Growing up in the '90s, there was no place that seemed cooler than high school. If you were a little kid or were in middle school, being 17 seemed like it would be the best. Nothing was cooler than high schoolers. High schoolers were able to do adult things while still maintaining their youth and, above all else, their coolness. Being in high school seemed like the pinnacle of life, and I know that I, and I suspect many of you, couldn't wait to find myself among its halls. Looking back now, high school really isn't all that great, so why did everyone think it would be growing up? The reason had to be all those '90s movies that made high school look awesome.
These movies made it look like everyone in high school was attractive and close to perfection, like high school parties were the most epic and amazing gatherings anyone could ever hope to attend, and made it seem that nothing mattered outside of your high school social circle. These ideas are all absurd, of course, but as a kid they had a big impact on what you and I expected our high school experience to be. So to revisit that time period, here are 11 '90s movies that made high school look like the place to be.
1. 10 Things I Hate About You
This 1999 comedy is actually an updated version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, and serves as a great snapshot of teen culture at the time (or at least Hollywood's version of teen culture).
2. Can't Hardly Wait
This movie is all about the house party, and coming to grips with the end of high school. High school graduation is a big deal, and this 1998 comedy does a great job of capturing those feelings.
Reese Witherspoon is fantastic as a ruthlessly ambitious high schooler in this 1999 comedy about a class presidential election, and I guarantee your own high school elections were never nearly as intense as this.
4. Never Been Kissed
This 1999 comedy stars Drew Barrymore as a twenty-something reporter who is sent back to high school as an undercover student in an attempt to get a story. She gets to relive her high school experience, which wasn't so great the first time around, and discover herself in the process.
5. The Craft
Wait, your high school didn't have an actual witches' coven like in this 1996 film? Yeah, neither did mine, but how cool would that have been?
6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Later overshadowed by the TV show of the same name, the ass-kicking feminist icon got her start in this 1992 film starring Kristy Swanson as the cheerleader-turned-vampire killer.
7. She's All That
She's All That certainly has its problems, and has since become a parody of itself, but the 1999 film is pretty much the epitome of '90s high school movies.
8. American Pie
American Pie boils down teen movies to their bare essence: Sex. All teen movies are really just about sex, which everyone is obsessed with in high school, but none of them were as open about it as this film.
9. Varsity Blues
Yet another 1999 high school movie (the sixth on this list, good year), the movie hasn't aged all that well, but if you dreamed of being a high school athlete, there might not be any movie in the decade that did a better job of capturing the heartache and glory that go along with it.
10. Dazed and Confused
This 1993 film may take place in the '70s, but it just goes to show you how little high school had changed in two decades. The house parties, the obsession with sex, the stoners — even the creepy old townie who still hangs around, they're all there. In fact, this film might actually paint the most accurate picture of the high school experience ever.
*The* definitive movie of the '90s high school experience, and '90s culture in general, this 1995 film about rich high schoolers in Beverly Hills still stands up as one of the greatest teen comedies ever made.
These films all helped make the idea of high school in the '90s seem like the coolest place imaginable, and although viewing them now as an adult reveals that they're pure fantasy, they still provide a totally tubular trip down memory lane.
Image: Paramount Pictures