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High School History

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Mark Kermode | 10:21 UK time, Wednesday, 11 May 2011

There's a new movie out this week called Take Me Home Tonight - the latest in a long line of high school comedies. It started me thinking about all the ones that came before - from American Graffiti to Peggy Sue Got Married. What's your favourite?

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  • Comment number 1.

    Best reunion - Gross Point Blank.
    Best highschool film - I'm ashamed to say that I've always really enjoyed Clueless.

  • Comment number 2.

    For my money, the best High School film is Michael Lehmann 1988 black comedy Heathers. Satirising the John Hughes school films that had come before it, first time screenwriter Daniel Water's razor sharp script gave us great quotable lines ("**** me gently with a chainsaw"), wonderfully exaggerated characters and moments to linger in the memory - I'm sure sales of mineral water went down after the release of the film.

  • Comment number 3.

    Kicking and Screaming (1997), for the end of high school and then becoming an actual adult. Noah Baumbach's first and most likeable film.

  • Comment number 4.

    I probably would say Kick Ass and Clockwork Orange are my personal favourite High school / brink of adulthood films (even though we don't see the later in school at all). Both films are about young people who by their own choosing engage in a violent and dangerous lifestyle, to live out their greatest fantasy's. Both films push it to the limit of what a teenager is capable of in an adult world, and how said adults react to the new generation coming into their world and shaking it up. There is also quite a brilliant version of the 'High School Reunion' in Clockwork, where Alex bumps into his old gang, now police officers, and misuse their power to demonstrate how their relationship since leaving school has changed.

  • Comment number 5.

    I truly believe that Ferris Bueller is a flawless film which perfectly captures adolescence for every generation. It's also a rare film in which the titular character is not the protagonist of the film, for I see this more as Cameron's story rather than Ferris, after all, he is the one who goes through the most character growth and really, at the end of the film, Ferris is still the same person he began the film as.

    I love all the John Hughes films and think that they each capture something about youth, being young and free, yet worried for what is to come. His films, to me, are timeless. He had a great career of writing movies that captured something new each time about not only youth, but growing up. Some were about the early years of High School, some were about the end of High School and some were about going to college.

    Peggy Sue is a good film, one I haven't seen in many years and will certainly try to revisit sometime soon. Turner I think is the element that made the movie and pulls off the teenage role brilliantly. I often too forget that this is a Coppola film too, although not one of his best. An often overlooked if not forgotten film.

    Teen Wolf is also one of my favourites, and having recently re-watched it, I think it holds up very well.

    Grosse Point Blank for sure, is the best High School Reunion.

  • Comment number 6.

    Rushmore deserves a mention for its portrayal of school life.

    The best post high school films for me are ones that examine relationships in the wake of school years and how the mechanics of friendships that were once strong change, or even fall apart.

    Ghost World is a wonderful post-high school film exploring the relationships of friends after school. Plus it has excellent performances from Thora Birch (where is she now?) and Scarlett Johansson.

    And while I hate the film adaptation itself, Less Than Zero oddly stands out as a memorable post high school film. It captures coming home after a period of time and how people have moved on in ways that aren't always expected, as well as considering the what life long friendships can and can't endure. If anything if it didn't claim to be an adaptation of Less Than Zero I'd hold the film in higher regard.

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm going to have to go with Alexander Payne's Election. The balance between teen angst and political espionage was just perfect.

    Also have to give a mention to the Judd Apatow TV series Freaks and Geeks. I realise I am breaking house rules here but it is perhaps one of the best programmes about life in high school. The characters are not irritating and the script has the perfect balance between comedy and general heartbreak which we all went through. The fact that it is set in the 80s also gives the series a whole lot more of nostalgia. Wonderful stuff, which people are finally catching onto.

    Also Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

  • Comment number 8.

    Grosse Pointe Blank for sure is one of the best high school reunion films I have ever seen. It gets everything right - the humour, the casting, the tone, action and the soundtrack is excellent.

    As for high school movies themselves - I'm a big fan of The Breakfast Club and Weird Science.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'd have to say Better off Dead with John Cusack is among my favourites. The complete absurdity and bizarreness of it all seemed to capture something about being a teenager for me.

  • Comment number 10.

    The Breakfast Club is by far the best High School movie, given that unlike most High School movies - which seem to focus on the 'normal' popular kids with their bland and predictable lives - it is about miscreant characters with 'issues' and how they come to relate to each other, making it a far more interesting film.

  • Comment number 11.

    Always been a guilty pleasure but I watched She's All That again last week and it does a great job of summarising the genre. Yes it hits all the notes you expect, but it does them in a way that lets you laugh along.

    Honourable mention to the underrated Not Another Teen Movie, which at the time was a spot on parody of the teen movie world post American Pie, Loser etc...with a nostalgic element of John Hughes thrown in. I remember it was trashed on release but looking at it in the like of all the films ending in "Movie" - it manages to parody rather than plagiarise.

  • Comment number 12.

    I have to say: 10 Things I Hate About You and Rushmore

    1. 10 Things I Hate About You was a triumphant introduction to some of the most important young actors on their way up: Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Julia Styles (in the same way Risky Business did with Tom Cruise)

    Also, it showed how timeless Shakespeare's material really is and indeed how flexible.

    2. Rushmore is by a long way Wes Anderson's best movie, and it got a fantastic hand on that famous scenario of a young person having a crush on their teacher - I would also say it is one of Bill Murray's best turns too

    The other important facet of Rusmore is the way it is about a young kid that actually loves his high school and the story doesn't leap from his desperation to leave the confines of high school but actually it's his mission to try to stay there.

  • Comment number 13.

    a quick mention for 'Rumblefish' - love the scene where rusty james is bored at school and daydreams, seeing diane lane on top of the cupboard in class!

  • Comment number 14.

    I think everyone has forgotten about dazed and confused, which is definitely one of my favourites.

    And also stand by me; probably the greatest coming of age/growing up/friendships film ever?

  • Comment number 15.

    The best high school movie has to be Dazed and Confused. It works on a number of levels, being at once poignant, riotously funny and at times disturbing, with it's scenes of brutality and cruelty. (The scene with Ben Affleck relentlessly chasing and eventually beating Wiley Wiggins' backside with a baseball bat is a prime example.) As a pathologically withdrawn teenager, this film captured a lot of the terror I felt towards the older boys in my school. Oh, and the soundtrack is wonderful.

  • Comment number 16.

    I liked Dazed & Confused but not as much as I was told I should. Which perhaps didn't help.

    @7 great shout on Election.
    Other honorable mentions go to Superbad, Brick, The Faculty and lastly Napoleon Dynamite.

    Strangely I'm struggling to come up with any decent british highschool age films other than IF which is quite a bizarre film if memory serves me correctly.

  • Comment number 17.

    Colourful American high school films with loads of pretty people? No thanks. I'm a miserable British bloke with a left-wing slant. Give me Lindsay Anderson's If... over all of this rubbish.

  • Comment number 18.

    Best reunion movie: Grosse Pointe Blank
    Best high school movie: The Breakfast Club

    No arguments! End of Story!

    Oh wait Dazed and Confused is Excellent, and Kicking and Screaming is an overlooked gem. Does this include coming of age films? In which case Stand By Me certainly deserves a mention.

    I guess we can keep arguing.

  • Comment number 19.

    Gregory's Girl & Napoleon Dynamite would be a good double bill

  • Comment number 20.

    I have to put in a vote for High School Musical 3 (on Dr K's blog someone's got to, right?) - anything else you might think about that franchise, the last fifteen minutes of this movie are complete bliss: an enormous song and dance number with the entire cast singing "Why can't the rest of my life feel as good as High School Musical?" It's a wonderful and touching moment of self-awareness, where the film acknowledges that real life bears absolutely no relation to this series whatsoever - but wouldn't it be great if it did?

    That, to me, is the essence of /all/ great high school movies: everything dull and boring and tiring about being that age is thrown out, and every overblown emotion - whether it's utterly joyous or indulgently miserable - is put up on screen for us to revel in.

  • Comment number 21.

    The Breakfast Club. End of.

  • Comment number 22.

    For the best high school reunion film just three words are required, Grosse, Pointe and Blank.

  • Comment number 23.

    If I said Grease would I be asked to leave?

  • Comment number 24.

    For my money Superbad is the most honest portrayal of teenage boys that will ever be. Second place goes to Gregory's Girl. But Gregory is a lot more romantic than Seth, Evan & Fogel are.

    Napoleon Dynamite also captures the feeling of not being "cool" in high school that I'm sure a lot of people recognised. Especially if they had a sweet 'fro.

  • Comment number 25.

    Plenty of my favourite school movies have already been mentioned- Election, If, Dazed And Confused, Grosse Point Blank, The Breakfast Club etc..

    Although it's not really regarded as a typical 'high school movie' I thought the recent Coen Brothers film 'A Serious Man' had a realistic portrayal of high school life. I identified with the character of the son Danny who, instead of falling into the jock/nerd etc archetypes that Hollywood tends to populate these films with, was more of a daydreamer who can't take an interest. The scenes where he sneaks a portable radio into class reminded me of the kind of 'mild' rebellion that I used to indulge in. Also, one of his friends is obsessed with a certain swear word and continuously repeats it. We all knew someone like that.

    Another film that painfully reminds me of my school days is Ken Loach's Kes, specifically the wonderful football scene in which Brian Glover channels EVERY P.E. TEACHER EVER. Absolutely timeless.

    On the topic of school reunion movies I'll say Gross Point Blank is definitely the best but I'm also a fan of Jonathan Demme's 1986 film Something Wild. It features a young Ray Liotta as the high school rebel who's failed to grow up, scoffing at his contemparies who have started careers and families.

  • Comment number 26.

    Without a doubt my favorite end of highschool movie is and always will be Richard Linklaters Dazed & Confused. i dont think there is another film i have watched more times than that. But the breakfast club is my close second and "cant hardly wait" is my secret guilty pleasure. Grosse Point Blank would be my favorite reunion film.

  • Comment number 27.

    Not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but someone has to mention this movie.

    Porky's. The often plagiarised, and inspiration of all future teen sex comedies, . No matter how much this movie gets dismissed for being crass, and unfunny by film critics. This was the proto-type of some good but a lot of bad teen sex comedies.

  • Comment number 28.

    Gregor's Girl has to be up there with the best. Poignant funny portrayal of High School Life in the early 80's and not a smart arsed American in sight!!!!

  • Comment number 29.

    For me, it has to be 10 Things I Hate About You. I was 15 when I first saw it and really identified with Kat Stratford. And went home from the cinema determined to find out more about this Heath Ledger lad that played Patrick.

    To this day, it remains one of my favourite films - I watch it at least once a month - and the soundtrack is pretty good too.

  • Comment number 30.

    Back to the Future. This film really catches the the essence of the end of adolescence even though the film has an underlying sci fi overtone. The continuing narrative throughout this movie reminds us of having to leave behind our childhood and face responsibility. The character of Marty is forced into growing up when faced with his whole existence being erased by changing events of the past. All within the backdrop of a 1950's high school environment.

  • Comment number 31.

    Has to be Dazed and Confused. It is the only American High School flick that really spoke to me as a kid. Matthew McConaughey's David Wooderson was so cool! To this day I still play the soundtrack.

  • Comment number 32.

    Dazed & Confused! Of course. The only film that Matthew McConaughey's been any good in "That's what I love about high school girls...I get older, they stay the same age" (or something like that)

    & for a reunion I'd like to put forward the 1st 15 minutes of Zack & Miri Make A Prono. If only for the wonderful Justin Long & his amazingly fruity voice.

  • Comment number 33.

    I think Carrie is one of my favourite high school movie. Although it is a horror film which obviously deals with high school in a slightly different way it still deserves a mention. Secondly would be Fast times at Ridgemont high a movie which remains funny throughout and has a level of charm which remains today. Of course there's also the Phoebe Cates pool scene.

  • Comment number 34.

    I would also like to say Heathers, because it's dark, violent and mean spirited. It rips apart those dreadful cliques and cliches seen in more conventional 80s high school films. I love it.

  • Comment number 35.

    Dazed and Confused and American Graffiti are the best end of high school movies

    Best school movie is Rushmore

    I also love Dead Poet's Society. So sue me

    Honourable mention Mike Figg's The Browning Version

  • Comment number 36.

    I have to agree with Sparklehorse57 on Freaks and Geeks. It may not be a movie, but it's head and shoulders above many high school films. Plus it doesn't display any of the Judd Apatow over-indulgence we see in his later work.

    However, the best high-school movie, by some distance, is surely If...

  • Comment number 37.

    I am not ashamed to say that my favourite High School film of all is GREASE!
    Fantastic performances all round coupled with a light direction and a fabulous soundtrack makes this a film that never fails to entertain.
    Grease still is the word!

  • Comment number 38.

    My personal favourite: the Roger Corman-produced "Rock 'n' Roll High School" with a soundtrack by (and starring!) The Ramones. I must emphasize, that it's a *personal* favourite in the sense that I love it mainly because of The Ramones. If you're not a fan of the band the movie is still a lot of fun anyway: silly, anarchic and pretty stupid - like a giggling teenager.

  • Comment number 39.

    For me the best high school film has to the Breakfast Club and the best end of high school film has to be Say Anything . I thing it captures the 2 sides of people at the end of high school Ione Skye character knows what she is going to do after school as she been planning it all her life. John Cusack character is just going to see where life takes him , that is why I think the ending is brilliant when they are waiting for the No smoking light to go off .

  • Comment number 40.


    Three films sprung to mind, firstly I couldn't seperate All the Right Moves (1983) and Friday Night Lights (2004) both show case the importance of sports to decaying American communities and the oppressive value systems they harbour . But the best end of High School Film has to be Peter Bogdanovich's extraordinary coming of age drama - The Last Picture Show (1971) a bleak dissection of the true American dream, which is also transcendent in theme exploring sexual awakening and maturation, emotional Bullying, loyalty, jaded American traditions and the repressive economics of its dying towns.

  • Comment number 41.

    I see it's already been mentioned several times. But as it's so good I feel it warrants yet more attention. As far as high school movies go, it has to go to The Breakfast Club - just perfect.

  • Comment number 42.

    10 Things I Hate About You is a cracking high school comedy, as are the original American Pie films (not the crappy straight-to-DVD ones).

  • Comment number 43.

    If.... is the first film that springs to mind, but I have to confess I'm a fan of Mean Girls (and not just the film yik yik)

  • Comment number 44.

    Dr. K should explore how British high school movies differ from Hollywood (ie, American) high school movies. This would be an interesting extension of this vlog.

  • Comment number 45.

    Best High School film is Heathers, whilst along with many of my learned contributors I think Grosse Point Blank is the best High School reunion film. I really liked the Australian film Flirting (with a young Thandie Newton, Nicole Kidman and Noah Taylor).

    That said the best films ever about school life are Kes and Gregory's Girl. Never mind all of that cruising around in Chevvys, wearing 501s and going to the prom you can't beat a bit of Brit-Grit-Com!

  • Comment number 46.

    I can't stand these type of movies, with their trite, formulaic depiction of adolescence, more often than not steeped in the fake gloss of schmaltzy nostalgia. Even David Lynch's depiction of high school in Twin Peaks is an utterly dull cardboard affair.

    If I'm going to look back on a bygone era, I'd rather watch films from that particular era, like Blackboard Jungle and The Cool and the Crazy. They're far from perfect and fake in their own way, but still infinitely more authentic than the plastic high school of American Graffiti and beyond.

  • Comment number 47.

    Not an easy question for the pedantic. I immediately thought of John Hughes, but are Weird Science and Ferris Bueller's Day Off high school films? Most of the action takes place outside of school. The Breakfast Club is entirely set in a school, but Dr K asked for comedies and that's more a drama with funny bits. I'd choose Sixteen Candles to represent Hughes in this case, although it's not as good as the three already mentioned.

    Best British high school film? If.... My favourite film ever, but it's not a comedy.

    Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush? Brilliant, definitely a comedy, the hero's approaching the end of his Sixth Form days, but again the action happens mostly outside of the school.

    I'd probably choose Will Hay's The Ghost of St Michaels and Good Morning Boys, Jimmy Edwards' Whacko film Bottoms Up or even Please Sir - The Movie. The recent St Trinian's was a lot of fun, too.

    My favourite American high school film is Pump Up the Volume, with Christian Slater as a pirate DJ. It says loads about growing up and the alienation of youth, but it's a drama not a comedy. ARGHHH!!!!

  • Comment number 48.

    Another vote for Dazed and confused which I still use as my surrogate vicarious school leaving memories despite me having left school in mid 90's Briton as opposed to 70's America.
    Also I have to agree with Gross point blank for school reunion, I can imagine that I too would want to kill somebody with a pen if I had to go to mine.

  • Comment number 49.

    Without a doubt my favorite high school movie is Rushmore. Even though it doesn't look at all like an average high school experience (or even mine), it felt like it. Or, at times, I wish that's how it felt.

    As far as reunion movies, I can't even imagine. I'm rapidly approaching my first and if I think about it any harder I'll have a panic attack.

  • Comment number 50.

    One from each Era methinks Dr K....

    1. Rebel Without a Cause - 1955

    2.To Sir, With Love - 1967

    3. The Last Picture Show - 1971

    4. Dead Poets Society - 1989

    5. Boys N the Hood - 1991

    6.Donnie Darko - 2001

    It's all about the angst.......;-)

  • Comment number 51.

    Gonna have to agree with those who mentioned "Rushmore" (which is Anderson's best) and "Rumble Fish", I really like these two and find them to be quite special films.

    Also, want to say something concerning "Lemon Popsicle" - I wonder if Mark has seen Davidson's remake of his own picture ("The Last American Virgin"). Although I don't really like the film itself, I found the ending to be more interesting and powerful than in the original film. The use of "Mr. Lonely" in "Lemon Popsicle" was quite effective with the guy slowly walking among the dancing couples and then through the streets, but in "The Last American Virgin" it is even better with "Just Once" used. And the images are more effective. I hope someone else feels that way.

  • Comment number 52.

    Clearly Payne's Election, which is smart, angry and a very brilliantly made film about the inner structures and sub cultures of high school life. However because that film is more or less based around, and is clearly about, modern politics (with a school filling in for Washington) rather than high school my vote goes to Mean Girls. Tina Fey's much maligned comedy, which is darker and deeply critical of prejudice in high school. Also genuinely funny.

  • Comment number 53.

    I remember seeing The breakfast club and being very charmed by it. It's one of the few "highschool" movies I've seen that I really liked.

  • Comment number 54.

    despite the breakfast club being filmed 5 years before i was born it still tellingly resonates well. the best teenage film in history.

  • Comment number 55.

    despite the breakfast club being filmed 5 years before i was born it still tellingly resonates. the characters are perfectly judged so that almost anyone can identify with atleast some aspects of all of them. this is because the script and character development is extremely deep and must have been well researced. the best teenage film in history.

  • Comment number 56.

    I'm a big fan of many of the movies mentioned already: Grosse Pointe Blank, Heathers, 10 things I hate About You, Clueless, Election, The Breakfast Club and more.

    But the recent movie that deserves to be close to the top of that illustrious list is Easy-A. The script is fabulous, the performances and comic timing of the leads are close to perfection. It stands excessive repeated viewing because the details and performances are so tone perfect. And so far nobody else has even mentioned it: what's wrong with the world?

  • Comment number 57.

    I can't believe you didn't mention Breakfast club which I think still has and will always have a strong message to every generation, when Andrew McCarthy (played by Emilio Estevez in what still is his best performance) talks about him 'taping Larry's buns together' and the humiliation that boy must have felt it really makes you sit up and think.
    With every character given there high school 'tag' (princess, basket-case, brain athelete and criminal) who doesn't remember pigeon holing everyone from there school like that?...........

  • Comment number 58.

    I thought Risky Business was a satire on Reagonomics rather than about growing up or high school. The protaganist is a rich, free enterprising student who takes those free market ideals to its ultimate conclusion. It then finishes with him achieving incredible success through devious and unscrupulous means.

  • Comment number 59.

    Back to the Future. Its charming culture clash of 80s boy in 50s America still seems flawless after all these years.

  • Comment number 60.

    1) Kes - I know this is not technically the end of 'Highschool' film, but it might as well be.

    A boy bullied by both in a Northern mining town in the 60's looks doomed to live the predicatable and sullen lifestyle of working down the pits, but finds comfort in a kestrel which he finds and trains. Through this new skill he gets the attention he has always wanted from his teachers and peers, and looks like he is going to escape the predictability of his life...that is before tragedy strikes as the bird is killed, his hopes of different life are finished and is essentially set to work down the mines he so desperately wanted to avoid.

    A powerful and moving film, showing us the harshness of 60's school-life in the North.

    And because that could have killed the mood...

    2) IT - The T.V mini-series often mistaken for a film, about seven kids who re-group as adults to fight the clown that terrorised them as children . Although filled with the usual Stephen King cliches and a disappointing payoff, i found the first half with the children very good entertainment, and found Tim Curry to be very compelling as Pennywise the Clown.

  • Comment number 61.

    @full metal jackson - sorry, didn't see your much more concise overview of Kes :)

  • Comment number 62.

    So many great high school movies and all of my favourites have indeed already been mentioned.

    But a couple not mentioned are:

    Can't Buy Me Love with Patrick Dempsey.
    Before he was Dr. McDreamy on Grey's Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey won us over as the lovable lawn-mowing nerd Ronald Miller. After a failed attempt to buy his way into the cool clique, Ronny goes from totally chic right back to a total geek. Lesson learned: Sometimes performing the "African Ant Eater Ritual" at the school dance isn't enough to get you a spot at the right lunch table.

    Encino Man with Brendan Fraser.
    The plot revolves around two geeky teenagers from Encino, Los Angeles, California played by Sean Astin and Pauly Shore, who discover a caveman in their backyard frozen in a block of ice. The caveman, played by Fraser, has to learn to live in the new 20th century. Along the way, he teaches them one or two things about life.

    And I have to admit that my favourite high school reunion movie is Grosse Pointe Blank.

  • Comment number 63.

    Well, Ferris Bueller's day off is my favourite film of all time, so you'll have to forgive me for sounding like a broken record there. Im pretty sure that when it comes down to reviewing these comments John Hughes' name will crop up again and again. It doesn't really matter which film you pick. There are many to choose from but it is important to remember that this is what he did. And he did it well.

    Danke Schoen.

  • Comment number 64.

    I’ve gotta say, I’m little disappointed that anyone’s yet to mention Hoop Dreams. Sure, the film may differ to the typical high school genre, but it still stands out as an effective high school movie. One that’s not only about chasing dreams in high school, but following through with them once high schools finished.

    A film that can actually take credit for being ‘A True Story’ and a true classic in my books.

  • Comment number 65.

    Animal House - Toga Toga Toga

  • Comment number 66.

    Never got "Ferris Bueller", always found Broderick's character far too annoying.

    I second "Heathers" but the most heart warming tale of adolescence/high school years isn't a film but a TV series called "Freaks and Geeks". Disregard Judd Aaptow's involvement, the strength of the show lies in Paul Feig's wonderful writing. Lyndsay Weir is the greatest TV creation since Dale Cooper

  • Comment number 67.

    An interesting 'high school' film is TAPS. Although set against the back drop of a military acadamy it deals with the teenage cadets taking over the acadamy in an attempt to save it from being demolished. The theme of youths standing up for themselves against the adults is a major theme that runs through high school films and TAPS is one such example.

    Another great film, that a poster on this blog mentioned earlier is Heathers. A satirical take on the whole high school genre that ends up with deadly consequences. I've only seen the film once before, many, many years ago, so I'm writing from a very pale memory.

    However my favourite high school film is, no surprise; The Breakfast Club. As said by other posters it deals with a group of students, who are pretty much labeled and pingeon holed in a group, breaking through the barriers and finding friendship and a common bond with others they wouldn't normally deal with in everyday life. I also like this film because of its open ending, it leaves a big question mark on the outcome; come Monday morning will their new found friendship continue, or will it fade away into a selected memory?

    As for reunion flicks; Groose Point Blank; a brilliant film that deals with the subject of memory and the What If theme. John Cussack's character comes back to his home town for his high school reunion and briefly deals with the painful memories of his family life, his father was a drunk and his mother is in a care home. I love the scene where he find his old house has been demolished and has made way for a convienience store. Not to mention the fact that Cussack's character is an assassin who has to carry out a contract whilst he's in town for the reunion does add a certain originality to it.

  • Comment number 68.

    I totally agree with ninthconfigurator

    I also never got Ferris Buller, and I too found him to be an absolutely annoying character.

  • Comment number 69.

    Hi Mark,

    Fascinating blog and a great reminder to check out some of these films that I've never seen - American Graffiti, Peggy Sue Got Married - and some I haven't seen in ages - Ferris Beuller, Romy and Michele. Fine suggestions from all concerned on this message board as well, so I'm not going to repeat them. I'd like to come from left field if I may.
    Melody - A David Puttnam film starring Mark Lester and Jack Wild from Oliver and introducing the amazingly captivating Tracy Hyde as the title character. It isn't perfect by any means, but what it gets right is the feel of a British High School in the 70s. The long patches of boredom punctuated by fear of physical punishment are absolutely spot on, but the central puppy love romance between Daniel (Lester) and Melody is beautifully captured. The soundtrack, especially First of May, by the Bee Gees is superb and my 14 year old daughter watched it and decided it was as true to school life as anything she had ever seen.
    Try it, you might like it!

  • Comment number 70.

    Agree that Risky Business isn't really a High School Movie. Neither is Donnie Darko.
    For me The Breakfast Club has aged very poorly; particularly when Ally Sheedy is supposedly transformed into a sparkling beauty and actually looks like some horrible Sloane Ranger.
    Ferris Bueller stands up as the high water mark. Brillaint film and brings back great memories. I was working at the EIFF when it premierred. We were given some prop collection tins like the ones used in the film with 'Save Ferris' printed on them. We set them out in the foyer and folk actually donated some spare cash which we duly spent in the bar at the end of the night. Good times.

    Others films worth an honourable mention include:

    Gregory's Girl - Bella Bella !
    Grosse Pointe Blank - The Sgt Pepper of reunion movies
    Back to the Future - Of which Peggy Sue is a very poor copy
    Stand By Me - Excellent
    To Sir With Love - a rare movie of rebellion and racism in Britain in the 60s
    American Grafitti - A brilliant movie that still ticks all the right boxes.

    Dead Poets Society was, for me, turgid, and belongs in a list of Worst High School Movies along with Peggy Sue Got Married. This film hasn't been 'overlooked', it just isn't very good. It falls down on two important points: truly dreadful plot line, and, it's not very funny; which is an important factor in a comedy.

  • Comment number 71.

    Best high school films for me are The Breakfast Club and Heathers both of these I still watch with alarming regularity

    Best reunion film is easily Grosse Point Blank

  • Comment number 72.

    Surely the best high school movie ever has to be Battle Royale, It certainly gave me flashbacks to the playground.

    On a serious note though nothing takes me back to the teenage years more than The Inbetweeners. I know its a tv show and you generally don't do tv Dr K, but I can relate to every situation and character in that show because they were all at my school. Lets just hope the upcoming reunion movie based around "a lads" holiday (squirm) does the tv series justice.

  • Comment number 73.

    Should also really mention Apted's 7Up films. The first one is indeed a terrifying portrayal of primary school life.

  • Comment number 74.

    @ 70, complaining about a lack of comedy in Dead Poets Society is a bit like saying Mel Gibson's remake of Life Of Brian wasn't as funny as the original.

    It was meant to be a tear jerker from the start IMHO.

  • Comment number 75.

    Oh, and I've got a soft spot for Son Of Rambow for a UK high school film.

    Really brought back memories of being a certain age rather than the just the era it does a pretty good job of depicting.

  • Comment number 76.

    @74 - the lack of comedy refers to Peggy Sue Got Married, not Dead Poet's Society

  • Comment number 77.

    A love a number of the picks that have already been mentioned. here are at least a couple that I think have not been singled out.

    You don't necessarily follow the herd when it comes to reviewing films, Mark, but most critics hated this one:Three O'Clock High. It's not a serious film, but there is no other movie that captures the AMERICAN high school experience quite in the way that this one does. It's a film that has to be viewed multiple times to enjoy the background details. Casey Siemaszko is the high everyman Jerry Mitchell... Put upon. Suppressed. Oppressed. Intimidated. Buddy Revell is the relentlessly malevolent antagonist of Mitchell and the stuff of high school nightmares fully realized. And the film has a good soundtrack by Tangerine Dream.

    My 'year after high school' film HAS to be the best film that Peter Yates directed: Breaking Away. It should have won the Oscar in 1979 over that ridiculously over the top drug addled war film. Again, it's the American experience, but I think more than a few people can relate to the "Okay it's over. What now?" and the "I don't want to do anything" feeling when high school ends and you're not quite prepared for that.

    Just to throw out one or two more that I don't think anyone has mentioned... Ghost World which, while not a straight out 'high school' flick, is about two friends that begin to grow apart in that particular time frame. It has some very dark humor and at times is even on the creepy side.

    One film (that's never set in an actual school) that I have only recently seen: Metropolitan (1990). Never would I have imagined that I could find arrogant upper-crust New York debutantes with varying socialist views (and one pseudo-outsider) so interesting and dare I say(vomit)... endearing. (Once more for emphasis... Vomit... Bleargh!). It's a film sold entirely by the dialogue and the style of conversation, but it 'worked' for me.

    And, um... How about Spider-Man? Spider-powers and Green Goblins notwithstanding.

  • Comment number 78.

    Can't believe I'm the first person to mention Valley Girl, starring a young Nic Cage. Contains the immortal dialogue:

    Jock boyfriend: "This movie's in 3D."
    Cool Nic Cage: "So's your face."

  • Comment number 79.

    I thought that the twisting melodrama of Confessions was deserving of a far richer welcome than Mark's (amongst others) lukewarm reception of it earlier this year - a real treat.

  • Comment number 80.

    For me the ultimate High School film is Rian Johnsons "Brick" of the best detective noir films ever made in my opinion and in particular I find the concept of teenagers acting as adults in that bugsy Malone style is always interesting on screen

  • Comment number 81.

    I'd have to say Carrie. As I kid, I was really bullied for my love of Queen and Monty Python. I felt almost suicidal and when I watched Carrie at 14, it changed my life and my perception of bullies. The prom scene at the end is so heartfelt and satisfying because everyone at that prom deserved everything they got. Even the teachers and pupils who seemed to support her, backstabbed her and laughed in her face. For me, it is one of the most satisfying scenes in movie history, and perfectly captures the vunerability and anger felt towards those who wrong you

  • Comment number 82.

    I would have said "If..." but somebody already mentioned it.

    So, until I think of something else, "Back to the Future I"

  • Comment number 83.

    I'm a big fan of the "High School" or "teen movie" genre partly because of its versatility. Set in the sphere of adolescence, teen movies can take many forms resulting in a wide spectrum of films, ranging from the surprisingly witty, clever and generally up beat 1995 'Clueless' to the humorous, moody and tragic 'The Virgin Suicides' of 1999 (starring Kathleen Turner of 'Peggy Sue Got Married') with it's enveloping 70's soundtrack and hazy look. I am a massive fan of John Hughes back catalogue, my favourite of which is most probably 1987's 'Some Kind of Wonderful'... For some reason of all teen movies ranging from 'Rebel without a cause' to 'Easy A', - 1999's 'Never Been Kissed' is my favourite of all... I find it genuinely funny, love the characters and enjoy its references to many teen films that came before it.

  • Comment number 84.

    Breakfast Club! everytime I hear Simple Minds: Don't you (forget about me), it all comes rushing back and the hairs on my arms start to tingle...

  • Comment number 85.


    Dazed and Confused is a complete classic.

    But you can't overlook High School Musical 3. We grow to like the characters in the previous 2 films and then see them ready to face the real world. You can sneer all you want but watch it with an open mind and you can find so much in it that resonates with the dawning realisation that school is out for ever.


  • Comment number 86.

    David S. Goyer's "The Invisible"
    Fantastic film...though Dr K may prefer the 2002 Swedish original "Den Osynlige"

  • Comment number 87.

    Gus Van Sant's "Elephant" should get an honourable mention; as dark as it is.
    One of his best pieces of work, I feel.

  • Comment number 88.

    One that someone as already mentioned is Donnie Darko. Captures the era and angst of 80's teens far more then the teen flicks of the time. But a couple I'd throw in there is Battle Royale, a real come of age movie as they'd die other wise. Also maybe not the best movie ever made but as influencing a genaration of teens during the 90's in TV form was Buffy the Vampire Slayer in much the same way Happy Days stemmed from American Graffiti.

  • Comment number 89.

    What about Juno? Does that count as a High School film? It certainly captures a lot of awkwardness.

    Also, what about Part II of 'Monty Python's the Meaning of Life'. having been to a boarding school, and had to endure chapel services, they got it spot-on. Although our biology lessons were slightly different ...

  • Comment number 90.

    Another teen film that's worth a mention is Wild Tigers I Have Known. It's a strange little movie that does a good job at expressing that feeling of disconnectedness that comes with being a gay adolescent. Whatever happened to Cam Archer?

  • Comment number 91.

    Well obviously the best High school movie is A clockwork orange. Come on, you just feel that teen angst of Malcolm McDowell when he smashes that lady's head with the huge phallic symbol. Not to mention the universal high-school theme of singing and dancing to the tune of Gene Kelly's "Singing in the rain". Who, I dare ask, has not done these things during their teen years?
    Also, Carrie, simply because it had the best prom night in film history.

  • Comment number 92.

    Anyone mentioned Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Maybe not as relevant to Brits but still worth a watch if only for Penn's Spicoli.

  • Comment number 93.

    Along with John Hughes' output, Dazed And Confused, Fat Times At Ridgemont High etc, I'd have to say that Gregory's Girl deserves a mention. Not only is it a briliantly observed film about British small-town life, but there's the famous penguin-in-the-hallway non sequitur.

  • Comment number 94.

    Has no-one mentioned Scream? A bit of a departure on the genre front but certainly a high school movie.
    All time greatest still has to be Back to the Future.

  • Comment number 95.

    I'm also a big fan of The Wackness - a great film about the harsh lessons that growing up teaches both the young and old. And while it's true Ben Kingsley hams it a bit, Josh Peck delivers a performance that's a million miles (and several stone) away from his Drake and Josh persona which deserved much more praise than it got.

  • Comment number 96.

    on the "american high school " genre my tops are:

    Easy A
    10 things I hate about you

    all movies with a strong female lead (of course anything with John Cusack, as a lot of those mentioned are, comes in too- which brings us to-)

    reunion- like nearly everyone- Grosse Pointe Blank

    however, if we're talking "best film set in a school"- the straw poll in my staff room at lunchtime says Gregory's Girl resoundingly- the bit where he weaves across the playground is possibly my favourite- even better than the deodorant on top of the t shirt moment

  • Comment number 97.

    Pump Up the Volume is a flawed yet brilliantly conceived film which displays all the hallmarks of a great teen drama: angst, rebellion and a kicking soundtrack.

    10 Things I Hate About You is a guilty pleasure and a wonderful reimagining of The Taming of the Shrew

    Virgin Suicides?

  • Comment number 98.

    I can't believe nobody has mentioned Some Kind Of Wonderful, superb soundtrack (I bought the soundtrack before seeing the film).

  • Comment number 99.

    How about Election (1999) by Alexander Payne. By no means Payne's best film, but interesting for the casting of Matthew Broderick as a teacher, contrasting with his uber-cool 80s role as Ferris Bueller. One can't help but wonder if the character was a version of how Bueller might have turned out as an adult - the down-with-the-kids cool teacher, but slightly gone to seed.
    (I should point out here that I hate Ferris Bueller's Day Off - a paean to a smug individualist...)

  • Comment number 100.

    Just some things that pop to my mind, that I liked one way or the other:

    Back to the future 1
    Donnie Darko
    Twin Peaks
    Scott Pilgrim vs. the world

    and last not but least, not mentioned before and I´m very sorry in advance:

    Road trip

    Silly, I know. But gets me every time neverless.


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