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Oh, What a Night!
It’s that magical time of the year where the birds are singing, the sun is shining, and high school students across America are counting down the minutes until summer break. And you know what that means: it’s prom time! Dust off your old designer knockoff and wax nostalgic about that most revered rite of passage with this list of 13 memorable movie proms, from the romantic to the dramatic to the downright horrific (looking at you, Carrie).
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10 Things I Hate About You
This ripped-from-Shakespeare teen movie follows the romantic exploits of sisters Kat (Julia Stiles) and Bianca (Larisa Oleynik). In the climactic prom scene at the very end, Kat’s relationship with Patrick (Heath Ledger) is upset by the machinations of their high school’s resident sleazebag; Bianca’s romance with Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is solidified when she beats up said sleazebag on behalf of both Cameron and Kat.
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She’s All That
This high school-set Pygmalion ends with the prom. The artsy weirdo-turned-popular girl Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook) attends the dance with the wrong guy, having fallen out with Zack (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) the big man on campus who gave her a prom queen-worthy makeover. When Zack finds out that Laney’s date is planning to seduce her after the dance, he tries to put a stop to it — but luckily, Laney doesn’t need any help fighting him off. After she deafens her date with an air horn, Laney and Zack reconcile and dance alone in her backyard.
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Pretty in Pink
John Hughes’ class-conscious romance sees Andie (Molly Ringwald), a working-class girl, fall for Blane (Andrew McCarthy), a preppy rich kid whose cruel friends sabotage their relationship. After first deciding to skip the prom, Andie sews together two hand-me-down pink dresses for the fashion statement of her wildest prom dreams and goes to the dance “to show them they didn’t break me.” Walking in on the arm of her best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer), she shows them, all right — and wins Blane back, too.
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Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) shows up late to the Spring Fling dance because she was busy winning a Mathletes competition, but she arrives just in time to be named Spring Fling queen. In a memorable acceptance speech, she breaks up the crown she’s been given and tosses the pieces to different girls in attendance, saying that they all look beautiful, and reminding them what an empty honor the tiara really represents — it’s just plastic, after all.
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Never Been Kissed
Drew Barrymore stars in this teen rom-com as Josie Geller, a journalist who goes undercover at a local high school to report on the truth of what’s going on in the lives of teenagers. She goes to the prom (the theme of which is famous historical couples) dressed as Rosalind from As You Like It, and is elected prom queen only to reject the title and confess her deception in a dramatic, tearful speech.
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While many of the prom scenes on the list are romantic finales to sweet teen comedies, Carrie takes rather a more disturbing approach. When Carrie, an outcast at school with telekinetic abilities, is named prom queen (by a rigged vote), she enjoys her moment of glory very briefly before she is drenched in pig’s blood by the mean popular kids who set her up to win. It doesn’t end well for the bullies — or anyone else at the prom, for that matter. Did we mention Carrie has telekinetic abilities?
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When Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) moves from Chicago to the small town of Bomont, he learns that dancing and rock 'n' roll have been outlawed there since a fatal car crash killed the local Reverend’s son. Ren and some of his new, pro-dancing friends arrange for a prom just outside the city limits, and they all bust a move to Kenny Loggins’ iconic title track.
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When four high school friends vow to lose their virginities before graduation, prom night is certain to play an important role in their quest. The prom itself in American Pie is fairly anticlimactic as far as completion of the boys’ mission is concerned, and one of them, Jim (Jason Biggs), delivers an impassioned speech about how meaningless the whole enterprise was to begin with. At the afterparty, however, all four boys fulfill their pact.
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The first installment in the wildly popular Twilight saga ends with a romantic prom scene. Shy, awkward, and clumsy Bella (Kristen Stewart) has her foot in a cast and is not thrilled to be at the dance, but her vampire beau Edward (Robert Pattinson) insists that she would regret missing it. They dance to Iron & Wine as the vengeful vampire Victoria, unbeknownst to either of them, watches.
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Drive Me Crazy
This 1999 teen rom-com (named after the Britney Spears song) stars Melissa Joan Hart and Adrian Grenier as neighbors who pretend to date in order to make other people jealous. Their scheme works, but at the prom (where else?), they realize that they were meant for each other all along, and they ditch the dates they had worked so hard to win.
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High School Musical 3: Senior Year
The prom scene in the third and final (well, not quite final) High School Musical movie takes the form of a musical number performed as part of an East High drama production about the Wildcats’ senior year. The song, “A Night to Remember,” takes Troy (Zac Efron), Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), and their friends from picking out their outfits all the way to the prom.
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Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Amy Heckerling’s iconic 1982 movie, based on Cameron Crowe's nonfiction book of the same name, comes to an end with all of its characters at the prom. Sean Penn’s stoner Jeff Spicoli is delayed by an impromptu lesson from his arch-nemesis, history teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), but he arrives at the dance just in time to deliver an energetic performance of “Wooly Bully.”
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This 2011 ensemble teen movie revolves around the prom, as Nova (Aimee Teegarden) and her friends make decorations as part of the planning committee, debate what to wear, and obsess over whether their crushes will ask them to the dance. Despite her father’s initial disapproval of Jesse (Thomas McDonell), a bad boy with a heart of gold, Nova goes to the prom with him, and all the drama leading up to the dance proves worth it in the end.