The best cinematic graduation scenes



Beanie Feldstein (left) and Kaitlyn Dever (right) in “Booksmart.”

Graduating college may seem like a daunting time — you’re about to go out into the “real world” and, God willing, actually use your degree. To distract you from impending adulthood, here’s a list of the top five best graduation scenes seen in movies.

5) Twilight: Eclipse (2010) 

It is 11 years after “Twilight: Eclipse” came out and I am still not sure why Anna Kendrick’s Jessica was Valedictorian. But she did give an okay speech about not rushing into adulthood. I wish Bella would have taken that advice before she ran off and married Edward.

Best Quote: “When we were five, they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up,” Jessica, Anna Kendrick’s character, said in the movie. “Our answers were things like astronaut, president, or in my case, princess. When we were ten, they asked again and we answered – rock star, cowboy, or in my case, gold medalist. But now that we’ve grown up, they want a serious answer. Well, how ’bout this: who the h*ll knows!”

4) The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003) 

Hilary Duff played a middle schooler at her graduation, even though she was 16 when this movie came out. Also, middle school graduation? Is that a thing?

In any case, nostalgia brings our first Disney Channel movie on to the list. She gets bullied for being an “outfit repeater” (not very cool to bully someone for being sustainable, Kate Sanders).  Overall, though, a cute little scene filled with excitement knowing that Lizzie is about to go to Rome. And, of course, some typical Disney Channel physical comedy when the set falls on the graduates.

Best Quote: “Thanks, Dad, but I’m just trying to get through graduation. Greatness can wait until this nightmare is over,” Hillary Duff’s iconic character Lizzy McGuire said to her father right before graduation.

3) Booksmart (2019) 

Best friends Molly and Amy are valedictorian and salutatorian, but Molly has to get Amy out of jail after a wild night of partying. They barely make it to their high school graduation, just as a friend is going up to fill in for Molly.

In general, this movie is great. It pulls at your heartstrings, it makes you laugh, it makes you embarrassed on behalf of the characters on screen. This graduation scene feels like a nice way to start wrapping up the movie.

But it doesn’t rank higher because it doesn’t yet have the same cultural impact as rankings one and two. It’s a good graduation scene. We get to see Molly and Amy reunited after their massive fight the night before. Molly gets to make out with her crush in front of the whole school. It’s fun. There are just better graduation scenes.

Best Quote: “You’re all pretty great. Don’t let college f*ck it up,” said Molly, played by Beanie Feldstein, in her graduation speech.

2) High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008) 

The only reason this is ranked two instead of one is because Troy Bolton is the Valedictorian. Not only is he the basketball and theatre star, and he’s so talented at those two activities that he gets recruited into both UC Berkeley and Julliard, respectively, he’s also insanely smart? Wasn’t that supposed to be Gabriella or Taylor this whole time?

Still of Zac Efron and Corbin Bleu in “High School Musical 3: Senior Year.” (IMDB)

In any case, I still have nostalgia for this scene. It feels like a fitting and proper ending to the series. Troy gives a short and sweet speech about how the teachers at East High “encouraged us to break the status quo.” That’s a fun callback to the first movie, but also not necessarily true. The two teachers the audience spends the most time with, his dad, basketball Coach Bolton, and Ms. Darbus, the drama teacher, both actively discouraged students from branching out into other extracurriculars.

Still, I love this scene. It puts a smile on my face. It reminds me of simpler times. Plus, we get a reprise of “We’re All in this Together.”

Best Quote: “It’s a place where one person, if it’s the right person, changes us all…Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat,” Troy Bolton, Zac Efron’s character, exclaims at the end of the movie.

Reese Witherspoon in the 2001 classic comedy “Legally Blonde.” (IMDB)

1) Legally Blonde (2001) 

Is this another nostalgia pick? Partly. Is this a very cheesy scene? Of course. It’s very indicative of the time this movie was made. I mean, “Perfect Day” by Hoku plays in the background. It could not get more early 2000’s rom-com if it tried. But I still think it wraps up the movie in a nice pink bow. We are told that Elle Woods is the elected speaker for the Harvard Law graduating class, which makes more sense to me than saying she’s the Valedictorian. The audience is shown early on in the movie that Elle struggled at first.

It’s a heartwarming scene to end on. We learn that Elle is going to be proposed to, her enemy at the start of the movie is now her best friend, and her awful ex, Warner, graduated “without honors, without a girlfriend, and without a job offer.”

The scene wraps up all the loose ends for the characters and leaves the audience with a solid sense of finality (sequels aside).

Best Quote: It is with passion, courage of conviction, and strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world,” Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods says in her graduation speech.

Class of 2021 graduates, congratulations! Take Elle Woods’ advice to heart and enter adulthood not with fear, but with passion, courage, and the strong sense of self developed and fostered at DePaul. Once a Blue Demon, always a Blue Demon!