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Our Favorite High School Movies

Becky Broderick Becky Broderick
September 18th, 2008 10:00am EDT
The Breakfast ClubPerhaps you've heard about "Assassination of a High School President," the Bruce Willis/Mischa Barton movie that darkly satirizes high school politics. While much of the high school set is eagerly anticipating the film's theatrical release in early 2009, early reviews from its January screening at Sundance have been mixed. MTV has praised it as a cross between "Rushmore" and "The Usual Suspects," while Variety labeled it an "uninventive," "muddled parody." Only time will tell if the movie becomes an instant classic or ends up in the bargain DVD bin next to "Encino Man."

There has been no shortage of teen flicks over the last several decades, so "Assassination" is another drop in an already full bucket. If it wants to stand out from the pack, it will have to convey what all the best high school movies do - being a teenager ain't easy, but it sure is fun.

So, what movies rule the school? Check out our 10 favorite high school movies, and let us know if our list gets an A+ or earns us detention!



10. "Dead Poets Society" (1989)

This movie may be all about the boys, but it's one that girls can relate to as well. While it's a different type of high school experience (prep school) than most of us had, these kids still have the same problems with parents, peers, and popularity. It's also a great reminder that no matter how tough school can be, there is usually that ONE teacher who has a profound effect on you by challenging you to see things differently, to want more from yourself, to never stop asking questions, and who, ultimately, helps you grow up.


9. "Sixteen Candles" (1984)

Molly Ringwald wasn't the "It girl" of the '80s for nothing! In this classic movie, she hilariously and effortlessly conveyed the awkwardness of growing up, the pain of first love, and the struggles with self esteem, all while dealing with crazy family drama. However, as engaging as Ringwald is, Anthony Michael Hall steals the show as the overly-confident geek.

Sixteen Candles




8. "Heathers" (1989)

Think of this movie as "Mean Girls" on steroids. Unlike Lindsay Lohan's character in that movie, who masterminds an elaborate plan to get even with her nemesis, Winona Ryder's Veronica just decides to kill her mean girls, with the help of a very psychotic Christian Slater. (We've all thought about it.) "Heathers" is a brilliant satire about peer pressure, suggesting that even suicide can become the "in" thing if all the cool kids are doing it.



7. "Grease" (1978)

This musical look at teen life in the '50s shows that not much has changed in 50 years! Teens are still obsessed with sex, how they look, going to parties, and discovering new ways to be cool. Of course, it may be realistic in that way, but the singing and dancing? Not so much. It's unfortunate though, because I think most of us wish school really was that much fun!

Grease





6. "American Graffiti" (1973)

If it weren't for George Lucas, the now-classic template of films like "Dazed and Confused," "Can't Hardly Wait," and "Superbad," might not exist. "American Graffiti" set the standard for these types of "multiple, interwoven storyline" movies, in which nothing and everything seems to happen in one crazy night.



5. "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982)

This might be the most realistic cinematic portrayal of teenagers, much to the dismay of most parents who've seen it! If anything other than sex, drugs, or partying is on the minds of these kids, it's only for a fleeting moment. This movie boasts another great cast, featuring many big stars of today like Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Eric Stoltz, Forest Whitaker, and even Nicolas Cage in a tiny bit part.



4. "Mean Girls" (2004)

For the ladies, watching "Mean Girls" might make them feel like they never left school. Writer Tina Fey based her screenplay on Rosalind Wiseman's book, "Queen Bees and Wannabes," a true, well-researched depiction of the "girl-on-girl crime" that runs rampant in high school. While painfully funny, some of the issues the movie can dredge up might be just plain painful. Raise your hand if you've ever felt personally victimized by your own "Regina George." I know, right??

Mean Girls




3. "Dazed and Confused" (1993)

Alright, alright, alright! This movie follows an ensemble cast, including Jason London, Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Cole Hauser, and Matthew McConaughey (in the role he was born to play), as their characters celebrate the last day of school. Rather than dwell on the differences between the major social groups, this flick focuses on how, sometimes, girls and boys just wanna have fun. Aside from the clothes, the '70s never looked so cool!



2. "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986)

Ferris skips over most of the rough parts of high school to teach us an important lesson: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." Anyone over 30 can certainly attest to that!

Who wouldn't want to be Ferris Bueller? He lives above the social strata. Everyone loves him. Even though he routinely lies, cheats and manipulates, you can't hate him because he oozes charm out of every pore. Most importantly, he lives out all of our greatest high school fantasies, like hacking into the school's computer to change his grades, relentlessly tormenting the principal, and turning skipping school into an art form.


Ferris Bueller's Day Off




1. "The Breakfast Club" (1985)

This is the model against which all other teen movies are measured. Prior to "The Breakfast Club," films presented cliques "in the simplest terms, with the most convenient definitions." But this John Hughes masterpiece really digs deep down into the souls of the clique members to prove that, as the song goes, "we're really not so different after all."

As an adult, the movie can seem a little melodramatic in parts, but maybe that's just because "when you grow up, your heart DIES!" Actually, here's a newsflash: general confusion and a desire to "fit in" follow you well after you've closed your high school locker for good. While our schools might forget all about us, we never really forget about our school days. High school isn't Vegas. What happens there doesn't stay there - those experiences shape who we become as adults. That's the main reason this film has remained so beloved by those who grew up with it, and why it continues to win over fans with each passing year. The message still rings true. Unfortunately, cliques still exist and high school is much more brutal than it was 23 years ago, which means that even though every generation has fully embraced this movie, none of them ever quite got the point.

The Breakfast Club



Well, there you have it! Did we pass or fail?

As you might imagine, narrowing this list of movies to 10 was no easy task. There are so many great films that deserve a mention. One that immediately comes to mind is "Not Another Teen Movie" (2001), for leaving no teen movie cliché unturned to create an absolutely hilarious spoof of the genre.

More of our favorite high school flicks: "American Pie," "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," "Boys N The Hood," "Bring it On," "Can't Buy Me Love," "Can't Hardly Wait," "Carrie," "Clueless," "Election," "Fame," "Lucas," "Never Been Kissed," "Pretty in Pink," "Rebel Without a Cause," "Save The Last Dance," "Say Anything," "Some Kind of Wonderful," "Superbad," "10 Things I Hate About You," and "Valley Girl."

What are your favorites? You don't have to raise your hand…just leave a comment!

Becky Broderick
Story by Becky Broderick

Starpulse contributing writer


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