Writer: Riley Glenn
As many of us on The Drive staff graduate and move on to the next phase of our lives, whether that be college or working, I felt like now would be the best time to examine the movies that have been made about the past 4 years of our lives. These “high school movies” do their best to capture the experience that almost every young person goes through. Many do a pretty spectacular job at capturing the so called “good” things such as music, school, and jobs; while also capturing the “bad” things such as drugs, sex, and social separation.
In this article I will do my best at ranking these, what I will be calling “high school movies”. Before I begin, however, I need to start by saying a couple things.
First of all, I will be looking at these through a couple of lenses. I will be looking for their cinematic merit, how well they capture the high school experience, their social relevancy, and how well they age. I will be excluding certain movies, though, due to the fact that they deal with certain issues, with high school being a backdrop. Movies such as Juno, Bring it On, Dead Poets Society, and Friday Night Lights (as well as the nine million other football movies); I will not be considering in my list because they deal with very specific aspects of the high school experience, rather than the whole thing. However, and this is very tough for me because I love this movie, I will not put The Outsiders on my list because while some characters are in high school, not all of them are, and high school is not the main focus of the movie. Also, I will be listing movies that are considered mainstream. Nobody would want to see my list of underground movies that people have not heard of, that’s not fun.
Secondly, this list is subjective. You will most likely disagree with me on a lot of what I say in this, and I want you to. I do not wish for you to have the exact same movies on your list for the exact same reasons (unless of course you feel I have provided sufficient evidence for whatever I am talking about, then by all means, go ahead). I will also say that I am watching this movie as Riley Glenn; a white, middle class male. There could be some movies on here that I favor because I am familiar with the subject matter. You may favor other movies because of your experiences and that is perfectly fine and normal. Also, as someone who looks at and reviews movies constantly, and as someone who reviews movies deeper than the average person, I may be more critical and harsh on movies than expected.
Finally, there are certain movies that I just do not like. If you know me, you know that I hate the movie Grease. And no, (mom), it’s not just because it’s a musical because I love musicals. Also, the movie Heathers will not be featured on my list because I do not like that movie either. However, those are discussions for a different day. Also, because I will be discussing multiple movies, I will rarely go into depth and plan to keep the reviews basically surface level. If at any point clarification is needed, or you want to discuss why I feel a movie is a specific number on the list, you can find my social media on the staff page. So without further ado:
#10: Sixteen Candles
Picture via HuffPost
Let me start by saying that just because this is #10, does not make this a bad movie. in fact, none of the movies on this list are bad. I may not like them all, but I would not put them on my list if they were bad. Anyway, this movie captures a lot of high school culture in it, as well as deals with the idea of people forgetting your birthday. However, I thought the whole big fuss made over everyone forgetting her birthday was a little bratty, but that’s just me. Of course, being that it is a John Hughes 80’s high school movie, you can expect the same things, and the fact that it will probably be good.
#9: The Perks of Being A Wallflower
Picture via the Odyssey Online
Before people attack me for not making this #1, just hear me out. This is a good movie, and I enjoy the dramatic light it shows. I enjoy the nod to the more hipster culture in which I fit, and I think it does a good job showing some of the more serious and depressing sides of high school like relationships, drugs, and mental illness; (the latter being something not recognized enough in movies like this). However, I do think this movie is overrated because of those things. It has good cinematography and a good story, but nothing that would really boost it to #1, at least in my opinion. But hey, it’s not as overrated as the next movie on my list.
#8: The Breakfast Club
Picture via WordPress
“What?! He didn’t put The Breakfast Club as #1?! That’s blasphemy!” First of all let me say this, I think The Breakfast Club is single-handedly THE most overrated high school movie of all time, and one of the most overrated movies of all time. I would almost venture into saying that I did NOT like The Breakfast Club, (which probably isn’t true, I just do not like the people that worship it). However, I can recognize a good movie when I see one. The Breakfast Club is an okay, if not good, movie; I will give it that. The ability to show the relationships between 5 different stereotypical students grow and reveal they are nothing like what they are perceived to be is very important. It does a good job at capturing the high school culture, and I always enjoy when a movie or show is set in one place. However, the main thing that killed this movie for me was too high of expectations that were set up by everyone worshipping the movie, and in my opinion, it is unmerited.
#7: Dazed and Confused
Picture via Weedist
Dazed and Confused is also a little bit overrated, but I think it is for good reason. The views on rock & roll, sex, and mainly drugs, as well as its ability to look at several different people across different cliques, bring depth into this movie. The choice to make this on the first day of summer was a good choice in my opinion, as it is not something usually shown or talked about in movies like this. I especially like Matthew McConaughey’s character as the ever-so-relevant college creep that still hits on younger high school girls.
#6: Napoleon Dynamite
Picture via IMDb
This was very hard to not put higher on the list. I love this movie and have always had a soft spot in my heart for it. It is one of the most quotable high school movies, (this and the next movie on my list), but it has a certain sense of dry humor that is not necessarily appealing to everyone. At the same time, the cinematic aspects are really nothing to hit home about. This is an amazing movie, and I am by no means knocking it- it is on my 50 top favorite movies list- however, its cult classic status and quotability are really the main and only things going for it.
#5: Mean Girls
Picture via Billboard
Ah yes, Mean Girls. This is probably one of, if not the, most popular and quotable high school movie, at least that has come out at the turn of the century. I feel like some may be disappointed because this is not higher on my list, maybe because it might strike differently for girls, I don’t know. Maybe the reason this is my #5 is the same reason my #2 is where it is.Either way, I love Tina Fey as well as everyone else involved with the SNL cast and what this movie showed about different cliques. Also, Cady undergoes one of the most intense character arcs in movie history, (and if you know me, you know I’m a sucker for character arcs). That being said, you would be out of luck if you expected to go into a high school and say “Nice wig Janis, what’s made out of?” and not hear somebody quickly shout “Your mom’s chest hair!” Or any of the other amazing quotes that have stood the test of time.
#4: Pretty in Pink
Picture via CraftHub
Okay, let me start out by saying that Duckie is probably my favorite character of any movie ever. He is definitely style and personality goals all the way. Props to the Duck-Man, he is who I strive to be. Anyway, Pretty in Pink does a pretty good job at capturing high school culture; the drugs and schoolwork play a good part in it. However, one of the main things I liked about this movie (other than Duckie of course), is A: its more dramatic times, and B: its ability to touch on the economic differences that make up most of high school.
#3: Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Picture via Fanart.tv
In my opinion, Fast Times does the best job at encompassing every aspect of a teenagers life, as well as all the different cliques. Between sex, drugs, working, mean teachers, and materialism, this movie does an amazing job at telling an engaging story, with a multitude of characters, and manages to stay relevant no matter when it is watched.
Picture via TV Tropes
Superbad is 100% my favorite movie on this list. It is possible that I am biased to this movie because I enjoy it a lot, or because I am a male who can identify with the movie. That being said, in my opinion, Superbad has an amazing arsenal of quotes and comedic talent driving the movie forward. Furthermore, the goal in this movie is one that I think most high school guys can identify with. Although some of the 2007 culture has grown to become strange 10 years later, this movie still continues to document the plight of young men all around the world.
#1: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Picture via Fanart.tv
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is by and large the best high school movie ever made, hands down. If you disagree with this statement, I have no problem arguing with you about it because it is a classic. Ferris Bueller is the high school kid that every high school kid identifies with and wants to emulate. We all have wanted to be able to skip class, not to mention to be able to do it with the talent and grace of Ferris. In my opinion, Ferris Bueller has the greatest balance of story, high school culture, quotability, and cinematic merit. Since its release more than 30 years ago, this movie continues to have relevance and can still entertain present high schoolers. John Hughes hit a goldmine with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and created the best high school movie.
Now, this was not an easy list to make. It took a lot of deliberation on my part, and I felt bad excluding some movies. I do not expect you agree with me, and I’d rather you not. Also, as I am typing this, I realized that I completely forgot to consider American Pie, but, in all honesty, you could just put that under Superbad because I like that movie more anyway. Also at this time, I’d like to reflect on the movies that were in consideration for me but didn’t necessarily make the cut. These are my “honorable mentions”; Easy A, Say Anything, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Clueless. I like mostly all of these movies and this was very difficult, but I think I made my point for this, and remember, I’m not saying that these are objectively the worst or best high school movies, this is just how I felt about them.