Graduations mark the end of important chapters in people’s lives, and movies use them to dramatize both endings and beginnings. The types of graduation scenes often depend on the genre. Coming-of-age movies typically use these sequences to transition from high school to life after, while teen comedies focus on the end of the school year or the post-graduation party. There’s no science to these scenes, as they can be both dark and enlightening, or comically distant.
Some movies, like The graduation, dial the impending cloud of adulthood and how bleak the transition from college to work can be. Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of Benjamin Braddock shows the reluctance of a young graduate with a bright future struggling to find his place in the world. Deciding on a career can determine your entire life, and the films 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.
8 The perks of Being a Wallflower
The 2012 coming of age movie, 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 of the same name and follows Charlie, played by Logan Lerman, who tries to navigate his first year while trying to deal with his own internal struggles. Following the suicide of his close friend, Charlie meets Patrick (Ezra Miller) at a football game and immediately clicks with the eccentric underdog. Patrick introduces Charlie to his friends and his sister, Sam (Emma Watson), who all take Charlie to their group of misfits. Charlie learns that each of the band members struggles with 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 through despite their struggles ending a charming classic.
7 Crazy, Stupid, Love
Easily one of the best comedies to come out of the 2010s, Crazy, Stupid, Love follows the laughs to the end. Cal Weaver (played by Steve Carell) and Emily Weaver (Julianne Moore) separate and plan to divorce after Emily reveals she cheated on Cal. After moving out and settling into his new place, Cal meets Jacob, played by Ryan Gosling, at a bar. The two talk to each other and Jacob offers to help Cal “reclaim his manhood” and trains him in the art of dating women. Meanwhile, Cal’s son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo), seeks the affections of his older babysitter. After discovering that his babysitter is actually in love with his father, Robbie gives the most depressing graduation speech ever. Before being interrupted by Cal, Robbie denounces: “There is no such thing as true love.” Cal steps in and corrects his son, telling him that soulmates are real, tying the movie together in a perfect arc while bringing the characters together as a unit.
6 Billy Madison
Like all of Adam Sandler’s early films, the angry, overenthusiastic slacker must overcome a comedic script to defeat the film’s antagonist. Billy Madison follows Billy (Sandler), a spoiled twenty-something with a wealthy dad who never finished school. Billy becomes furious that his father wants to allow Eric (Bradley Whitford), a disgruntled man with his own agenda, to take over the business. His father proposes that Billy complete his 12 years of schooling in just 24 weeks, and he will consider leaving the business to his son. With trials, tribulations and comedy that only a Sandler movie could provide, the film all leads up to the closing speech beginning Billy’s graduation. The speech not only shows that Billy has grown in every way, but proves that his heart was in the right place by handing the business 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 longtime crush, Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), but also to insult his beefy military boyfriend who assist in the audience. After the ceremony, Dennis and Beth come face to face and he invites her to his party. He is also confronted by his boyfriend who threatens to break 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 a wild night before heading off to college. Not only does Dennis have enough of high school shenanigans in one night, but he also shares a kiss with his high school dream, Beth.
4 The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Since the release of Spider-Man: No Coming Home, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 received well-deserved praise. One of the loveliest parts of the two-movie series is the on-screen relationship and chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. As iconic as the “I love you” bridge scene is, the graduation scene isn’t far behind. Gwen prepares to give her farewell speech, but Peter is late for graduation because of course he’s busy being Spider-Man. During his graduation acceptance, he lures 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 also marks one of the last sweet moments to be shared before Gwen’s untimely death. What makes it even sweeter is the fact that the the kiss was not in the script.
Boasting a 96% on rotten tomatoes2019 Library served up more laughs than originally expected. The film follows Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), two college masterminds who want to make up for all the time they lost during their high school days in one epic night. Attending a popular student’s graduation party is the least of their worries, as their latest true duo adventure takes them to places they never imagined they would be. That night, it all leads to their graduation and a speech by Molly speaking out about her negative thoughts about her classmates. Library is a must-have modern take on a coming-of-age comedy suitable for all fans of the genre.
2 She is all that
She is all that is one of many cult classics of ’90s teen comedies. The film was recently adapted into a new spin-off, turning the story around as a nerdy boy instead of a quiet entertainer. The film follows Zack (Freddie Prinze Jr.), a popular star who recently got dumped by his bossy girlfriend. Zack makes a bet with Dean (Paul Walker) that he can make any unpopular girl into the school prom queen. Dean chooses Laney Boggs (Rachel Leigh Cook), a practically invisible artist. Of course, in true rom-com style, Zack falls in love with Laney. The whole movie climaxes at graduation, as it’s revealed that Zack’s losing bet required him to accept his graduation naked, easily making this one of the most memorable graduation scenes of his. era.
1 Revenge of a Blonde
Everyone loves an underdog, and when it comes to movie characters, Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is among the best. After being dumped by her boyfriend for “not being smart enough”, Elle applies to Harvard to try to win him back. Yet, once there, her motivations change and she realizes that she wants to become a lawyer not to impress her ex, but rather for herself. One of the most satisfying parts of the film is the graduation speech, showing that Elle has finished her studies at Harvard and would become a lawyer, making her a true inspirational woman in modern cinema.
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