August means it is time for school to start back in session and kids of all ages prepare for another year of studies. While going back to school is fun for some, it may seem like torture to others, and there is sure to be drama of all sorts from elementary to high school and all the way through college. Look no further than American cinema for a look at the over-the-top nature of education with some of the best back-to-school movies of all time.
“The Breakfast Club”
One of the most beloved high school movies ever made is John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club.” While many movies over time overuse stereotypes, this movie almost single handily created them. The nerd, outcast, jock, brainiac, good girl and loner all end up in detention together for one memorable afternoon. Plus, it all ended with the ’80s hit song, (Don’t You) Forget About Me.
“Fast Times at Ridgemont High”
Sean Penn has come a long way since playing Jeff Spicoli in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” The movie was about a distinct group of high school students including the stoner Spicoli, the hard working Brad (Judge Reinhold) and the gorgeous Linda (Phoebe Cates). Who can forget the swimming pool scene?
“Dazed and Confused”
Taking place on the last day of school, “Dazed and Confused” focuses on a group of high school students who plan one last party together while preparing for their next year of school and hazing the incoming freshmen. It stars a who’s-who of young talent, including Matthew McConaughey, Parker Poset, Milla Jovovich and Ben Affleck.
Jeremy Piven plays a college student who lives by his own rules in “PCU,” at a university overcome by political correctness. The movie focuses on an incoming freshman as he watches a radical feminist group, animal rights protestors, stoners who care about little else but playing Frisbee and two rival organizations trying to bring the other down.
A decade later, Piven plays the role of the evil school administrator in “Old School,” morphing from the victim into the persecutor. This movie shows that someone is never too old to return to school when three grown men decide to open their own fraternity on campus, inviting a mishmash of students to join for partying and revelry.
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” stars Matthew Broderick as a self referential student who decides to skip school one day for a joyride into town. Often talking to the camera, Ferris leads his school principal on a wild goose chase as he races from one insane situation into the next, all without a care in the world.
“Mean Girls” explores the hateful dynamic between the haves and have-nots in the female high school world. Lindsay Lohan stars in the best role of her career as a new girl in school who ends up befriending the meanest clique in the high school, watching as they degrade and humiliate girls they deem unworthy.
“Dead Poets Society”
Robin Williams stars in “Dead Poets Society,” a dramatic story of a teacher who leads his prep school students into thinking for themselves, clearly against the wishes of the administration. Robert Sean Leonard also stars as a student who commits suicide when he never meets his parent’s expectations, an event blamed on his teacher for teaching him how to think.
Another John Hughes movie, “Sixteen Candles” follows Sam (Molly Ringwald), as she realizes her parents forgot her 16th birthday in the rush for her sister’s wedding. We also see her life at school, as her male best friend (Anthony Michael Hall) carries a secret crush while she likes the popular Jake (Michael Schoeffling).
Finally, a movie that proves that the problems high school students face is not always about boys and popularity. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars “Brick” as a boy who finds his girlfriend dead in a ditch and sets out to find out who did it, infiltrating the lair of the local high school drug dealer. The movie uses a strange, Film Noir-inspired dialogue and remains one of the most fascinating high school films of recent years.