Best Back to School Movies Streaming Right Now

BJ Quinn

I used to dread going back to school. I remember, as a neurotic six-year-old, pulling my mother aside the day before returning saying: “I can’t do it, I forgot how to add and subtract! And the alphabet? Forget about it!” Even in secondary school after summer holidays I would worry everyone would forget who I was. And no, not in a “Hey, did you get a tan?” kind of way, but more, “Have we met?”

Thankfully, movies can ease the transition from sunny skies to hard-to-knot ties. Right now Smithfield’s Lighthouse Cinema is screening dozens of classic teen films as part of their Not Another Teen Season. Cinephiles will get the chance to see beloved titles such as The Breakfast Club, Carrie, Mean Girls and Rushmore, just to name a few. Although, if you’re not tempted to venture out, we have you covered with our favourite Back to School movies currently streaming.


The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

The Edge of Seventeen follows high school junior Nadine, who is already at peak awkwardness when her all-star older brother Darian starts dating her best friend Krista. All at once, Nadine feels more alone than ever, until an unexpected friendship with a thoughtful teen (Hayden Szeto) gives her a glimmer of hope that things just might not be so terrible after all.

Hailee Steinfeld, Oscar nominated in 2010 for her role in True Grit, shows her versatility here, giving her all in capturing the essence of a high school outcast. It’s a film filled with wild melodrama, jealousy, sarcasm and self-hate – in short, The Edge of Seventeen is the perfect teen movie. It’s also a film steeped in the legacy of John Hughes with its mix of biting humour and bittersweet heart.

Clueless (1995)

Shallow, rich and socially successful Cher is at the top of her Beverly Hills high school’s pecking order. Seeing herself as a matchmaker, Cher first coaxes two teachers into dating each other. Emboldened by her success, she decides to give hopelessly klutzy new student Tai a makeover. When Tai becomes more popular than she is, Cher realises that her disapproving ex-stepbrother was right about how misguided she was – and falls for him.

Director Amy Heckerling was able to define two very different school experiences with Clueless and Fast Times At Ridgemont High in the 80s. It’s pretty amazing to capture the cultural zeitgeist of your time 15 years apart, especially when it comes to teen movies. And let’s not forget, this is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. Given that so many of Austen’s works qualify in film adaptations as period pieces, it’s appropriate that Clueless serves as its own sort of time capsule. From the instantly dated commercial jingle sing-alongs to the cartoon references, from the slang (which it propagated as much as appropriated) to the fashion. It should be noted, too, that the film looks and sounds great. Its soundtrack is a fantastic slice of pop/rock 90s atmosphere, with big hits and deep cuts.

Disney +

The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003)

During summer break, Lizzie McGuire and her closest pals head off on a school trip to Rome. Before long she makes the acquaintance of Paolo Valisari, a local music sensation cutie-pie whose duet partner looks – surprise, surprise – exactly like Lizzie. Since Paolo and his collaborator recently feuded, Lizzie agrees to stand in for the girl at a massive concert and mime to a recording. But when things don’t go as planned, she must rely on her own vocal chops and that legendary McGuire pluckiness.

Look, 2003 was a wild time, okay!: the Dublin spire was unveiled, R Kelly was in the news for the right reasons, and Eurovision hopeful Mickey Joe Harte rallied a nation while our football team failed to qualify for the 2004 Euros. But, lest we forget, 2003 was also the year Lizzie McGuire ditched TV sets for the silver screen and, as a result, our childhoods were forever changed. Yes, it’s cheesy, corny, cringey – what else would you expect from a Disney Channel movie? – but it thoroughly scratches that noughties nostalgia itch, a condition very much in vogue at the moment.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

On the first day at his new school, Cameron instantly falls for Bianca, the gorgeous girl of his dreams. The only problem is that Bianca is forbidden to date until her ill-tempered, completely undateable older sister Kat goes out too. In an attempt to solve his problem, Cameron singles out the only guy who could possibly be a match for Kat: a mysterious bad boy with a nasty reputation of his own.

How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways. 10 Things I Hate About You, directed by Gil Junger, is inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. But more importantly, it boasts a knockout cast on the cusp of international stardom – Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Heath Ledger among them. 20 plus years on, the film holds up wonderfully. One of its secret weapons is how it manages to subvert some of the culture-bound aspects of Shakespeare’s comedy and turn them into something fresh and sharp, without losing an ounce of romance. Then again, come for the Bard, but stay for a Heath Ledger, crooning as we swoon.

Prime Video

Paranoid Park (2007)

Alex, a teenage skateboarder, is interviewed by Detective Richard Lu about the death of a security guard severed by a train who was apparently hit by a skateboard. While dealing with the separation process of his parents and the sexual heat of his girlfriend Jennifer, Alex writes his last experiences in Paranoid Park with his new acquaintances and how the guard was killed, trying to relieve his feeling of guilt from his conscience.

Okay, enough with the feel-good comedies. Paranoid Park is a moody, somewhat otherworldly study of the confusion and alienation – as fragmented and disordered as the writings in Alex’s notebook. With his experimental, circular narrative, Gus Van Sant – a director best known for underseen gems, My Own Private Idaho and Elephant, along with mainstream hits, Good Will Hunting and Milk – provides the arthouse audience with a style exercise that’s simply indelible both technically and emotionally. Now add Christopher Doyle’s incredible cinematography, and you’ve got yourself a perfect picture.

Dead Poets Society (1989)

A new English teacher, John Keating, is introduced to an all-boys preparatory school that is known for its stuffy traditions and high standards. He uses unorthodox methods to reach out to his students, who face enormous pressures from their parents and the school. With Keating’s help, students and others learn to break out of their shells, pursue their dreams and carpe some diems.

Peter Weir’s coming of age classic earned a bad rap for many years. Some would have you believing it’s a guilty pleasure. But it was pretty damn wonderful when I was 12 and it’s pretty damn wonderful now. It’s one of those comfort movies which cause you to sob uncontrollably. Of course, if sobbing is your thing, Dead Poets Society has taken on a new breath of life since the untimely death of Robin Williams. His performance will steal your heart, make you want to jump on your table and rip up your school books. “O Captain! my Captain!”