Thursday, September 3, 2009

TOP 10: High School Movies

September is here everyone. Another school year is starting up, and with Jennifer's Body hitting theaters on the 18th, I thought it would be a fitting time to go through my ten favorite movies about high school. I could give you an honorable mention list of a few that almost made it, but that would be cheating, wouldn't it? These are the best, in my opinion. On with the list!

10. Grease

The highest-grossing movie musical of all time is still a hit with every generation. Not only is it full of fun song and dance numbers that are still classics today, but the movie takes on what it's like to be the new kid in school, cliques and gangs, peer pressure, teen pregnancy, and the all-important high school dance. Grease launched the careers of some of the era's brightest stars, most notably John Travolta.

9. Mean Girls

What seemed like just another obnoxious teen comedy turned out to be a smartly-written and insightful look at the world of teenage girls. Elevated by the powerful comedy of Tina Fey and great performances from Lindsey Lohan and Rachel McAdams, Mean Girls showed how brutal girls in high school - even those that say they're your friends - can be. That four-way phone call is an all-too-familiar blast from every girl's past.

8. American Graffiti

This post-graduation tale of teens facing their first adult decisions made stars out of Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfus, and Harrison Ford. The teens in American Graffiti are out for one last joyride of a night before they officially grow up. Tomorrow they decide whether or not to stay with their girlfriends, where to go to college, and just what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Before the night ends, they squeeze in every adventure possible, and we share the joys of their last-ditch adolescence.

7. Carrie

High school can indeed be horrific, but nothing that happened in my high school years was quite as terrifying as Carrie White's blood-soaked takeover of prom. After her classmates pull a mean-spirited prank on her when she gets her first period, Carrie's humiliation turns into a supernatural, terror-inducing hostage situation. Even scarier than her transformation into a demonic torturess is her crazy, Bible-thumping mother.

6. Election

One of the funniest takes on high school ever is this gem from director Alexander Payne. Adapted from the book by Tom Perrotta, Election is the story of a history teacher (Matthew Broderick) trying to thwart the ambitions of over-achiever Tracy Flick (played perfectly by Reese Witherspoon). The film is shown from the perspectives of four different characters, each one hilariously original and free from stereotypes. The smartest girl in school is a homewrecker, the teacher is a bad guy, and the biggest heart in the high school belongs to the football star.

5. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

To this day, no one beats Sean Penn at portraying the stoned slacker. Penn's Jeff Spicoli is one of the funniest screen characters in memory, but the greatest thing about Amy Heckerling's high school film is the truth behind even the zaniest characters. First-time screenwriter Cameron Crowe went undercover as a high school senior while in his 20s and was inspired to write Fast Times, which could explain why I recognize every character here. What seems like a film about a bunch of kids just out to have fun is actually a testimony to how fast kids are forced to grow up, and the heartbreaks they experience even at such a young age.

4. Rebel Without a Cause

James Dean portrays the new kid in school, Jim Stark, a troubled, bullied loner who can't seem to catch a break in Rebel Without a Cause. His first day at his new school brings a gang confrontation and a knife fight. Natalie Wood plays Judy, a girl who takes an interest in him, and Sam Mineo plays his depressed friend. Stark was not the neat and tidy kids of Leave It to Beaver; he was a real teen with real problems that kids at home could finally relate to.

3. Clueless

This smart and funny film about a rich Beverly Hills student who tried to help those around her is loosely based on Jane Austen's Emma. Alicia Silverstone shines as Cher, who spends her time playing matchmaker for lonely teachers, showing an awkward new girl the ropes at their hip high school, and monitering her dad's cholesterol. And who doesn't love Cher's fountain revelation? "I love Josh!" So classic.

2. Say Anything...

This passionate teen romance between sheltered high school valedictorian Diane Court and earnest but nerdy kickboxer Lloyd Dobler is sure to inspire a few fond memories of young love. John Cusack and Ione Skye have real, tangible chemistry and create an iconic love story with some iconic moments. Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" playing out of Lloyd Dober's boombox is as memorable as it gets. Say Anything... also introduced us to the Cameron Crowe special - the in-the-car-radio-singalong - with John Mahoney warbling "Ricky Don't Lose That Number".

1. The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club is the undisputed champ, and has been since its release in 1985. The recent passing of writer-director John Hughes has led a lot of people to reflect on his contributions to cinema, and first and foremost in everyone's heart and mind is this classic about five teens stuck in Saturday detention, struggling to prove they're more than a brain, an athlete, a princess, a basket case, and a criminal. It's the most honest take on the hell that is high school, and the teens' blatant definance of Principal "Dick" Vernon ("You mess with the bull, you get the horns!") is still a vicarious thrill all these years later. Don't you forget about this one.

What are your favorite high school movies? How many of my faves would make your top 10? Are you looking forward to Jennifer's Body? Leave some love in the comments.


Ellen said...

If Jennifer's Body gets decent reviews I might rent it eventually, but I can't perpetuate the opinion that Megan Fox can carry a film. She's talentless.

Good list, but I think I would have included Ferris Bueller's Day Off!

Rae Kasey said...

Ferris Bueller is definitely a classic, but it's one of those movies I know I should love but don't. I have no idea why, it just doesn't do it for me.

I feel the same way about Megan Fox. I really don't like her but I'm hoping against hope the movie is good anyway. I was thinking with Jason Reitman producing we'd have something worthwhile, but it's looking grim.

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