13 Movies That Will Put You In the Mood To Head Back to School
The Back-to-school season is in full swing. Even if your own high school days are (thankfully) long gone, here are some of the greatest high school movies to get you in the back-to-school spirit, and maybe even teach you a few life lessons along the way (because that’s what high school movies are for, right?)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
In what many consider to be the best high school movie ever made, five kids from different cliques (an athlete, basket case, princess, brain, and criminal) are forced to spend a Saturday in detention together and discover they have a lot more in common than they ever would have thought. The lesson: don’t judge someone until you get to know them.
Seth and Evan are two nerdy guys who get into all sorts of (hilarious) trouble trying to be “cool” and score booze for a party hosted by the girls they like. In the end, though, it turns out the girls they were trying so hard to impress actually like them just the way they are — dorkiness and all. The lesson: don’t try to be someone that you’re not.*
*But if you do, at least pick a better alias than “McLovin.”
In Hoosiers (one of the best high school sports movies out there), a small town basketball team, led by a down-and-out coach (Gene Hackman), ends up making it to the state championships, beating lots of bigger, more athletic players along the way. Plenty of inspirational locker room speeches and final second buzzer-beaters make this movie a sports classic. The lesson: root for the underdog.
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Napoleon Dynamite is like, the embodiment of weird. But he’s totally cool with that. The lesson: be who you are (and dance like no one’s watching).
The original (and much better) Mean Girls gives us a glimpse inside the world of the most popular girls in school. And it’s not so pretty. The lesson: cliques are overrated.
Bring it On (2000)
In Bring it On, the best of the gazillion teen flicks that were so popular in the late 90s/early 2000s, Torrence (Kirsten Dunst), newly appointed cheer captain, learns that her team has been stealing routines* from a rival squad. Not only does she decide her team must come up with all new routines, she raises money so that their rivals can compete against them at the state championships. The lesson: it’s better to play fair and lose than to cheat and win.
*Tell me I’m not the only one that still can’t help chanting “Brr, it’s cold in here…” anytime I’m feeling a bit chilly?
Karate Kid (1984)
At the end of the film, during the championship fight, a hobbling, nearly defeated Daniel pulls out the Crane Kick and dramatically defeats his opponent. The lesson: even if things are looking pretty grim, never give up.
Orange County (2002)
In one of the most underrated movies of all time, Shawn (Colin Hanks) spends a lot of time being mad at his dysfunctional family for getting in the way of his dream of attending Stanford University and becoming a writer. But in the end, it’s his crazy family that provides the inspiration for his first book. The lesson: no matter how nuts they are, family is family.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Any good back-to-school movies list just has to include the cult favorite Bill & Ted, in which a couple of high school dudes travel back in time and meet a bunch of historical figures that help them with their history presentation. The lesson: turns out you can learn a lot from those old dudes from the past.
Freaky Friday (1976)
In Freaky Friday, a mother and daughter magically switch bodies and gain a new kind of appreciation (and respect) for each other. The lesson: being a teenager is hard; so is being a grown up.
This movie, about a teenager who takes on a city that outlaws dancing, definitely seemed a lot less cheesy when I was 9, but it’s definitely worth watching again to see Kevin Bacon’s sweet dance moves (it’s streaming on Netflix). The lesson: fight hard (or dance hard?) for what you believe in.
In this cinematic masterpiece that gave the world its first real taste of Paul Rudd, spoiled high schooler Cher learns that doing nice things for other people is even more fun than shopping. The lesson: helping others can be pretty rewarding.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
In this classic film about a kid’s epic day of playing hooky, Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The lesson: have fun.