20 Traumatic Movies About School Shooting You Must See

A lot of things are screwed up in this world. It is plagued by prejudices that make people do heinous acts on one another. If there is one thing that can assure a better future for this world, it is the children. But even they aren’t safe. Leave alone the countries like Syria that are suffering because of meaningless wars; the children in developed countries like the USA aren’t safe either. The cases of school shootings have recently become more repetitive, and this has brought the attention of the people to slack gun laws that exist in the country. What’s worse is when the perpetrators of these shootings are people who haven’t even properly crossed the line between adolescence and adulthood.

Considering the sensitivity of the subject, sometimes it feels like Hollywood is trying to steer clear of making any film on it. Maybe, they don’t want to risk any wrong portrayals that might hurt the sentiments of people. But, time and again, some filmmakers have dared to poke this subject. The following films are the ones that have portrayed the issue best, with the gravity and the sensitivity it requires.

20. The Fallout (2021)

Directed by Megan Park and starring Jenna Ortega, Maddie Ziegler, and Shailene Woodley, this movie centers on High school student Vada and how she navigates through the trauma in the aftermath of a school shooting. Amid depression and isolation, we see how she slowly tries to come out of the shell that she had deliberately sent herself into. However, we also get to see the ability of the human heart and mind to heal from even the worst of traumas when provided with care. You can stream the film here.

19. Vox Lux (2018)

Similar to ‘The Fallout,’ this Brady Corbet directorial spans 18 years and centers on teenage Celeste (Raffey Cassidy), who survives a violent school shooting. After this, she uses her love for music to vent out the pain and trauma. However, more disasters follow, and each one, despite taking a toll on her, only adds to her status as an American icon, thanks to her spirit that has found its calling in music amid tragedies and scandals. The rest of the cast includes Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Raffey Cassidy, and Willem Dafoe. You can watch the film here.

18. Newtown (2016)

Directed by Kim A. Snyder, this moving documentary film is set in the aftermath of one of America’s worst cases of school shootings ever. On December 14, 2012, a young, mentally disturbed man shot and killed 20 children and six educators inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Filmed over three years, the documentary throws light on the inexplicable pain and grief that the event brought about through interviews with family members, teachers, and first responders. The film is a reminder of the sense of purpose that drives us all and unites us as one species during such times while addressing the way people cope with such traumas. You can check out the film here.

17. The Desperate Hour (2021)

This Phillip Noyce directorial centers on Naomi Watts’s character, Amy Carr, a recently widowed mother whose jog in the woods turns into a nightmare when she gets the emergency alert of a shooting at her son’s school. The tension rises after she fails to contact him via calls or texts. After multiple conversations with 911, other parents, and a detective, she begins to wonder if her son, who has been depressed due to his father’s passing, is the shooter. To find out the truth, you can stream the movie here.

16. I’m Not Ashamed (2016)

This biographical drama is directed by Brian Baugh and showcases Columbine High student Rachel Scott. She was the first victim of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Columbine, Colorado, which included a failed bombing followed by a shooting that cost the lives of twelve students and a teacher. The horrific nature of the event made the word “Columbine” synonymous with school shootings. The film borrows matter from Rachel’s journals and her mother’s words, showing the compassionate person that she was and how she tried to help the other students and even the shooters who would go on to kill her. You can see the film here.

15. Zero Day (2003)

Based on the Columbine High School massacre of 1999, this film shows the story of two boys as they videotape their intentions and the subsequent planning to attack the school. As the countdown for the day, which they name “zero-day,” begins, their video diary is filled with their thoughts on the things that happen to them along the way and the things they wish to do.

14. Beautiful Boy (2010)

The actions of a shooter wreak havoc on his victims and their families. However, there is one other family that is broken after such events. It is the family of the shooter himself. This is the premise of ‘Beautiful Boy’. Bill and Kate have a son named Sam. As the couple immerses themselves in their work, their son struggles with his life in college. When the news of the shooting at his college and him being the one to do it comes out, Bill and Kate are left distraught. As they try to deal with their situations, they keep revisiting the past, wondering where they went wrong with Sam. You can watch ‘Beautiful Boy’ here.

13. The Dirties (2013)

Matt and Owen are two high school students who are bullied by other classmates. They decide to make a movie about it, the consequences that such things can have on students’ psyche, and how help isn’t as easy to get. Their movie is turned down by the principal, and they are ridiculed and further bullied about it. This opens a door inside Matt’s mind, and things take a terrible turn. You may watch the film here.

12. Home Room (2002)

Two girls are brought together in the aftermath of a school massacre that leaves seven students dead. Deanna Cartwright somehow survived the shooting. And even though she presents herself as a jolly-good girl, she is deeply scarred by the incident. On the other hand, there is Alicia Browning. She is the only witness of the event and is a loner who doesn’t want to be bothered. Brought together under troubling circumstances, they discover the similarities in each other and form an unlikely friendship.

11. Amish Grace (2010)

This film considers the shootout that happened at the West Nickel Mines School in Pennsylvania. A killer takes a group of Amish schoolgirls hostage and later kills them. The film explores the twisted reason for his actions. But, more importantly, it focuses on the lives of the families of the victims. What made this thing even more devastating was the choice of the families to forgive the killer. This film is a classic demonstration of the two ends of humanity’s spectrum. While some people can be unbearably cruel, others can find mercy in their hearts even in the darkest of times. You can check it out here.

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10. The Only Way (2004)

Taking inspiration from the Columbine High School massacre, this film follows the life course of Devon Browning. A loner and an outcast, Devon doesn’t have an easy life in school. Ridiculed by his classmates, he has been at the receiving end of physical and emotional abuse. The loss of a family member proves to be the last straw for his mental state, and he decides to exact revenge on the students who made his life the worst for him. You can stream the movie here.

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9. Blackbird (2012)

This film tells the story of a boy who is termed queer by his classmates. Sean is a teenager who prefers a gothic lifestyle. His father likes to hunt, and Sean admires his gun collection. Even though he doesn’t treat anyone badly or show any hostility towards anyone, due to his dressing style, he is constantly mocked by others. When a teacher asks him to write down his feelings in order to deal with them, he fantasizes about a situation where he uses his father’s gun on the people who torment him. After he publishes it on the Internet, a rumor is circulated about him planning a school shooting. Even though the accusation is wrong, Sean has to deal with what comes next for him. You can stream ‘Blackbird’ here.

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8. And Then I Go (2017)

This film draws material from ‘Project X,’ a novel written by Jim Shepard. Edwin and Flake are two high school students who find their lives constantly bothered by other kids. Their demeaning doesn’t stop just at the schools. Their families don’t pay much heed to them, either. As the situation broils, one incident after another, Edwin and Flake decide to take a drastic step. You can stream the film here.

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7. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

While there could be any number of reasons that the killers could use in their defense for carrying out school shootings, sometimes, it is because that’s the way that they are. They are just psychopaths and sadists who need no reason to torment others. Such is the case of Kevin (Ezra Miller). He had been a very troubling child since childhood. He had been particularly troubling for his mother, Eva (Tilda Swinton), who grew cautious of his behavior as he grew. However, Kevin’s behavior in front of others, especially his father, was that of a normal, happy kid. Due to this, Eva’s concerns are set aside. Until one day, Kevin does something more horrible. You may watch ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ here.

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6. If… (1968)

This film is set in a fictitious British high school that shows the actions of three mischievous boys. They are sandwiched between the older bullies, who call themselves The Whips, and the newcomer students, who are forced to follow the Whips’ orders. As the school management gets involved in their matters, the three boys decide to set up a showdown between them to end the problems once and for all. You may watch the film here.

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5. Elephant (2003)

Directed by Gus Van Sant, this is another film that draws inspiration from the events of the Columbine High School. It shows the lives of a bunch of students who are at different levels of comfort in their high school life. Two of these students, influenced by the events in their personal lives, decide to carry out a shooting at the school. The other people, unaware of their intentions, lead their lives in a normal way. You can watch ‘Elephant’ here.

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4. The Class (2007)

The act of violence towards others is an abominable act. But, while understanding the situation, it is also important to take a look at the life of the ones who do it. This film looks at the life of two teenagers who carry out a shooting at their school. However, it focuses more on the events that led to the shooting rather than the shooting itself.

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3. Polytechnique (2009)

This film is based on the true events of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre that took place at an engineering college in Montreal. Through the eyes of a couple of characters, we see a young man take a class hostage where he targets women due to his hatred for feminists. Targeting women in classrooms, cafeterias, and any place he can see them, the man killed fourteen women before killing himself. The film is a jarring experience to watch as the events unfold in the school. The aftermath of it leaves a rather upsetting effect, too. Feel free to check out the movie here.

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2. Bowling for Columbine (2002)

best documentaries

This is a documentary feature that looks into the state of gun laws and the violence in America in the context of the Columbine High School massacre of 1999. Created by Michael Moore, it follows and explores the actions of the two boys who carried out the shooting. It takes a look into their lifestyle, their attitude in school towards studies and other students, and the small things in school administration that might have affected their actions. It points out the things that are being done wrong in the education system, as well as in the places that don’t take the signing off of guns to people seriously. You can watch the movie here.

1. If Anything Happens I Love You (2020)

Directed by Michael Govier and Will McCormack, this Academy-Award-winning 2-D animated short shows the painful journey of a mother and father who are struggling to cope with the loss of their little daughter who was killed in a school shooting. Despite being a short film, its execution authentically showcases the pain and trauma of such parents who have lost their kids and how they only have each other to share that pain with and be content. You may watch the film here.

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