The best high school movies to relive your glory days, or pretend you had them, or just help you forget that exams are impending…
The Breakfast Club
You can’t beat it. Five students with nothing in common except for the fact they’re trapped in detention all day. As the day wears on the criminal, the athlete, the brain, the basket case and the princess realise they have more in common than they thought. Even if you don’t believe that when you grow up, your heart dies, this film taps into teenage emotion and puts it to a great soundtrack. The most memorable high-school movie and the crown jewel for all of the Brat Pack, John Hughes’ seminal film is something everyone should see before they’re 25.
This film has developed such a cult following that it is now a Broadway musical. Winona Ryder is a nonchalant outsider inside the “it” crowd who is dragged down by a boy (Christian Slater) who accidentally on purpose starts killing her friends. Like most of the films on this list, Heathers has a fantastic ending and rocks some seriously “of its time” fashion throughout.
‘You go Glen Coco’, ‘She doesn’t even go here’, ‘that is so fetch’, ‘Brutus is just as cute as Caesar’… really, nothing needs to be said of the most oft quoted film possibly of all time, certainly among our generation. If you haven’t seen Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan pre-crazy) taking down the plastics stop what you’re doing (or more likely if you’re reading this, what you should be doing) and watch it. Immediately.
Based on Jane Austen’s Emma but set in a California high-school, Clueless is smart, and funny and full of 90s tacky charm. Cher and her best friend Dionne (friends because they’re both named after great music legends of the past) set about matchmaking their teachers, and their new dorky friend, played by Brittany Murphy. After the dust settles from their matchmaking successes and failures, Cher finally realises she is in love with her ex step sibling. It’s romantic and innocent, yet totally self-aware and acerbic about modern culture.
10 Things I Hate About You
Another modern adaptation of a classic, this film redoes Taming of the Shrew like you’d never expect. The notable difference is of course the readdressing of attitudes towards gender; this shrew doesn’t need taming, just understanding. Bianca can’t date until her older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) does. This deal with her father is made under his presumption that Kat will never date. In comes Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Bianca’s suitor who convinces idiot Joey to pay Patrick (Heath Ledger) to take out Kat. The inevitable happens when he falls in love with her and the whole thing is uncovered. But the highlight of the film isn’t the plot. It’s the sparky humour and Heath Ledger singing Karaoke from the bleachers…
Dead Poets Society
Room-mates Todd and Neil are sent to boarding school, each with their own set of problems. Under the inspiring guidance of their teacher Professor Keating, played by Robin Williams, they learn to live life in the moment. The teenagers learn to express themselves and more importantly BE themselves, unfortunately ending in tragedy. Touching, inspiring, wonderful.
Matthew Broderick plays a high-school teacher trying to stop senior Tracy Flick played by Reese Witherspoon winning the student body election. He is so angered by Tracy’s eager ambition that he goes so far as to cheat and ends up having to resign; while outside of school his whole life is falling apart. Shrewd and funny, Election is a high-school film from the perspective of the teachers as well as the students, even if that teacher perspective is a warped, male psyche. It gives you exactly what you expect from a combination of sex and politics, wonderfully played out by Broderick and Witherspoon.
Fast Times At Ridgemont High
To us, this may seem dated, but it still hits a lot of the main things about sex in high-school that are confusing and shitty. Set in a California high-school, a highlight is seeing Sean Penn star as a surfer dude facing off against his history teacher played by Ray Walston. It has a very 80s soundtrack, and is a little slow-moving but it is still amusing to watch.
A cult classic. Donnie begins seeing a six-foot bunny rabbit named Frank… and actually the rest of the plot doesn’t get easier to explain. It’s funny and touching watching Donnie work out what it means to be alive and be in love and it has a superb soundtrack.
This is a little bit of an odd one. Based on The Scarlet Letter, albeit loosely, Emma Stone plays a girl frustrated with her lack of reputation and slut-shaming. She embraces the label and milks it for all its worth, casting off her old reputation and her friends alike until she realises it has gone too far. Her online confession of the whole truth is what serves as the outline to the film. Emma Stone is excellent as always and it raises some really interesting points about sexual double standards, but it’s not fantastic.
All images sourced from Pinterest.