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Witty, whimsical, wise: 6 films to watch before graduating

These are promotional posters of films I want to rewatch before graduation. The films range from introspective, yet humorous, to nostalgic and lighthearted. Photo credits: “Lady Bird” poster courtesy of A24. “Booksmart” poster courtesy of Annapurna Pictures. “10 Things I Hate About You” poster courtesy of The Walt Disney Company. “The Holdovers” poster courtesy of Miramax. “Monsters, Inc.” poster courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” poster courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Content Warning: “Lady Bird” and “Booksmart” contain explicit language and sexual content. Common Sense Media advises both are appropriate for viewers ages 16+. 

As my senior year comes to a close, I’ve started to reflect on my high school experience. Growing up watching lots of movies with my family, I’ve learned how they can be powerful tools to guide us through life. I created a list of films to rewatch before graduating, ranging from classics to introspective, yet humorous, films that I hope will help you manage the emotional rollercoaster of high school.

“Lady Bird” (2017)

Iconic writer and director Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” is one of my favorite films. Watching it again this year made me realize even more how meaningful it is. Set in Sacramento in 2002, it follows high school senior Christine “Lady Bird” (Saoirse Ronan) as she navigates college plans, love, friendship and a tempestuous relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf). I love the incredible cast, wittiness and introspection throughout the film, as well as Lady Bird’s sophistication and relatability.

I resonated with Lady Bird’s conflicting feelings about Sacramento and her desire for self-discovery while not letting go of her roots. After watching this film, you will want to tell your parents how much you love them, attend classic senior events with your best friends and take a drive around the city before you leave for college.

“Booksmart” (2019)

I’ve loved “Booksmart” since I first saw Molly (Beanie Feldstein) meditating to an unconventional but soothing speech as she gets ready for school. “Booksmart” follows nerdy best friends Molly and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) on their last day of school as they realize they spent too much time studying and missed out on partying and bonding with their peers. After learning other seniors who did party also got into top-ranking colleges, they decide to make up for lost time.

I see myself and my friends in Amy and Molly, just as other nerdy teens might; they are smart, empathetic, confident and embrace each others’ weirdness. I appreciated Molly and Amy’s tight bond and the messages of female empowerment in the film. “Booksmart” is a great reminder to not let time get away from you, and there is no one right way to “do” high school.

10 Things I Hate About You” (1999)

Some of the most popular teen films came out in the 1990s, including “10 Things I Hate About You.” The film follows new student Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who develops a crush on Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) but discovers she is not allowed to date until her sister Kat (Julia Stiles) does first. Cameron convinces rebellious student Patrick (Heath Ledger) to ask Kat out on a date in a plot to date Bianca. The film is fun and energetic, especially when Patrick apologizes to Kat by singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” with the help of the school marching band. Warning: You will have “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” stuck in your head after watching.

Monsters, Inc” (2001)

This list wouldn’t be complete without a nostalgic film from our childhoods, and Pixar films are classics to me. “Monsters, Inc.” centers on two monsters, Sulley (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), who work at a factory that generates energy by training the monsters to scare little kids. After a little girl, Boo (Mary Gibbs), enters the monster world through the factory, Sulley and Mike work together to get her home.

Like many other Pixar movies, I did not realize the real themes of “Monsters, Inc.” until I got older. The ideas that laughter is more powerful than fear and that your “monster in the closet” is not as scary as it seems are all especially helpful to remember as we are preparing to enter adulthood.

The Holdovers” (2023)

After watching “The Holdovers,” I knew it would be one of my favorites. Set in 1970, the film follows strict teacher Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) as he is forced to supervise a group of students with nowhere to go during the winter break. The heartwarming film focuses on the growing unlikely bond between Hunham, student Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa) and cafeteria administrator Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).

It is filled with humor and nostalgia, accompanied by a grainy film, ’70s folk soundtrack and scenes of snowy Massachusetts. The film highlights the impact teachers can have on students’ lives and vice versa and might even inspire you to reflect on the people who have made a positive impact on you.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986)

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is another classic high school film. The movie tells the story of Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), who skips school one day with his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) to spend time in Chicago. They use clever tactics so no one uncovers their rebellious plans. Although the film is filled with goofiness, Ferris’s most well-known movie quote encapsulates feelings of growing up: “Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

I hope this list allows you to reflect on your high school experience, including impactful friends, family, mentors, memories, regrets and achievements. As I’ve kept reminding myself this year, remember to soak up the small moments: the sunny free periods in the courtyard, quality time with your family, lunch with your friends and classes you love, because these four years will go by fast.

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About the Contributor
Nina Sperling
Nina Sperling, Senior Reporter
Nina Sperling joined the Oracle in 2021. She became a senior reporter in 2022 and continued in that role for the 2023-24 school year. She loves spending time with family and friends, dancing in and out of school, reading and playing with her labradoodle Georgie. She is also passionate about politics, history, international relations, social justice and Spanish. Nina graduated in 2024.   

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