Graduation is simultaneously awesome and terrifying. On the one hand, congratulations! You made it! But on the other, what the heck are you going to do now, never mind with the rest of your life? Well, there’s no need to decide right this second. In fact, why don’t you kick back and just enjoy the major life accomplishment you have earned. Text a few of your fellow new alums, crack open the popcorn and settle in to watch what choices others in your shoes have made. There is a broad range of films about school days, school ties, and graduation movies on Netflix streaming — everything from old classics to new classics to the recently released.
9 Great Graduation Movies on Netflix
And while not all of these movies are necessarily a good model for what to do next in your life, they should at least make you laugh or cry; or just recognize that hardly any of us are ever 100-percent certain of what path to take.
There may be no better film on this theme than The Graduate. Dustin Hoffman, in a performance directed by the great Mike Nichols, plays new university graduate Benjamin Braddock. Upon his return to the suburban California home he left, Ben accepts a very seductive offer from his parents’ friend “Mrs. Robinson.” However, it’s when Benjamin falls for daughter Elaine where things become complicated. The film features the unforgettable score by Simon and Garfunkel, as well as the iconic opening scene that follows Ben as he “floats” along the airport conveyor walk to the haunting strains of “Sounds of Silence.”
Breaking Away can be both heartbreaking and liberating, as Dave Stoller discovers in this Oscar-winning indie comedy. After winning a “fancy Italian bicycle,” Dave re-invents himself as an Italian racing cyclist, much to the chagrin of his hard-working dad. But for Dave and his three high school friends, Cyril, Mike and Moocher, life in the Indiana University town of Bloomington offers two choices: enroll at the university and become a “Hoosier” or follow in their blue-collar fathers’ footsteps down the path of stone cutter. Dave only has eyes for “the Italians” of the Cinzano cycling team, however, and dreams of joining them on the racing circuit — that is until a hard learned life lesson forces him back down to the real world.
When it comes to graduation movies on Netflix, Grease is the word! The original “high school musical” starring then-teen idol John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, and comedy legends Eve Arden and Sid Caesar. Greaser and founding “T-Bird” member Danny Zuko spent his last high school summer falling in love with clean-cut Sandy, but then she went back to Australia — or so he thought. When Sandy turns out to be the the newest member of the “Pink Ladies” (the T-birds’ female counterparts), Danny puts his “bros” first sending Sandy running off in tears. Danny spends the rest of his senior year trying to win her back, singing and dancing along the way.
Speaking of singing and dancing, the cult classic Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is a “must see” for any Ramones fan. Produced by legendary “B-Movie” and straight-to-video mogul Roger Corman, it was primarily a vehicle for the punk band. Admittedly, this movie has very little plot. However, it does boast a killer soundtrack with other chart-topping bands of the era like Devo and Brownsville Station. It also stars PJ Soles, who you may recognize as the ubiquitous mean girl sidekick who gets killed in just about every horror film that was produced in this period of film history; as well as Clint Howard and, now accomplished director, Vincent Van Patten.
The New Classics
In the somewhat autobiographical School Daze, Spike Lee tackles the difficult subject of internal racism while still managing to make us laugh. And School Ties features an all-star cast (including Ben Affleck and Matt Damon) at the beginning of their careers depicting the anti-semitism of a privileged New England boarding school.
Can’t Hardly Wait for the rest of your life to begin? Neither can Jason Segal, Seth Green, Lauren Ambrose, and a host of other familiar faces celebrating their graduation at the big trope party. Each high school clique is well-represented with their own storylines and plot twists. The main story, however, revolves around Ethan Embry’s Preston and his awkward desire for Jennifer Love Hewitt’s snotty Amanda. Nostalgic, funny and heartwarming, this one’s got it all.
The Breakfast Club is the epitome of the John Hughes new classic. A disparate group of Saturday school detentioners bond when they realize that each has their own brand of the same emotional and psychological pressures to contend with daily. Whereas, Amy Heckerling’s Clueless may be the best adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma ever brought to the screen.
Recently Released on Netflix
High School Musical launched Zac Efron’s career and a successful three-part franchise for the Disney conglomerate (also available). It’s fun, exciting, and full of talented young people. Meanwhile, Tiny Furniture introduced us to wunderkind Lena Dunham who, as Aura, returns from her college graduation completely unsure of what to do next in life. The film features Dunham, who also wrote and directed, her Girls co-star Jemima Kirke, and even Dunham’s own family.
On the other side of the Atlantic, The Inbetweeners Will, Simon, Neil, and Jay have pooled their resources and are spending their first summer after high school in Greece. Each is determined not to come home still a virgin — or at least not still single. In Simon’s case, he is more determined to finally be with his beloved Carly. But fate has a way of intervening when terrible decision-making reigns. May be a bit too raunchy for some folks, but really not any more so than American Pie or Porky’s.