Including these guys
High school looks so brilliant, with its jocks, its nerds, its cheerleaders, it’s ne’er do well, it’s brainiacs, it’s ugly people with wonderful singing voices, it’s endless optimism about being the best. Nothing like school back in Blighty, where the only thing that defines different clans is the size of the knot in their school ties. Where’s the extravagance? Where are the road trips? The Glee cubs? Why can’t we have big brass bands and rap-attacks during assembly? Which leads seamlessly to the greatest ten films about the US education system…
Unless you were the enemy, you’ll remember that horrible shrinking feeling of being not quite as great looking, or wealthy, or stylish as some of the other kids at school. And look at them now, driving around in their cars, with their brilliant jobs, their four holidays and year, and their beautiful wives. Yeah, you showed them! Hence why movies like Heathers are still such a delight. Christian Slater does his finest Jack Nicholson impersonation, as he and Winona Ryder decide to get one up on these fuckers.
2. Dazed and Confuzed
In England the last day of school is flaccid affair. The brave ones might tell a couple of teachers to fuck themselves, but the rest of us silently shake hands, and retreat home to drink five ciders and weep into a pillow. Unlike over in America, where those cats go berserko! Dazed and Confused chronicles the last day of school in the Summer of 1976, everyone drives around, getting a little bit toasted on the good stuff. Far out.
3. The Breakfast Club
John Hughes’ best movie, The Breakfast Club finds Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, and Judd Nelson all career peaking, whilst Molly Ringwald puts in the second finest performance of her career. It’s the story of a geek, a twit, a prom thing, a doofus, a goth, a hippy, a dimwit, a douche bag, a moron, a stupid face, a nomark, a male model, a twunt, and a numb-nuts all sitting around through a long Saturday detention, attempting to figure out how they will ever get along.
Don’t be fooled by the sparkle of the television series that followed, the original movie of Fame was gritty with a capital G and RITTY. Yes, there were moments when these impressionable young singers and dancers broke out into routines – at one point famously taking things to the streets. But the undercurrent of the whole thing is bleak. They deal with abortion, being forced to get tits out situations, drugs, a flame-haired young man with confusing homosexuality issues. It’s like a late night episode of Hollyoaks turned up to fifty, plus DANCING.
5. American Pie
One of the classic high school jaunts, American Pie rises above Porky’s, thanks to it being much funnier. Both films find a load of high schoolers trying to get laid, but American Pie tackles the whole thing with tenderness and sophistication. That said, along the way, there are scenes of accidental sperm drinking, pudding rape, and the term MILF is coined for public consumption.
6. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
The second of three John Hughes films to make the top ten, this chronicles a remarkably well-planned skive from school, which results in visits to art galleries, carnivals, and a mangled car. It also features Baby from Dirty Dancing playing out of character as a bee-atch. Mathew Broderick was never this good again, and days playing truant were never this good – a more realistic take on things would have found Ferris sitting in front of a Kyle and Trisha double bill, before spending the entire afternoon rifling through his own underpants. It also has the added bonus of Mia Sara, one of our many forgotten beauties.
The story of a small group of high school students on the quest for sex, yada yada yada etc… Like American Pie, the key difference here is that it’s funny and tender in equal measure, and it focusses on the tender bromance between two best friends, as has become the staple in Judd Apatow movies. Plus it has a little more in the canon, in the form of McLovin – the geeky sideshow character, who gets to ride with the police. With hilarious results etc…?
8. Pretty In Pink
Ringwald’s tour du force. She plays a poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks – who is so poor she builds her own clothes from old curtains and bits of scrap metal – falling in love with a socialite called Blane, played by the hamster-cheeked Andrew McCarthy. Cue a Romeo and Juliet-like tale of love against the odds, as Blane’s sneering rich kid buddies repeatedly refer to her in dustbin terms, sometimes even to her face!
9. Peggy Sue Got Married
Make no mistake about it, we are enormous Kathleen Turner fans, and this is by far her best time traveling high school film – so good that it just managed to keep Back To The Future out of the top ten. Turner plays Peggy Sue, a bitter soon-to-be divorcee who passes out at a high school reunion, and ends up back in time at actual high school. There, she decides to relive her younger years, only this time, she’s going to get things right. That means dating a pretentious beatnik, making friends with some nerdy bloke, and then fucking it all up by basically marrying the same bastard she’s trying to divorce. From the director of The Godfather.
It was always going to be a very close battle for the final spot on the list, and Election just ousted Grease, Napolean Dynamite, Rushmore, and Scream at the very last minute. Reese Witherspoon is a politician in the making, running for High School President, whilst Matthew Broderick has gone from Bueller to teacher. It’s a weird film, and Witherspoon has never been better – even when she won the most coveted of golden dildos.