With my three kids heading back to school next week (thank the good lord) we certainly have school on the brain around my neck of the woods. When I casually asked them what their favorite movies about school were, the answers I got were High School Musical, 17 Again, and Hairspray. And while I enjoy Zac Efron as much as the next girl (probably a wee bit more than the next girl…it’s shameful, really), it got me thinking that my kids were in desperate need of a must-see high school movie, um, education.
In an effort to not bore you all to death, I have narrowed my original list, which included at least 27 ridiculously worthy movies, to The 10 Best High School Movies of All Time, which range, of course, from the serious to the funny to the poignant to the absurd to the embarrassing. You know, like high school.
1. Dead Poet’s Society. O Captain, My Captain, this was a good one. This movie made me want to read Walt Whitman (and let it drip from my tongue) and go to boarding school and have Robin Williams as a teacher. It also made me want to rip pages from textbooks (Oh like you never…). It’s equal parts schmaltz and beauty. See also: School Ties.
2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This was John Hughes at his finest…this time with a non-formulaic formula. Every character is a winner in the most awesome day off from high school ever, from the John-Lennon-quoting, shower-singing, school-skipping Ferris Bueller (who doubles as Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago) all the way down to arch-nemesis principal Ed Rooney. See also: Sixteen Candles. Some Kind of Wonderful. Pretty in Pink.
3. Lucas. This true 1980s gem often goes unnoticed and it’s a crying shame. It’s about adolescence and not fitting in (on account of giant glasses and a penchant for butterfly catching) and first loves and unrequited love. It’s a bit stereotypical and hokey, but it works. And even Roger Ebert liked it, giving it 4 stars and saying that, “half-a-dozen of the film’s scenes are done so well, they could make short films on their own.” It’s a special movie.
4. 10 Things I Hate About You. I was prepared to hate this modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. And instead I fell (surprisingly) head-over-heels in love with it—I mean, it’s impossible to just be, well, whelmed with it. Every time I watch, I wish I could talk like Kat does and dance like she does (don’t pretend you don’t dance on tables every time you hear “Hypnotize”). And obviously it wouldn’t hurt to have someone sing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” while dancing on school bleachers. See also: Save the Last Dance. Easy A. She’s All That. Never Been Kissed. Mean Girls.
5. Stand and Deliver. Oh, Edward James Olmos and his flawless portrayal of real-life hero Jaime Escalante, the East L.A. teacher who takes a bunch of nobodys, including the hair-netted Lou Diamond Phillips, and turns them into mathematics superstars. He uses out-of-the-box and unconventional methods to teach facts, but to also teach us the power of the human spirit. This one turns me into a rubbery pile of goo every time I watch it. Also, I totally learned that finger multiplication trick from this movie (“I’m the Finger Man, too. Do you know what I can do? I know how to multiply by nine! Nine times three. What you got? Twenty-seven.”) and I *may* sometimes still use it. See Also: Fame.
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