Top 10 Back to School Movies

The mornings are getting cooler, Madden Football 2014 is out, and the streets smell like yellow bus gasoline and brown bag sandwiches. Whether we’re looking forward to it, or not, school is back in session. The time we spent sitting in a classroom 6 hours a day for 13 years really teaches us a lot about ourselves, and who we want to be (or not want to be). It’s a troubling time of life where, in the midst learning specific math and history as determined by a bunch of old people, kids also have to deal with learning about something just as important: Life. We all saw our crushes in the hallway, kids with troubled home lives, or great ones and friends become bullies, or even the other way around.
I don’t know about you guys, but movies shaped a lot of who I grew up to be. Movies can have a huge cultural impact on kids. They show us good music, good jokes, and sometimes heavy emotional dealings that just say to us “you’re not alone, and you’ll get through it.”
With that, here’s what I would comfortably say are the top 10 best movies to watch when getting back to school.

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#10. Carrie
Oh, how we all wish we had terrifying powers to sadistically screw with those bullies in High School. As we’re coming up on less than 60 days before Halloween, I couldn’t help but include Carrie White on this list. Anyone who dealt with taunting in grade school is certain to get some kind of gratification from watching Carrie’s “taste for terror.” And that’s absolutely okay. High school can be brutal. Oh yeah, and the introductory role for John Travolta, which isn’t necessarily a reason to watch it, just a fun fact for ya.

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#9. Napoleon Dynamite
One of the most awkward things ever filmed in history, and that couldn’t be meant in a more positive way. When this cheap indie film launched John Heder’s career in the summer of 2004, nobody could stop quoting this movie in the months following. It became an instantly beloved cult classic, and geeks throughout america became certain that they will succeed someday when they saw Napoleon give a rousing dance performance to Jamiroquai. Plus, those boots, man. Napoleon Dynamite could very likely be seen as the cornerstone of making the “awkward crowd” the coolest people in school.

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#8. School of Rock
Come on, guys. I couldn’t have been the only one who wanted a subtitle like Dewy Finn (Jack Black) after seeing this one. School of Rock was one of those movies with a cast of really smart kids that were restricted in their creativity and the entrance of this strange, pudgy, flippy-haired substitute teacher allowed them to unshackle themselves to realize their talent and accomplish something that people love. Not to mention it exposed us to all the great classic rock artists at the perfect age. I can thank for this movie for introducing me to Led Zeppelin. Kids growing up in Catholic or Boarding schools may also appreciate this movie greatly.

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#7. Super Bad
Christopher Mintz-Plass will never be known as anything other than his breakout role of ‘McLovin.’ Super Bad is not wildly original by any means, but the Jonah Hill / Michael Cera introduction for many people boils down to a really well done “buddy movie” that details two graduating seniors worried about losing their friendship with thing like college, women, booze and growing up getting in the way of their brotherhood. It could also be argued that it’s among the first movies to convey the humor of the millennial generation really really well.

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#6. Mean Girls
If there’s any movie that shows how horrifying cliques in High School can be it’s this movie. And Heathers, technically, but this one was written by Tina Fey and she’s totally the coolest of the cool. (But yes. Definitely also Heathers.)  Before she completely steamrolled her own career, Lindsey Lohan played the girl we all remember from high school changing her image entirely to fit in with the cool kids. Not only did Mean Girls get up on the soapbox for an entire generation to not compromise who you are for popularity, but to respect other people for being themselves just as well. Because you don’t want to end up like Regina George, right? Unless you have a death wish of course.

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#5. Grease
Whoa! John Travolta on this list twice?! Look, I’m not one for musicals, but you need to give credit where credit is due. Based in 1950’s America, Grease is about two lovestruck teens who just got to sing about it. The new girl Sandy (Olivia Newton John) and a local greaser (John Travolta) fall in love over the summer, but when they finally get to school those clique-y social barriers of Rydell High force them to be part of two completely different worlds. Sounds like Shakespeare, doesn’t it? Grease might be a bit cliche now, but it’s relevance remains, as seen whenever Spirit Week rolls around, every boy in the school is going to go for the easy slicking back like Danny Zuko for Decades Day.

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#4. Back to the Future
Ever have that problem where you end up in your high school and things suddenly feel different? Like your own mother having a crush on you and teaching your father how to be a man? Marty McFly is most definitely not a Time Lord, or a John Connor by any means, but he’s a hell of an underdog. Let’s face it, every dork wanted to have George McFly’s prom night. Everyone wanted to get the girl they would mary someday, deck that pain in the ass Biff and rock out to some confusing new wave of music. Don’t tell me you didn’t think about being late to school sometimes so you could skate there listening to Huey Lewis and the News.

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#3. Harry Potter and the…
If you were still in eliminatory school when this came about, I doubt you could look me in the eyes and tell me that you weren’t just dying to turn eleven years old for even the slightest hope that, like Harry, you’d receive a letter cordially inviting you to be swept away to a place to learn magical arts. I was one of those kids, and now even two years after the final movie, it astounds me how J.K. Rowling’s hero and friends really did mature almost exactly to the same pace as the majority of it’s film and novel audience. It could be safe to say that that kids born between the late 90’s and early 2000s still believed in magic even after finding out about truth behind Santa Clause. Harry Potter kept kids reading, and kept them studying for the day that they might join the Order and prepare to fight against The-A-Hole-Who-Should-Probably-Not-Be-Mentioned

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#2. Stand By Me
The time for Summer vacation is over, and maybe we didn’t all do what we planned to, but as years come and go everyone has stories big and small to share. Rob Reiner made a classic based on Stephen King’s short story ‘The Body’ delivering a touching story and breakout roles for Will Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldmen Jerry O’Connell and Kiefer Sutherland (pre ‘The Lost Boys’) Even with age, and being set in the 1950‘s, Stand By Me remains a story that shows the honest truth that friends fade away into memories of the past like the last days of summer that you treasured so dearly, but there’s no sense worrying about it so long as you’re living in those moments.

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#1. The John Hughes Collection: The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful
Look, the list was going to be completely unfair if it weren’t this way. You would all be rolling your eyes at the top five if I didn’t just lump them all together. John Hughes’ work is the definitive collection of films that so accurately captures the raw confusion and emotion that resides within teenagers through high school. His writing was so accessible, humorous and emotional that they can still stand as the undoubtable best to this day. From Saturday detention, playing hooky and finding love in all of the strangest places, these characters showed teenagers everywhere that we’re all pretty bizarre… some of us are just better at hiding it.

 

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Other Back to School movies to check out:

American Graffiti, Heathers, Back to School, Dead Poet’s Society, 10 Things I Hate About You, Good Will Hunting, Dazed and Confused 

 

Living in Boston, Massachusetts, Evan is a 22 year old English major and Journalism minor with a lifelong passion for film, games and literature. He is a living movie quotation machine, and obsessively analytical. Evan will always give an honest and fair opinion with an insertion of wit where appropriate. (Who are you kidding? It’s always appropriate.) He is an aficionado of superheroes, old school video games and (subjectively) awesome movies; his favorites in no particular order or categorization include: Legend of Zelda, Scott Pilgrim, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Lord of the Rings, Spider-Man, Metal Gear Solid, Memento, Shadow of the Colossus, Metroid, Alien, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Reservoir Dogs, and a lot of other stuff.
  • G K

    Mean Girls and the Breakfast Club are musts. I actually hated Napoleon Dynamite though.