10 of the Best Back-to-School Films

There’s nothing quite like getting ready for a new school year to start. Whether it’s buying a fresh set of mechanical pencils, laying out your brand new first day of school outfit or preparing to reunite with your best friends — the back-to-school season is a core memory for everyone. But, there’s also the anticipatory dread of early mornings, tests and homework. So, in order to remember all the perks of being in school and enter the preppiest of spirits, here are 10 of the best back-to-school films.

“Booksmart”

Courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.

There are two aspects of high school that are hard to balance: work and play. In this 2019 film, academic overachievers Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) suddenly realize they may have missed out on the social aspect of school due to their rigorous study habits. So, on the eve of their graduation, the best friend duo attempts to create a celebratory night they will never forget. Directed by Olivia Wilde, the film incorporates comedy and a coming-of-age story that is bound to leave the audience reminiscing on their friendships and adventures from high school. 

“Booksmart” is available to stream on Hulu.

“Lady Bird”

Courtesy of A24.

Before entering the world of adulthood, it seems like anything is possible. Aspirational dreams are only a few years away and the idea of leaving the nest to explore a certain passion is mere moments away. That is the exact perspective adopted by the 2017 film “Lady Bird.” Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, the film follows the story of free-spirited Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) and her turbulent relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf). With the scenic backdrop of Sacramento, the film showcases the relationships that shape who we become and how the older we get, the more we realize the power of a place like home.

“Lady Bird” is available to stream on Showtime.   

“High School Musical”

Courtesy of Disney Studios.

Falling in love in high school feels like your life is a song. Well, that’s taken quite literally in the 2006 film “High School Musical.” Troy Bolton (Zac Efron), the star basketball player at East High, falls in love with brainiac Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) at a holiday party. Little do they know, Gabriella is the new student at East High and turns Troy’s world upside down by convincing him to audition for the spring musical. With catchy songs like “Get’cha Head In The Game” and “Breaking Free,” this Disney classic displays the high school everyone wanted to attend. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have a flash mob in the school cafeteria? 

“High School Musical” is available to stream on Disney+. 

“Legally Blonde”

Courtesy of MGM Studios.

The combination of a studious lawyer and the color pink never were a perfect match until this film. “Legally Blonde” focuses on Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) who is a student at the fictional school of CULA. When her dream of getting engaged to Warner Huntington (Matthew Davis) crashes and burns, she decides to prove to him she is more than just blonde hair by attending Harvard Law School. This is a story about believing in the possibilities one can accomplish and how just a little faith in yourself can lead to endless opportunities — with the added bonus of a pink scented resumé.

“Legally Blonde” is available to stream on Hulu’s Premium Subscription. 

“Pitch Perfect”

Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Even though moving into a college dorm and starting a whole new life away from home is daunting, there are also many perks. One of those benefits is the ability to find a niche group of friends who help you discover your true self and allow your passions to soar. This scenario is epitomized in the 2012 film “Pitch Perfect,” when Becca (Anna Kendrick) joins an acapella club during her freshman year of college. While the film centers around the Barden Bellas and their journey to the Collegiate Acapella Finals, the story is really about the power friends and peers hold when molding your future self.  

“Pitch Perfect” is available to stream on both Hulu’s Premium Subscription and FuboTV. 

“Clueless”

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Any fashionista would argue that what you wear to school should showcase your style in the truest sense. With her computerized closet and silky-smooth hair care routine, Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) has the wardrobe of any preppy girl’s dream. Along with her savvy style, Cher resembles Jane Austen’s “Emma” as she attempts to be a matchmaker for her friends. The 1995 film has become a teen rom-com classic and certainly fantasizes high school in a way that no other film does — with a young Paul Rudd spliced throughout the film as icing on the cake.   

“Clueless” is available to stream on Paramount+ and Amazon Prime Video. 

“Mean Girls”

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Every high school has three aspects to it: the good, the bad, and the rumors spread around about everyone else. This is comedically displayed in the 2004 film “Mean Girls.” Written by Tina Fey, the SNL-esque film is led by Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) who is a new student at an Illinois high school after being homeschooled in Africa her whole life. With the obvious culture shock, Cady suddenly attracts the attention of the elite clique “The Plastics,” and even though she intends to dismantle the group, she is suddenly sucked into their trance. Even though the film capitalizes on how bullies get ahead in school, it also shows their quick demise and how the moral route of honesty and trust prevails in the end.  

“Mean Girls” is available to stream on Netflix. 

“Grease”

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

High school looks a lot different than the ’50s — with the obvious shortage of poodle skirts. Nevertheless, nothing beats turning on “Grease” to amp up the back-to-school emotions. The story unfolds when a new exchange student Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) develops a summer romance with leather bad-boy Danny (John Travolta). But once school is back in session, Sandy and Danny have to face serious peer pressure from their friends. The desires of each of their respective cliques, shown in a musical format, clash with their dreams of being together. The friendships, adventures and romances showcased in this film display how impactful relationships can be — even if they only last for four years.  

“Grease” is available to stream on Paramount+.

“School of Rock”

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

This 2003 film proves that there can be rock-and-roll incorporated into the mundane school day. Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is in search of work after his bar band throws him out of the group. As a result, he poses as a substitute music teacher at a private elementary school. Dewey secretly teaches his students about hard rock and the icons he idolizes, which leads to the group performing at a local Battle of the Bands. Even though this is a redemption story for Dewey, with Jack Black’s notably slapstick comedy, it is also a lesson in how teachers plant inspiration into the minds of their students. “School of Rock” is a reminder of how important each and every teacher is, no matter how quirky they may be. 

“School of Rock” is available to watch on YouTube for free. 

“Monsters University”

Courtesy of Disney Studios.

Who knew that monsters would be so relatable when it came to college? Serving as a prequel to the 2001 film “Monsters, Inc.,” this 2013 Pixar story focuses on the budding friendship of Mike Wazoski (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) during their years at Monsters University as scare majors. The early rivalry between the duo leads to their removal from the Scare Program. To earn back their spot, they must compete in the Scare Games with a fraternity of misfit monsters. Even though they get off on the wrong foot, their friendship displays how cooperation and patience can allow for both the best memories and the best college experience. 

 “Monsters University” is available to stream on Disney+.

By Megan Forrester

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