High School has certainly changed through the decades but those underlying needs and feelings of angst are still relatable today. Below get ready for the list of the best high school angst movies off all time.
#30 She’s The Man
In 2006 Amanda Bynes was on top of the world and Channing Tatum was just coming up. Cue this adorable rom-com based on the classic Shakespeare play the Twelfth Night. Bynes wants to play soccer, but only boys can play soccer, so she dresses up and pretends. All sorts of hilarity and love triangles arise and eventually lessons are learned.
#29 The DUFF
In 2015 this comedy film explores what happens when a plain high school realizes that she is the DUFF of her crew. The DUFF is the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Mae Whitman (Arrested Development) plays the lead who discovers this and must do what she can to change things. Love interest, and generally good guy, Robbie Amell helps her learn that inner beauty is what counts.
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#28 Can’t Hardly Wait
In the 80s/90s high school was about different types and characters emerging from the generic everyone’s the same mold. By 1998, when this film came out, this was pushed incredibly far and you start seeing culture really playing a big role like in the spread of hip hop or grunge culture. This film was about that, all these various types of high schools coming together for one end of High School blow out. It has an all-star cast for the time, led by Jennifer Love Hewitt, and really checks all the right boxes.
#27 Encino Man
In 1992, weird hippy meets degenerate MTV personality Pauly Shore was all the rage. To capitalize on this a film was based around his brand, teaming him with Brendan Frazer as a caveman who was thawed out in the 90s in Encino California and was taken to high school. This is your classic, outcasts want to be cool, so they do something to change, the change ends up not being that great and lessons are learned. Very, is the grass actually greener on the other side.
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#26 House Party
In 1988, rappers Kid n’ Play burst on the music scene making hip hop music that had a fun teen angst to it. They were able to parlay their brand into an acting career and the four-film franchise House Party was born. Coming out in 1990, House Party mirrored their style and it was about throwing a high school house party when the parents are out of town and all the hijinks that came along with that. A very fun ride and a very cultural moment for the time.
#25 She’s All That
You don’t get more young adult rom-coms in the 90s than the Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook film She’s All That. The film follows and arrogant high school football player (Prinze) makes a bet that he take any girl in school to the prom and make her queen because she is with him. Paul Walker is the other guy and he gets to pick the girl. He can pick anyone but he decides to pick the artsy girl who has paint on her overalls and is wearing glasses (Leigh Cook) because those things are so hard to fix. She starts to get into this but realizes it is a bet, right around the time Prinze decides he actually likes his girl.
This 2009 comedy headlined by Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart is all about the perils of that after school job and the need to figure out what to do with your life around the time you turn 18. Eisenberg is a bright-eyed kid that goes to work at a local run-down carnival park Adventure land. He is surrounded by the worthless to the lethargic and they all help shape his idea of what it is he should do with his life. The film is dry and witty as opposed to laugh out loud, but it is really relatable and a good watch.
#23 Can’t Buy Me Love
Making our way into the 80s brings us the rom-com that had nerdy Patrick Dempsey before he became Mcsteamy. The 1987 Can’t Buy Me Love is about a nerd who sees an opportunity to help a popular girl out of a jam if she will hang out with him and help try and make him cool. Another classic example on the list of best high school angst movies of the grass is not always greener. Nick Canyon remade this as Love Don’t Cost A Thing, but you should watch the original.
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#22 The Edge of Seventeen
One of the later in time movies on our list of best high school angst movies is the 2016 coming of age drama The Edge of Seventeen. Hailee Steinfeld plays a lost high schooler who is just trying to find her way as everything about life changes around her. Her performance, as well as, her mentor/teacher Woody Harrelson were praised for their performances. The film is very relatable and something all kids of that age should watch.
#21 Teen Wolf
The 80s were a time when super weird concepts were absolutely fine. For example, a teen wolf, being a super popular high school basketball stud. Weird premise aside, the film is fantastic and headlined by 80s heartthrob and confident charism master Michael J Fox. Released in 1985, Teen wolf is super fun and quotable for days. The wolf transformation is kind of like a metaphor for puberty.
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#20 Easy A
Easy A is a 2010 teen drama take on The Scarlet Letter. Academy Award winner Emma Stone is a quirky teenager who gets branded as a “skank” due to some terrible high school peers. Being outcasted and constantly the negative butt of all conversations, she turns it around and decides to own it and rise above everything. Stone gives a tremendous performance in this teen trial is belonging and not letting the feelings of others get you down.
Pure fun from start to finish is the 2005 comedy Waiting headlined by an all-star cast that includes Ryan Reynolds, Justin Long and Anna Farris. Set in a cheesy family fun restaurant in the vein of a TGIF Fridays we meet the restaurant staff and see everything through their eyes. Things like what to do when a customer is terrible and giving you a hard time.
#18 Empire Records
in 1995 we received the coming of age comedy Empire Records. Set in a local record store, we meet the mostly young staff as they deal with their beloved store closing and how they can save it. The cast is filled with recognizable star after star and is fueled by the music and angst of the time. It made a huge impact on popular culture, we even still celebrate Rex Manning day on April 8th, a fictional holiday from the film.
#17 American Pie
In 1999 when you thought pounding libidos and coming of age, you thought American Pie. The franchise ended up spawning countless sequels but none as powerful as the original. The casting agent deserves all the credit, there were around ten no-name kids in the film and they all would go on to be big stars. The film deals with navigating the end of high school, moving on in life and most importantly getting laid before college. The film has such names as Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, Shannon Elizabeth, Natasha Lyonne and John Cho. It is crazy to think this is the film where the term “MILF” was born (referring to Stifler’s mom as a Mom I would Life to F**k”).
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Dope is a 2015 coming of age drama that takes it out of the standard white middle America everything is fine setting and drops it into the crime-filled Inglewood California. Three nerdy kids are just trying to navigate the pressures of high school which for them includes joining a gang. They want no part of that and just want to make it out alive. The film is beautiful in its style and has fantastic performances from its mostly unknown cast.
Heathers is the original Mean Girls. This 1988 dark comedy headlined by Winona Ryder and Christian Slater is about a super clicky popular group called the Heathers, since that is all of their names. Ryder falls into this group and realizes they are pure evil and at what cost is her popularity. Things go pretty off the rails in this twisted cautionary tale.
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#14 10 Things I Hate About You
Another Shakespearean adaption comes in the form of the 1999 comedy 10 Things I Hate About You, based loosely on The Taming of the Shrew. Julia Stiles and Larisa Oleynik play two completely opposite sisters. Olyeynik is sweet and popular who just wants to date boys, Stiles is an irritated shrew who has no time for idiots. Their dad doesn’t want either of them to date so he tells his youngest that she can’t date until her sister does. She then hatches a plan to make that happen, bringing us to Heath Ledger. Lessons are learned all around and happiness wins the day.
#13 Pretty in Pink
In the 80s, John Hughes was the master of the high school angst movie (four of his are on this list of best high school angst films). The first stars Molly Ringwald as a responsible high school student navigating life. A rich swanky playboy comes into town and it is on her to decide if she wants to be with this guy or her nerdy best friend Ducky (Jon Cryer) who recently declared his love for her. Her journey explores what’s really important in life.
#12 Sixteen Candles
The next John Hughes movie is 1984’s Sixteen Candles. Another Molly Ringwald gem, this film follows a girl about to have her sweet sixteen. Her whole family neglects it because her older sister is getting married the next day. She is also trying to navigate school and whether or not to lose her virginity. Another classic relatable story that has a happy ending after it is all said and done.
What happens when you get pregnant in high school and need to deal with that? The quirky 2007 dark comedy from Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody shows us. Ellen Paige accidentally gets pregnant by a longtime friend (Michael Cera) and decides to keep it. She is pretty chill about it but needs to put up with all the varying pressures around her. The film was great, even going on to win the best original screenplay Oscar.
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#10 Project X
Project X was a 2012 found footage comedy from the producers of The Hangover. The cast is entirely no name because you want the feeling that this is the real thing. A group of nerdy kids want to be cool so they decide to throw a party. The party gets out of control, and not just a little, on an epic epic epic scale. Like hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage out of control. The whole film is the build-up of this and inevitable downfall. The movie is a very unique premise and delivers on taking you first hand into the craziest house party you could ever imagine.
Superbad is a 2007 comedy that single-handedly brought back the R-Rated comedy. At the time, things were getting more watered down so they could be as broad as possible, making sure they got a PG-13. This film was a huge success and showed that even though the potential audience is a smaller pool, you are giving them what they want so they come out in droves. Superbad delivers. Written by Seth Rogen and produced by Judd Apatow, the film stars nerdy Jonah Hill and Michael Cera who is going to go to different colleges and end high school on a bang. Them, along with their sidekick McLovin, get into all sorts of R-Rated incidents.
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#08 The Perks of Being A Wallflower
Based on a book, this 2012 film is for all the outcasts out there. It is a film about finding those special people in your life that you connect with, not about how popular you can be. Logan Lerman stars as a quiet kid just trying to make his way. Along his journey, he meets the lovely Sam (Emma Watson) and the weird and eccentric Patrick (Ezra Miller) who show him a brand new world.
#07 Napoleon Dynamite
This quirky comedy made on a shoestring budget came out of nowhere. It showed us the weird style of writer/director Jared Hess and gave us the incredible characters of Napoleon Dynamite, brother Kip, Uncle Rico and friend Pedro. Napoleon and Pedro try and navigate high school and do whatever they can to obtain their very interesting dreams.
#06 Breakfast Club
The third John Hughes film on our list is the 1985 film The Breakfast Club. The film is very specifically about putting all different click types in one room and see what happens. There is the jock (Emilio Estevez), the bully/troublemaker (Judd Nelson), the nerd (Anthony Michael Hall), the prissy prom queen (Molly Ringwald) and the weirdo loner (Ally Sheedy). The film shows that everyone has problems and everyone has common ground. The five misfits become friends over their shared desire to escape detention and the rest is cult classic history.
“As If” may have been one of the most popular comebacks of the 90s thanks to this 1995 comedy about a privileged Beverly Hills beauty (Alicia Silverstone) trying to navigate life. She has a good heart but is very dumb to the realities of the world and needs to discover what is special about it. This hilarious film is probably the most quotable on this list of best high school angst films, every line is a gem.
#04 Dazed and Confused
This 1993 film from Oscar-winning director Richard Linklater is about the last day of school in a little Texan town in 1976. The film is very much a time capsule of the time, bringing in elements like music, style and cultural norms. Just like pretty much every film on this list of best high school angst movies, this is about all the different clicks coming together. Beer, pot, sex, fighting, paddling kids for fun, hazing, these are some of the fun elements that bring this one alive. Matthew McConaughey also plays the role he was born to play in this film.
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#03 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
The final, and quite possibly the best, John Hughes film on our list is this 1986 comedy headlined by Matthew Broderick as Ferris. Ferris is a popular kid that sees life as he knows it (high school) ending and he wants to take one final day off to make it count. Ferris skips school and goes on an adventure with his girlfriend and neurotic best friend. The trio has an incredible adventure through Chicago all while trying to avoid being caught by the school or their parents. It shows us how to live and you see it through the eyes of this incredibly charming frontman.
#02 Fast Times at Ridgemont High
“No Shirt, No Shoes, No Dice.” This is just one of the few iconic lines uttered by stoner high school burnout Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn). He is one of the many high schoolers at Ridgemont High. in 1982 the great Cameron Crowe wrote this coming of age comedy about a group of kids navigating their California high school. Some of the most iconic film moments in history are in this film, just google “Phoebe Katz Pool Scene”.
#01 Mean Girls
Finally on top of our list of best high school angst films comes 2004 comedic classic Mean Girls. Lindsay Lohan plays a good-looking bright-eyed new student who had been homeschooled until now and didn’t know how it all worked. When she starts she meets a group of super popular girls who run the school but are the absolute worst. Once she starts to see this, Lohan hatches a plan to take down this group of mean girls and allow everyone to no longer live in fear of their hazing or insults.