Schools On-screen

By Maxine Mulvey

May 29, 2019 5 min read

School is back in session! First up: film class. Here are five school-themed movies to watch as the new year begins.

*'The Breakfast Club'

Starring Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez and Anthony Michael Hall, his 1985 cult classic dramatizes high school archetypes -- or so it seems. Five students meet at Saturday detention. At first, the students believe they couldn't be more different from one another. Individually, they're dubbed the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal. But as they spend the day together, these five former strangers come to realize they're not so different after all.

On the surface, this film may seem a simple story of detention gone awry. But beneath the surface, it holds important life lessons for schoolgoers young and old: There's more to people than stereotypes. No one's as put-together as they seem. Most anyone can become friends if they really listen to one another.

As the film's lovable characters smirk and scoff and laugh and cry, you'll be right there with them. Thank you, John Hughes.

*'Mean Girls'

Cady Heron is the new girl at school. Having spent the first 15 years of her life outside the American public school system, Cady shows up to North Shore High with no friends and struggling social skills. She's quickly picked up, though, by two lovable weirdos, Janis and Damian. Hooray for friends!

But then comes a slo-mo mouth-gaping introduction emblematic of the early 2000s. Cady lays eyes on the Plastics, a trio of almost-too-perfect girls -- apparently, the de facto leaders of the junior class. Like three Barbie dolls, these dramatized socialites awe their peers. To the student body, they're more gods than people.

Starring Lindsey Lohan, "Mean Girls" shows teens the toxicity of cliques, the dangers of peer pressure and the necessary solidarity among young women. It's also endlessly quotable. Few films have as much rewatch value.

*'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'

In this '80s classic, soon-to-be-graduating high school senior, Ferris decides that he is going to cut classes for a day and go adventuring.

Matthew Broderick as Ferris is larger than life. While viewers should avoid stealing their friends' fathers' Ferraris, in watching Ferris do so, they'll vicariously enjoy his wild ride through teenage invincibility.

Principal Rooney desperately attempts to catch him, but Ferris, like many high schoolers, is determined to outrun fate. A dreamy, feel-good film, "Ferris Bueller" will warm your heart and make you long for days gone by.

*'High School Musical'

The trilogy to end all trilogies, the "High School Musical" franchise features some of the most exuberant, angsty and all-around over-the-top musical numbers in Disney movie history. Will Troy get the girl? Will the jock learn to dance? Will the prom be everything they've dreamed of? Only one way to find out: Watch the baby star-studded cast -- featuring Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens -- prance and shimmy their way to graduation.

If you've already seen the films once, or five times, settle in for another round, proving to your friends that you really do know every word to "Bop to the Top." If only real high schools were filled with as much choreography.

*'Dead Poets Society'

Also an '80s film, "Dead Poets Society" stars the late Robin Williams, who plays professor John Keating. New to Welton Academy boarding school, Keating comes with new, unconventional ideas on how to teach English at the elite boarding school. Some he irritates. Others, bright-eyed and grinning, fall in love with Keating's passionate in-class demonstrations. His students, who for the most part grew up sheltered, were shuttled off to get a top-tier traditional education. But Keating encourages them to think outside the boxes they've been kept in, to throw off the chains of expectation and dive headfirst into the poetry life holds.

A small group of Keating's students discover that he used to belong to a club called the Dead Poets Society. They excitedly resurrect the club, holding secret meetings where they read the classics and dream aloud about their own budding careers.

As to be expected, some of the students' parents aren't so thrilled about Keating's unorthodox teaching methods. Get your tissues out for this one.

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