This week has been all about remembering our memories of being a student, and so what better way for today’s Friday Movie Flashback installment to fit into the theme by looking at some of the most renowned films portraying high school life across the decades?
“Rebel Without a Cause”
Director: Nicholas Ray
The late movie icon James Dean topbilled this film as 17-year old Jim Stark, a rebellious teenager who enrolls at Dawson High School and defies the local school’s bullies. He also disobeys his parents, and his line “You’re tearing me apart!” is one of the more recognized from the film. “Rebel Without a Cause” also starred young stars Natalie Wood as Judy and Sal Mineo as Plato, and was added in the US Library of Congress’ National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” in 1990.
Director: Randal Kleiser
Set during the summer of 1958, this film starred John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson, high school lovers who first met during vacation at a beach. “Grease” was based on the 1971 musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Did you know that “Grease” was named after _greasers_, a youth subculture during the 50s that originated “among young northeastern and southern United States street gangs,” whose members had distinct greased-backed hairstyles? Anyway, “Grease” is said to be the US’ highest grossing musical to this day and is included in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years lists, namely 100 Passions (#97) and 100 Songs (#70 for “Summer Nights”), as well as its Greatest Movie Musicals list (#20).
“The Breakfast Club”
Director: John Hughes
“The Breakfast Club” is widely regarded as one of the greatest high school movies of all time. It had young actors Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy portray stereotypical characters (a “criminal,” “princess, “brain,” “athlete,” a “basket case,” respectively) who are stuck together in detention one Saturday and eventually discovers more about one another. In pop culture, the film was dubbed as the “quintessential 1980s film” while the lead actors of this film were popularly known as the Brat Pack along with a few other young stars of that decade. “The Breakfast Club” was part of various best films lists, namely The New York Times’ Best 1000 Movies Ever, Empire magazine’s The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time list, and Entertainment Weekly’s 50 Best High School Movies.
“10 Things I Hate About You”
Director: Gil Junger
This movie was a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” with the title having originated from the title of the commonly quoted poem by lead female character Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) for Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger). Kat and Patrick, as well as characters Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik), Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan), and Michael Eckman (David Krumholtz), among others, were students at the fictional Padua High School whose names and characters were references to things related to Shakespeare and his other works.
Incidentally, all of the first four films in this list have all been included in Entertainment Weekly’s 50 Best High School Movies with “Rebel Without a Cause” at #4, “Grease” at #21, “The Breakfast Club” at #1, and “10 Things I Hate About You” at #49.
“The History Boys”
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Unlike the rest of the films in this list, “The History Boys” hails from the UK and was based on Alan Bennet’s 2004 stage play of the same name. The film was set in 1983 at an all boy’s grammar school in Sheffield where a group of boys were able to achieve their school’s highest ever scores in the A-level exams and are therefore aiming to enter either of two of Britain’s prestigious universities, Oxford or Cambridge. “The History Boys” are Crowther (Samuel Anderson), Posner (Samuel Barnett), Dakin (Dominic Cooper), Timms (James Corden), Akthar (Sacha Dhawan), Lockwood (Andrew Knott), Scripps (Jamie Parker), and Rudge (Russel Tovey). In 2006, the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures in the US named the movie as one of its Top 10 Films in that year’s awards.
Now, we know that there are dozens of films about high school that have been released through the years, which was why coming up with just five was a bit challenging! That’s why we want to know, what’s your favorite? Do share with us in the comments section below!
Like this article? Check out our articles from the Friday Movie Flashback series in the Lomography magazine!