Notorious Graduation Movies to Watch During Grad Season


Growing up, I would always watch movies about high schoolers, counting down the days until I could be one of the teenage characters I loved on the silver screen. Whether a flashy musical or a trashy comedy, they made high school seem perfect, like something to look forward to. The actual high school experience may not be what every movie promised us, but what better way to celebrate graduation by doing none other than a chill night at home watching graduation movies? 

Booksmart Directed, Directed by Olivia Wilde, 2019

Spoiler alert: Booksmart is my favorite movie on this list. Two seniors, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), spent their entire high school career studying and staying in because they believed it was the only way to get into a good university. However, on the day of school they find out all the “popular” kids who did everything they didn’t also get into good colleges. Angry that they’d wasted their teenage years, they make a pact to make up for it, all their lost experiences in one night. A short 1 hour and 42 minutes, this movie is a hilarious watch and cleverly toys with the common theme of regretting and reminiscing on the “old days”. 

Amazon Prime

Dazed and Confused, Directed by Richard Linklater, 1993

Unlike the other movies on this list, Dazed and Confused took place in a time period today’s teenagers aren’t familiar with. Set in the 70s, his movie follows Randall “Pink” Floyd (Jason London) on his last day of school as he parties with different groups of friends; stoners, jocks, nerds, and freshmen. A timeless film filled with many iconic lines like Matthew McConaughey’s “Alright, alright, alright”. I loved how this movie’s carefree tone perfectly encapsulates the same attitude senior’s have been having these past weeks of school. 

Amazon Prime 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Directed by Stephen Chbosky, 2012

Be warned, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is magnificent, but a lot more emotionally heavy than I had previously thought. I expected this movie to be a feel-good watch due to the lightness of the other two, and was blinded by its gravity. Although the main character Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a freshman, his best friends Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller) are seniors. This movie follows them throughout the entire school year, tackling superficial topics like college admissions, moving away, test scores, and typical high school life, along with hard hitting ones like depression and suicide. 


Ladybird, Directed by Greta Gerwig, 2017

Ladybird follows a senior (Saorise Ronan) who names herself Ladybird  Ladybird struggles with her relationships outside of school and what she plans to do as an adult. Her complex relationship with her mom poses an interesting argument for anyone who’s uncertain about the responsibility of growing up and starting a new chapter in their lives. Saorise Ronan and Laurie Metcalf serve such grounded performances that compliment the cinematography and small-town style of the film. 

Amazon Prime 

Superbad, Directed by Greg Mottola, 2007

The funniest movie on this list, Superbad, is about two best friends and high school seniors, Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) trying to get into a party on their last day of school. While the subject of first experiences is similar to Booksmart, the movies differ in their style and sense of humor; Superbad’s humor is much more raunchy and grotesque, similar to that of a Saturday Night Live skit. Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s performance as McLovin, the comedic relief, is truly a standout for being both dorky and insanely confident. 


High School Musical 3, Directed by Kenny Ortega, 2008

“Who says we have to let it go? 

It’s the best part we’ve ever known, 

step into the future but hold onto 

High School Musical!”

High School Musical 3 is the last of the High School Musical series films. In this final chapter, we watch beloved characters Troy Bolton (Zac Efron), Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens), and Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) face the fact that high school doesn’t last forever. Watching the characters, many have grown up with, familiarized with youth and recklessness graduate is a tough pill to swallow for most, but is also why it makes for the best sob fest and send-off film. Though the moods change, the movie’s cheesy songs and romances don’t disappoint.