I know, I know: Summer (and more importantly, summer TV) has only just begun, but since most of us haven't left the couch for more time than it takes to grab a snack from the kitchen since, um, March, the nostalgia of physically being IN school is already setting in. Global pandemic aside, there's no doubt something magical about heading back to school: You spend at least a few hours picking out your super fresh first-day 'fit, then you beeline for your crew as soon as you get to campus, suss out the new kids, and scan your list of classes to see if you have any good teachers. My fingers and toes are crossed that you'll get to experience an IRL first day of school again soon, bb!
Whether you’re a newly-minted middle-school grad ready to take over high school or a college sophomore yearning for dorm life (or, hey, maybe you’re just an adult sentimental for cafeteria pizza and Lisa Frank folders, no judgment), streaming a marathon of school-centric hits is definitely in order.
Here we’ve rounded up the very best back-to-school movies to last you until winter break, including classics like 'Dead Poet's Society' and new favorites like 'Pitch Perfect.' Bonus points to whichever one of you smartypants can turn watching one of these movies into a homework assignment for your film studies class.
Senior year can be rough, and watching Lady Bird try to balance her friends *and* her relationship with her parents *and* getting into college makes me feel pretty relieved that part of my life is over. But then Timothée Chalamet comes on the screen and suddenly I'm crushing again.
'She's the Man'
Here's some fun trivia: this movie is loosely based on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, a story that had literally nothing to do with school—so yeah, you could say certain creative liberties were taken. But leave it to Amanda Bynes to take a 400-year-old story and turn it into something you wanna rewatch at least once a year.
Possibly the most musical back-to-school movie apart from, ya know, actual musicals. If this doesn't make you wanna be a freshman in college so you can join an a capella group with Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson, then something's wrong because it looks aca-awesome. (Sorry, had to.)
'Dead Poet's Society'
This movie is emotional for sev-er-al reasons ("O Captain, my Captain," anyone?), and man oh man what I would give to have had a poetry-loving Robin Williams as my high school English teacher!
If you're heading off to law school in the fall, let Ms. Elle Woods teach you a thing or two about making an entrance. Who knows, maybe one day you too will catch someone mid-perjury because of hair-perm etiquette!
'High School Musical'
I think we can all admit now that Gabriella is kinda the worst (I'm hardcore Team Sharpay, don't @ me). Regardless of whose side you're on, this movie made everyone dream of meeting an adorable Zac Efron over winter break and then starting at a new school that he just so happens to attend. Fate!
What do you do when you don't get into any college you applied to? You just create your own school, duh. By the way, this movie's cast is low-key stacked. It's got Jonah Hill, Blake Lively, Justin Long, and Kellan Lutz.
'The Perks of Being a Wallflower'
Definitely one of the heavier movies on this list, Perks of Being a Wallflower is a really moving watch. Starring Emma Watson and Ezra Miller, it's a coming-of-age story about mental health, surviving abuse, and making new friends.
Billy literally heads back to school to redo grades one through 12 in order to prove to his dad that he's smart enough to handle the family biz. It's Adam Sandler in all his '90s glory and an utter delight to watch.
Nothing gets you in the back-to-school mood like a dose of catty drama, amirite? Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) takes on the ringleader of the Plastics Regina George (Rachel McAdams) in this high-school classic. It’s written by Tina Fey, so you know it's good.
Emma Stone plays Olive, who lies about losing her virginity but can’t reveal the truth before the whole school finds out. Alongside all the social-scene antics, the film tries to answer the question we’ve been pondering for years: Why the heck is “Pocketful of Sunshine” so catchy?
‘Friday Night Lights’
Nope, not the show. (Though if you aren't familiar with the human god known as Tim Riggins, go get your fix stat.) This movie's about the football-obsessed town of Odessa, Texas, and stars Billy Bob Thornton as Coach Gaines.
‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’
Arguably the best school-themed movie about, er, skipping class. A charming young Matthew Broderick is the goofy bad boy who makes you want to duck out of school, regardless of your perfect attendance record.
Probably the most NSFW movie on our back-to-school list, but no shade to McLovin. Having a fake ID is basically a rite of passage for all high school kids.
‘She’s All That’
Everybody loves a good prom movie, especially when it stars Freddie Prinze Jr. in the height of his rom-com glory days. Popular guy Zach accepts a bet to make outcast Laney Boggs prom queen. Throw in some underage partying and a classic makeover scene and you’ve got yourself a Kids Choice Award winner.
‘To All the Boys I Loved Before’
Can we put this on every must-watch list ever? Great, glad that's settled. Lana Condor (Lara Jean) and Noah Centineo (Peter) star in this super heartwarming YA flick that is way palatable to even non-YA lovers.
‘Bring It On’
Be honest: You have the entire first cheer sequence memorized. Admit it! I’ve personally never wanted to be anyone more than I wanted to be Kirsten Dunst as head of the Toro squad (before she dropped the Spirit Stick, that is).
A back-to-school movie list without the legendary Cher Horowitz, her drool-worthy closet, and a young Paul Rudd? As if.
‘21 Jump Street’
Absolute Unit Channing Tatum somehow posing as a high school student is a comedy in itself. Throw some Jonah Hill in there and you’ve got yourself a dynamic duo if I’ve ever seen one.
‘The Breakfast Club’
A classic Molly Ringwald + gang dealing with a very high school problem: Saturday detention. And Don’t You Forget About that final scene.
If I can’t be Kirsten Dunst leading a cheer squad at the high school basketball game, I’d like to be a post-makeover, leather-clad Sandy crushing a cigarette beneath my red strappy pumps.