20 best graduation and senior year movies ranked, including ‘American Graffiti,’ ‘Grease,’ ‘Lady Bird’

It’s that time of year again for graduations, which always brings up a bit of nostalgia. There are those graduating high school who are anticipating college, internships or jobs – and freedom from mom and dad. Then there are the college graduates, degree in hand, ready to enter the “real world” and conquer their chosen field. And then there are the adults who look back on their time like it was yesterday, remembering old friends and good times that were had, and reflecting on how different life is than what was expected all those years ago. And the people in each of these generations are indelibly linked by certain tangibles – most especially music and film.

And so it comes as no surprise that many of the finest coming-of-age films are set right before or directly following a graduation, whether it be high school or college, and that many contain some really great soundtracks (“American Graffiti,” “The Graduate”). In looking for the best of these films, we’ve picked ones that were nominated for and even won prestigious awards and over time have become critically-praised classics (“The Last Picture Show”), while others are pop culture favorites, becoming classics through genuine love from fans (“Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?”).

Most of these films don’t show the actual graduations, although a few (“Booksmart,” “Legally Blonde”) do offer some pretty memorable ones with heartfelt speeches. For the most part, these are films about how friendships can change with these milestones, how graduation time often leads to self-discovery and how “adulting” isn’t always what we expect it to be at 18 or 22 – and how hard that life lesson can be. From films like “Fame” that inspire us to films like “American Pie” that just make us laugh to films like the classic “I Remember Mama” that bring on the tears, here are some of the best films in which Graduation Day plays a very important part. And there’s at least one film represented for each generation out there.

Tour our photo gallery featuring the 20 best graduation and senior year movies, ranked, including the films mentioned above plus “Grease,” “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Lady Bird” and “Superbad.”

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