Graduation on TV and the Movies

Have you ever wondered how movies get all those diplomas for their characters? During graduations on TV and in movies, the main character usually gets a rolled-up piece of paper representing their diploma. In some instances, those are just literal rolls of blank paper. In most cases, however, these fake diplomas are made to look as close to the real thing as possible!

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

High School Musical is perhaps one of the most successful movie franchises involving tons of song numbers in between acts. The third movie is where all the fun happens as the cast finally graduates from high school and moves on to bigger and better things. Of course, that doesn’t happen until after the graduation scene where everyone can be seen holding a piece of rolled-up paper. While there’s no close-up showing if the diploma is the real deal, you can tell from the visual texture that it’s practically the real thing.

Will and Grace

Will and Grace is a show way ahead of its time. It became popular in the 90s and was later revived with all the original cast — somehow managing to retain all the humor it had before it signed off the air.

During its earlier seasons, Will went into the doctor’s office with Karen where they met a dubious doctor played by Jack Black. Will asks for the doctor’s diploma and the doctor gamely shows it to him.

This is one of those rare cases when the actor and the diploma actually interact with each other. From that simple scene, you can quickly tell that the diploma is the real thing or, at least, as close as possible to the genuine article.

Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde is one of those movies that has a strong pop culture following. Until now, you can hear people quoting the movie and replaying specific scenes because of its iconic vibe. The graduation scene in Legally Blonde is particularly memorable as Elle gives one of the most impressive speeches to be heard in a movie.

As the camera pans out, you can see all the newly graduated students holding their diplomas. The shot isn’t overly clear but the fake diploma certainly completes the whole graduation look. It helps add to the overall realness of the movie and gives credence to these newly-graduated soon-to-be lawyers from Harvard.

How I Met Your Mother

HIMYM ruled television while it aired in the early 2000s. It’s possibly one of the more memorable scenes where diplomas were actually referred to during the act. In this scene, Robin was mandated to consult with a therapist. During the session, Robin referred to the multiple diplomas on display — one from Harvard, another from Yale, and another one from Harvard!

You can clearly see that the props team made sure that all three of these diplomas have the word “Harvard” on them and the name of the therapist. This might seem like a small detail, and watchers of How I Met Your Mother may not bother to actually zoom into the diplomas, but producers didn’t take that chance! Creating a fake diploma containing the fake name under the real school is something a good props team will easily accomplish.

Billy Madison

In this movie starring Adam Sandler, the diploma is just a small prop in a huge movie that focuses on graduating from school. The character of Billy Madison, played by Sandler, decided to finish school relatively late as a way of getting back at his father. As the movie progresses, however, Madison gets a redemption arc where he realizes that education by itself is something he values. For his graduation speech, you can clearly see the diploma rolled and tucked in his hands. It’s a small part to play for the fake diploma but it’s a huge symbol in the grand scheme of things.

The Nutty Professor 2

Eddie Murphy stars in this comedic movie as the funny professor. In one of the scenes, you can clearly see him walk inside a room and talk with the cast. As the camera spins out, you can see several diplomas neatly displayed on the wall. With a single look, you can instantly tell that these diplomas aren’t printed off your typical printer.

They’re made following the same style as school diplomas — from the paper right down to the font. This adds realism to the scene and helps cement the idea that Eddie Murphy is talking to someone with an excellent educational background. It might seem like such a small thing but this actually helps add depth to the character.

House MD

House MD is a television show that focuses on the life of Doctor House, a brilliant doctor of diagnostics. His office isn’t much and his diploma isn’t proudly displayed on his walls. However, his fellow doctors aren’t as shy about their degrees. Through repeated viewing, there are clearly diplomas on display in the offices of Dr. Lisa Cuddy and Dr. James Wilson. These doctors are portrayed as experts in their field and their diplomas beautifully show it without being too obvious about it. It certainly helps add to the atmosphere and lends to the credibility of the characters as they play excellent doctors in the show.

Patch Adams

Patch Adams is a heart-wrenching movie and is a great reminder of Robin Williams’ excellent range as an actor. During the graduation scene, you can see how each student is being handed a diploma by the professor. It’s a very subtle placement that helps wrap up the entire scene and gives it more realism. There’s no close-up of the diploma to tell you if the name and school match the fictional setting of the movie. However, you can quickly tell at a glance that these diplomas are more than just rolled-up sheets of paper. They’re bigger than your typical printing paper and have a slight texture that’s very similar to traditional diplomas.


This is a coming-of-age movie where two friends realized that they wasted their high school years by focusing too much on academics. As a result, they decided to run a little loose on the days leading up to graduation. While the plot may seem like it's headed for disaster, the two friends managed to get back just in time for the valedictorian speech. In the movie, you can tell that they’re holding a diploma with amazing border styling which helps really sell the scene.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

No matter how sad you felt after Gwen Stacy, there’s no arguing that she gave one of the best graduation speeches in the history of the Spider-Man franchise. The diploma she was holding during the speech definitely added to the moment and made you feel like you’re attending your own graduation, sitting in the bleachers, and waiting to become part of the adult world.

The Role of Fake Diplomas in TV and Movies

So why exactly do movies and television shows bother to get fake diplomas to round off the movie? In some cases, they even think up a good school name, a degree, and have the diploma display the character’s name. Well, there are tons of possible reasons for this. For one, you never really know how the diploma will be used in that scene. Will it be rolled up for the entire scene or is there a point where it is unrolled so everyone else can see it? Creating an accurate fake diploma keeps the props ready for any direction the director may choose to take.

A fake diploma also helps add realism to the character. This is especially true during zooms or close-ups of the framed diplomas. A single picture tells a thousand words and with a simple zoom, the audience can instantly tell so much about the character. For example, a Harvard diploma means the person is likely hard-working. A degree in law tells you that the character works as a lawyer and so on. It’s an artistic way of giving the audience a glimpse of the character’s personality without saying a single word.

Getting Realistic Diplomas

We here at Same Day Diplomas issue replicas of diplomas for your personal use. Our system can create a fake diploma that looks and feels exactly like the original — allowing you to hang it in your room or office without fear of damage. Considering how valuable they are, we understand that some recent graduates want a fake diploma purely for display purposes and we have stepped in to take on the job!

This isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve been creating fake diplomas for college and high school graduates who want a replica made of the real thing. We have also worked with several directors and movie producers to create fake diplomas as props for movies, television shows, and photo shoots. Give us a call today and let us show you what we can do for you!

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