High School Sweethearts in the Movies

In honor of Valentine's Day, let's revisit one of Hollywood's most iconic couples: the proverbial "High School Sweethearts."

Valentine's Day is sort of important to me. For one thing, it's my birthday (I was born two weeks late and my mom calls me the best Valentine she ever got). But for another, I'm a self-confessed hopeless romantic. I love love, and my head has been in the clouds since my very first crush in second grade.

My grandmother raised me on the amorous black-and-white films of yesteryear, exposing me to the swoon-inducing talents of Clark Gable and Tyrone Power. I've seen Keira Knightley's Pride and Prejudice a few dozen times and weep like an infant every time Mr. Darcy utters those halting words, "I love, I love, I love you...most ardently." And I'm a sucker for anything that ends with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan living happily ever after.

In honor of Valentine's Day, I've decided to revisit one of Hollywood's most iconic couples: the proverbial "High School Sweethearts." Though their lives may be occupied by classes, extracurricular activities, and college applications, many of your students will still find time to test the waters of teenage romance. Those of us who have been out of high school for a number of years may find it difficult to relate to the heady and often irrational nature of young love. So here are a few movies that will transport you back in time and help you empathize with your love-struck students:


Of all the high school movies ever filmed, this one is perhaps the least believable, as all of the primary actors were well into their 20s and 30s when it was released, a fact that all the makeup and jaunty ponytails in the world would fail to hide. Non sequitur wrinkles and receding hairlines aside, this musical is great fun, and the catchy tune Summer Nights sums up the lighthearted, relatable plot of teenage love. A tough guy meets a sweet girl, they share a summer fling, but he has to hide his soft side when school starts in the fall. Mischief, misunderstandings, and melodrama play out against an upbeat and unforgettable soundtrack. The actors may not look much like your own 17 year olds, but their characters and their various antics are sure to remind you of them.

Rebel Without a Cause

I went through a pretty intense James Dean obsession awhile back, and of his three major films, this is my favorite. While its 1950s stereotyping of teenagers is a little cheesy and leaves something to be desired for the modern-day viewer, it does an excellent job of portraying the illogical speed with which young love blooms. The disillusioned main characters (played by Dean and Natalie Wood) meet in the morning and are exchanging fervent I-love-you's by nightfall, a classically teenage conceit.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

While I certainly don't advocate truancy, this movie brilliantly epitomizes high school hijinks, even though very little of the film takes place within the walls of the eponymous main character's high school. The plot focuses on a popular student who plays sick and spends one glorious day doing absolutely whatever he pleases. On the precipice of adulthood, Ferris and his girlfriend Sloane seem certain that they'll be together forever. At the end of their day of gallivanting, they part ways and Sloane says quietly to herself, "He's gonna' marry me"--a common and bittersweet assumption that has plagued many a teenage romance.

Pretty in Pink

If you haven't already, you should become well-versed in the John Hughes canon. He was the Michelangelo of teenage angst, and, in my opinion, Pretty in Pink is perhaps his Sistine Chapel (he also wrote and dircted the aforementioned Ferris Bueller). It is the story of Andie Walsh (played by "Brat Pack" fixture Molly Ringwald), a girl from "the wrong side of the tracks" who has a crush on her high school's resident rich boy, Blane. Despite their divergent backgrounds, they attempt to date, but their friends disapprove of the relationship and Blane begins to ignore her. Andie assumes a stiff upper lip and goes to prom alone, wearing a pink thrift store dress that she's cleverly repurposed. When Blane spots Andie, glowing with rosy confidence, he (of course) immediately realizes the error of his ways and declares his love for her. Predictable? Yes. But also delightfully nostalgic and hopeful.

10 Things I Hate About You

Having come of age in the '90s, this movie stands out for me. And since it was wittily based on The Taming of the Shrew, curling up with this guilty pleasure won't necessarily result in a total loss of brain cells. Hollywood smarty pants Julia Stiles (she studied English literature at Columbia University) plays Kat Stratford, an academically minded high schooler who shuns typical teenage activities such as parties and dances--much to her younger sister's chagrin. When she becomes the target of an elaborate scheme to get her to date a ruggedly handsome outcast (played by Heath Ledger), hilarity and heartbreak ensue. Boisterous and poignant, this movie is sure to tug on your heartstrings and remind you of your own wily teenagers.

Now go ahead. Indulge in a high school movie night. Let the transportive magic of the silver screen take you back to your own days of blissfully naïve youth. It's sure to stir your compassion for your own college-bound but starry-eyed students.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

college counselors columbia university high school movies high schoolers teenagers

About Stephanie Farah

Stephanie Farah

Stephanie is a former writer and senior editor for Carnegie Darlet and CollegeXpress. Stephanie holds a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin and a master's in Journalism from the University of North Texas. At various times she has been: an uncertain undergrad, a financial aid recipient, a transfer applicant, and a grad student with an assistantship and a full ride. Stephanie is an avid writer, traveler, cook, and dog owner. 


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Kyla McClain

Kyla McClain

High School Class of 2024

I found CollegeXpress when you partnered with Bold.org for a scholarship. I found your website, put my information in, and got connected. I only wanted to stay in North Carolina [for college] and not move far from home, but you all opened a door up for me. I started researching colleges you suggested for me. On your social media platforms, you also give really good test-taking tips that I used and suggested others to do the same. It helped me a lot on my exams, so thank you.

Maurice Whan

Maurice Whan

$2,000 Spring Scholarship Contest Winner, 2021

This year has been tough for my family and myself, so receiving this scholarship has been a blessing in disguise! CollegeXpress has been an excellent resource in helping me prepare financially for college. Thank you again for this amazing opportunity!



High School Class of 2023

Being a sophomore in high school, I never really worried about college. I thought it wasn't important to worry about until senior year. Through this program opportunity I came across, I realized how important it is to start looking at colleges early and start planning ahead. CollegeXpress has opened my eyes to what colleges require, what colleges are near me, and what they offer. The daily emails I get from CollegeXpress really help me look at the different options I have and what colleges I fit into. Without this website, I would not be taking the time out of my day to worry about what my future will be nor what opportunities I have. I could not be more grateful for such an amazing and useful website. It's thanks to CollegeXpress that not only me but my family now know how much potential I have in to getting into these colleges/universities that we thought were out of my reach.

Rayan Hamdan

Rayan Hamdan


I joined CollegeXpress just a few months ago. I had been struggling with severe anxiety, causing me to not be able to tour schools and make sure a college would be perfect for me. I came across CollegeXpress one day when I was searching for colleges online, and it completely changed the game. I was easily able to choose colleges that would suit me, and I also entered a few giveaways! Thank you so much!

Yuhlani Patterson

Yuhlani Patterson


CollegeXpress has helped me find so many scholarships that fit me. They match me to colleges I have specific interest in to make searching for colleges way easier and more efficient. CollegeXpress refers me to schools that have my major of interest and backup schools if I want to change my mind. CollegeXpress also gives out their own scholarships, so you have even more of a chance at gaining multiple scholarships. This website has helped me de-stress from the pressure of not being able to afford college, [of finding] what schools are right for me, and how to find easy access to scholarships that most people never knew existed.

College Matches