13 Bittersweet Movies Every Senior Should Watch Before Graduation

By Mandi Harrison

It's your senior year!

Congratulations- you made it!  It's a year full of first experiences and  lots of "this is the last time we are going to..."  Between senior pictures and prom and getting your yearbook signed and college acceptance letters and asking your mom who Great-Aunt Mildred is and why do you need to send her an announcement, you will need some time to relax.  

These movies are perfect for reflecting on what's in the past and lessons to use with what lies ahead.

 

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1. Lady Bird

Directed by Greta Gerwig

  Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson spends her senior year trying everything she can to make herself look good on paper for East Coast liberal arts colleges.  She wants out of Sacramento and wants her mother to like her.  This movie is the one most accurate portrayals of trying to create your own identity and friendship and family dynamics.  We could watch this movie every day.  

  There are so many things to get out of this movie.  Try new things.  Work towards your goals.  Be there for the people who have your back.  Hug your mom.


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2. The Graduate

Directed by Mike Nichols

  "One word- Plastics."  The Graduate is considered one of the greatest movies ever made.  The character of Benjamin Braddock has just graduated college and has no plan of what to do next.  Everyone advises him on what his next step should be and he ends up more confused than ever before.  

  You too will be receiving LOTS of advice from well-meaning people.  They just want to spread their wisdom, not remembering that part of succeeding is learning from your mistakes.  You don't have to have everything figured out right away.  


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3. The Kings of Summer

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts

There is not seeing eye to eye and then there is the tumultuous relationship between Joe and his dad in this little jewel.  When his father gives him the old "As long as you're living under my roof" speech, Joe and two friends decide to make their own rules and build a house in the middle of the woods.  They are self sufficient and able to provide for themselves. They only come into problems when a girl comes between two of the boys. 

  Learn how to do laundry.  Learn how to grocery shop.  Learn how to make something other than Ramen.  You will thank yourself in the long run!


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4. Mustang

Directed by Deniz Game Erguven

  A heart-breaking story of five Turkish sisters growing up in circumstances out of their control.  They held onto their dreams of freedom, even though history and their family were deeming it impossible.  

  Never give up: having hope can get you through anything.   

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5. Dope

Directed by Rick Famuyiwa

  A wanna be Harvard applicant from the rundown side of L.A. gets mixed up with drug dealers while trying to impress a girl.  He ends up running drugs for the supplier while going to college alumni interviews.  He is able to get out of the situation by keeping his cool and thinking the problem through.  

  Sometimes you are going to find yourself in some awkward situations.  Don't panic, keep your cool and you can get through it. 


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6. The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Directed by Marielle Heller

  A teenage girl is discovering her sexuality and who she is as a woman.  She makes some questionable choices along the way, but in the end, discovers that she doesn't have to define herself by those choices.  

  There's gonna be moments in your life that you regret.  You have the choice to wallow in that regret or you can learn from them and move the f**k on.  


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7. Y Tu Mama También

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron 

 A story of friendship, discovering your sexuality and misunderstanding.  

  One of life's hardest lessons is that best friends forever doesn't always last forever.  Whether it's through a falling out or just naturally drifting apart, you still feel like you've lost a part of you.  Allow yourself to grieve and eventually you will be able to remember them fondly.  


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8. The Way Way Back

Directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash

  A shy boy makes an unlikely friend, gaining a summer job and a community that loves him. This gives him the confidence to stand up to his mother's deceitful boyfriend.  

  Don't ever let anyone devalue your worth.  Surround yourself with people that will boost your confidence so you can do what you need to do.   

 


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9. Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Directed by John Hughes

"Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it" - Ferris Bueller

  John Hughes is the master of 80's classics, but in my opinion, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is the best.  At first glance, it's just a fun way to have a senior ditch day, but at it's heart, it's three friends dealing with the anxiety of not know what comes next.  Ferris's answer is to just stop and enjoy the moment.  And when in doubt, join a parade.  

  Don't be afraid to take a mental health day.  Having a day to just do whatever you want (or do nothing) will leave you refreshed and focused to accomplish your goals.  


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10. Submarine

Directed by Richard Ayoade

  An misfit boy becomes involved with his crush, eventually cooling things with her once he realizes  her life has too many personal complications.  At the same time, he's realizing his parents' marriage is having issues. He attempts to solve his parents problem while pining over his lost love.

  Empathy is a powerful emotion.  Everyone is going through something and sometimes just being there and saying "I'm here for you" can make all the difference to that person.


11. 10 Things I Hate About You

Directed by Gil Junger

  This is a modern classic, based off an old schooled classic, Shakespeare's The Taming of The Shrew.  Two sisters, one trying to break out of her overprotective father's hold and the other wanting to come out of her sister's shadow.   

  You alone decide who you are.  You don't have to define yourself by rumors and other's opinions of you.    


12. Adventureland

Directed by Greg Mottola

  James is a recent college grad, with a European trip and grad school in New York in his sight.  After his summer plans fell through, he got a job at the last place he could've imagined.  He made new friends, fell in love and had experiences that he never would've had before of his life had stayed on course.  At the end of summer,  he had his heart broken and his roommate backed out of their living arrangements for grad school, he readjusted and made new plans.   

  Life will never go to plan.  Don't let setbacks ruin your day; not all surprises are bad.  


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13. A Room with a View

Directed by James Ivory

  The biting dialogue and situations in this period piece are so timely, that could've taken place  today.  Lucy is traveling through Italy with her reluctant guardian, and must chose between a proper suitor who bores her and what her heart desires, a man who doesn't have proper social skills.  She discovers that the people with the "proper" upbringing often have the worst manners and that she wanted someone who challenged her to be a better person.  

  There might come a point where you have to choose between doing what your parents think you should do or what you think society wants you to do and what you want deep down inside.  You are the one that is going to have to live with your decisions.  Definitely listen to all sides so you can be sure that you are making the right choice for you.