Highlighting high moments and low moments, these are the eight must-see movies before you leave high school.
1. Starting off my list is the 1993 classic about high school in the 70’s, Dazed and Confused. Keg parties, freshman hazing, championship football games, and a creepy David Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) are just a few 70’s staples present in this movie directed by Richard Linklater. The movie follows freshman Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins) as he outruns senior bullies, follows a group of senior partiers, and tries to fit in and find his place in the crazy hormone fueled experience known as high school. However, Dazed and Confused is not a strict coming-of- age story, simply put, this movie created a genre of it’s own: the “pot” movie.
2. The same director, Richard Linklater, also directed Boyhood (2014), an incredible coming-of-age story. This project follows the life of the fictional Evans family over 12 years – father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette), daughter Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and the son Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane). The audience watches this family grow and evolve in real time, actually watching the actors grow up over the 12 year production of the movie. It truly feels like you are seeing these kids and adults experience a genuine life. There are no crazy plot twists, dark foreshadowing, or insane climaxes; the movie showcases life in the most real and existential way possible.
3. If you have ever wanted to just not get out of bed one morning, if the school grind has pushed you just a little too far, then you might relate to director John Hughes’ Ferris Buellers Day Off (1986). The film chronicles the events of Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) as he enjoys a “fake” sick day. Ferris frequently breaks the fourth wall to explain to the audience the nuanced art of lying. This comedy places you in the head of a rebellious teenager.
4. John Hughes was also the mind behind Sixteen Candles (1984). Sixteen Candles follows Samantha (Molly Ringwald) as she tries to enjoy her 16th birthday party in the shadow of her sister’s wedding. But not all is lost when she learns she has gained the affection of Ted (Anthony Michael Hall). The only problem? He may be the only one who likes her, and she likes a senior. An incredible story of a teenager who suffers almostevery embarrassment possible, this film may seem lovey-dovey and gushy, but it really is a great heart-warming story of a teenage girl finding herself in high school.
5. Speaking of rebellious teenagers, Director Paul Brickman’s 1983 Risky Business is all about a goody-two-shoes turned pimp. Joel Goodson (Tom Cruise) is an All- American star student and jock faced with the difficult decision of picking an Ivy League college to attend (what a hard a life). However when his parents leave him home alone for the weekend, he turns his house into a brothel to pay off a prostitute to whom he owes money. Sporting much darker themes than the happy-go-lucky day of Ferris Bueller, Risky Business delves into the dark temptations that come with being a teen, yet still remains a comedy. The movie is also notable for the infamous scene danced to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock an’ Roll.”
6. At number six is a slightly more serious entry than the past three comedies. John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club was released in 1983 and is about five students from different cliques, brought together to serve a detention. Amidst the hijinks of pranking the overly strict principal, these students share truly heart-touching moments, transcending the barriers of friend groups and pouring their hearts out to each other. It is an excellent story about the truth of people and how there is often a lot more complex feeling behind the facade students show during school. The lessons are invaluable and characters are engrossing; the movie does not disappoint.
7. Director Mark Waters’ Mean Girls is a 2004 comedy all about cliques and the strict laws of popularity which govern the social world in school. Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) is a new girl at North Shore High and accidently falls into the clutches of the popular girls on campus, who are dubbed the “Plastics”. On the surface this zany comedy brings on plenty of laughs. However, it delves into the dangers of exclusive social cliques, and the harmful effects they can have on youth. And guys do not be turned away by the title, this is a powerful comedy with laugh-out- loud moments for everyone.
8. This next one is a personal favorite that you have undoubtedly heard of, even if you don’t know the movie well. 1999’s American Pie is the classic coming-of-age sex comedy by the Weitz brothers (Chris and Paul). It is a period comedy about the stereotypical high school males coming up on their last year in high school that satirizes the age-old acceptance ritual of sexual intercourse as a rite-of-passage.
These movies, although spanning vastly different genres and themes, show high school in all it’s glories and faults and deserve to be seen before you graduate.