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Posted at 10:43 AM ET, 08/ 3/2007

Friday List: Best High School Flicks

By Liz Kelly

The Disney Channel's flakking of "High School Musical 2" (opening Aug. 17) has kicked into high gear. If you have occasion to turn on that channel, you'll find your tweener sitcoms spiked with a healthy dose of "HSM" promos and behind-the-scenes peeks. And why not? Last year's original was a smash hit for Disney -- kids not only watched over and over, but bought DVDs and made the soundtrack the top-selling album of 2006. And star Zac Efron is everywhere again -- the shining beacon of Disney-built formulaically-perfect "it" boy with his shaggy hair, earnest smile and "It's OK, mom and dad, I'm safe for your kids" vibe. Blech. It's enough to make anyone of voting age dyspeptic.

So, like any self-respecting member of a passe generation, I react by comparing this entertainment juggernaut with what the mind leaps to label as "real" high school movies: the ones that got it right, the ones that hit us where our crushes and insecurities lived and made us realize that we are none of us alone in the emotional gauntlet that is one's teens years.

Today, I've taken a stab at listing what I consider to be the movies that best capture the high school experience. These movies are the polar opposite of the Hollywood-ized version of high school, where halls swarm with American Eagle-outfitted kids or even perky Tori Spellings and James Dean-ish Luke Perrys.

The List:

1. The Breakfast Club -- The first of two John Hughes-directed movies on the list, the movie's genius is summed up in the letter composed by the main characters at the end, breaking down what divides and connects all teens:

2. Sixteen Candles -- Sure, some of it is slapstick, but Molly Ringwald's portrayal of a girl coming into her own is spot-on.

3. Dazed and Confused -- From Jason London's rebellious football player to Matthew McConaughey's creepy guy who can't let go of his teens, Richard Linklater not only nailed beautifully mundane ups-and-downs of high school, but cast a list of future all-stars including McConaughey, Parker Posey, Ben Affleck and Renee Zellweger.

4. Fast Times at Ridgemont High -- All post-1982 high school movies should thank this genre-defining film from Amy Heckerling and Cameron Crowe.

5. Donnie Darko -- Sure, Jake Gyllenhaal's Donnie is probably cuckoo, but his earnest portrayal of a boy out to save the world reminds us just how poignant adolescent emotion can be. And that teens are smart enough to grasp a complex storyline.

6. Mean Girls -- Pay close attention: This 2004 movie about the often-ruthless world of teen girls may just stand as Lindsay Lohan's best performance ever.

7. Dead Poets Society -- Because before being beat down by the work-a-day world, all of us were once inspired.

8. Lucas -- That's right, this understated movie starring a young Corey Haim, is a touching and sometimes heartwrenching look at what it's like being an outcast in love.

9. Clueless -- Okay, so we may not all live in Beverly Hills lives loosely modeled on the plot of Jane Austen's "Emma," but Amy Heckerling's 1995 movie does a good job of chronicling one teen's quest for her true self.

10. Heathers -- Remember those girls you hated in high school? The ones who seemed to have everything, but you somehow knew they'd end up as tanning salon receptionists? Well, if you ever wondered what it would have been like if they'd started murdering each other, this movie's for you.

What did I leave out? Add your picks below. (If you need inspiration, peek at EW's 2006 list of the top 50 high school movies.)

By Liz Kelly  | August 3, 2007; 10:43 AM ET
Categories:  Friday Lists  
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Left out "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure". Also the only time travel movie that makes any sense.

Posted by: fool on the hill | August 3, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I'd also add Footloose and Pretty in Pink...Cheesy, but good music!

I've watched Mean Girls on TV and just can't see why it's "so great". Maybe I should have seen it before LiLo was a household name?

Posted by: WDC | August 3, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Gotta give a nod to The New Guy. It actualized my teen fantasy of leaving my HS behind and showing up at a new one with no history but what I wanted to share. And also of Eliza Dushku modeling bikinis just for me, but that fantasy came along a little later in life.

Posted by: 23112 | August 3, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Ferris Bueller's Day Off is THE best high school movie. Number one. Your top 4 are pretty good though. I have no idea what Dead Poets Society is doing on there. I think you need Pretty in Pink on there as well, probably She's All That and 10 Things I Hate About You.

Posted by: Too Much Time | August 3, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Personally, I'm partial to John Cusack's Better Off Dead.

Posted by: Amy F. | August 3, 2007 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Ahh...I should have read the list first...Ferris Buellers Day Off and Grease (though I think of that more of a musical genre then HS). Can't leave those out!

Posted by: More from WDC | August 3, 2007 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Risky Business.

The Girl Next Door. (A modernized take on Risky Business).

Better Off Dead.

Posted by: JRS | August 3, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Can't Buy Me Love. A bit over the top, no doubt, but it captured the eternal tension between "totally totally geek," and had a young, goofy Patrick Dempsey.

Posted by: 80sfan | August 3, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Someone mentioned this in the bad flicks list, but actually it is about real high school (gangs beat up new kid who falls for the gang leaders pretty girlfriend): Tuff Turf.

I liked it anyway.

Posted by: ep | August 3, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Napolean Dynamite!

Posted by: another Liz | August 3, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Can't Hardly Wait (even though it copies every single 80s high school movie)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
American Pie
Pretty in Pink

Posted by: Melinda Boyd | August 3, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Although its not technically a movie, I think the short-lived series Freaks & Geeks really captured the high-school experience better than any movie I've seen.

Posted by: Melissa | August 3, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Lea | August 3, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Although its not technically a movie, I think the short-lived series Freaks & Geeks really captured the high-school experience better than any movie I've seen.

I agree! And I still can't get used to seeing the one guy playing a law student on How I Met Your Mother...

Posted by: Washington | August 3, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Grosse Pointe Blank.

Illustrates the high school reunion thing very well, particularly in seeing how much people peaked in high school.

Posted by: JRS | August 3, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Don't forget "Election."
Liz, maybe when you have kids, you won't be so harsh about the Disney channel. I'm no Disney-lover, but at least I can feel confident that my 11 year-old won't see something inappropriate when he is watching. Some of the shows are very funny.
This summer, however, I have become more of a Nick fan. I especially love SpongeBob SquarePants. And have you ever seen the "Naked Brothers' Band?"

Posted by: POS | August 3, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Okay, not to be a killjoy (because I LOVE this list!) but the big difference is that while set in high school HSM is really a movie for the "tweener" set (like that Bratz movie, ugh!) unlike the great movies on this list.

As a mom to a tween girl, I wish there were more good movies out there for that age--but as great as all the movies listed here are, they are both set in high school and aimed at high school audiences.

Oh, and to add another--it's not quite high school (maybe they were middle school headed to high school?) but how about Stand By Me? That was a great coming of age flick.

Posted by: Minor Distinction.... | August 3, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Some Kind of Wonderful
I still love Eric Stoltz, tho in old age he's beginning to look like Horatio Caine.

Posted by: flynnchick | August 3, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

My List:

My High School List:

Fame (OMG, I will always sing the Body Electric)
Bring it on
She's All That
Flirting (I was Thandie Newton's character)

Posted by: Lisa1 | August 3, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Drive Me Crazy
10 Things I Hate About You

Posted by: erm | August 3, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

10 Things I hate about you. I love Heath Ledger

Posted by: md | August 3, 2007 11:40 AM | Report abuse

I want to say "Ghost World", but it's not reallty set in high school. The kids are just high school aged.

Posted by: EricS | August 3, 2007 11:41 AM | Report abuse

American Graffiti (yeah, I'm over 40)

Posted by: b | August 3, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Better Off Dead, please. Savage Steve Holland's look at angst, hormones and courage never gets old.

Posted by: pecueca | August 3, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

If a tv show (Freaks & Geeks) is fair to post, then certainly My So-Called Life should make that list. What an honest, respectful show that was.

Posted by: brecca | August 3, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I thought Ferris Buller's Day Off was a bit unrealistic. Anyone who says they were "that guy" in high school is lying to themselves (unless by "that guy" you are referring to the sickly sidekick).

What about Less than Zero? Although it was set in college, I did go so high school with a couple of people who snorted their inheritance away.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Ferris Bueller Anyone want to repudiate that? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Also, Never Been Kissed. I loved that movie.

Posted by: methinks | August 3, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Um, aren't most movies a bit unrealistic?

Posted by: to anon at 11:47 | August 3, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Wait, are we just listing the movies that have been set in high schools? Or are we listing GOOD movies set in high schools? If we're aiming for quality, Say Anything, Napoleon Dynamite, Election and Donnie Darko have no place here.

Mean Girls was probably the best one. It was done 10 years after my departure from HS, and it still brought up unwelcome memories.

Posted by: WDC | August 3, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Where does Renee Zellweger show up in Dazed and Confused? IMDB has her listed as "unconfirmed".

Posted by: J-Bo | August 3, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

best capture the highschool experience

lose 2 (BC did what 16 did better),7,8,9...

I'm with the others - you have to have Ferris - if only for the Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

and Say Anything.

Heathers was FAB - everyone should carry a copy of a book with 'eskimo' highlighted just in case.

I think Ghost World belongs in there...

Just glad no one suggested Finding Forrester. WTMND

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm under 40 and love American Graffiti. I forgot to add it to my list.

By the way, I am the only one who thinks John Hughes movies kinds of creepy.

Posted by: Lisa1 | August 3, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Mine are less about school, more about teen angst or triumph:

The Outsiders
American Beauty
The Karate Kid

Posted by: Alison in TN | August 3, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I agree on Ghost World-it probably captures the alienation better than any thing else that's been listed.

What about Bowling for Columbine?

Posted by: karmdrome | August 3, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I agree on Ghost World-it probably captures the alienation better than any thing else that's been listed.

What about Bowling for Columbine?

Posted by: karmdrome | August 3, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Not to be too picky, but that was Joey Lauren Adams as "Simone" in "Dazed and Confused," NOT Renee Zellweger.

Posted by: RS | August 3, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Wierd Science!

Posted by: JL | August 3, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse


Skewers the righteous, better than everyone else religious teens.

Posted by: CJB | August 3, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I would have to say, for me, the film that was closest to my high school experience was "Project A-Ko." Anyone else have four years like that?

Posted by: karoshi | August 3, 2007 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I know this is going way back, but what about Cooley High?

Posted by: st.louis | August 3, 2007 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe no one has mentioned 'Angus!' Seriously! Oh and 'Empire Records!' Not actually set in high school, but does follow Liv Tyler's character getting into school and the ever-popular theme of the after-school/weekend job.

Posted by: nicole y | August 3, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Oh my god, WDC, what are you smoking? Those are some of the best movies about the weird, quiet, nerdy, not-popular kids in high school that you and your blonde cheerleader and football player meathead friends probably used to make fun of. If Mean Girls if your favorite high school movie it's probably because you see yourself mirrored in The Plastics and think they were the heroines of that flick. You must be a Heather.

Posted by: What? | August 3, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

"Ordinary People"

One of my all time favorite movies. While it is not all about high school, the main character is a high schooler.

Posted by: CJB | August 3, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Just for clarity, there are TWO WDC posters here...Bummer.

This likes the classics. :0)

Posted by: The real WDC? | August 3, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry but nothing tops the Rivers Edge.

Posted by: ducky | August 3, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Ghost World
Ferris Bueller

all must be on there.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 12:53 PM | Report abuse

to karoshi- No, I don't think anyone had to battle a human with a missle firing battle suit. But I have fond memories of the OVAs/Movies when I was in middle/high school.

Posted by: Geist | August 3, 2007 12:55 PM | Report abuse

oooh, Ordinary People, totally! Ghost World. American Graffiti.

Summer of '42!!!!!!!! If you have not seen, check it out.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 12:58 PM | Report abuse

not so much A-Ko... more like Strongbad's Teen Girl Squad... or Kyon from Haruhi (sans espers and bunny girl costumes - not that they wouldnt have been welcome at the time...)

Posted by: Quintilus Varus | August 3, 2007 12:58 PM | Report abuse

I concur on Saved. Wonderful little movie. The Squid and the Whale, too.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

and Red Dawn...high schoolers saving the USA. that rocks.

by the way lisa1, i am not a fan of john hughes movies either. i know i'm in the minority, but i'm used to it.

Posted by: methinks | August 3, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Actually, RS, Renee Zellwegger is on-screen in "Dazed and Confused" for about 2 seconds. She's one of the senior chicks hazing the incoming freshmen. Blink and you miss her.

In fact, here's one frame of her:

Posted by: Liz | August 3, 2007 1:01 PM | Report abuse

how about War Games? The Lost Boys?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I loved "Can't Hardly Wait", mostly because it reminded me of my high school graduation night. And Jennifer Love Hewitt was barely in it.

Posted by: phan | August 3, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, where is Say Anything on this list?

"I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen." Which of us has not been there, one way or another?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

How about some PAN ASIAN CUISINE!!!

Posted by: So-and-So | August 3, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Blackboard Jungle

Posted by: lafred | August 3, 2007 1:13 PM | Report abuse

American Graffitti is definitely a top-10 (and I am also under 40).

Also check out Three O'Clock High. I haven't seen it since the 80's, though.

Posted by: Wolverines! | August 3, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I am 35 and I third (fourth?) American Graffiti. How about the real, original Hairspray?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

American Graffitti was a groundbreaking movie, and a very obvious choice. Why did you exclude it?

Posted by: Al | August 3, 2007 1:27 PM | Report abuse

As I read down the list and the comments, I started to get more and more depressed, until I saw AMERICAN GRAFFITI, my all-time all-time favorite movie, mentioned once... twice... three... four...

So I fifth it. I didn't grow up in that era (never ask a girl her age, lmao) but AMERICAN GRAFFITI isn't just about the early 60s; it's about how it felt being stuck in high school, being done with high school, wanting to move on, not wanting to move on, should I go to college, should I stay in town, should I still be going steady, am I cool, am I not cool... It took it all seriously without being maudlin or condescending, and was pretty damn funny too.

Two things about AMERICAN GRAFFITI:

TOAD: From the moment he crashes his Vespa behind the opening credits to the end where he pukes while his date watches in awe, Toad is one of the greatest characters in movie history. I daresay that he's the prototype for all of the nerdy high school geeks that followed.

WOLFMAN: The scene where Richard Dreyfuss' character goes to give the Wolfman his dedication for the blonde in the t-bird is probably my favorite scene in any movie, period.

Finally, buying the soundtrack album back then (OK, I'm 47) saved me about $25 in oldies 45s.

I thought of another one but lost my train of thought. Maybe I'll think of it while we're at the lake this apres noon.

In the meantime, thanks for the lists and comments: one of the things I love about these Friday lists is that I always get IDEAS for dvd rentals etc.

Posted by: Margo | August 3, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I also think Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller's Day Off deserve to be included.

I want to mention Secret Admirer even though I'm probably the only one who ever saw it. The scene where Lori Laughlin gets revenge on a guy for telling everyone they "did it" (by taking a baseball bat to his just-repaired van) is classic! I also second River's Edge.

Posted by: TEL | August 3, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

And I thought of another one as soon as I hit SUBMIT:


I liked it, but my husband, who was a band geek and a drummer in high school, says that THIS one is "exactly the way it was in band, even back then" (mid 1970s).

Posted by: Margo | August 3, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Yes yes yes to Dazed and Confused and to Freaks and Geeks. I relive so many high school experiences every time I watch those two.

Posted by: IndyAnna | August 3, 2007 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone mentioned the Outsiders? That qualifies.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

What about Say Anything? In Your Eyes...

Posted by: Marie | August 3, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

my list, if I must limit to 10, in no particular order:

American Graffiti
Ordinary People
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Ghost World
Breakfast Club
Fast Times at Ridgmont High

Posted by: L | August 3, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe nobody's mentioned "Rushmore"!!!

And what about "Rock 'n Roll High School" (if for nothing else than the ramones soundtrack).

And, also on the guilty pleasures list, there's "Valley Girl" (great music and a young Nick Coppola), and, for true so-bad-it's-good high school drama, "Cruel Intentions".

Posted by: VoR | August 3, 2007 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Say Anything
10 Things I Hate About You
River's Edge

Posted by: Sarah | August 3, 2007 2:01 PM | Report abuse

umm, Margo, that crapfest you're calling Drumline was a COLLEGE movie, not a high school movie. Eyes on the prize, dear.

And, quite frankly, from a guy who played in drumlines at both a state championship-caliber high school marching band and at a Division I college, it was absolutely NOTHING like the real life experience.

Posted by: huh? | August 3, 2007 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, I love this blog, but I cannot respect this list until Ferris is on it.

On a particularly gourgeous day a few weeks ago, I commented that it was a "Ferris Bueller" day. Everyone of all age groups knew what I was talking about.

Posted by: Dave | August 3, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

oh crap--Rushmore! I am going to have to cheat and say my top 11, because that goes on my list. That was an amzing movie.

Posted by: L | August 3, 2007 2:08 PM | Report abuse

my high school experience was rather dark and The Virgin Suicides--the high school part of it, not the suicides--really reminded me of what was going on in the late 70s. That Josh Hartnett character is a composite of many boys that went to my h.s.

Posted by: sm | August 3, 2007 2:10 PM | Report abuse

OK, so they were in college. As for how it really was, talk to my know it all husband; ~ I ~ wasn't the band geek!

Posted by: Margo | August 3, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I kinda' agee, sm.

I was gonna add "Virgin Suicides", too, but it's just SOOOOOO bleak, that I can't even begin to contemplate that it might be a reflection of anything about my HS years. Alas, a stunning, moving movie (is that redundant?), but not a great "high school" movie....

Posted by: VoR | August 3, 2007 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I second Rushmore and The Squid and the Whale.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Back to the Future.
Does anyone remember what a huge deal that movie was when it came out?
The "back" part was a little before my time, but very much enjoyed the "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance. And the Calvin Klein underpants.

Posted by: POS | August 3, 2007 2:18 PM | Report abuse

That's a pretty good list, Liz. I'd also second Rock and Roll High School, Valley Girl, and Some Kind of Wonderful.

I saw an early screening of Superbad last week, and it's already in my Top 10!

Posted by: frenchy | August 3, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Say Anything
Breakfast Club
Dead Poets Society (shame, shame, shame on the person who doesn't know why it's there)
and, Heathers!

My mom caught me watching Heathers when I was in Junior High and was so took awhile (and some impressive debate skills, I might add) to convince her that high school really is so bad that I could relate to a movie about killing the "cool kids".

Posted by: Seattle | August 3, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Uh, Drumline was based on college kids, frats, etc. not HS.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Suburbia (the 1984 film directed by Penelope Spheeris, not the newer movie of the same title). A B-movie punk classic!

Posted by: frenchy | August 3, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Renee Zellweger wasn't in Dazed and Confused. Joey Lauren Adams was.

Posted by: Anon | August 3, 2007 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I definitely think 10 Things I Hate About You should be included. I can watch that a million times.

Posted by: SKB | August 3, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I definitely think 10 Things I Hate About You should be included. I can watch that a million times.

Posted by: SKB | August 3, 2007 2:33 PM | Report abuse

If we were talking about a top-30 list, I'd include Shag (1989) with Phoebe Cates, Annabeth Gish, and Bridget Fonda. The perfect sleepover movie (if you didn't have to share a tv with your parents!)

Posted by: d-may | August 3, 2007 2:39 PM | Report abuse

SLC Punks...def number 1 my high school to college movie list.

Posted by: Geist | August 3, 2007 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see I'm in good comapny with Ghost World.

Project A-Ko? Are we required to limit ourselves to American live-action movies? If not I can think of a bunch of Japanese animated stuff to toss into the list, movies and TV.

Posted by: EricS | August 3, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

All of these are really good but I'd like to throw out "Drop Dead Gorgeous". Although it centers around the beauty pagent that Kirstin Dunst and Denise Richards are competing in, it is the Mom's (Ellen Barkin and Kirstie Alley) who take the cake. I put it in the same category (although not as high) as Heathers.

Posted by: D | August 3, 2007 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I think without a doubt that Fast Times is the best of all high school films, but that's just part of my generation.

I also think that Lucas is sub-par in every way and have never seen the interest.

There are many excellent films left off this list, including but not limited to:

1. The Chicken Chronicles (1977). This is sort of a proto-Fast Times. I read this paperback at the beach once, probably about 1979. It's the story of a kid who delivers fried chicken in Los Angeles in the summer of 1969 with NO goofy hippy commentary, just 1960s teenagerisms.
2. Cooley High. Wow. It's like a white teenage movie until the kids get falsely accused of stealing that car, then it was like I had no idea other kids couldn't talk their way out of trouble. Another great.
3. High School Confidential (1958). A stunning comedic story about drug use in high school. Just tremendously well-written and acted.
4. Rebel without a cause. duh! what are you, blind? what the hell??? you left that off the list?
5. High School Caesar. Not as well-made as the above two, but still a great film about juvenile delinquency.
6. High School (1968) the documentary rarely seen, mostly on PBS. Come on, that one is sooooo weiiiiird. How can you skip it?
7. Rock and Roll High School (1979). The high school aspect is a little weird in this surreal comedy, but in 1982 everyone but everyone watched this on betamax.

I understand that many of you never saw High School Hellcats, High School Big Shot, Platinum High School and all those 1950s drive in flicks that we all taped off the late late show in 1984, but seriously, there are a bunch of excellent films- COOLEY HIGH!- that were ignored for no reason except myopia.

Posted by: DCer | August 3, 2007 3:31 PM | Report abuse

'Rock and Roll High School' -- the Ramones' masterful film ovation to a particularly soused generation of teens, @1978-1984

Posted by: jamie | August 3, 2007 3:34 PM | Report abuse

'Rock and Roll High School' -- the Ramones' masterful film ovation to a particularly soused generation of teens, @1978-1984

totally agree about 'Fast Times' -- I'm class of '84 and that fiilm, more than any other captured suburban high schools at that time -- scene w/Ratner and his date ( at the restaurant is simply genius

Posted by: jamie | August 3, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

By the way, I am the only one who thinks John Hughes movies kinds of creepy.

Of course not. I remember one of my friends shouting after... perhaps Pretty in Pink or Sixteen Candles...

"Where are all the Black People?!"

and it being 20+ years ago someone shouted back, "Shut Up [blank]"

regardless of how lily white we and the audience were.

Posted by: DCer | August 3, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Fast Times at Ridgemont High should be higher. Other than that:

Napoleon Dynamite
Rumble Fish
American Graffiti

Posted by: sdimig | August 3, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I like your list, but these were some more of my faves
Weird Science
Some Kind of Wonderful (Oh, how I loved Eric Stolz in this role)
Say Anything
Pretty in Pink
Valley Girl
Can't Buy Me Love (who can forget the African Ant Eater Ritual)
License to Drive (a shout out to the Corrys)

Posted by: gk | August 3, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

These aren't the best of the best, but can you count yourself as educated about teenage trends if you haven't watched:

1. Riot on Sunset Strip (1967) a great, stunning film about the 1966 Sunset Strip riots. The kids hang out at Pandora's Box on the strip and watch the Chocolate Watchband perform. Channel 20 ran this ONCE around 1987 and I stared in utter awe. There is no other film that captures kids post-Beatles but pre-1967 except possibly...

2. That Thing You Do. These kids may be a bit old and 19 yrs old, I can't remember, but it sure reminded me of my friends who were in bands as teenagers thinking they were going to be huge because someone would put their record out, almost like...

3. Almost Famous. This was my life in high school writing about bands for the high school newspaper and fanzines, nothing captures that experience of being 17 and some rocker seeking you out because you aren't a jaded City Paper employee...

But if you count TV movies, then the after school special "The Wave" is everyone's favorite, but I also really liked 1983's High School USA.

Posted by: DCer | August 3, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

anyone remember last american virgin?
for some reason i remember a particular summer growing up that movie seemed to be on ALL the time

also i don't think taps has been mentioned

Posted by: Jenn | August 3, 2007 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Some other good ones that I don't think were mentioned yet:

Breaking Away
Mystic Pizza

(okay, maybe some of these are a little past high school)

Posted by: CJB | August 3, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

"American Graffiti"

Posted by: rogergoldleader | August 3, 2007 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else feeling the need to add a little cheer... Bring it On?

Posted by: Hey Mickey... | August 3, 2007 4:12 PM | Report abuse

no love for "Brick"?

Posted by: lewsid | August 3, 2007 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I know someone already mentioned these: My all-time favorite movie is Some Kind of Wonderful. I also love the Karate Kid.

How about Pump Up the Volume?

Posted by: Amy | August 3, 2007 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Rebel Without A Cause
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
American Grafiti
Napoleon Dynamite
To Sir With Love

Posted by: tanaS | August 3, 2007 4:25 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Vic63 | August 3, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Must add to the shout-out for Valley Girl--that movie and Fast Times at Ridgemont High so, like, totally represent my years at a high school located in a large surburban area with close proximity to the ocean.

Posted by: Imlikesosure | August 3, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

What about "Carrie"? Other than the bucket of bovine blood and perhaps the telekinesis, I think it nails the high school experience squarely on the head (so to speak).

Posted by: unclestevie | August 3, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Sorry but you left out "Cooley High". The experiences in this movie were right on time with how things were in my neighborhood back in the 60's & early 70's. It was so much fun.

Posted by: gmonie | August 3, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Geez, I mean bucket of porcine, not bovine, blood. Duh.

Posted by: unclestevie | August 3, 2007 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I second Pumo Up the Volume.

Of course my family did move to Arizona when I was in HS.

If you broaden the conversation to TV, don't forget The Wonder Years.

Posted by: Falls Church, VA | August 3, 2007 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Here's an odd one that I haven't seen on the list: 1979's "Over the Edge," with a pre-Outsiders Matt Dillon. There isn't much time spent in the high school itself, but the characters are all high school aged, and the angst they feel about being carted out to a planned community in the middle of nowhere still resonates.

Posted by: Tom D | August 3, 2007 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Are there any "high school" movies that aren't all white kids or starring white kids? Jeesh!

Posted by: ANon | August 3, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I've read through the list and no one has mentioned "Gregory's Girl," a lovely Scottish movie. Must have been made 20 years ago at least. Very sweet.

Posted by: JLC | August 3, 2007 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Well ANon, there's Battle Royale...
but my HS was more like Heathers

Posted by: Quintilus Varus | August 3, 2007 5:18 PM | Report abuse

10 of the best 'Teen' Movies of all time:

1)'If'-Malcolm McDowell's debute and fantasy school yard revolution.
2)'Quadraphenia"-The greatest Rock Opera and the Who's brilliant tribute to teen alienation.
3)'Grease'- Pure shlock but the best of the shlock. And Who would'a thunk Olivia Newton John and John Travolta could click-They did, it did its a Classic.
4)'BlackBoard Jungle'- Sydney Poitier's debute and the template for all other High School Flicks. And Vick Morrow could flick a shiv like nooooo other high school student before or since.
5)'Rushmore'-The funniest and cleverest school yard high jinx ever. On par with F/T at Ridgemeont High (Makes Ferris Bueller look like Bo-Peep).
6)'The Chocolate Wars'-Dead on High School irony and Gestapo upper classman terrors.
7)'Rebel without a Cause'-It's why James Dean was a star of the first magnatude and why he dethroned Brando as the King of the Brooding Continance.
8)'American Grafetti'-Harrison Ford's Best (only ?)acting credit and possibly the finest cinematic depiction of pre-Beatles small town America. And Wolfman Jack Comming at you Baby!
9)'Splendor In The Grass"- Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood,young America never looked better. America's answer to the French New Wave and an American 'Umbrella's of Cheurbourg'.
10)'My Own Private Idaho'-Why the loss of River Phoniex at such a young age was so tragic for film. Truley and accurately depicted the Lost Boys of the last part of the 20th Century.

Posted by: Birddog | August 3, 2007 5:23 PM | Report abuse

I agree that "American Grafitti" is an inexcusable omission. But two others that certainly deserve to be in the top 10 are "Ferris Beuller's Day Off" and "Election."

Posted by: Kelly Williams | August 3, 2007 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Renee Zellweger isn't in Dazed and Confused that is Joey Lauren Adams.

Posted by: Mikael | August 3, 2007 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone remember My Bodyguard?

Posted by: Jersey City Johnny | August 3, 2007 6:28 PM | Report abuse

As long as we're being wildly nostalgic . . . how about:

"Blackboard Jungle"
"A Summer Place"
"The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie"

Posted by: Fairfax | August 3, 2007 7:10 PM | Report abuse

"He had his testicles all over me!!"
"Tenticles. I think you mean 'tenticles'"

I graciously submit "Better Off Dead"

I want my two dollars!!!!

Posted by: Karen | August 3, 2007 7:57 PM | Report abuse

RE the 10 people who keep saying: "Renee Zellweger isn't in Dazed and Confused that is Joey Lauren Adams."

Yes, Joey Lauren Adams was in Dazed, but SO WAS Renee. She's in like 2 seconds, basically as an extra, but she's there.... someone linked to a screenshot above...

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 8:05 PM | Report abuse

I got to add Not Another Teen Movie. It perfectly skewers everything John Hughes and Freedie Prinze Jr movies.

Posted by: michael | August 3, 2007 8:23 PM | Report abuse

American Graffiti
Pretty in Pink
Rebel Without a Cause
My Own Private Idaho (for homeless teens)
Fast Times
and I'd second The Prime of Ms. Jean Brodie, though I'd doubt many would see it.

Posted by: Lesley | August 3, 2007 8:43 PM | Report abuse

My favorite high school movie of all time is Better Off Dead.

I would add Back to the Future to the list as well.

Posted by: L L | August 3, 2007 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Ordinary People had a pretty good coming-of-age aura to it.

Posted by: L L | August 3, 2007 8:46 PM | Report abuse

What high school is really like, or what you wish it were like? These are Hollywood versions of high school too. They may not follow Hollywood's regular mold, but they are still molded and entirely unrealistic. No one would watch a movie that showed what high school is really like.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 9:07 PM | Report abuse

1. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
2. The Breakfast Club
3. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
4. Stand and Deliver
5. Dead Poets Society
6. Carrie
7. Heathers
8. Pretty in Pink
9. American Pie
10. Just One of the Guys

Posted by: cb | August 3, 2007 10:30 PM | Report abuse

I know it's not a feel good movie because of the ending...but Taps with Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn and Tom Cruise was quite a movie. School Ties was also good - early Chris O'Donnell, Brendan Frasier, Matt Damon and even Mr. Affleck was a side character.

Better Off Dead - best line was the deadpan delivery by Lloyd - "Gee Ricky, I'm sorry your Mom blew up"

While we're on the John Cusack theme - Say Anything, One Crazy Summer, Sixteen Candles (he was Anthony Michael Hall's friend)

Stuff that came out after I was in high school, but was on HBO a bunch - Drive Me Crazy, Can't Hardly Wait, Jawbreaker, Mean Girls


From high school days - Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, Lucas, Red Dawn (Wolverines!!!), The Outsiders, Karate Kid, Fast Time at Ridgemont High, One of the Guys, Hiding Out, Morgan Stewart's Coming Home


Posted by: BCM, NY | August 3, 2007 10:31 PM | Report abuse

According to this list, no one was in high school before 1980.

Posted by: Dave | August 3, 2007 11:04 PM | Report abuse

American Graffiti, Fast Times at Ridgemont. Blackboard Jungle is an oldie but goodie. How about To Sir With Love? Takes place in England but teens with attitudes and growing pains are universal.

Ah- Rebel Without a Cause.

Posted by: itsagreatday | August 4, 2007 7:46 AM | Report abuse

thank you Birddog. Maybe there should be a list for people who have seen movies older than the latest graduating class of high school students.

Posted by: cevans | August 4, 2007 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Geez, I was thinking that according to this list, no one was in high school AFTER 1980!

Posted by: L L | August 5, 2007 1:06 AM | Report abuse

RZ is in Dazed and Confused. Rent the DVD, listen to the commentary, and you will learn the truth!

Posted by: a | August 5, 2007 6:34 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Palisades | August 5, 2007 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Election really captures the banality of the lives of the standard American high school teacher. As someone who has been on both sides, I think in many ways it's the most accurate portrayal of day-to-day existance inside the cement block walls.

Rushmore also captures the flipside of Reese Witherspoon's character -- big ups to Wes Anderson.

Posted by: JY Owen | August 5, 2007 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Another great high school film I haven't seen mentioned yet: does anyone remember "Permanent Record", a very early Keanau Reeves movie dealing with a suicide occurring within a close group of friends? I thought that was one of the best movies I'd ever seen when I was in high school; I saw it again a few years ago, and while I'm no longer quite as blown away by it, I am still surprised it hasn't seemed to make the canon.

Posted by: Doonesburied | August 5, 2007 10:39 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe only one person put "Shag" on this list. My sister and I have that movie memorized!

This is the MOST fun.

Posted by: oconus | August 6, 2007 9:17 AM | Report abuse

How about the boarding school portion of "Scent of a Woman"? Typical high school.

Posted by: Deborah K. | August 6, 2007 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone mentioned Last Picture Show? Or Rebel Without a Cause?
Wes Anderson's brilliant RUSHMORE
Or the basketball drama Hoosiers?

Posted by: North of everywhere | August 6, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I totally forgot about DEAD POET'S SOCIETY!!! Wow.

HOOSIERS is another out-of-left field one. Thanks!

Posted by: Margo | August 6, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Good to see Rebel Without a Cause getting a few mentions -- one of the first true-to-life teen movies.

Also, good to see a mention for Last American Virgin. Although the first 90 percent of the movie is farce, the ending is the most real and accurate and dead-on movie before or since regarding teen dating and teen relationships.

Posted by: ooyah32 | August 6, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Regarding Breakfast Club -- what if they were to have a reunion movie -- what would that be like? Could ANYONE have imagined in 1985 that geeky Anthony Michael Hall would end up like he is now on The Dead Zone?

Posted by: ooyah32 | August 6, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Where is "10 Things I Hate About You", "Pretty In Pink", and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"? Those all should be there!

Posted by: lydandy | August 6, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe "The Outsiders" is not on the list? Who did not read a S.E. Hinton book in HS. More important, you have a ton of actors in the film: Rob Lowe, Matt Dillion, Emilo Estevez, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, C. Thomas Howell and Diane Lane.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 6, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

No love for Cheats? Really funny.

Posted by: ex cap | August 7, 2007 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Have to second the votes for Ferris Bueller, Rebel Without a Cause, and Pump up the Volume (latter had Christian Slater discovering/broadcasting how the school purposely trying to get rid of all the outsiders, which of course united the whole school into listening to his illegal broadcasts. In junior high, I so wanted to be Samantha Mathis' character.)

Posted by: NoVa | August 7, 2007 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I didn't have time to read all of the comments but were St. Elmo's Fire and Good Will Hunting mentioned?

Posted by: Jessie | August 7, 2007 1:24 PM | Report abuse

St. Elmo's Fire was set in College.

What about Thirteen?

Posted by: val | August 8, 2007 8:56 AM | Report abuse

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