta Tau Chi may not be model students, they are still loyal and work together throughout all of their goofy exploits. Plus, Animal House remains one of the late John Belushi’s greatest performances.
Though it came out more than 20 years ago, PCU’s staying power lies in its ability to showcase the sometimes ridiculous antics of the fraternities, activist groups and other organizations and cliques college campuses attract. While the movie mostly focuses on a group of social outcasts hosting a charity concert to save their group house, it’s all about overcoming differences and uniting for a single cause.