There are few settings that better fit film than high school. A place that is absolutely fraught with drama and comedy, this genre allows filmmakers to put young actors in any manner of wacky situations. Let’s be honest, though, it seems to us the people behind these movies think a lot like Wooderson from Dazed and Confused; “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”
That said, in almost every case, they opt to cast actors above the age range of the character for a bevy of reasons. Firstly, there are rules in the industry that make it much more of a pain to cast underage people in your films. More importantly for the purpose of this list, it allows them to cast beautiful, young women while allowing themselves and filmgoers to not feel guilty or creepy. That is why we’re here to count down some of the most attractive young women who’ve truly just pretended to be high school age in films.
In order to be considered, the character in question needs to be a high school student and be portrayed by an actress above the age of eighteen at the time of the film’s release. It doesn’t matter to us what genre the film takes part in, as high schools are often the sites of comedy, drama, and horror on the big screen. We also were willing to include characters that start the film in high school but move on before the film ends, as long as it isn’t in a flashback only. We did, however, exclude anyone that took part in a movie which was released prior to 1980. Finally, we limited ourselves to a single character from any given film, which means you won’t be finding any co-stars here. So, without any further ado, let’s get to the list.
15. Paula Garcés As Francesca, Clockstoppers
A forgettable film starring the likes of Julia Sweeney, French Stewart and Jess Bradford, there is one reason that Clockstoppers has stuck in our minds ever since its release. Focusing on a trio of teens who come to possess a watch that is able to stop time for everyone but themselves, it is Francesca (played by Paula Garcés) that stuck with us. An actress who is best remembered by many for her part as Harold’s dream girl in the Harold & Kumar trilogy of films, she seems to have stepped away from the acting world of late, aside from a single short film. Eighteen at the time of the film’s release, her character had an incredible body and the type of smile that makes those around her want to know her better.
14. Sarah Michelle Gellar As Kathryn Merteuil, Cruel Intentions
An adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ “Les Liaisons dangereuses,” which previously inspired films like Dangerous Liaisons, this time around they took the story’s intrigue into a high school world. An overtly sexual film that features step siblings betting their sex lives on the outcome of a proposed seduction, the four lead actors take place in many mature sequences. None of the actors bring the sensuality more so than Sarah Michelle Gellar as Kathryn. An actress who is best known as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she has also appeared in movies like The Grudge, Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Simply Irresistible, yet this role still stands out. In her early twenties when the film was put out, teenagers from the time will probably always remember this film and its iconic lesbian kiss between Sarah and co-star Selma Blair.
13. Eliza Dushku As Danielle, The New Guy
An actress who first came to the world’s attention as an adult when she played the toughest girl on a cheerleading squad in Bring it On, Eliza’s fantastic looks made her a breakout star. Moving on to star in films like Wrong Turn, as well as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, her role in The New Guy may not have required a lot of acting skill but the movie worked better because of her charisma. The story of a high school boy who is ostracized, remaking his personality in an attempt to find acceptance upon attending a new school, it is Danielle, played by Eliza, that becomes the object of his affections. Highlighted for many viewers by a scene in which the pair goes shopping, the moment Danielle sports bikinis during a montage ensured she had to make our list.
12. Emma Watson As Sam, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
An actress who was a star from a very young age, it is marvelous to see that she has managed to avoid most of the trappings her child actor peers have fallen prey to, so far at least. We can’t urge fans of hers or those who want to see the acting skills of future Flash movie actor Ezra Miller, to seek out this coming of age tale out enough. Most famous for her work in the Harry Potter film franchise, of course, she has managed to skillfully graduate to adult roles in films like this and The Bling Ring, to name just two. An elegant and exquisite young woman, Emma manages to be dazzling and hot to those in her age range at the same time.
11. Michelle Burke As Jodi Kramer, Dazed and Confused
One of the least famous actors in this seminal film that co-stars the likes of Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Joey Lauren Adams and Parker Posey, Michelle still managed to catch our eye the most. Last seen in the acting world in 2012, she is also remembered for her role in Coneheads as the daughter of the two leads, but this is the movie that shows her in all her natural glory. Twenty-two at the time this movie came out, she had everything going on in all the right places. Focused on a group of high schoolers partying on the final day of school, Jodi’s screen time in the film may not be long but after we saw how she looked walking away from the camera in skin tight jeans we were mesmerized. If you enjoy the female form and haven’t seen this cinematic moment, we highly suggest you seek it out as it is simply glorious.
10. Tiffani-Amber Thiessen As Kelly Kapowski, Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style
Alright, we admit it, we’re playing the system a little bit here by including Tiffani’s performance as Kelly Kapowski in this made for TV movie, but the rules only necessitate taking part in a film and this counts. Eighteen at the time this special movie aired, she and her co-stars were an absolute sensation who had cultivated legions of fans for the series they starred in. Telling the tale of the Saved by the Bell gang’s Hawaiian vacation, we get ample opportunity to see most people’s favorite nineties high schooler in swimwear. A character that was the crush of almost an entire generation of teens, Kelly combined a good-looking actress with one of the sweetest personalities you could ever come across. There is great reason she served as fantasy fodder for years and the moment we realized there was a way to include her here, we pulled that trigger instantly.
9. Stacey Dash As Dionne Davenport, Clueless
Another film based on a classic novel, in this case “Emma”, this movie’s main character is Cher, but in our opinion its star has to be Dionne, her far more entertaining best friend. The only actor who was featured on the film’s poster and was considered one of its main stars that made the transition to the TV adaptation, we couldn’t see either version working without her. Shockingly twenty-eight at the time of the film’s release, this role would go on to be the defining one of Stacey’s career, due in large part to the fact that she played her for four years (including the series and film). A flawless fashionista with a figure and face to die for, her character wasn’t portrayed as being brilliant but the tenacious young actress brought strength to her which made her all the more attractive.
8. Amber Heard As Mandy Lane, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
An actress who has recently had her acting career eclipsed by tabloid journalism, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Amber has shown some real acting skills over the years. In this film, she stars as the titular character in a surprisingly entertaining slasher film that flips some of the clichés of the genre on their head. Twenty at the time of the film’s release, Amber’s career has also featured memorable parts in Friday Night Lights, Alpha Dog, Pineapple Express, The Informers, Zombieland and The Rum Diary. Playing a blonde beauty boys love, as the title reveals, we dare to say that many, many of the people who watched the movie felt exactly the same way. We did and we knew how grisly the events revolving around her weekend with friends would get.
7. Emma Stone As Olive Penderghast in Easy A
We’re starting to think that you can turn almost any classic novel into a successful high school film, as this time around “The Scarlet Letter” inspired a well-regarded and financially rewarding movie. Starring Emma Stone, one of the biggest young stars in Hollywood today, she would bring her star quality and acting skills to bear and help make this film stand the test of time. Best known for starring in two Amazing Spider-Man films, Birdman, Zombieland, The Help and Crazy, Stupid, Love, Emma is highly sought after by casting agents and fan’s libidos. Twenty-one at the time of the film’s release, this actress opened a lot of people’s eyes to how hot she is, especially while wearing a scarlet letter on her chest.
6. Mary Elizabeth Winstead As Gwen Grayson, Sky High
Can we just say it, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is one of the prettiest actors of any age in the acting world today. Although we put a great deal of consideration into featuring Ramona Flowers, her character from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on this list instead, we decided we’re a tad tired of the manic pixie dream girl and Sky High needs attention. Twenty at the time of this film’s release, she would go on to appear in films like Death Proof, The Thing and 10 Cloverfield Lane, and make all of them a lot more attractive. A film that takes place in a high school for the super powered, Gwen, Mary’s character, is a senior who the entire school seems to have a crush on and we’re no different.
5. Brie Larson As Molly, 21 Jump Street
Best known now as an Academy Award-winning actress for her performance in Room, this actress was also amazing in Short Term 12, The Spectacular Now and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Virtually everyone expected 21 Jump Street to be awful, as is the trend with almost all remakes, but the fact that they cast Brie Larson, known for United States of Tara should have given some people hope. A great film that took all of our expectations, of remakes and high school films in general, and reversed them; one of our favorite aspects was the romance between Molly and Schmidt. Having oodles of chemistry with her co-star, Brie looked as great as ever but it was the emotional arc Molly went through that made us really fall for her.
4. Jennifer Love Hewitt As Amanda Beckett, Can’t Hardly Wait
We’re guessing that when the people behind this classic teen movie sat down to cast Amanda, a character everyone wants to be or be with, they sweated the decision a lot. Had they cast somebody who was attractive but gave off an aura of self-involvement the film wouldn’t have worked but it also would have fallen apart if she wasn’t drop dead gorgeous. When Jennifer Love Hewitt walked onto the set, they must have breathed much easier as we can’t think of anyone who looks that good and seems that likable at the same time while being in the proper age range at the time.
3. Jessica Alba As Molly, Idle Hands
A high school horror comedy about a stoner whose hand becomes possessed by the devil, Idle Hands isn’t exactly your typical film. That may be why the film bombed at the box office but that didn’t stop legions of youngsters renting the movie when it came out on VHS and greatly enjoying the almost too stunning Jessica Alba as Molly (which must be a go to character name for attractive teens in films). Somehow becoming romantically involved with the main character, who isn’t really all that likable or entertaining, the romance may be entirely unbelievable but we’re not complaining. If you’re wondering why their relationship doesn’t bother us, it is because it results in her appearing in her undies more than once. How could anyone complain about that? We mean, look at her.
2. Rachael Leigh Cook As Laney Boggs, She’s All That
There is a tradition in movies where an obviously attractive actress is dressed down in a desperate attempt to make people think they’re not hot before a dramatic makeover moment reveals otherwise. No movie had a harder time trying to make an actor look bad, a feat it totally failed at, than She’s All That when it came to Laney Boggs. Mocked by films like Not Another Teen Movie, whose star Chyler Leigh was also almost included here, Rachael was such a hot young woman it couldn’t be stifled. Nineteen at the time of the release, this actress and the moment where she descends a flight of stairs while wearing a tight red dressed is forever seared into our minds.
1. Shannon Elizabeth As Nadia, American Pie
The teen movie that came out of nowhere to be a sensation, American Pie managed to pull in more than $235-million on an $11-million dollar budget. We contend that a great deal of the reason that the film did so well was the word of mouth the moment that Nadia took off some of her clothes in the star’s bedroom received. Twenty-five at the time of release, Shannon would go on to appear in Scary Movie, Thirteen Ghosts, Love Actually, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, and was brought back for the film’s sequel two years later. A moment that was once called the thirteenth best nude scene in cinematic history by Mister Skin dot-com, this sequence alone turned Shannon into a star for a time.