The best graduation speeches get at something fundamental about what graduation means. Fortunately, graduation can mean a wide variety of things to different people. For some, it's a chance to look back on the years they've spent studying and the drama they've come through. For others, it's a chance to look ahead toward the future. Graduation speeches set the tone for everything in the movie or TV show they're contained within.
Oftentimes, they're pretty emotional affairs. They're moments for parents to feel proud of how far their child has come. On TV shows, they can feel like the culmination of seasons of watching young people struggle through school. In movies, they can set the tone for what's to come, or provide a cap on the film as it winds to a close. These speeches don't always go as planned, but all of them are inspiring for one reason or another.
Rory Gilmore has her fair share of issues. She's smart, but it can be tough to reckon with some of the decisions that she makes. Her high water mark, though, is probably the episode where she gives a truly touching graduation speech as the people that love her look on.
In that speech, she manages to pay tribute to everyone who got her to where she is, and especially to her mother, who has supported her through everything she's been through. The relationship between them is the show's heart and soul, and in Rory's speech, she honors that bond. It's a touching reminder that graduating is the perfect time to honor the people who got you there.
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Legally Blonde's climactic graduation speech is short, but it gets at the heart of the movie well. In her speech, Elle Woods reminds her classmates about the importance of moving past first impressions, and emphasizes the importance of supporting and believing in the people around you.
Most importantly, though, Legally Blonde's closing graduation speech is a reminder that believing in yourself is the most important thing you can do. If you do that, most everything else will come fairly naturally.
Crazy Stupid Love is a movie about how frustrating and satisfying love is. Because the movie balances those two ideas, it's fitting that its climactic graduation speech does as well. Things start normal enough for Robbie, the eighth grade student whose speech this is supposed to be. Then, he starts discussing how little he believes in true love.
That's when his dad interrupts him to remind him, and the audience, that it's important to keep fighting for the person you love. Even if it doesn't work out, you have to try. It's a glimmer of hope, but it's not so hopeful that it undercuts some of the film's harsher realities, and that's why it works so well.
Although you may not love the Amazing Spider-Man series, the ending of the second one sure packs a wallop. After the death of Gwen Stacy, we get to see her valedictory graduation speech, one where she emphasizes the importance of living every day like it's your last.
The speech rises above, platitudes, though, by reminding us how important hope is to living in the world. In a Spider-Man movie, that message is specifically meant for Peter Parker, reminding him that even in the darkness he can still be a light. It's a reminder to all of us, too, about what we can be for the world.
Twilight is not a series known for outstanding writing, but the graduation speech, delivered by Anna Kendrick, is a nice ode to the idea of making mistakes while you're young. When you really think about it, it's more than a little absurd that high school students are expected to decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives at 18.
Jessica's speech rejects that idea, arguing instead that being young is about being wrong. It's about going down paths and getting stuck and turning around. Twilight is about being young and wild and free, and there are worse ideas to instill in the minds of young people.
Alex Dunphy was always incredibly smart, so it wasn't exactly a shock when she was giving the valedictory speech at her graduation. The contents of that speech are a little shocking, in part because they feel mostly off-the-cuff. Even so, any graduation speech that ends with "don't stop believing" is worth something.
Although the content of Alex's speech may not be all that inspiring, the moment itself works as a testament to being young and unprepared and having a family who loves you anyway. Although it's shot unconventionally, Modern Family has always been a show about the importance of family, and this moment underlines that idea.
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"Most of us have been in the real world a long time." Diane Court's graduation speech doesn't exactly start with a bang. In fact, in spite of her straight-As, Diane's speech is about how much fear she has about the future. She knows what she's supposed to say, but she just can't bring herself to say it.
Still, in speaking honestly, she's reflecting the terror and dread that's in the hearts of many high school seniors who are about to leave the safety of high school for the first time. In spite of her success, one of Say Anything's lead characters is scared to leave, and that's okay.
Troy Bolton is not the brightest bulb on the tree, but his graduation speech is a tribute to what made all three High School Musical movies work. His speech honors the idea that identity is something you can choose. You can play basketball and dance, and genuinely enjoy both.
That may seem like a simple idea, and in many ways, it is. It's also one that's hugely comforting to many young people who feel like they can only be one thing. The message of all the High School Musical movies is that you don't have to choose. It's simple, but it works.
One of the beautiful things about graduation speeches on TV is that the main character is typically not the kind of person who gets to be valedictorian. When Andrea Zuckerman gets a moment in the sun on Beverly Hills 90210, she doesn't waste it. She delivers a speech about how fleeting most things in life are, but one that also speaks to how precious life is for that reason.
Even if all of the show's drama will eventually fade with time, that doesn't make it any less real. It still happened, and the fact that it happened matters. High school may not be forever, but that doesn't mean it has to disappear.
Most of the speeches on this list are, for one reason or another, completely sentimental. In Reality Bites, the graduation speech is an opening salvo. It's a moment for Winona Ryder's Lelaina to reject the culture her parents created in the hope that she would find a new one.
For all its defiance, though, the speech is also a reminder that high school's end brings a lot of uncertainty with it. Lelaine knows she wants to be defiant, but she has no idea what else she wants. The future is totally unclear, and the fact that she doesn't know what's coming is both exciting and terrifying.
This graduation speech is deeply personal. It's a meditation on loss and memory, and the way that we carry the people we've known with us after they're gone. Sometimes, people leave our lives because they die, but other times, they just drift away.
High school is one of those moments where people drift, and the reality of that is both depressing and strangely moving. In the end, most of the people you meet in high school are going to live with you as memories, and that's okay. They may not be in your life forever, but you'll always have the time that you shared together.
Boy Meets World is a great show about what it means to grow up, and it's graduation episode is one of its very best. In that episode, Topanga is given the honor of speaking to her class, because she's the valedictorian. Instead of speaking, though, she gives her friend Shawn, a C-student, the podium.
With it, he talks about how much he regrets not spending his time more wisely. He expresses sincere hurt over the fact that he didn't do better. It's a sad moment, but one that also highlights what Shawn learned about how to be good in high school. He may not have aced all his tests, but he learned the lessons that matter the most.
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Cole Sprouse was always the smart one on the Suite Life shows. That's why it was only fitting that he got to give the graduation speech on the final episode of Suite Life on Deck. Although it's interrupted more than a couple of times, it gives Cody and the rest of the show's characters a chance to deal with a shift in reality.
They're off to the real world, and Cody's rejection from Yale means that he won't get to spend the next chapter of it with Bailey, his girlfriend on the ship. Zack also breaks up with his girlfriend, and the two of them embark on the next chapters of their lives with uncertainty.
Most people don't use their graduation speeches to make declarations of undying love, but I guess that's what makes Denis Cooverman's speech in I Love You, Beth Cooper endearing. The speech may be uncomfortable, but Denis has chosen to use his fifteen seconds to be frank with his classmates for the very first time.
Honesty is often harsh, but that rarely makes it any less true. Even so, if you find yourself giving a speech, you may want to be a little more generous than Denis chooses to be. After all, you are going to have to see these people when you step down from the podium.
Look, Daria has never been an inspiring person, exactly, but she can make you chuckle better than most characters on TV. She's also incredibly frank and succinct, which is often just what you need in a graduation speech. With her speech, Daria reminds her audience that the truth and a lie are very different things, and logic should always rule the day, even when it challenges your beliefs. It's a smart speech that feels incredibly relevant right now.
From there, she reminds us that there is precisely no situation that cannot be improved with pizza. Daria's wisdom was beyond measure.
Billy Madison's speech might, to the naked eye, seem fairly uninspired. After all, this is a movie about a spoiled man-child who had to retake and pass every grade in 24 weeks. As Billy points out, though, graduation wasn't easy for him. It also helped him realize that he wasn't ultimately fit to run his father's hotel business.
Instead, he plans to go to college and study to become a teacher. In a way, then, Billy's speech is about the importance of education. It's a tribute to all the people who work so hard to make sure graduations are a success by actually teaching the students who get their diplomas.