School is either back in session, or about to be back in session everywhere. For most of us, there is hardly a more turbulent time than the high school years and college years. From being awkward, to having an identity crisis, high school and college are both emotional battles we have to get through. And what better way to do it than with some teen movie escapism?

Whether you’re just entering high school or college, right in the thick of it, or just want to reminisce about how the emotions that seemed so painstakingly disastrous back in your own teen years are laughable now, here’s a list of the best teen movies. And by “best” I mean the ones that capture the spirit of college and high school the best, provide the funniest escapes from the reality of those years, or capture the spirit of a time period and a generation in a truly iconic way.

Best-CluelessClueless (1995)

Bright, fun, and funny. It takes pure genius to make a movie about a bunch of rich, entitled, narcissistic  kids actually likable and entertaining. This movie is a classic teen film, and it defined the 90s in a lot of ways. It’s got the best music of any teen movie, and it is iconic because it was definitive of that particular generation; the contrast between the shallow, pop-culture, materialism of Cher and her friends, and the emo, socially conscious college kids of Josh’s generation.

And did I mention that it’s basically a modern retelling of Emma, a novel by one of the greatest writers in history? Yeah, there’s that, too.

 

Best-Rock-n-roll-high-school

Rock ‘N’ Roll High School (1979)

This one should be obvious. A movie about a bunch of kids who just want to rebel against authority—a rebellion symbolized by their love of The Ramones, and their ongoing battle with the principal for the right to love that band. No matter what kind of person you are/ were in high school, I dare you to not find something to relate to in this gem.

 

Best-fast-times-at-ridgemont-high

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

I fell in love with this one on first viewing. I don’t usually like movies like this, because it can easily just promote the worst stereotypes of teenagers. But unlike other similar teen movies, the teenagers were never unlikable. They’re kids pretending to be more mature than they actually are. Damone thinks he’s smooth and he isn’t, Stacy finds herself in relationships she’s not emotionally mature enough to handle, and Brad finds out he isn’t as much of a man as he thinks he is.

Also, I can sum up why this is one of the best teen movies in two words: Jeff Spicoli.

 

Best-scream

Scream (1996)

Okay, so this one is a horror movie, first. But it is still, at its core, a teen movie. It has all the stock teen movie characters, and a general lack of adult presence save for the fumbling Dewey and the out-for-herself Gale Weathers. And the dialogue is perfect. Watch this movie, and you’ll understand why it is my personal belief that Kevin Williamson was the John Hughes of the 90s when it comes to teen cinema and television.

 

Best-superbad

Superbad (2007)

What could be another stereotypical frat boy-style comedy, ends up being a sweet tale of two teenaged best friends struggling to deal with the reality that their time together is coming to an end. Anybody who’s ever gone to high school can relate to that.

 

Best-cant-hardly-wait

Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)

I like to refer to this one as the Fast Times of the 90s. The same raw characters, the same stereotypes that should be annoying but are ultimately really likable. This is one of the best high school movies because even though it takes place all in one night-graduation night- by the end of it you feel like you really know all the characters and like you actually did go to high school with them and know what they were like for those four years.

On top of that, this movie was full of iconic 90s actors, and teen/pop culture fixtures.

 

Best-breakfast-club

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Not only the very best high school movie ever, but from an emotional perspective, you could argue it’s one of the best movies ever made. After having seen this movie more times than I can count, and still always feeling a ton of different emotions, it’s safe to say that this one is a timeless, classic film that never ceases to touch your heart no matter how old you get, who you are, or where you are in life.

Also, Anthony Michael Hall’s Brian Johnson should be everybody’s favorite geek. And come on, admit it, you know John Bender is just the coolest.

 

Best-animal-house

Animal House (1978)

Seriously? Do I even have to explain this one? Anybody who’s ever loved movies knows why this one is on my list.

 

Best-urban-legends

Urban Legends (1998)

Okay, another slasher. But I loved the way it captured college life. It did for college horror films what Scream did for high school horror. It had such a cool take on college life without being sickeningly clichéd.

 

Best-van-wilder

National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (2002)

This one is just fun, plain and simple. Ryan Reynolds is absolutely hilarious in it, and regardless of its silly frat boy humor, there is a lesson to be learned.

Plus, it would be so cool if college was really as fun as it was in this movie.

 

Best-pitch-perfect

[Editor’s Note: As a graduate of a liberal arts college, I have to add Pitch Perfect to this list. College really was like that for some of us.]