Totally Awesome School Movies You Should Watch Before Going Back to Class
If there were ever movies we could identify with better than any others, it's movies about being in school. Sure, we can imagine we're Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, Bruce Willis in Die Hard or Harrison Ford in Star Wars. But, there's no way we can actually identify with those characters or situations.
Movies about being in school, though? Yeah, we can identify. We know what it's like to want the girl, feel like an outcast or even be the most popular face in the school.
With the new school year none too far away, let's take a look at some of the best back-to-school movies in Hollywood history. And as we move farther into new eras of film, it's not always guaranteed that everyone has seen these movies. Sad, isn't it?
If you haven't seen any of these, make a point to do it before school starts back!
We go into our high school graduation knowing there's a whole new world out there, and we think we have it all figured out. We know what we “want to be when we grow up.” We know what direction we want to take. But, really, in the back of our minds we have no idea. “Can't Hardly Wait” touches on this, but follows the path of one guy (Ethan Embry) as he tries to find the courage to tell the girl he loves (Jennifer Love-Hewitt) how he really feels about her. An incredible story of growing up and the different paths we take coming out of school. And Peter Facinelli as Mike Dexter is one of the best characters of ANY school movie, ever.
Most “school” movies are often tales of “growing up,” but Sixteen Candles — one of John Hughes' many masterpieces of the 1980s — talks about PHYSICALLY growing up. A young girl's (Molly Ringwald) sweet 16th birthday turns into a nightmare, full of embarrassments about her changing body, her thoughts on love and more importantly, the subject of that love: Jake Ryan himself. I don't even know his actual name, just Jake Ryan. And every school movie has its token nerd, but Anthony Michael Hall as “The Geek” beats 'em all.
Is there a better school movie villain than Rachel McAdams as Regina George? You'd be hard-pressed to find one. “Mean Girls” is one of the best school movies in recent memory, as Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) struggles to find her place in school after being home-schooled her entire life. She gets stuck in the middle of The Plastics, a clique of prissy, stuck-up girls who parade around school like they own the place. As Cady gets entrenched into the lifestyle, she's forced to face who she really is, how she treats others, and who her true friends are.
As our education system continues to be the subject of political battles, and as we watch it fall apart before our eyes, we should make “Stand and Deliver” required watching for politicians, teachers, students — everyone. Telling the true story of Jaime Escalante, “Stand and Deliver” showcases one man's effect on a school when he takes a group of near-dropouts, criminals and the neighborhood's roughest kids and teaches them Calculus.
This is where it all started. What teenage boy/man hasn't at one point wanted to belong to Delta Tau Chi Fraternity? When it comes to school movies, no film can claim the depth of awesome characters and personalities like “Animal House” can. John Blutarsky, Chip Diller, Babs Hansen, Doug Neidermeyer, Kent Dorfman and, of course, Dean Vernon Wormer. It doesn't get any better. If there is more than one movie you haven't seen on this list and “Animal House” is one of them, watch this one first. That's an order.
John Hughes is quickly becoming a theme here, but that's OK. That's how we planned. Matthew Broderick plays the legendary Ferris Bueller, the popular wise-crack who decides he's too sick to go to school for a day and has a day full of adventures. Despite pressure and pursuit from principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), Ferris is determined to make it a day to remember. Not to mention, one of the best cameos ever from Charlie Sheen.
You can have “Milk,” “Mystic River,” or any other movie Sean Penn plays in, because I'm always going to give the award for his career performance to Jeff Spicoli. If “Animal House” started it all for school movies, “Fast Times” is the same thing to high school. Cameron Crowe's comedic masterpiece was the first to dive in to the problems faced in high school, mostly sex. From hormones, sex positions, Phoebe Cates' famous scene and throw in some rockin' music — you've got one of the best high school movies ever made.
We all know “Carpe Diem,” and we all know “Oh captain, my captain.” Or, at least we hope so. It's hard to tell in our YOLO society these days. Want to know where YOLO came from? Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society.” If this movie doesn't inspire you to get off your butt and do something with your life, then there's no hope for you. If “Stand and Deliver” is required viewing, this one's right behind it.
A legendary cast: Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Milla Jovovich, Parker Posey, Jason London and even Renee Zellweger (see if you can find her). Loosely based on Huntsville High School in Texas (or enough for director Richard Linklater to get sued), Dazed and Confused is the edgier look at high school: the drugs, booze and rock and roll. It's the last day of school and no one has any other goal than getting stoned, drug or laid, and it's easily one of the greatest movies, period, since 1990. It bombed in the box office, but its cult-like status will remain for many years.
If you want to pinpoint the most underrated school movie, or even any movie of the 1980s, it's “Real Genius.” Because this was an '80s comedy not directed by John Hughes, it never gets the credit it merits. This is where Val Kilmer set himself apart in the comedy world as the genius Chris Knight, a senior who is paired with freshman Mitch Taylor (Gabe Jarret) to work on a laser for their professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton), who is using their work to steal it and sell as a military weapon. Together with their nerdy friends, Chris and Mitch experience a world of laughs, wise-cracks, and what is really means to be a genius. If you know someone who takes themselves too seriously, it's time to introduce them to Chris Knight and “Real Genius.”
The nerd, the jock, the screw-up, the princess and the outcast — five different high school kids from five completely different backgrounds, together for a whole day of detention at school on a Saturday. When they got to Mr. Vernon's library, they had little to say to each other, and what was said was hardly good. But, by the end of the day, you're exposed to a deep look into the lives of teenagers as they bare their secrets, their fears and their joys together. Not to mention, there's a ton of laughs, all of which makes “The Breakfast Club” tops on any list about school. Anthony Michael Hall's letter to Mr. Vernon at the end is the stuff of legends. This is where John Hughes was at the top of his game.