Top Thirteen Awesome High School Movies
Admit it, high school movies are awesome! We all watch them, we all love them, we all wish our Scoil Mhuire or Scoil Naomh Chaitriona was even half as cool as Sunnydale High.
Where were our jocks with letter jackets? Why didn’t everybody drive convertibles? How come our debs never looked anything like the senior prom? We had to resign ourselves to wearing awkward school uniforms that made us look like frumpy old maids and boring old farts.
Those of us who were deprived enough not to have mixed schools would savor our lunch break where we’d sit on a wall hoping we might catch a glimpse of our latest ‘shift’ before we were ushered back to our crappy, normal classes. Where was our Mr Keating? Why did we never get to play matchmaker with our teachers or give the new girl a makeover?
Yes, the real world may have shattered a lot of illusions that were created during many misspent afternoons indulging in this unrealistic realm, but damn it’s fun to dream!
Here are some of the very best of the genre, proving that no one can quite do high school like the Americans.
13. Napoleon Dynamite
Was there ever a hopeless teenager as strangely lovable as Napoleon Dynamite? Most of his charm lies in the fact that he’s got absolutely nothing to prove. and the viewer never thinks otherwise.
Instead we look forward to the next crazy sentence to come out of his mouth and the next weird thing he’ll do, like feeding his pet llama. And then there’s the other characters – the online dating obsessive brother Kip, his detestable uncle Rico, and of course Pedro – his mostachioed partner in crime.
The best scene is when he tests out Uncle Rico’s time machine only to electrocute himself. The film is everything but predictable and we love being caught up in Napoleon’s strange world.
12. 10 Things I Hate About You
Loosely based on Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, 10 Things stars a awesome Heath Ledger as the tormented bad boy who meets his match in rebellious feminist misfit Kat, and it does our hearts good to watch them both soften as they eventually fall for each other.
There are a few cringey moments, like that awful poem Kat reads out in class (isn’t she supposed to be a writer?) and Patrick (Ledger) serenading her with ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ – pass the sick bucket! And then pass the remote so we can watch it all again.
11. Back to the Future
Whether it’s a high school movie is debatable, but there’s definitely a high school theme in this cult classic. In the first instalment Marty McFly, a typical American teenager, gets the unusual job of travelling back in time to make sure his teenage parents meet and fall in love.
It gets a little bit awkward when Marty’s mum starts developing a crush on her future son. Brilliant viewing, and we all wished we could meet Doc and get whisked away in the DeLorean car.
Here’s the moment where Marty prematurely introduces rock ‘n’ roll to the fifties. Quality.
10. American Pie
There’s a lot to love about American Pie, and a lot of it is down to the characters.
Based around four friends – Jim, Oz, Finch and Kevin – who make a pact to lose their virginity before going off to college, with hilarious and often obscene consequences.
There are so many brilliantly memorable scenes like Jim’s ‘pie’ fiasco, or his moment with Nadia that accidentally gets broadcast over the internet, and then there’s Jim’s Dad and his cringeworthy sex advice.
Stifler and Finch’s strained relationship is brilliant, coming to a head with the introduction of Stifler’s Mom… we’ll say no more.
9. Dead Poets Society
The most inspirational teacher there ever was. Robin Williams nailed it as English teacher John Keating, helping his students to develop a true appreciation not just for the literature they studied but the life that surrounded it, calling on them to ‘seize the day!’
Ah, it made us all want to find our own secret hide-out and quote Walt Whitman, didn’t it?
8. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Everything you wished would happen if you ever pulled a sneaky sickie from school. Ferris Bueller had an impeccable skill for getting away with all kinds of havoc with less than a second to spare. Here’s the scene that sums up the roll he was on that day:
7. She’s All That
There’s so much to make fun of about this movie: Freddie Prinze Junior as a high school jock, or the attempt to convince us that Laney Boggs is some sort of mutant, until they remove her glasses, whack a dress on her and BOOM! she’s a absolute ride.
But we do love a cheesy romantic ending; you know, where the bad guy sees the error of his ways and the underdog comes out on top… blah blah, pass the tissues, because there’s cheese everywhere. This scene is pretty great though:
6. Dazed and Confused
An adventure based around the last day of school, where everyone’s trying to get drunk, stoned and laid. It’s an excellent, indulgence-filled slice of the ’70s with a brilliant soundtrack to boot. Oh and a really creepy Matthew McConaughy.
We can’t mention Dazed without mentioning its slightly crazier cousin. Superbad is the tale of a less-than-popular teen who’s overcoming a childhood ‘dick-drawing addiction’ and is hell-bent on losing his virginity at a party on the last day of high school.
Then there’s McLovin’, possibly the best character to ever grace the screens in a teen movie. Everything that’s completely useless about him ends up making him a legend.
Talk about turning your weaknesses into strengths! Here’s that hilarious scene where the name McLovin was born:
Not all high school movies are comedies. This one certainly wasn’t. Carrie was Stephen King’s first novel and the first to be adapted into a film.
The unsettling story of shy, young Carrie and the one fatal night she was pushed too far is captivating and will stick with you. A bit of trivia: the name of the high school is Bates High, a reference to Norman Bates in Psycho.
3. Mean Girls
With Lindsay Lohan when she was still able to play a convincing ‘good girl’ and Rachel McAdams when she could get away with playing a convincing ‘mean girl,’ this film is so shallow you’ll want to hate it, but it slams the ‘plastic’ world so much that you just can’t.
Adapting the ‘laws of the African jungle’ to high school behaviour equals comedy gold.
FYI, In case you didn’t get the memo, we’re like totally into Clueless here at idma.ie (see our ‘17 Reasons We’re Still Talking About Clueless‘ feature). The wacky characters, the clothes, the brilliant one-liners, and the ‘make-over’: the nineties would have been a very different place without it.
Writer Amy Heckerling created an endearing teen sub-culture with their own fashion and lingo. Here’s a perfect example: it’s the scene where Murray (played by the brilliant Donald Faison) breaks the news to Cher that Christian’s gay:
A classic of the genre, this teen movie musical is probably the most famous ever made. It’s the story of teen love in the ’50s, with a ‘Romeo & Juliet’ twist. T-Bird leader Danny (a singing, dancing Travolta at his sexiest) and good girl Sandy (Olivia Newton John) are social worlds apart but they fall in love and so, naturally, they must change who they are – by changing their clothes, no less. Regardless of the cheesy story line, you’ve got to love it.