The rules are simple:
1. The film must take place during the main characters’ high school years. Yes, one film cuts it close, but it’s the summer after most of their senior years and right before two are supposed to head off to college. It’s my list, so it counts.
2. The main character(s) need to be the kids themselves. A lot of “high school” movies are based around the teacher. This isn’t what I wanted. So, there won’t be a To Sir, With Love (for example) to be found here.
3. These are only the ones I’ve seen. I know I need to see Heathers again, I know. And yes, I’ve seen The Breakfast Club. I personally think the best part of that quite overrated movie is the Simple Minds track. Seriously. Go ahead and throw your rotten lettuce and tomatoes.
On to the list!
10. Superbad (2007)
This is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen in the theatre. Two best friends decide to go to a real party (for once) and pretty much end high school with a bang. And what an insane adventure it becomes: all just to get alcohol to the party to impress a couple of girls and look cool. Ultimately, it becomes a raunchy coming of age story in which the two friends must come to grips that their friendship would soon be drastically changing. Oh, it’s not all that mushy (the symbolic ending aside), it’s really a non-stop laugh-a-thon. Plus it has McLovin!
9. Clueless (1995)
Yeah, so what? Based on Jane Austen’s “Emma,” this is a refreshing story of a popular matchmaker who eventually is forced to look within to find love of her own. It’s just a very cute and surprisingly funny movie and is responsible for phrases that were in heavy rotation during the ’90s. No, guys, it’s not just for the chicks. There’s plenty of stuff for us to laugh at as well. This also propelled Alicia Silverstone from being the hot chick in multiple Aerosmith videos to being the it girl for a while…which was derailed by Batman and Robin.
8. Sixteen Candles (1984)
Poor Samantha. It’s her birthday and her family has forgotten because of her dimwit older sister is getting married a few days later. Such is life. She goes through the typical girl issues: she pines for the school hunk, serenaded by a geek, and has her own very embarrassing moments (like having her panties shown to a group of guys). Molly Ringwald is just great and, most importantly, very believable as a girl going through self-esteem issues..who’s big day is completely forgotten. Oh, and as the picture suggests, she gets the hunk in the end.
7. Dead Poets Society (1989)
To be young is partially want to rebel (more on that later) against the establishment. Here, a group of boys revive an old banned club (the Dead Poets) in order to challenge each other creatively…something they aren’t quite able to do in their rigid and stuffy classrooms. One of the boys would take it a step further and challenges his father about his future (to tragic consequences). While a lot of the attention is on Robin Williams in this film, it’s really about the boys and the various storylines they go through. Just check out Ethan Hawke as the extremely shy writer-to-be.
6. Juno (2007)
Michael Cera’s second appearance on this list? Who does he think he is? John Hughes? This film takes teen pregnancy and makes it much more funny than it has any right to be. Juno can’t go through with an abortion as she originally planned (she realizes her baby has fingernails at that point), she decides to give it up for adoption. What follows is a young, very intelligent and witty girl’s journey through a very adult situation. It features Ellen Page as the titular character in a star making role, who’s wit makes her beyond adorable.
5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Speaking of John Hughes, this is my favorite of all of his movies. Ferris Bueller is the most popular kid in school. He has a smoking hot girlfriend, a very loyal friend, and the student body more or less worships him. Of course, he gets away with murder day in and day out, which draws the ire of the school principal. This film is simply one day in the life of Ferris and his friends: they skip school and run off to Chicago for an entire day’s worth of fun while avoiding the principal (among others). It’s a trip that needs to be seen to believed…plus Mia Sara is in it!
4. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Dazed and Confused takes place on the last day of school and features characters ranging from soon-to-be seniors all way down to soon-to-be freshmen. As the older ones initiate the younger ones into high school (the boys are beaten with paddles and the girls are completely humiliated), the film sets up for the big end of the year party as well as a showdown with some authority figures (in this case football coaches). There are so many characters that are memorable, including Benn Aflleck as the ultimate bully and Matthew McConaughey as a man much too old to be hanging with high schoolers.
3. A Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
We look upon the 1950s with this idea that everything was fine and dandy. The Great War was fought and won, now everyone was moving to the newly formed suburbs to live the good life. Films like A Rebel Without a Cause show us that there’s a side that existed that we have forgotten about. James Dean plays a complicated young man who has a hard family life. He moves into a new city, develops feelings for the girl next door and befriends a troubled boy. They soon learn that things at home isn’t great for any of them: their parents just don’t understand them. It deals with the myth of the nuclear family and contains an implied homoerotic undertone.
2. Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)
This is the funniest movie on the list. Based on Cameron Crowe’s own experience, Fast Times has it all. Every sort of character you can think of will be found here. In fact, these are characters that probably remind you of someone you know. You have the regular average guy, his sexually promiscuous younger sister, her “experienced” friend, the geeky kid, his “cool” friend, and the stoner that everyone knows and loves. It deals with very serious subjects, such as abortion and failed relationships. Anything else…oh! The Phoebe Cates swimsuit scene.
1. American Graffiti (1973)
So, I might be a little biased. Not only am I a Star Wars geek, but I happen to live where George Lucas grew up. This film is based on his teenage years here. An absolutely stellar cast led by Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard (and Harrison Ford in a small role), this is the movie that would make most on this list possible. Most of the characters have graduated high school and two would be off to college. This tells the night before the two leave town. Think of it as their last hoorah. They all go through their own journey only to meet up at sunrise for the big drag race. It contains one of the best soundtracks ever created as well as some of the best characters ever: including a future Hall of Fame member.
So, what do you all think? Did I forget any? Which ones would you add in and which ones would you subtract?