The most memorable graduation moments from movies

The most memorable graduation moments from movies

Graduation is an annual rite of passage providing an opportunity for a student to both look back at what's been accomplished and look forward to what the future holds. Just as important, it's a time for fun parties and memorable moments as graduates have one last hurrah before scattering into the real world. In the spirt of this annual ritual, here are some of our favorite fictional graduation movie moments (listed in chronological order).

 
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The Graduate (1967)

The Graduate (1967)
Embassy Pictures

Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) just graduated college, but the last thing he wanted was to celebrate the achievement with a bunch of his parents' stuffy friends. While eager to praise the recent graduate, many want to know what he has planned for his life going forward. Some of the partygoers even had some friendly advice for Benjamin, like Mr. McGuire (Walter Brooke), who offered one word -- "plastics."

 
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Back to School (1986)

Back to School (1986)
Orion Pictures

Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) might have been the world's oldest college freshman. Melon was so popular at Grand Lakes University, that he gave the commencement speech at the graduation at the end of his first year. Melon spoke from the heart, telling the new grads about to head out into the world: "Don't go. It's rough out there. Move back with your parents." Sounds like good advice.

 
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Say Anything... (1989)

Say Anything... (1989)
20th Century Fox

Diane Court (Ione Syke) may have had a poignant and honest commencement speech, but the highlight of the Lakewood High School graduation ceremony was Joe's rendition of "The Greatest Love of All." At the annual end-of-school-year party, highlights included Lloyd (John Cusack), who wrangled a date with Diane, serving as "key master." Corey (Lili Taylor) performed all her anti-Joe songs, and the Lakewood rooster even made an appearance before being ambushed. 

 
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Reality Bites (1994)

Reality Bites (1994)
Universal Pictures

As we've already showcased, honesty is a key component to any worthy commencement speech. Lelaina Pierce (Winona Ryder) is a smart girl, but she had no idea how she and her fellow Gen-X college graduates were going to head out into the real world and "repair all the damage they inherited." Her immediate focus was to celebrate with friends Troy (Ethan Hawke), Vickie (Janeane Garofalo) and Sammy (Steve Zahn) on a nearby building roof with pizza and beers.

 
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Billy Madison (1995)

Billy Madison (1995)
YouTube

Super-slacker Billy Madison (Adam Sandler) somehow, and hilariously, managed to cram 12 years of schooling into a brief amount of time. When it was done, the hotel heir opted not to stick with the family business, but rather further his education in college with hopes of becoming a teacher. Billy lays it all out in his graduation speech, which, in its own Sandler way, is one of the most endearing moments of the movie. 

 
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Can't Hardly Wait (1998)

Can't Hardly Wait (1998)
Columbia Pictures

There's a lot going on at the Huntington Hillside graduation party . Various social circuits collide with each other, but outsider Preston (Ethan Embry) and his quest for the beautiful prom queen Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt) is in full force. Meanwhile, nerdy William is seeking revenge for years of torment at the hands of popular Mike Dexter. Kenny (Seth Green) is hellbent on losing his virginity and teen-angst poster girl Denise (Lauren Ambrose) can't believe she steeped low enough to attend this party at all. There's also a pretty decent 1990s pop-alternative soundtrack to boot. 

 
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Patch Adams (1998)

Patch Adams (1998)
YouTube

This is a bittersweet movie, considering the tragic end to Robin Williams' life. However, the famed actor delivered his usual strong performance as an adult dealing with mental illness, who eventually goes to medical school. He hopes to treat his patients through traditional medicine, compassion and humor, while actually getting to know them. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the film comes at the end of Patch's graduation, where he grabs his diploma wearing nothing under his gown. 

 
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She's All That (1999)

She's All That (1999)
YouTube

One of the more visional movie graduation moments came courtesy of Freddie Prinze Jr. His character, Zack, shows up to his high school graduation naked, with only a cap, sash and strategically placed soccer ball. Which, when taking the stage to receive his diploma, Zack appropriately throws out to a gleeful Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook). We don't advise this move in real life, however.

 
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Ghost World (2001)

Ghost World (2001)
United Artists

Ghost World , starring Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson, might be a forgotten dark comedy from the early 2000s. However, it does have a rather entertaining high school graduation scene. The highlight of which, is a farewell rap that is brief but notable enough to make this list. Along with angst-ridden outcasts Enid (Birch) and Rebecca (Johansson) stomping on their caps and flipping off the school on their way out.

 
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Legally Blonde (2001)

Legally Blonde (2001)
YouTube

Two years after first-year Harvard law student Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) shockingly proved, in court, that Brooke Taylor-Windham ( Ali Larter) didn't murder her husband, she gave her graduation commencement speech. She spoke about passion and confidence, traits that helped Elle buck the odds and succeed at Harvard when many never took her serious. And, "remembering that first impressions aren't always correct." 

 
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Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man (2002)
YouTube

When Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) graduated high school he was approached after the ceremony by the creepy Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) . The father of his friend Harry (James Franco), he seemed intrigued by Peter's aptitude for science. Of course, Dafoe had an alter ego of his own -- Green Goblin. That form and Peter's Spider-Man persona would become well acquainted with each other over the course of the movie.

 
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The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003)

The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003)
YouTube

Disney favorite Lizzie McGuire (Hilary Duff) did manage to physically make it through her junior high graduation, but it wasn't easy. First, she was exposed by former bestie Kate Sanders as an "outfit repeater." Then, she's thrown into giving the graduation speech, which she was obviously unprepared for. Finally, Lizzie trips while walking off stage and accidently pulls down the large banner backdrop that falls on the assembled graduates. Seemed par for the course for Lizzie.

 
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EuroTrip (2004)

EuroTrip (2004)
Dreamworks Pictures

This should have been a time to celebrate for Scott (Scott Mechlowicz). He just graduated and planned to spend his last summer before college with girlfriend Fiona (Kristin Kreuk). However, she decided to dump Scott -- at his graduation ceremony. Then later at a graduation party, Scott finds out -- through the wonder of song (and one the best film cameos ever) -- that she'd been cheating on him for some time.  

 
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I Love You, Beth Cooper (2009)

I Love You, Beth Cooper (2009)
1492 Pictures, Bece Canada Productions, Dune Entertainment III, Fox Atomic, Ingenious Film Partners

It takes a lot of guts to proclaim your love for the girl of your dreams during a valedictorian speech during a high school graduation ceremony. Well, that's what Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) did. The object of his affection? Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere). In some ways, Denis' proclamation is endearing, since he framed it in a manner of not having any regrets. Of course, Denis had some other things to get off his chest. Which adds to the greatness of his speech.

 
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The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)
YouTube

There are varying levels of intelligence within any given graduating class. But as Jessica Stanley (Anna Kendrick) told fellow grads Bella (Kristen Stewart), Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), and the rest of her class, it's OK to go out and make mistakes -- no matter how smart you may be. It's part of the growing process. Just as long as we don't get in the way of any vampires that might want to do us some harm.

 
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Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)
Warner Bros. Pictures

Leave it to salutatorian Robbie (Jonah Bobo) to bad-mouth love during his eighth-grade graduation speech. Perhaps not the proper forum for such a topic after losing his first game of love, but when you have the podium, why not? It was a good thing Cal (Steve Carell) was there to set him straight and show him that love is not worth giving up on after one shot. Of course, Cal did this during Robbie's  speech, so he kind of stole the show. But, that's OK, it m ade for your typical heartwarming rom-com moment.

 
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The To-Do List (2013)

The To-Do List (2013)
YouTube

In another somewhat forgotten movie, Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) is an intelligent overachiever and proud of it. After all, she wrote her own introduction to be made before giving her high school valedictorian speech. She also continued to be mocked from some meaner classmates due to her virgin status, which pretty much ended her speech. Tough break Brandy!

 
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The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro (2014)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro (2014)
YouTube

Don't blame this version of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) for being late to his high school graduation. He and his Spider-Man alter ego were busy keeping the streets of New York City safe from bad guy Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti). When he did finally make it on stage to receive his diploma, Peter also took the time to give girlfriend  Gwen Stacy  (Emma Stonea kiss that nobody at the ceremony would ever forget. 

 
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Booksmart (2019)

Booksmart (2019)
YouTube

High-tailing it from jail to their high school graduation in Jared's sports car, play-it-by-the-book-no-more best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) make a smashing entrance at the ceremony. Valedictorian Molly eventually makes it on stage, plants a serious kiss on Jared and delivers a touching speech while Amy and rest of the graduating class cheer her on.

 
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The King of Staten Island (2020)

The King of Staten Island (2020)
YouTube

Held at one of the nicer estates on Staten Island, Claire Carlin (Maude Apatow) and her friend Joanne are celebrated with a graduation party before heading off to college. Claire's slacker brother Scott (Pete Davidson) doesn't really want to be there, but he was able to score some weed and was offered a job by his cousin Joe (Kevin Corrigan). It was one of the more subtly humorous moments within an underrated movie. 

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

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