12 Best Movies About Private Schools: Best Boarding School Movies

Growing up in a boarding school was an amazing and eye-opening experience, yet it wasn’t without its problems. We may have faced certain hardships such as dealing with bullies or fuming teachers, however we wouldn’t change any of it. For most of us, our teenage years were our most formative and discovering years. It was where we learnt who true friends were and what kind of person we wanted to become when we grew up.

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Movies about private schools have long popularity with audiences, as people have been eager to learn more about them. We all imagine long-standing traditions, rules, and schedules in these places, but directors show us that it is much more than that. From humorous takes to harrowing stories of teenage angst and class division, the 12 best movies about private schools cover an expansive range of emotions. Each film brings its unique perspective on life at these exclusive institutions and sheds light on what goes on behind those reverent doors.

best Movies About Private Schools

12 Best Movies About Private Schools: Top Boarding School Movies Of All Time

  1. Wild child

    Director: Nick Moore

    Writer: Lucy Dahl

    Stars: Emma Roberts, Aidan Quinn, Natasha Richardson

    Genre: Comedy

    Wild Child (2008) on IMDb

    Set in the beautiful beach city of malibu, this movie revolves around a rich spoilt protagonist Poppy. She is a sixteen-year-old girl who lost her mother to a car crash when she was eleven. The rebellious princess is sent to a strict boarding school, Abbey Mount, in England by her father, hoping for some attitude adjustment. The headmistress matches her energy, and her roommates and time teach her a lesson.

    The movie is viewers’ delight with elements of comedy, a strong plot, innocence, and teenage stubbornness.

  2. Rushmore

    Director: Wes Anderson

    Writers: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson

    Stars: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams

    Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

    Rushmore (1998) on IMDb

    This movie is a masterpiece revolving around the main teen character Max Fischer. The beauty lies in the well-woven love triangle of teenager Max, a widowed elementary school teacher Rosemary Cross and industrialist Herman Blue. The wanna-be-famous Max leaves no stone unturned to win the love of Rosemary, who is reluctant because of the significant age gap. 

    Rushmore is perfectly imperfect. The story involves a part of every character rather than the sole contribution of one. The use of colors to depict emotions and characters is an art. The plot and characters grow and fall, making it relatable and realistic.

  3. The Hate U Give

    Director: George Tillman Jr.

    Writers: Audrey Wells, Angie Thomas

    Stars: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby

    Genres: Crime, Drama

    The Hate U Give (2018) on IMDb

    It is a novel converted into a movie based on an African-American girl named Starr Carter. The sixteen-year-old finds herself swinging between the dual life she’s living. The plot is based on violence and racial discrimination, which resulted in the death of her best friend, Khalil. Starr is a girl who lives in a black neighborhood and is struggling with her identity studying at a white private school.

    The movie radiates a strong message and is touching. But the cast and acting seem mediocre if you are a true critic.

  4. Dead Poets Society

    Director: Peter Weir

    Writer: Tom Schulman

    Stars: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke

    Genres: Comedy, Drama

    Dead Poets Society (1989) on IMDb

    The plot revolves around an unorthodox teacher, John Keating, who is full of life. Since he joins as the new English professor at an all-boys English boarding school, he opens new doors for his students to explore. Himself an alumnus of the school, he motivates the students to make their lives extraordinary. Being a member of the unsanctioned Dead Poets Society, he uses poetry as his tool to let his students unleash the creativity they hold within. Keats significantly affects his students, Todd, Neil, and their friends, and they pursue their true selves.

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    It won’t be wrong to call this movie a gem. It is a timeless beauty that remains relevant long after its release. The cinematography, a strong message, and the mastery of playing with emotions and colors make it worth a watch.

  5. A Little Princess

    Director: Alfonso Cuarón

    Writers: Frances Hodgson Burnett, Elizabeth Chandler, Richard LaGravenese

    Stars: Liesel Matthews, Liam Cunningham, Eleanor Bron

    Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Family

    A Little Princess (1995) on IMDb

    This film is an embodiment of “daddy’s little princess.” Set in the World War I era, Sara is enrolled in a strict boarding school in New York City after her father has been called upon to serve. The headmistress Miss Minchin is a cruel and greedy woman. As Mr. Richard, the father of Sara, is declared dead, the headmistress compels the little girl to become a servant. Despite the odds, the kindness and imagination of “the little princess” continue to shine.

    The beautiful portrayal of the father-daughter bond is something you will never trade for a million dollars. The movie delivers well, meeting the benchmark set by the novel. Some heart-touching lines from the movie make all the girls feel like a princess, which they indeed are.

  6. School of Rock

    Director: Richard Linklater

    Writer: Mike White

    Stars: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White

    Genres: Comedy, Music

    School of Rock (2003) on IMDb

    The hit movie, School of Rock, released in 2003, was an instant hit with kids and adults. The story follows Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock star who poses as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. His unconventional teaching style led him to create a band composed of his fifth-grade students. It ultimately helps these young musicians discover their power and creativity.

    Dewey must fix a stage performance three weeks before the audition, stopping their show. He is fired from the band and also has to pay rent to his friend Ned. Despite being underqualified for the job, he senses the musical potential of little rock stars in his class. Igniting the fire within, he converts the class into a rock band to compete in the battle of the bands. Along the way, Dewey learns valuable lessons about responsibility, commitment, and purpose.

    As school life is not black and white, this movie revives the colorful days. If you wish to watch something enjoyable, on the lighter side, without an emotional portrayal of the good old days, do watch this comic gem.

  7. Never Let Me Go

    Director: Mark Romanek

    Writers: Kazuo Ishiguro, Alex Garland

    Stars: Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield

    Genres: Romance, Drama, Thriller, Sci-Fi

    Never Let Me Go (2010) on IMDb

    It is a critically acclaimed 2010 British science fiction drama film based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel of the same name. The movie tells the story of three friends, Ruth, Tommy, and Kathy, who grow up in a simple English boarding school.

    As they get older, they discover that their childhood was only an illusion. They are clones whose sole purpose is to provide organs for medical transplantation. Throughout their lives, Ruth and Tommy remain devoted to each other as their relationship deepens despite the looming separation awaits them.

    As Ruth and Tommy face their destiny head-on, Kathy struggles with her choices and arrives at an unexpected conclusion. This film highlights how even those with a bleak fate can find love, courage, and hope in heartbreaking circumstances while exploring themes of memory, identity, and mortality.

  8. Holding the Man

    Director: Neil Armfield

    Writers: Tommy Murphy, Timothy Conigrave

    Stars: Ryan Corr, Francesco Ferdinandi, Sarah Snook

    Genres: Drama, Biography, Romance

    Holding the Man (2015) on IMDb

    Holding the Man tells the extraordinary love story between two men-Timothy Conigrave and John Caleo. Spanning over 15 years, it explores their shared coming-of-age experience against a backdrop of heart-breaking courage in facing the social acceptance of their sexuality.

    As Tim and John face multiple challenges common to LGBT relationships, including ill-health and social stigma, they continually turn to one another for strength, support, and love. Through emotional highs and lows, it is an inspiring will to Tim’s remarkable resilience and courage in facing such adversity.

    Despite all life’s problems, they stick through thick and thin for fifteen years. All the jealousy, mistakes, and hurdles make them part ways only to reunite. A fun, amusing, yet sad story that will leave your heart aching.

    Another true story was beautifully delivered on screen. Taking excerpts from an Australian memoir by Timothy Conigrave for his lover John, the roller coaster of emotions will melt your heart.

  9. School Ties

    Director: Robert Mandel

    Writers: Dick Wolf, Darryl Ponicsan

    Stars: Matt Damon, Brendan Fraser, Chris O’Donnell

    Genre: Drama

    School Ties (1992) on IMDb

    This one drifts a little away from the other movies making it to the list. Taking a trip back to 1952, the film is based on an extraordinary 17-year-old student, David Green. His exceptional football skills, backed up by good grades, got him a scholarship at Matthew’s Catholic boarding school. Coming from a middle-class background and Jew by religion, he hides his true identity in fear of rejection.

    This movie might not be moving boulders, but it has an impact. It brings to attention the discrimination Jews faced back in time. The prep school stands as symbolic of privilege and bias. The acting is a treat, and the portrayal and message are loud and clear. The struggle to fit in and yet feel estranged keeps the plot sailing.

  10. The Emperor’s Club

    Director: Michael Hoffman

    Writers: Ethan Canin, Neil Tolkin

    Stars: Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsch, Joel Gretsch

    Genre: Drama

    The Emperor's Club (2002) on IMDb

    This movie is about a highly dedicated prep school teacher’s challenge to instill traditional values into today’s youth. Mr. Hundert, played by Kevin Kline, does all he can to inspire his class of elite students who are used to reaping the benefits of their privilege and not ever having to question their judgment.

    The movie takes us through how this dedicated teacher slowly begins to influence the students, including his star pupil, Sedgewick Bell. While Mr. Hundert’s tactics seem old-fashioned, they eventually affect the kids, who must learn that winning isn’t everything in life; what you do with that victory matters most.

    This inspiring drama artfully blends complex justice, honor, and morality themes. It follows the lives of these ambitious young men and the passionate teacher whose fate will forever be intertwined with theirs.

  11. Goodbye, Children

    Director: Louis Malle

    Writer: Louis Malle

    Stars: Francine Racette, Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejtö

    Genres: Drama, War

    Goodbye, Children (1987) on IMDb

    This movie is based on the reality of the soul-threatening Holocaust during World War II. A French Catholic boarding school run by priest Père Jean is a secret safe spot for Jewish children in Nazi-occupied France. In 1943, three new Jews entered the school, one of which was Jean Kippelstein, who enrolled with the false identity of Jean bonnet. His roommate Julien, a wealthy and bright student, dislikes him till a change of heart occurs. After the treasure hunt game, the two become friends while the priest tries to protect the Jews from the Nazis.

    Based on the autobiographical account of the director Louis Malle, the elements of reality are both heart-touching and heart-shattering. Jewish genocide was one of the biggest inhumane and merciless activities to exist. Amidst the widespread hate, people with hearts of gold became symbols of bravery. All this is beautifully portrayed in the movie. The acting and originality could not get any better.

  12. Down a Dark Hall

    Director: Rodrigo Cortés

    Writers: Michael Goldbach, Lois Duncan, Chris Sparling

    Stars: Uma Thurman, AnnaSophia Robb, Isabelle Fuhrman

    Genres: Drama, Horror, Thriller, Fantasy, Mystery

    Down a Dark Hall (2018) on IMDb

    Based on a novel by the same name, Down a dark hall is about the mysterious boarding school, Blackwood. Kit Gordy, a difficult teen girl, enters the mysterious world of Blackwood. Four others with similar behavioral girls and Kit are the only students there, persuaded to work on special talents. Staying in a nearly technology-free environment under the strict administration of headmistress Madame Duret, the girls hope to unleash their hidden talent. Unaware of the haunting spirits and improving their “bad” habits, the girls eventually discover the dark secret about Blackwood.

    It is an excellent film when it comes to acting, cinematography, and thought. Without any major twists, it is still promising to watch. The only problem you might also have as a viewer is the execution. The events and elements need to come up together better. Although it is a horror movie, it will not scare your soul. Some elements of sadness sum it up to be an excellent casual watch.


These movies are the top 12 picks for private school movies you can enjoy. The list provided above is full of variety. It covers all you would wish to see in a private school movie. While down a dark hall touches the horror genre, the school of rock falls on the comic side: romance, bravery, dystopian plots, and whatnot. Get ready with a popcorn bowl to binge right away.

Kierra Rowsey
Kierra Rowsey

Kierra Rowsey is a freelance TV, Film and anime critic for over 12 years, living in Arkansas with her husband and three kids. She graduated from NYU College of Arts & Science in 2008.

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