Must-See Movies to Watch Before Graduation

Must-See Movies to Watch Before Graduation
  • Opening Intro -

    Graduating high school and college are some of life's biggest milestones. You've put in lots of time and effort, made lasting friendships, and learned lessons that will serve you the rest of your life.


But there’s still plenty to see, do, and learn before you graduate. In fact, we advise you to take a night off from the books and start streaming some movies!

We’re serious — movies aren’t just fun distractions; sometimes they have wisdom to offer.

We’ve curated a selection of coming-of-age flicks from every decade since the 1960s. They’re fun to watch and offer valuable life lessons for soon-to-be graduates.

Here are seven must-see movies to see before graduation:

“The Graduate” (1967)

This ‘60s classic is often remembered for its storyline about the relationship between college-age Benjamin Braddock and the much older Mrs. Robinson.

But “The Graduate” is so much more than that! Benjamin has no idea what to do after college, and he seems to be in no rush to figure it out, much to his parents’ consternation.

What does Benjamin decide to do? Instead of deciding his career path, he fixates on winning the heart of Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, the more age-appropriate Elaine.

  • What You’ll Get From “The Graduate”

    It’s okay to not have every moment of your future planned when you graduate.

    ***Spoiler alert***

    The film ends with Benjamin interrupting Elaine’s marriage to someone else. They then (literally) run away together, careening towards an even more uncertain future.

    What’s the lesson?

    Don’t feel rushed to make decisions, or you may make a rash one with lasting implications!

    [view movie trailer]

“American Graffiti” (1973)

Released in ‘73, though set in the early ‘60s, “American Graffiti” follows a group of high school grads as they embark on a final night of teenage debauchery.

This movie introduced the world to actors like Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, and Harrison Ford, to name a few, and was co-written by future “Star Wars” creator George Lucas.

It takes place just before the start of the Vietnam War and the Kennedy assassination, two monumental events that would change the world and force American youth of that era to grow up just a little bit faster.

  • What You’ll Get From “American Graffiti”

    Enjoy your youth while you still have it!

    At the film’s end, you learn the fate of the main characters and where their life choices have taken them. It’s a bit dramatic, but another reminder to get those youthful hijinx in while you can. The future’s uncertain, no matter how well you plan for it.

    [view movie trailer]

“School Daze” (1988)

“School Daze” is a Spike Lee film set at an HBCU brimming with characters with clashing viewpoints. The students, played by Laurence Fishburne, Lee himself, and Giancarlo Esposito, grapple with identity, confrontation, and new adulthood.

If you are in a fraternity or sorority, you can relate to this movie. If you are in the marching band or play football, you can relate to this movie. And if you despise all of these collegiate activities, you will most definitely relate to this movie.

  • What You’ll Get From “School Daze”

    This film is a must-see for near-grads because it reminds us nothing lasts, except your convictions.

    Friends and enemies will come and go throughout your life, but what you believe in should be firm enough to stand the test of time.

    [view movie trailer]

“Reality Bites” (1994)

“Reality Bites” is a lasting tribute to Generation X that offers timeless lessons to every era of twenty-somethings.

It follows film school grad and class valedictorian Lelaina Pierce (Winona Ryder) as she creates a documentary about her circle of friends and post-college life.

It’s all very ‘90s, and despite a few heavy moments, doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is a lesson in itself.

  • What You’ll Get From “Reality Bites”

    This movie is all about transitions! Namely, how to become yourself when you don’t have a role model to look up to. The quandary of growing apart from your “slacker” friends and becoming a successful adult without “selling out” are other main themes.

    [view movie trailer]

“The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)

“The Devil Wears Prada” stars Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep and continues to strike fear in the hearts of college grads everywhere.

What makes this movie so synonymous with the recent-grad life is that it exposes the nightmarish potential of first jobs.

  • What You’ll Get From “The Devil Wears Prada”

    First of all, you need to learn how to balance your work and personal lives.

    And remember, dealing with over-the-top drama and going the extra mile can pay off in the long run. Just stay focused.

    Oh, and your first boss out of college *probably* won’t be as scary as Meryl Streep’s character. Probably.

    [view movie trailer]

“Frances Ha” (2012)

Co-written and starring Greta Gerwig in the title role, “Frances Ha” follows a recent grad as she tries to find footing in her career and sort out her failing relationships.

Frances struggles to make inroads as a professional dancer and crashes with a series of friends when she cannot afford rent for an apartment.

  • What You’ll Get From “Frances Ha”

    Some people may look like they have a perfect life. Odds are, they are struggling as much as you are.

    You may not get the dream career you thought you would after college, but something just as satisfying will come along.

    And, it’s natural to grow apart from friends, but being a true friend means you will always be there for a bud as they navigate their own ups and downs.

    [view movie trailer]

“The 40-Year-Old Version” (2020)

Shot in black and white (like “Frances Ha”) “The 40-Year-Old Version” is another superb movie for near-grads to see.

The movie stars Radha Blank, who also wrote and directed this biographical feature. Radha is a once-acclaimed playwright who tries to revitalize her stale career while avoiding grieving the death of her mother.

  • What You’ll Get From the “40-Year-Old Version”

    You’ll have confusing and scary transitional periods for the rest of your life, not just after graduating. Yay!

    But in all seriousness, it’s never too late to reassess your career and venture down a new path.

    There is a thin line between integrity and compromise. Tell anyone who tries to change you to kick rocks.

    [view movie trailer]

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As your student days dwindle, you will no doubt feel nostalgic while also wondering about your next phase of life.

Don’t freak out; stream a few of these films with friends, family, or solo. You’ll better understand that while your future may not be perfect, it will be yours. Own it, live it, and never apologize for being you!

Author bio
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Grove at Pullman to help them with their online marketing.

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