As September winds down and summer turns into fall, it’s time to leave summer vacations behind and start getting back into the swing of things. For many, that includes being back in school. For those of us who are a few years removed from high school and college, the only time we really think about being back in school is when we have those nightmares about taking a final for a class that we’ve never even gone to.
But aside from homework and tests, there were good things about being in school. They may not always come to mind easily, but sometimes watching a movie set in high school or college will bring back one of those memories. So, without further ado, here are eight movies that are sure to make you long for the days you were back in school.
Animal House (1978)
It’s almost impossible to make a list of films about college and not include Animal House. The quintessential film about fraternity life, it pretty much put toga parties on the map. Though fraternity life at most colleges now is a far cry from the antics of Animal House, this was one of the first movies to really explore fraternity culture on college campuses and let to it becoming a subject of movies for decades to come.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
The Breakfast Club is the quintessential high school movie made by John Hughes, who is known for his slice of life films about high school students. A group of students from all different backgrounds are stuck at school for Saturday detention, and are instructed to write an essay about “who you think you are.” As they are stuck together in the library all day, they begin to open up to each other about their personal lives and learn they have a lot more in common than they ever thought. While some friendships and relationships form, their biggest takeaway is how they now see each other differently after learning about each other’s problems. In many ways, The Breakfast Club changed the high school experience, and is practically required viewing for all high school students. Its influence can be seen in movies, and in schools, even in the present time.
Charlie Bartlett (2007)
At its heart, the message of Charlie Bartlett is something we can all relate to. Though he goes about it in unconventional and probably “wrong” ways, Charlie just wants to make friends at school. After being kicked out of private schools and having to attend public school, Charlie ends up making friends by using his mother’s habit of sending him to psychiatrists to his advantage by acting out the symptoms of his classmates and giving them the medication he is prescribed. He ends up making genuine friends and falls in love with the principal’s daughter, all the while inspiring the student body to stick up for themselves and take action against the school’s administration. Though the plot is a bit outlandish, Charlie Bartlett looks at a lot of issues that high schoolers face with heart and humor.
In many ways Clueless defined the high school experience for kids who grew up in the mid-90s. The clothes, the vernacular, the attitude, the music — everyone wanted to be Cher and her friends. Released in 1995, it became the definitive high school movie for the 90s and is still beloved to this day. Loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, the movie follows Cher, a well-intentioned rich Beverly Hills teenager, and her group of friends as they navigate the high school experience. For Millennials, this movie is bound to make you nostalgic even if you weren’t in high school when it came out.
Sometimes when singing and high school are mixed, you get Glee. Other times you get Grease, based on the musical of the same name about two high school students who fall in love in the 1950s. A throwback to a different era even when it was released, Grease is love story about preppy Sandy and greaser Danny and their friends and the different cliques at Rydell High. The movie mixes fun and romance in a way that makes it palatable even to those who don’t enjoy musicals. Featuring one of the best movie soundtracks of all time, it’s hard to not revere Grease as one of the best high school movies of all time.
Legally Blonde (2001)
While getting into Harvard Law School definitely isn’t quite as easy as Elle Woods made it out to be, we sure did believe in and felt inspired by her when Legally Blonde first came out. Initially applying to Harvard to try to get her boyfriend back, she ends up being one of the best students in her class and succeeds in ways that no one thought she would. Law school probably isn’t as fun as the movie makes it out to be, but it’s hard to not see Elle in this movie and feel somewhat inspired. Legally Blonde is all about girl power and the underdog succeeding in a tough college environment, and really, what more can you ask for?
Pitch Perfect (2012)
Aca-scuse me? Though many people view Pitch Perfect as just being Glee for college students, it really captures the fun of making new friends and joining a group in college. The movie follows Becca who doesn’t want to be in school in the first place and reluctantly joins the Barden Bellas, but eventually comes to love her time with the group and becomes friends with all its members. Throw in some girl power, singing, and romance, and Pitch Perfect is one of the most humorous and fun looks at the experience of being a college freshman.
There is a lot of heart, and a lot of truth, at the core of Superbad. Best friends Evan and Seth face trying to get dates and an uncertain future after their senior year of high school. Though there’s a lot of sex and bro humor in the movie, Superbad is really about the challenges of friendship when both people realize they are destined for different things and how much two friends can really care for each other. For those who were in high school in the mid-2000s, there is a lot to related to in this movie, despite the outlandish party scenes. While not a classic teen movie yet, if time is kind to Superbad, it could end up being one of the quintessential teen movies of the early 2000s.
No matter what your high school or college experience, at least one of these movies is bound to make you nostalgic for that time in your life. These movies showcase the varying school experiences people can have, and a few of them even defined the school experience for that generation. Though it’s really hard to capture the feeling of being back in school, in one way or another, these movies do just that.
Have a favorite movie about high school or college that didn’t make the list? Feel free to share in the comments!