Best Graduation Movie Scenes, Ranked

Graduations mark endings to significant chapters in people’s lives, and films utilize these to stage both endings and beginnings. Types of graduation scenes often depend on the genre. Coming-of-age films usually use these sequences to transition from high school to life after, while teen comedies focus on leading up to the end of the school year or the party that follows graduation. There is no science to these scenes, as they can be both somber and enlightening, or comically aloof.

Some films, like The Graduate, dial in on the looming cloud of adulthood and how bleak the transition from college to the workplace can be. Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of Benjamin Braddock shows the reluctance of a recent grad with a bright-future who struggles to find his place in the world. Deciding on a career can determine your entire life, and movies explore these real-life scenarios by signifying the importance of transitions. From the best speeches to overly aggressive bets, here are the best graduation movie scenes, ranked.

Related: Best Coming-of-Age Films of the 2010s, Ranked

8 The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The 2012 coming-of-age film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a charming sentiment about a quiet loner who meets a group of older friends during his freshman year of high school. The film was adapted from the novel by the same name and follows Charlie, played by Logan Lerman, who is trying to navigate his freshman year all while attempting to cope with his own internal struggles. Following the suicide of his close friend, Charlie meets Patrick (Ezra Miller) at a football game and clicks with the quirky outsider immediately. Patrick introduces Charlie to his friends and sister, Sam (Emma Watson), who all take Charlie in to their band of misfits. Charlie learns that each of the group members are battling their own internal struggles. The graduation scene in The Perks of Being a Wallflower is short, but its importance in the film is not lacking. It marks the culmination of the film as a whole, and shows that the characters have made it despite their struggles bringing an end to a charming classic.

7 Crazy, Stupid, Love

Easily one of the best comedies to come out of the 2010s, Crazy, Stupid, Love follows through on the laughs straight to the ending. Cal Weaver (played by Steve Carell) and Emily Weaver (Julianne Moore) are separating and planning to divorce after Emily discloses that she cheated on Cal. After moving out and settling in to his new place, Cal meets Jacob, played by Ryan Gosling, at a bar. The two get talking and Jacob offers to help Cal “reclaim his manhood” and trains him in the art of meeting women. Meanwhile, Cal’s son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is chasing after the affections of his older babysitter. After finding out that his babysitter is actually in love with his father, Robbie gives the most depressing graduation speech of all time. Before getting interrupted by Cal, Robbie denounces, “There is no such thing as one true love.” Cal steps in and corrects his son, telling him that soulmates are real, tying the movie up in a perfect bow all while reuniting the characters as a unit.

6 Billy Madison

In true fashion of any early Adam Sandler moviethe angry, over-enthused slacker, must overcome a comedic scenario to defeat the antagonist of the film. Billy Madison follows Billy (Sandler), a spoiled 20-something with a rich father who never completed his grade-level schooling. Billy becomes enraged that his father wants to allow Eric (Bradley Whitford), a disgruntled man with his own agenda, to take over the company. His father proposes that Billy complete all of his 12 years of schooling in just 24 weeks, and he will consider leaving the company to his son. With trials, tribulations, and comedy that only a Sandler movie could provide, the film all leads up to the ending speech commencing Billy’s high school graduation. The speech not only shows that Billy has grown up in the slightest way, but proves that his heart was in the right place by giving the company over to a trusted employee who actually deserved it.

5 I Love You, Beth Cooper

Dennis Cooverman (Paul Rust) decides that during his graduation speech would be the best time to not only profess his love to his long time crush, Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), but also insult her beefy military boyfriend who is attending in the audience. After the ceremony Dennis and Beth meet face to face, and he invites her to his party. He is also confronted by her boyfriend who threatens to beat his brains out. I Love You, Beth Cooper is a true gem of a teen comedy, following the classic tradition of having the school nerd have one crazy night before leaving for college. Not only does Dennis get enough of high school shenanigans packed into one night, but he also gets to share a kiss with his high school dream, Beth.

Related: 10 Totally Forgotten About Teen Comedies That Are Actually Good

4 The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Since the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has been receiving some well deserved praise. One of the most charming parts of the two-film series is the relationship and on-screen chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. As iconic as the “I love you” bridge scene was, the graduation scene is not far off. Gwen is preparing to make her valedictorian speech, but Peter is late to graduation because he is of course busy being Spider-Man. When accepting his diploma, he pulls Gwen in for a romantic kiss in front of the entire student body. The scene is not only one of the best graduation scenes in recent years, but marks as one of the last sweet moments to two share before Gwen’s untimely death. What makes it even sweeter is the fact that the kiss was not in the script.

3 Booksmart

Boasting a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes2019’s Booksmart served up more laughs than initially expected. The film follows Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), two academic brains who want to make up for all the time that they lost during their high school years in one epic night. Attending a popular student’s graduation party is the least of their troubles as their last true adventure as a duo brings them places they never dreamed they would be. This night all leads up to their graduation and a speech delivered by Molly denouncing her negative thoughts about her classmates. Booksmart is a must-see modern take on a coming-of-age comedy that is suitable for all lovers of the genre.

2 She’s All That

She’s All That is amongst the many cult classics of 90s teen comedies. The film was recently adapted into a new spin-off, flipping the story to transforming a nerdy boy instead of a quiet artist. The movie follows Zack (Freddie Prinze Jr.), a popular star who recently gets dumped by his bossy girlfriend. Zack makes a bet with Dean (Paul Walker) that he can make any unpopular girl in the school prom queen. Dean chooses Laney Boggs (Rachel Leigh Cook), a practically invisible artist. Of course, in true rom-com fashion, Zack falls for Laney. The entire movie comes to a head at graduation, as it is revealed that the bet Zack lost required him to accept his diploma naked, easily making it one of the most memorable graduation scenes of its time.

1 Legally Blonde

Everyone loves an underdog, and as far as movie characters go, Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is among the best. After being dumped by her boyfriend for “not being smart enough,” Elle applies to Harvard in an attempt to win him back. Yet, once she’s there, her motivations change, and she realizes that she wants to become a lawyer not to impress her ex, but instead for herself. One of the most satisfying parts of the movie is the ending graduation speech, showing that Elle completed her schooling at Harvard and would go on to become a lawyer, making her a true inspirational woman in modern film.

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