Our favorite prom night celebrations from TV and film

It’s a new year and a new semester for those still in school. And with spring season ahead of us, it also means prom is just around the corner. This year, like the last one, we might see the festivities celebrated by more creative means. Nevertheless, prom is a rite of passage many juniors and seniors in American high schools look forward to. And virtual or not, they have every right to dress up in flowing gowns and tuxes and dance the night away.

We’re excited to see Archie and the gang come back for Riverdale’s upcoming fifth season to have a blast with his friends on the dance floor. Season 4 of the show left us on a chilling cliffhanger as the gang wasn’t able to deduce the identity of the videotape murderer. Since the prom episode was cut short from the fourth season due to pandemic scheduling conflicts, we’re all on tenterhooks to find out the conclusion of this mystery.

The upcoming prom night episode will hit a little different than the previous one. In fact, it will mark the last one for seniors Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and Archie. Prom is about celebrating the final semester of high school and looking back on memories with friends. It will be a bittersweet moment to see the gang dressed in their prom finery, knowing the upcoming season will also see them parting ways for a while to go on their respective college journeys. Even so, we still want to see who ends up as the royal prom couple.

In U.S. households, prom night can be an important night of the year. Though some take a more laid-back approach to the festivities, sometimes prom can come with limos and tiaras. Proms originated from the word promenade, a formal parading of the guests who attended co-ed debutante balls in the early 1900s. Debutante balls were significant to young people as they marked their first formal social occasion and their growing independence. Over the years, proms have changed to be more inclusive and open-minded. While the first proms were for white middle-class and upper-class teenagers, now there’s more diversity. But it didn’t come without a fight. In 1979, two male teens attended prom as a couple, despite anti-gay bans still common in schools. In 1994, an Alabama principal was sued for threatening to cancel a prom attended by interracial couples.

The proms we see on TV and film are often glamorous and grand. However, it’s not always ice sculptures and confetti cannons in reality. High school can be challenging, and not everyone enjoys attending prom. But even just cutting loose in a dance circle with your group of friends in a gym or anywhere for that matter can be a great way to end your high school days in style. And to be honest, we love to see what magical themes they think of in every prom episode. Let’s take a look at some of the best prom night celebrations from TV and film.

The Prom

While The Prom is a movie that doesn’t get everything right, its message of inclusivity is still valuable. The main character Emma just wants to attend the prom with her girlfriend but is denied her chance. The story is also loosely based on a true event that saw Constance McMillen, a high school senior in 2010, fight to wear a tuxedo and attend prom with her girlfriend.

Mean Girls

The iconic Mean Girls speech will forever be one of the best moments in high school dance history. Often prom is hyped up to be way more than just a fun dance by making it into a popularity contest. Cady effectively sidestepped those expectations by breaking the tiara for the prom queen and giving a piece of it to the girls around her, who were all queens in their own right.

Dawson’s Creek

When the prom committee refuses to let Jack take his date Ethan to prom, Dawson and the gang decide to do something about it. The group organizes their own anti-prom to let Jack have his night with Ethan. But, of course, the night doesn’t go so smoothly. Drama ensues in the love triangle between Dawson, Pacey, and Joey. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

As a self-proclaimed prom queen, Buffy is all about the prom experience. However, duty calls even when she’s in her evening wear. And Buffy’s called away to slay some baddies and save her entire senior class. In a surprising but heartwarming twist, Buffy is called up on stage to receive the newly created Class Protector award for all she did to ensure her classmates’ safety.

Gossip Girl

Prom night is supposed to be magical. But Blair’s senior prom nearly ends in disaster after one thing after another goes awry. Blair and Nate end up having a great night, even winning king and queen. Their ending is bittersweet, though, when they come to realize that it’s time to end their relationship. Serena and Blair meet up at the end of the night to share their experience of the night and look forward to the next chapter in their lives.

Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County 

Prom night on Laguna Beach was the prom night to end all prom nights. All the classic tropes of prom fantasy made it into the season one episode. Cheesy prom-posals complete with rose petals and signs? Check. A massive white Hummer limo? Check. Pushy parents taking embarrassing pictures of the group in their finery? Check. At the end of a drama-filled night, Lauren, Lo, Kristin, Stephen, Talan, and Tessa got a little sentimental when they realized prom night was one of the last times they’d be all together in high school.

Season 5 premieres Wednesday, January 20 only on The CW! Stream next day free only on The CW.