Graduation is an exciting time. As you cross the podium, you’re equal parts elated and anxious. Sure, it will be great to say goodbye to early-morning lectures and the stress of finals, but what will the next chapter bring? If you’re looking for a little inspiration, a boost of confidence or just a good laugh, here are 10 graduation movies to help you on your way, all available to watch now on Netflix through your Smart TV.
1. Glory Daze
College can be a lot of fun, and it's only natural to feel reluctant to leave your friends—and the good times—behind when the time comes. Ben Affleck as Jack takes that idea to its logical extreme, resolving to keep his friends together and keep the party going. Good luck with that, Jack. Even in the movies, and even when you're Ben Affleck, it's a tough proposition. If you’re feeling separation anxiety, "Glory Daze" will cure it in a hurry.
Okay, so John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing and the rest of the crew were just about the least-convincing high school students in movie history. That doesn't matter. As senior-year flicks go, "Grease" is still the unchallenged king of goofy, cheesy fun. Don't sweat the silliness of it, just pop some popcorn, turn off your brain and enjoy the ride.
3. Can't Hardly Wait
The post-graduation mega party puts an exclamation point on the end of the school year. "Can't Hardly Wait" gets its energy from watching the jocks, the geeks and the popular cliques bounce off each other with erratic results. Ethan Embry's hopeless infatuation with Jennifer Love Hewitt is the central story, but watch for a young Seth Green as the homeboy-wannabe who conceals a pretty decent kid under the bling and goofiness.
4. This is Our Time
Stereotypes aside, graduation isn't all about drinking and partying. If faith is your family's focus, this is your movie. These grads are looking forward to trying their wings in the real world, but with the added pressure of letting their convictions guide their actions. Movies made within the "churched" community often suffer from mediocre writing and acting, while mainstream films tend to treat the characters' beliefs as comedic fodder. "This is Our Time" avoids both hazards.
It's graduation, and Jesse Eisenberg's James is looking forward to a "transformative" European trip with his friends. Unfortunately, his parents are having cash-flow problems, so instead he stays home and takes a dead-end job at a mediocre amusement park—which, to his surprise, also turns out to be pretty transformative. Many of those life lessons revolve around hooking up with Kristen Stewart, so it's not like it was all bad.
6. August the First
Family can be a great source of strength in your life, but navigating those tangled relationships can be a real test of character. New graduate Tunde complicates his graduation party by inviting his estranged father from Nigeria. He knows it'll be like slipping a porcupine into a room full of balloons, but it's his graduation and he wants his dad there. The hand-held camera work and natural acting style make you feel like you're watching a real family work out its issues, and Nigerian-American director Lanre Olabisi keeps things moving along.
7. Say Anything...
First-time director Cameron Crowe was no stranger to high-school movies, having scripted the cult comedy "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Like Judge Reinhold's character in the earlier movie, John Cusack as Lloyd is an affable underachiever with some real substance hiding under the slacker surface. After having a crush on class valedictorian Diane all through high school, he dedicates his summer to winning her heart. The outsider with an unlikely dream is one of Crowe's pet themes and you can't help rooting for Lloyd and Diane.
8. The Graduate
Graduating is all about trying your wings and testing the limits of your world, and that's one of the themes that runs through "The Graduate." Not just for Dustin Hoffman's tentative Benjamin Braddock, but for bride-to-be Elaine and—memorably—Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson who planted the older-woman fantasy firmly into the psyche of a whole generation. Partly that's an expression of its place in time: the film was released in 1967, when established standards of behavior were being challenged everywhere. This is a movie with a keen eye for its characters' flaws and failings, and there aren't any easy answers.
9. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Everyone cuts the occasional class, but nobody cuts them with as much style as Ferris, but there’s a real life lesson hidden in the ending. Ferris gets off scot-free, while sidekick Cam goes home to tell his dad about the Ferrari pancake: a reminder that charming manipulators are fun to be around, but as the sidekick, you'll probably be the one who gets stuck holding the bag.
10. Best Kept Secret
Think you had it rough in school because geometry made your brain hurt? This documentary will give you a quick attitude adjustment. It follows a group of autistic students at Newark's JFK school, about to graduate at age 21. "Graduation" in their case means leaving the only real safety net they'll ever have, unless their parents can scrape together the cash for expensive private care. Whether you’re excited to leave the nest or worried about job prospects, "Best Kept Secret" will apply a powerful dose of perspective.