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8 Must-Watch Back to School Movies

September 16, 2021

Get back in the school groove by watching one of these favorites.


As school starts up again, fun in the sun, beach days and pool parties are giving way to books, bells and pop quizzes. With the kids hitting the homework, you can ease the transition by watching some of the best school-themed movies. Think of this list as a streaming study guide for what to do and — in some cases — what not to do.


Akeelah and the Bee


If you drew inspiration from 2021 National Spelling Bee champion Zaila Avant-Garde, you will love Akeelah and the Bee. An 11-year-old girl named Akeelah (Keke Palmer) rises from spelling contests at her South Los Angeles school all the way to the national bee. Along the way, she endures mocking classmates and her own wary mother (Angela Bassett). But with the help of a patient coach (Laurence Fishburne), Akeelah finds her confidence and her voice.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone


Like J.K. Rowling's book series, the Harry Potter movies follow the structure of the titular hero's journey through the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) enters his first year and begins learning magic. All the while, he's grappling with his status as The Boy Who Lived through the evil Voldemort's attack. Through it all, he relies on the wisdom of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore.


Ferris Bueller's Day Off


Ferris Bueller's Day Off answers the age-old question of whether you can skip school, have an adventure — and get away with it. Ferris (Matthew Broderick) makes that dream come true, alongside girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and pal Cameron (Alan Ruck). Using Cameron's dad's prized car, they have a blast exploring Chicago, all while Ferris tried to avoid getting caught by sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) and the school dean.


Dead Poets Society


An inspiring teacher can change your life. In Dead Poets Society, the students at the tradition-bound, all-boys boarding school Welton Academy learn important life lessons under the tutelage of the passionate John Keating (Robin Williams). He urges his pupils to “seize the day" and make their lives extraordinary — despite disapproval from the conservative headmaster and parents. When tragedy strikes, Keating comes under fire and his students must choose sides.




In Booksmart, high school seniors Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are at the top of their class — academically speaking, at least. When they realize all the fun they missed while studying, the best friends decide to have one last hurrah at a big party. All of their hopes, fears, crushes, aggravations and anxieties boil over, turning the night into a memorable mess. (Note: This movie is R-rated and best for older teens.)


Legally Blonde


Legally Blonde shows hell hath no fury like a scorned sorority girl. When Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is dumped by her Harvard Law-bound boyfriend for not being serious enough, she decides to win him back by attending the school, too. Using her smarts and determination, Elle succeeds and earns the same prestigious internship as Warner. But it's her “frivolous" interests in fashion and beauty that become the key to a complicated court case.


21 Jump Street


Undercover cops have it rough, but this assignment may be the most brutal yet: going back to high school. In 21 Jump Street, Officers Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) follow in the TV footsteps of Johnny Depp by infiltrating a school to contain the spread of a new synthetic drug. They discover that navigating the new social order (geeks are cool now) is as tough of a test as tracking down the drug suppliers. And if they don't pass, everyone is in danger. (Note: This movie is R-rated and best for older teens.)




Jane Austen's Emma gets a modern update in Clueless, set at a Beverly Hills high school. Popular Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) has few cares beyond that day's outfit. When ex-stepbrother Josh (Paul Rudd) calls her spoiled, she decides to prove otherwise by taking under her wing the new girl in school, Tai (Brittany Murphy). Cher gives her a makeover and tries to set up Tai with a handsome student. But a series of misunderstandings leads Cher to consider if she's selfish and clueless, after all.


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