8 Quintessential Back-to-School Movies for Screenwriters

By Britton Perelman · September 23, 2018

Everyone’s back to school, kids are begrudgingly doing their homework, and teachers everywhere are molding young minds. You can practically smell the pencil shavings. 

Celebrate the season by popping in any of these eight movies guaranteed to make you wistful for the beginning of the school year.


Though you may not want to think of all the hours you spent in trouble, The Breakfast Club is the perfect movie to remind you of the good times from high school. Five completely different students; one Saturday stuck in detention. Thirty years later, this John Hughes film is still relevant to those in school and everyone who has already graduated.

Quintessential high school quote: “You see us as you want to see us — in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain… and an athlete… and a basket case… a princess… and a criminal.”


Hitting theaters at the peek of new inventions in social media, Easy A captured a teenage girl struggling with how her classmates see her and how, ultimately, she sees herself. Told through chapters of a video blog, with hilarious minor characters and memorable lines, this movie evokes a part of growing up we all probably wish we could forget.

Quintessential high school quote: “Ironically, we were studying ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ but isn’t that always the way? The books you read in class always seem to have a strong connection with whatever angsty adolescent drama is being recounted. I consider this. Except for ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ ‘cause I don’t know any teenage boys who have ever run away with a big, hulking black guy.”


Senioritis is real — evidenced by both the fact that Microsoft Word recognizes it as a word, and that every spring, seniors everywhere get antsy to be done with school. It’s something to do with the prospect of moving on to bigger and (hopefully) better things. Ferris Bueller, on the other hand, just wanted one day where he could slow down, skip school, and have fun without worrying about the future. The carefree yet fraught-with-worry feeling of being a senior is captured perfectly in this 1986 movie.

Quintessential high school quote: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”


So what if Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta were well into their 20s when they portrayed high-schoolers Sandy and Danny? There were so many things this musical adaptation got right — the feeling of coming back to school after a great summer, how quickly gossip can spread among teenagers in close quarters, having a crush who you just can’t seem to hit it off with, the list goes on…

Quintessential high school quote: “Beauty school sure wasn’t as I thought it would be.” “Nothing ever is.”


Not everyone has to deal with unplanned pregnancy in high school, but Juno is about so, so much more than that. The titular character finds out she’s pregnant, decides what to do with the baby and then learns incredibly important lessons about identity, self-worth, love, and family in the nine months before she gives birth. This movie uses pregnancy as a lens to explore something we all deal with at some point during high school — figuring out who we are and where our place is in the world. 

Quintessential high school quote: “The best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you… the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass. That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with.”


It’s normal to feel stuck in your hometown at some point during high school. It’s normal to want nothing to do with what your parents want for your life. And it’s normal to try on different hats, so to speak, and try to figure out who you are. Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird takes all of those issues and rolls them into one incredible main character, a senior in high school attempting to figure out which direction she must fly to get out of her stifling hometown. 

Quintessential high school quote: “Money is not life’s report card. Being successful doesn’t mean anything in and of itself. It just means that you’re successful. But that doesn’t mean that you’re happy.”


Layered beneath wry, hilarious characters, a slightly absurd subplot involving bad remakes of good movies, an unreliable narrator, and a tragic medical situation is a story about friendship and high school relationships that rings true for any audience member. As Greg, Earl, and Rachel move throughout their final year in high school and wrestle with Rachel’s diagnosis, they learn things about how the connections you make with other people can ripple through the rest of your life.

Quintessential high school quote: “You know I’m terminally awkward and I have a face like a little groundhog. I just feel like, you know, for a kid like me in high school, best case scenario: just survive. Survive without creating any mortal enemies or hideously embarrassing yourself forever.”


The prospect of high school graduation is terrifying — an unanswered question mark at the end of four long years of consistency and routine. The Spectacular Now captures the essence of what it means to be a senior in high school, simultaneously clinging to childhood and longing for the future. Through the course of this painfully beautiful, relevant film, the main character, Sutter, comes face-to-face with himself in many different ways, and must figure out what to do when he realizes that the person he wants to be is vastly different than the person he’s been for four years.

Quintessential high school quote: “I think it’s good to have dreams. Don’t you?”

Britton Perelman is a writer and storyteller based in Los Angeles, California. When not buried in a book or failing spectacularly at cooking herself a meal, she’s probably talking someone’s ear off about the last thing she watched. She loves vintage typewriters, the Cincinnati Reds, and her dog, Indy. Find more of her work on her website, or follow her on Instagram.

Photo credit: Universal Studios

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