If you were a member of the class of 2016, you may never return to school again after this summer. As a student, you’ve accomplished a great deal, but you’re just getting started.
10. ‘Legally Blonde’ (2001)
The effervescent blond effervescence of Reese Witherspoon has often been utilized to defy expectations (“Election,” “Wild”). A script by Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith embraces and amplifies such trait, giving it a positive spin. Because Elle Woods appears to be the stereotypical privileged, rich-girl sorority dingbat, her boyfriend chooses a more “serious” lady over her. Retaliating, she enrolls in law school to show her ex (and everyone else) that smarts come in all shapes and sizes, not just in a flashy pink one. Graduating with honors is great, but graduating with vengeance is even better.
9. ‘Superbad’ (2007)
As they prepared to embark on their separate college journeys, two childhood friends had to deal with the inevitable fact that they were going to grow apart. Apatow’s fingerprints are all over this comedy about longtime friends Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), two wildly disliked seniors, who are tasked with providing the alcohol for their school’s end-of-year bash. In spite of its obnoxiousness, the film provides some heartbreaking insights about adolescence, making it all the more endearing.
8. ‘Dead Poets Society’ (1989)
O Captain, my captain! My mate! John Keating, the quirky English teacher at an aristocratic boarding school in the late ’50s, is the subject of an elegy rendered all the more painful by the passing of Robin Williams. He not only teaches poetry, but he also brings it to life. By realizing that it is less educational to dryly dissect Walt Whitman than it is to master a barbarous yawp, the teacher makes his students come alive.
7. ‘Ghost World’ (2001)
There’s an authenticity to this adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel about two best friends trying to navigate adulthood while drifting apart from one another. After high school, Becky (Scarlett Johansson) and Enid (Thora Birch) are left to fend for themselves as social outcasts. This classic early-twentieth-century independent film nails the adolescent fear of being stuck in the wrong life while having no concept what the correct life even is. It’s a masterpiece.
6. ‘Dazed and Confused’ (1993)
On the last day of school in 1976, Richard Linklater drew on his own memories of high school to depict the day-to-day activities of a group of Austin high school students. There are several outfits in this category, but this one is among the best since it manages to combine an old-school vibe with the universality of high school and its timelessness. It’s a longing for a time that never really existed, whether it’s an idealized version of the 1970s or our own formative years as adolescents.
5. ‘Say Anything…’ (1989)
It’s a plot device that has appeared in countless other films: True love brings together an unassuming nobody and an out-of-his-league someone, and many social and political divides are bridged in the process. When Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) falls in love with Diane Court (Ione Skye), despite her father’s urging that she deserves the best, Cameron Crowe’s film does it better than anyone else’s ever done it before. To his advantage, as evidenced by a romantic gesture complete with boomboxes, Lloyd has proven himself to be the finest.
4. ‘Boyhood’ (2014)
Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his mother (Patricia Arquette) live in Texas, and Richard Linklater’s most ambitious film experiment was to film the movie in real time, over the course of a decade, following Mason’s youth and adolescence. As Mason packs up his boyhood for college, he comes to the basic conclusion that life is just this, here and now, and that the small moments are just as essential as the big ones. It’s a daring concept for the most common of life events. As Arquette delivers the tragic truth, “I simply assumed there would be more,” try not to let your heart break.
3. ‘American Graffiti’ (1973)
“Star Wars,” one of the defining cinematic experiences of the Baby Boomer age, was made possible by George Lucas. It is, however, his much smaller film about a group of kids coming of age in 1962 Modesto, Calif., that delivers a true cultural snapshot, and created waves with a vital soundtrack that was as important as any character in the story. The film is bittersweet, not just for the protagonists, but for the culture as a whole, as the Vietnam War, seismic transformations in music and politics, and maturity are all imminent.
2. ‘Toy Story 3’ (2010)
A creative story about a little boy’s toys that come to life when there are no humans around, and a cowboy and a spaceman competing for the boy’s attention, the first “Toy Story” served as Pixar’s innovative breakthrough into popular cinema. The sequels, on the other hand, delved into emotional depths that could bring adult men to tears. Woody and the gang are gearing up for a long stay in the attic as their grown-up son Andy prepares to depart for college in the final adventure of the toys. There’s no way somebody who hasn’t grown up can understand this movie, no matter how well it’s advertised.
1. ‘The Graduate’ (1967)
In Benjamin Braddock, the central character of “The Graduate,” we get a portrait of a generation mired in disillusionment (Dustin Hoffman). After returning from college, Ben has no idea what he wants in life, but he knows that it’s not to become a plastics worker like his parents’ acquaintance, Mrs. Robinson, who seduces him (an incomparable Anne Bancroft, whose cynical and disappointed housewife is as sympathetic as her prey). Since its release in 1963, “The Graduate,” which depicts a young man seeking for a missing piece of his family’s jigsaw puzzle, has resonated with subsequent generations.