Whether you’re heading into your dream job or going home to your parents’ basement, graduation is a scary and exciting time. And what better reflects our feelings about any great life event than Hollywood? The following movies will inspire you to run after your goals or comfort you when you’re not quite sure where you’re running. And before you ask, yes, “The Graduate” is in here. `
10. “Post Grad” (2009)
This cheesy flick is about a recent college graduate (Alexis Bledel) who is forced to move back in with the ‘rents after her mortal enemy steals her dream job. While the situation is predictable, it does tell the story of being a graduate in the current recession pretty accurately; nothing might work out the way you planned or the way your parents told you it would, but it will work out. And with Jane Lynch and Michael Keaton as Mom and Dad and Carol Burnett as Grandma, how could it not?
9. “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)
Though not exactly cap-and-gown, this Oscar-nominated flick about the fashion magazine industry offers some helpful advice for job hunters everywhere. When Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) moves to New York to become a journalist, she has a seriously good college resume under her belt, complete with editor-in-chief credit for her school’s newspaper. But once placed into the real world, where you don’t always land your dream job and need to learn to give 100 percent to every duty (even coffee runs), Andy is quickly put in her place. “Prada” has great advice for every grad: Be humble and work hard. And stay away from Meryl Streep.
8. “Tiny Furniture” (2010)
Indie darling and current breakthrough HBO star Lena Dunham wrote this drama a few years before hitting it big. The movie is about another graduate returning home after college with no direction for her life (sensing a theme here? You’re not alone!) and features the same dry humor of Dunham’s “Girls.” Playing against her real family on film, Dunham plays Aura, a film studies major turned waitress. Her mother is an acclaimed photographer, and her sister is a child prodigy. Winner of awards at both South by Southwest and the Independent Spirit Awards, Dunham’s “Tiny Furniture” is said to hit the nail of our generation’s spirit on the oh-so-cynical head.
7. “Adventureland” (2009)
Jesse Eisenberg stars in this comedy about a college graduate whose plan of touring Europe over the summer of 1987 is thwarted by his parents’ inability to pay for the trip. Instead, Eisenberg’s character, James, takes a minimum-wage job at a local amusement park to save money for graduate school. He falls into a tricky love triangle with Em (Kristen Stewart), but the story manages to cut through the cute with uber-honest portrayals of what it’s like to become an adult. And it has some great 80s music and a hilariously sleazy Ryan Reynolds.
6. “The Social Network” (2010)
We all know the story of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his betrayal of his only friend (Andrew Garfield, soon to be Spider-Man) in exchange for the connections of Sean Parker to launch Facebook. It turns out this is kind of the anti-graduating tale of making it as the world’s youngest entrepreneur without a degree. Nothing beats wondering why you just spent all that money on your “education,” right?
5. “Into the Wild” (2007)
Though it is a pretty sad story, this may make you rethink that “ditch the world and do my own thing” idea you had for after your graduation party. Based on the autobiography of Christopher McCandless, this movie tells the story of a graduate who runs from conventional life by destroying all traces of his existence and setting out into the wilderness. After traveling around the West Coast from Mexico to Alaska for two years, McCandless becomes trapped in the wild with no supplies and dies. Moral of the story? Tell somebody if you decide to roam the country, and bring your Boy Scout manual.
4. “Boy Meets World” series finale (2000)
All right, so it’s not a movie. But for those of you who grew up with the Matthews clan, there is no better way to start a new phase of your life than to watch Cory do the same. As Cory, Shawn and Topanga graduate college and move to New York together, they reflect on their past and jump head first into the real world. With flashbacks galore, it is a bit of a tearjerker for fans, so have some tissues on hand and don’t forget to thank the Mr. Feeny in your life!
3. “Say Anything” (1989)
In addition to being one of the best high school movies of all time, Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut has a few lessons for everyone. John Cusack plays Lloyd Dobbler, the everyman who falls in love with class valedictorian Diane Court, played by Ione Skye. If there is anything to take away from this ’80s classic, it is that being at the top of your class doesn’t mean you always have to be perfect, and being average just means you’re the underdog. Watch it and get inspired to take risks, whether it’s learning stick shift or just holding a boom box above your head in search of some requited love.
2. “The Graduate” (1967)
One of the most critically acclaimed and beloved movies of all time, this flick is about Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) and the aftermath of his college graduation. Ben’s graduation party is filled with the irritating and realistic situation of every adult you’ve ever met asking, “What are your plans now?” Before he figures out the answer, Ben starts an affair with his neighbor, Mrs. Robinson, and falls in love with her daughter, Elaine, causing all sorts of drama. The final scene features Elaine and Ben finally together, plagued instead by the same question: “Now what?” Plus, there’s tons of Simon and Garfunkel.
1. “St. Elmo’s Fire” (1985)
What happens when the entire Brat Pack (minus Molly Ringwald) graduates from Georgetown and takes on the world? Almost every postgraduate scenario that has ever happened to anyone. Characters include Emilio Estevez as a waiter and aspiring lawyer, Rob Lowe as the fraternity boy who sees life after college as mundane, Judd Nelson as a yuppie Democrat, Demi Moore as a cocaine addict, and Andrew McCarthy as the brooding would-be writer. It’s impossible not to relate to a character in this film. With successes and losses, the friends create a support system for whatever befalls them as they become adults. Just give one listen to “Man in Motion,” the movie’s signature tune, and you’ll be ready for anything.