Best High School Movies of All Time
Every generation has its definitive movies about what it's like to be in high school and to be a teenager. What makes those movies definitive is how they portray the angst and hopefulness of teenage life. No small feat.
The same movies usually end up being harbingers for the future. That's because the little-known actors and actresses we first meet often become our most beloved movie stars as adults.
These are the greatest high school movies of all time.
Release date: June 19, 2015
Director: Rick Famuyiwa
Starring: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Kimberly Elise, Chanel Iman, Tyga, Blake Anderson, Zoe Kravitz, ASAP Rocky
Budget: $7 million budget
Box office: $18 million
Bottom line: We can thank "Dope" for putting together three great actors early in their careers and introducing them to audiences — Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons.
There's so much to love about this movie, which is part coming-of-age drama, part action thriller and part double-cross. It's kind of like a teenage "Thomas Crown Affair" with Inglewood, California, as the backdrop.
"Dope" director Rick Famuyiwa cut his teeth with another great coming-of-age drama that almost made this list ("The Wood") and has been a force to reckon with in the television streaming era as the man behind some of the best episodes of the smash-hit "Mandalorian" on Disney Plus.
39. River's Edge
Release date: May 8, 1987
Director: Tim Hunter
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Crispin Glover, Ione Skye, Dennis Hopper, Joshua Miller
Budget: $1.7 million
Box office: $4.6 million
Bottom line: Truly great movies about high school and teenagers from the 1980s were able to capture the spirit of that era correctly — which was essentially an era of pessimism and little hope for the future.
"River's Edge" does that perfectly and is crafted in a really interesting way. It's a murder mystery that reveals the killer in the opening minutes but lets the audience watch the different characters come to the same realization over time.
Notable as one of Keanu Reeves' first starring roles, the movie gets a big lift from an off-the-hinges Crispin Glover and Joshua Miller as Reeves' psychotic younger brother.
38. American Pie
Release date: July 9, 1999
Director: Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz
Starring: Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Alyson Hannigan, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Sean William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge
Budget: $11 million
Box office: $235.5 million
Bottom line: If you're looking at the release date for "American Pie" and feeling old, that's OK. Because you probably are.
It had been a hot minute since we got a raunchy teen comedy like this — think "Porky's" and "Meatballs" — but directors/brothers Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz knocked it out of the park and turned the young cast into big-time stars in their own rights, even if none of them were ever really to capitalize on that promise in the next decade.
Three years later, the Weitz brothers scored an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for "About a Boy" starring Hugh Grant.
Release date: March 28, 1986
Director: David Seltzer
Starring: Corey Haim, Charlie Sheen, Kerri Green, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Winona Ryder, Jeremy Piven
Budget: $6 million
Box office: $8.2 million
Bottom line: If you want to know what made Corey Haim such a gigantic star in the 1980s, look no further than "Lucas." A movie with a murderer's row of a supporting cast that includes Charlie Sheen, Kerri Green, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Jeremy Piven and Winona Ryder in her first movie role.
What makes "Lucas" so endearing is Haim's ability to portray such a wide range of emotions. Love, jealousy, anger, embarrassment. And ultimately a kind of triumph with one of the great slow clap scenes in movie history.
36. The Edge of Seventeen
Release date: Nov. 18, 2016
Director: Kelly Fremon Craig
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Haley Lu Richardson
Budget: $9 million
Box office: $19.4 million
Bottom line: Audiences around the world now know Hailee Steinfeld from her roles in comic book IP like "Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse" and as Kate Bishop/Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — a role she could very well play for the next decade.
We like to think of Steinfeld more from her time as a dramatic actress. She was one of the youngest Academy Award nominees in history for her role in "True Grit" in 2010.
Nowhere are Steinfeld's acting chops more on display than in "The Edge of Seventeen," when she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress Musical/Comedy.
35. Dangerous Minds
Release date: Aug. 11, 1995
Director: John N. Smith
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, George Dzundza
Budget: $23 million
Box office: $179.5 million
Bottom line: Few producing partnerships in Hollywood history have been as lucrative as Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, who crafted a legacy behind hits like "Top Gun" "Beverly Hills Cop" "Bad Boys" and "Crimson Tide." So it was a bit of a head-scratcher when they turned their attention to a high school classroom drama.
The formula for a Simpson-Bruckheimer hit still worked. "Dangerous Minds" put an A-list star in Michelle Pfeiffer at the top of a mostly unknown cast and ended up being one of the biggest blockbusters of 1995.
It also ended up being the final film produced during Simpson's lifetime. He died of a massive drug overdose in 1996, at 52 years old.
34. 10 Things I Hate About You
Release date: March 31, 1999
Director: Gil Junger
Starring: Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik, Larry Miller, Andrew Keegan, David Krumholtz, Susan May Pratt
Budget: $13 million
Box office: $60.4 million
Bottom line: This was the moment most American audiences were introduced to Academy Award-winning actor Heath Ledger. The teenage romantic comedy based on Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" costarred an array of the day's top young talent.
None of them held a candle to Ledger, who was essentially the third lead but stole the show with a now iconic serenade of Julia Stiles, singing Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" in the famous high school football stadium at Stadium High School in Tacoma, Washington.
If you saw the movie back then and you saw Ledger doing his thing, it was easy to see he was about to become a huge star.
Release date: March 31, 1989
Director: Michael Lehman
Starring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty
Budget: $3 million
Box office: $1.1 million
Bottom line: We don't have the exact statistics, but we have to guess "Heathers" was one of the most rented VHS tapes of the 1990s — a cult movie that did very little at the box office but spread like a brushfire once it was available for home viewing.
The twisted tale of high school hierarchies is one of the darker, more sadistic movies about teenagers ever made. Screenwriter Daniel Waters wrote the script while working at a video store and said he was inspired by Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove."
Waters ended up writing some of the biggest movies of the 1990s, including "Batman Returns" and "Demolition Man."
32. Cruel Intentions
Release date: March 5, 1999
Director: Roger Kumble
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillipe, Selma Blair, Sean Patrick Thomas, Joshua Jackson, Christine Baranski
Budget: $10.5 million
Box office: $75.9 million
Bottom line: Who would think that a teenager-driven remake of the classic film "Dangerous Liaisons" — which itself was a remake of a movie based on a novel from the late 1700s — would become such a pop culture phenomenon?
Give all of the credit to a cast led by Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillipe and future Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon, who turned a pretty basic script into a compelling teen drama and gave us one of the more iconic needle drop endings of all time.
31. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Release date: July 7, 2017
Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Zendaya, Laura Harrier
Budget: $175 million
Box office: $880.2 million
Bottom line: The first standalone movie featuring Tom Holland as Spider-Man was still considered a bit of a risk with an unproven star and an unproven director in Jon Watts. It also was the first full-on collaboration between Sony and Marvel.
The great thing about "Homecoming" is that even if you take out the superhero aspect of it, the movie still works just as a teenage coming-of-age drama — dorky high schooler gets the girl of his dreams, her demanding father, etc.
Just, in this case, the dorky high schooler is Spider-Man, and the girl's dad is supervillain Vulture.
Release date: Feb. 17, 1984
Director: Herbert Ross
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, Dianne Wiest, John Lithgow, Chris Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jim Youngs
Budget: $8.2 million
Box office: $80 million
Bottom line: You can't watch "Footloose" today without realizing that the self-seriousness of the movie at the time now translates as comedy. A town that banned dancing? But it doesn't make the experience any less lovely.
At the heart of "Footloose" is Kevin Bacon as Ren, an antihero for the ages, who comes to small-town Utah to shake things up, get the girl and, of course, dance his brains off.
Our personal favorite scene is when the late Chris Penn learns to dance on his family's farm to "Let's Hear It for the Boy." Try to hit that leg-to-leg move he gets down with while wearing work gloves and see if you don't pull every muscle in your body.
29. Above the Rim
Release date: March 23, 1994
Director: Jeff Pollack
Starring: Duane Martin, Leon, Tupac Shakur, Marlon Wayans, Wood Harris, Bernie Mac, Tonya Pinkins
Budget: $6.5 million
Box office: $16.1 million
Bottom line: Basketball fans — real basketball fans — who grew up in the 1990s know "Above the Rim" well and has one of the great needle drop moments after the opening scene, when Nutso jumps off the roof ("I couldn't help but notice your pain … it runs deep … share it with me!")
Featuring Tupac Shakur as the movie's sadistic, crazed antagonist Birdie, the tale of high school hoops phenom Kyle Lee Watson is easy to pick apart — how is his only scholarship offer from Georgetown? But it is probably the best role in the career of model/actor Leon, who plays Watson's reluctant mentor, disgraced basketball star Tom "Shep" Sheppard.
One fun game to play with this movie is to count how many points Shep scores in the final quarter of the street basketball championship game in the finale.
Release date: April 23, 1999
Director: Alexander Payne
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein, Jessica Campbell, Molly Hagan
Budget: $15 million
Box office: $17.2 million
Bottom line: This dark comedy was based on a novel by Tom Perrotta, which lets you know the level of quality. Perrotta is also the mind behind "Little Children" and "The Leftovers," which became a critically acclaimed movie and TV show for HBO.
"Election" is one of the better roles of Matthew Broderick's career as a desperate high school teacher who goes to war with Reese Witherspoon's iconic Tracy Flick, a high school do-gooder who ... will genuinely spark some emotions in you.
Good or bad.
Release date: July 19, 1995
Director: Amy Heckerling
Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy, Dan Hedaya, Elisa Donovan, Justin Walker, Donald Faison, Breckin Meyer, Jeremy Sisto, Nicole Bilderback
Budget: $12 million
Box office: $56.6 million
Bottom line: One of two films from director Amy Heckerling to make this list, "Clueless" was the movie that turned Alicia Silverstone into an A-list star for a brief moment in the mid-1990s.
Loosely based on the Jane Austen novel "Emma" and set at a Beverly Hills high school, "Clueless" turned out to be not only a surprise hit for Paramount Pictures but has become something of a touchstone over the years for teenagers. And not just ones from the 1990s.
It also spawned a TV show that lasted for three seasons, which was a surprise to us.
26. Boys State
Release date: Aug. 14, 2020
Director: Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine
Starring: Steven Garza, Ben Feinstein, Robert MacDougall, Rene Otero
Box office: N/A
Bottom line: "Boys State" was put out in limited release in theaters, then released wide by Apple TV Plus. It chronicles one cycle of a Boys State conference in Texas, where the best male high school students from around the state gather to essentially conduct a social experiment that's "Lord of the Flies" for politics.
"Boys State" won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and at its heart is Mayde Creek High School senior Steven Garza, who becomes a dark-horse candidate for governor of Boys State thanks to a stirring speech he gives in the nomination process.
When Garza finally tastes defeat at the end of the movie due to some dirty politics from the other side and concedes he's lost, you will be fighting back tears.
25. The Karate Kid
Release date: June 22, 1984
Director: John G. Avildsen
Starring: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elisabeth Shue, William Zabka, Martin Kove
Budget: $8 million
Box office: $130.4 million
Bottom line: The tale of high school kid Daniel LaRusso, a New Jersey transplant to California, has certainly held up over time. It spawned three sequels, a remake and now Netflix's hit television series "Cobra Kai," which depicts the saga from the angle of LaRusso's nemesis, Johnny Lawrence.
There aren't too many scenes in sports movie history more thrilling than the final fight at the Valley Karate Championship between Daniel and Johnny. Try to remember how many times you've watched this movie and tried to do the crane kick afterward.
It's a lot.
24. House Party
Release date: March 9, 1990
Director: Reginald Hudlin
Starring: Christopher Reid, Christopher Martin, Full Force, Robin Harris, Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell
Budget: $2.5 million
Box office: $26.4 million
Bottom line: The original plan for "House Party" was to feature Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff as the film's two leads, but the idea was scrapped when New Line Cinema realized it was still engaged in a lawsuit against the duo over the song "Nightmare on My Street," which featured New Line property Freddy Krueger.
That was divine intervention because what we got was the apex moment of the career of rap duo Kid 'n Play — Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin — and the dance move of holding one leg while jumping over it with the other one that sparked 1,00 faceplants.
We also get Martin Lawrence in one of his first film roles and the brilliant comedian Robin Harris in one of his last roles. Harris died in 1990 and was posthumously nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role.
23. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Release date: Feb. 17, 1989
Director: Stephen Herek
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, Bernie Casey
Budget: $10 million
Box office: $40.5 million
Bottom line: "Be excellent to each other" is the message at the heart of this rollicking, dude-bro time travel movie that ended up being the springboard to Keanu Reeves becoming an A-Lister.
Why has this movie, which spun off two sequels and an animated series, remained so popular over the years that its 25th anniversary was celebrated on a global scale? It's because it's good.
Even if it's ridiculous — two teenage metal band wannabes traveling through time to collect historical figures for a high school history project – it's just good and fun. Some things are so simple.
22. Risky Business
Release date: Aug. 5, 1983
Director: Paul Brickman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay
Budget: $6.2 million
Box office: $63.5 million
Bottom line: Tom Cruise had been bouncing around Hollywood for several years and was becoming more known as a supporting player in movies like "Taps" and "The Outsiders" before he hit it big with "Risky Business" in 1983.
Few movie scenes have been replayed as much as Cruise's iconic "Old Time Rock and Roll" dance scene, and the movie works on much darker levels then just the teen comedy it's billed as on the surface. Think of it as a glimpse into the evil excess of the decade.
Three years later, Cruise's "Top Gun" would make him the biggest movie star in the world.
21. 21 Jump Street
Release date: March 16, 2012
Director: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Dave Franco, Brie Larson, Rob Riggle
Budget: $50 million
Box office: $201.6 million
Bottom line: If you were lucky enough to experience "21 Jump Street" when it came out in theaters, then you know why it made the list. It's one of the few times we can remember doubling over in laughter at a comedy in the last decade.
There's something to be said for pure laughs, which we get in spades from the unlikely duo of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, not to mention great supporting performances by Ice Cube, Rob Riggle, Dave Franco and Brie Larson, who was just three years away from winning an Academy Award for Best Actress.
The 2014 sequel "22 Jump Street" made $331 million at the box office, bringing the total of the first two films to $532 million. A planned third film that combined the franchise with the "Men In Black" franchise was scrapped after the Sony email leak.
20. Mean Girls
Release date: April 30, 2004
Director: Mark Waters
Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert, Tim Meadows, Ana Gasteyer, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Amanda Seyfried
Budget: $17 million
Box office: $130.1 million
Bottom line: "Mean Girls" screenwriter and costar Tina Fey based her script partly on the book "Queen Bees and Wannabees" by Rosalind Wiseman and partly on her own high school experiences and turned it into one of the surprise box-office hits of 2004.
While the breakout star of "Mean Girls" was lead actress Lindsay Lohan, the supporting cast actually featured a pair of future Academy Award nominees in Rachel McAdams ("Spotlight") and Amanda Seyfriend ("Mank").
19. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Release date: June 11, 1986
Director: John Hughes
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jennifer Grey, Ben Stein, Jeffrey Jones, Charlie Sheen
Budget: $5 million
Box office: $71 million
Bottom line: Instead of delving into what makes "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" so great, we'd like to present a question recently posed to us by a colleague: Who is the real antagonist in the movie?
The easy choice is Dean of Students Ed Rooney, played by Jeffrey Jones. But is he? He's just trying to get kids to not be truant and go to school.
Is it actually Ferris Bueller? He terrorizes both his school (mainly Rooney) and his family and friends, all because he wanted to ditch school.
Or is it Ferris' sad-sack best friend Cameron? All Cameron really does is complain throughout the whole movie and doesn't even seem capable of having a good time. He's a downer.
These are the questions that keep us up at night.
Release date: June 16, 1978
Director: Randal Kleiser
Starring: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, Didi Conn, Lorenzo Lamas, Eve Arden, Sid Caesar, Frankie Avalon
Budget: $6 million
Box office: $366.2 million
Bottom line: "Grease" was a sensation when it hit movie theaters in 1978 and was part of an incredible two-year stretch of movies for star John Travolta, who saw "Saturday Night Fever" and "Carrie" released in the previous 12 months.
If singing along with every word of "Grease" is wrong, we just don't want to be right. A pure, perfect musical about good ol' Rydell High, our only problem with this movie is picking which song we love the most.
17. Back to the Future
Release date: July 3, 1985
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Thomas F. Wilson, Crispin Glover, Lea Thompson, James Tolkan, Claudia Wells
Budget: $19 million
Box office: $388.8 million
Bottom line: Director Robert Zemeckis parlayed his success with "Romancing the Stone" into getting "Back to the Future" green-lit after the script, which he'd written with Bob Gale in 1980, had been rejected 40 times previously.
One of the great sliding doors moments in not just movie but pop culture history surrounds the lead role of teenage time traveler Marty McFly. The original choice for the part was "Family Ties" star Michael J. Fox, but because of his commitments to his TV show, the part went to Eric Stoltz instead.
After a month of filming, Zemeckis fired Stoltz, added $4 million to the budget to bring the total cost of the film to $19 million and brought in Fox, who essentially worked 20-hour days filming both "Family Ties" and the movie at the same time.
Released on July 3, 1985, "Back to the Future" became one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, reeling in $388.8 million at the box office.
Release date: May 24, 2019
Director: Olivia Wilde
Starring: Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever
Budget: $6 million
Box office: $25 million
Bottom line: It's a shame "Booksmart" fell flat at the box office in 2019, making just $25 million, because the legacy of the film seems to show it's going to live far beyond whatever numbers it brought in during its theatrical release.
The two stars of the movie — Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein — have shown they're two of the best young actors in the world with other projects since the movie's release.
And the movie itself isn't just hilarious. It's hilarious and infinitely rewatchable.
Feldstein was actually nominated for a Golden Globe for her role.
Release date: Dec. 18, 1996
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Matthew Lillard, Skeet Ulrich, Drew Barrymore, Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy
Budget: $15 million
Box office: $173 million
Bottom line: This mic drop moment from director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson is one of the most beloved horror movies of all time. It's also a great high school film featuring the terrorized and terrified kids at Woodsboro High.
Want to know the lasting impact of "Scream" on audiences? Director Wes Craven, who died in 2015, helmed three sequels over the next 15 years. And a fourth sequel — also titled "Scream" — was scheduled for release in January 2022.
14. Donnie Darko
Release date: Oct. 26, 2001
Director: Richard Kelly
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, Mary McDonnell, Patrick Swayze, James Duval
Budget: $4.5 million
Box office: $7.5 million
Bottom line: This bonkers movie from director Richard Kelly is where we decided to buy a ton of Jake Gyllenhaal stock, as he knocks it out of the park as the movie's titular character.
What we love the most about "Donnie Darko" is that it mixes so many genres effortlessly. All at once, it incorporates sci-fi, high school drama, time travel, family drama and, in the opinions of many, is essentially a superhero movie as well.
While writer/director Richard Kelly blew the goodwill from this movie on the dreadful "Southland Tales" — one of the more epic disasters in Hollywood history — it proved Gyllenhaal was a viable leading man.
13. Cooley High
Release date: June 25, 1975
Director: Michael Schultz
Starring: Glynn Turman, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Garrett Morris, Cynthia Davis, Sherman Smith, Norman Gibson
Box office: $13 million
Bottom line: Want to know what film inspired legendary directors like Spike Lee and the late John Singleton? Check out "Cooley High" and learn more about a film that still resonates today with Black culture and, to be honest, was essentially where Singleton stole the ending for "Boyz n the Hood" from.
"Cooley High" was one of the bigger box-office hits of 1975, surprising Hollywood studios after it was made for less than $1 million. The next time you're about to watch the milquetoast, boring "American Graffiti," just watch this instead.
12. Stand and Deliver
Release date: March 11, 1988
Director: Ramon Menendez
Starring: Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips, Rosanna DeSoto, Andy Garcia
Budget: $1.6 million
Box office: $13.9 million
Bottom line: This was the role of a lifetime for veteran actor Edward James Olmos, who earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal of inner-city mathematics teacher Jaime Escalante.
Escalante became famous for taking his students at Garfield High in East Los Angeles and, despite having almost zero support from any of the other faculty, guided them into AP Calculus by their senior year. Something that was unheard of at the time.
Wanna be inspired and stop feeling sorry for yourself? Spend a couple of hours with the kids at Garfield High. That will do the trick.
11. Dead Poets Society
Release date: June 2, 1989
Director: Peter Weir
Starring: Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Josh Charles, Norman Floyd, Lara Flynn Boyle
Budget: $16.4 million
Box office: $235.9 million
Bottom line: The fact that a movie about an English class and poetry at a Vermont boarding school made $235 million at the box office speaks to the sheer talent of the late Robin Williams, who earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his role as teacher John Keating.
There's a lot of great life lessons at the heart of "Dead Poets Society" about standing up for what's right, staying true to yourself and the frailty of youth.
Few scenes in movie history have hit us like the final scene — the "O Captain! My Captain!" scene if you know what's up. Carpe diem, for sure.
Release date: Nov. 14, 1986
Director: David Anspaugh
Starring: Gene Hackman, Barbara Hersey, Dennis Hopper
Budget: $6 million
Box office: $28.6 million
Bottom line: One of the greatest high school movies of all time is also one of the greatest sports movies of all time. Like tiny Hickory High's basketball team, "Hoosiers" was an underdog from the start.
One of the more notorious stories from filming the movie was Academy Award winner Gene Hackman walking around the set saying the movie was going to tank the careers of everyone involved.
Hackman, who doesn't seem like the funnest guy to hang out with, was wrong. Hoosiers became one of the most beloved movies of all time and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Dennis Hopper.
Release date: Nov. 3, 1978
Director: Brian De Palma
Starring: Sissy Spacek, John Travolta, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, William Katt, Nancy Allen
Budget: $1.8 million
Box office: $34 million
Bottom line: The real person to credit for us having "Carrie" in our lives is probably legendary horror novelist Stephen King's wife, Tabitha King, who dug the manuscript out of the family's trash after her husband became despondent over what he thought was a failed attempt at writing his first book.
Without Tabitha King, we would have never gotten this twisted story of a telekinetic, outcast teenager who turns the tables on her tormentors after a sadistic prank. One of the things we love about this movie is all of the talent that was assembled at such an early stage of their careers.
King was paid just $2,500 for the movie rights. Director Brian De Palma made the movie with a budget of just $1.8 million. And it also had cast members Sissy Spacek and John Travolta, who had the release of "Saturday Night Fever" in the same year.
8. Say Anything
Release date: April 14, 1989
Director: Cameron Crowe
Starring: John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney
Budget: $16 million
Box office: $21.5 million
Bottom line: The endearing image of John Cusack holding up a boombox outside of Ione Skye's house, blaring Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" is one of the greatest scenes of any romantic movie ever made.
The role of Lloyd Dobler turned Cusack into a bona fide superstar, and the role was actually turned down by Robert Downey Jr.
Perhaps the real star of the movie is first-time writer/director Cameron Crowe, who went on to direct "Jerry Maguire" and "Almost Famous" and be nominated for 10 Academy Awards.
7. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Release date: Aug. 13, 1982
Director: Amy Heckerling
Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Penn, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, Brian Backer, Robert Romanus, Ray Walston, Vincent Schiavelli
Budget: $5 million
Box office: $50 million
Bottom line: Cameron Crowe was 24 years old when he went undercover as a student at San Diego's Claremont High School to write his 1981 book, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story" and it was turned into a movie just one year later.
"Fast Times" benefited from a deft hand from director Amy Heckerling, who made another seminal high school movie with "Clueless" 13 years later and made stars out of many of the young "Fast Times" cast, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold and Academy Award winners Sean Penn, Forest Whitaker and Nicolas Cage.
If there's an MVP of this movie, it has to be Penn as surfer/stoner Jeff Spicoli. His scenes with Mr. Hand (Ray Walston) are still as fresh today as they were in 1982.
Release date: Aug. 17, 2007
Director: Greg Mottola
Starring: Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Emma Stone, Seth Rogen, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio, Martha MacIsacc, Dave Franco
Budget: $18 million
Box office: $171 million
Bottom line: Don't get it twisted. This is the movie that propelled Jonah Hill to superstar status.
What "Superbad" does so well is it understands its audience because it was written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg from the time they were 13 years old to their senior years of high school.
The adventure of one night with two graduating high school seniors, Hill and Michael Cera, is great. But it hits a whole new level when then-unknown actor Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fogel/McLovin is thrown into the mix. Just genius.
5. Lady Bird
Release date: Nov. 3, 2017
Director: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saiorise Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Lois Smith
Budget: $10 million
Box office: $79 million
Bottom line: There is nothing we don't love about "Lady Bird," and it's a movie that seems to just add layers with each viewing. At the heart of that are the brilliant work of the cast, led by Saorise Ronan, and writer/director Greta Gerwig.
Whereas other high school films on this list bumped up against antiquated views on what sort of films were "allowed" to be nominated for Academy Awards, "Lady Bird" hit with a modern audience and came away with five Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress (Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Laurie Metcalf), Best Original Screenplay (Gerwig) and Best Director (Gerwig).
If you're not crying for most of the last 20 minutes of this movie, you probably don't have a soul. Just saying.
4. Rebel Without a Cause
Release date: Oct. 27, 1955
Director: Nicholas Ray
Starring: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Jim Backus, Corey Allen, Ann Doran, William Hopper
Budget: $1.5 million
Box office: $4.5 million
Bottom line: Actor James Dean never lived to see his most iconic role released to worldwide acclaim. He died in a car accident almost exactly one month before "Rebel Without a Cause" was released on Oct. 27, 1955.
Dean was on the verge of becoming the biggest star in Hollywood at the time of his death. He knocked out a bravura starring role in "East of Eden" right before "Rebel" and was nominated for an Academy Award for "Eden" in 1956.
Dean's portrayal of tortured teen Jim Stark is really something to behold. And it's worth pointing out that the film's main trio of leads — Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo — all had their lives end violently. Mineo was murdered in 1976, and Wood's death in 1981 remains one of Hollywood's greatest unsolved mysteries.
3. Dazed and Confused
Release date: Sept. 24, 1993
Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Sasha Jenson, Michelle Burke, Rory Cochrane, Ben Affleck, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, Marissa Ribisi, Matthew McConaughey, Shawn Andrews, Cole Hauser, Milla Jovovich, Joey Lauren Adams, Parker Posey, Nicky Katt, Jason O. Smith, Renee Zellwegger
Budget: $6.9 million
Box office: $8 million
Bottom line: You know a movie is something special when "making of" pieces on it are being written over 20 years after its release. Please take into consideration Vulture's oral history of "Dazed and Confused" in which the cast "basically smoked Austin out of all of its weed."
The movie itself, which is 24 hours in the lives of 1970s teenagers in Texas, is wonderful. But the cast is truly impressive and features three future Academy Award winners with Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellwegger.
It achieves what every great high school movie tries to — it brings you into their world.
2. Hoop Dreams
Release date: Oct. 14, 1994
Director: Steve James
Starring: William Gates, Arthur Agee
Box office: $11.8 million
Bottom line: The real debate around "Hoop Dreams" is probably if it's the greatest documentary of all time — a movie so impactful and important it changed how the Academy Awards votes in its Best Documentary category.
As far as high school movies go, it's almost unmatched in its scope, following two up-and-coming high school basketball prospects in Chicago from the eighth grade through the end of their high school careers.
Roger Ebert said it best in his review of the film, calling it "One of the best films about American life that I have ever seen." True that.
1. The Breakfast Club
Release date: Feb. 7, 1985
Director: John Hughes
Starring: Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, Paul Gleason
Budget: $1 million
Box office: $51.5 million
Bottom line: The greatness of "The Breakfast Club" is so much more than the dynamo cast or legendary director John Hughes. It's the idea of it that seems to have bridged the gap between generations.
The simple concept of kids on a Saturday morning detention manages to tap into the essence of teenage life. The story becomes about longing, hopelessness and, in the form of vice principal Richard Vernon, played brilliantly by Paul Gleason, what it looks like to actually grow up and be bitter when you're looking back at the wreckage of your life.
Incredibly, "The Breakfast Club" is only 97 minutes long and only features eight speaking parts, but it hits like a thunderbolt. Were it released today, we would venture to guess a more modern audience would have propelled it to multiple Academy Award nominations, most notably for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
It's not just the greatest high school movie of all time. It's one of the best movies made in the 1980s.