It’s the time of the year that kids lament, and parents celebrate. Yes, it is time for the new school year to begin. As kids in brand new clothes, pile into bright yellow buses and suddenly your drive to work is even more dreadful, let me give you a list of school related movies for you to watch instead of doing your homework!
10. Summer School (1987)- Do not let your kids watch this one as they might actually want to go to summer school after this one. This is a fun comedy about a high school gym teacher, Mr. Shoop (Mark Harmon) getting stuck teaching the high school misfits in English class for the summer. Mr. Shoop tries to breeze his way through it but eventually he starts to actually turn into a teacher that cares. There are plenty of laughs from the class of odd-ball characters and I have a soft spot in my heart for Chainsaw and Dave, the class horror movie nerds! Check this one out, if you have not seen it, it is a surprisingly funny flick.
9. Taps (1981)- A military academy becomes a nerve racking stand off between the young cadets and the local authorities when the cadets take control of the school after their commander dies. An amazing cast of (then) young stars drive this suspenseful drama, keeping you glued in your seat. Timothy Hutton is the young cadet that takes charge of his fellow cadets, with a then unknowns Tom Cruise and Sean Penn in supporting roles. What I enjoyed most with “Taps” were the scenes between the young cadet leaders and the older leaders of the National Guard troops sent to remove the kids from the school. It is interesting how the movie shows the contradiction between what young men ready for a war, but having never been in one, think of as heroic and what the soldiers that have been in combat know as the real terror of war.
8. School Ties (1992)- This is one that may be off your radar, but well worth a watch. Brendan Frasier stars as David Greene, a star football player, from a working class family, that gets accepted to a rich prep school in the 1950’s. David becomes popular as he becomes the hero of the schools football team, but he has to hide the fact that he is Jewish from his friends. When they find out, David’s friendships are tested to the point of breaking. Like “Taps”, this is a well acting movie with a list of “before they made it stars.” As I mentioned the cast is lead by Frasier, but look for Matt Damon, Chris O’Donnell and Ben Affleck in some of their earliest roles.
7. Major Payne (1995)- Ok lets lighten the mood a little bit on this list. I have a weak spot for this movie, and it makes me laugh every time I watch it. Damon Wayans stars as Major Payne, a Marine special forces war machine assigned to a prep school to lead the cadets. Wayans is absolutely hysterical in this film! It is a simple comedy, but the laughs are all the way through it. You’ll find yourself routing for the kids as they try to win state competition for cadets.
6. Mean Girls (2004)- This is a sharp comedy about trying too hard to fit in to a certain clique in high school. Lindsay Lohan ( when she actually tried to act) plays Cady Heron, the new girl who quickly tries to get in good with the Plastics, lead by Rachel McAdams as Regina, the most popular, and mean, girl in school. The cast is excellent from top to bottom. With a great mixture of young talent like Lohan, McAdams and Amanda Seyfried, and vetern comic actors like Tina Fey, Amy Poelher and Tim Meadows, this movie really hits on the difficulties of high school for the kids and grown ups.
5. Scream (1996)- We can’t have a list like this without at least one horror movie on it! This is the one that really brought the self aware horror movie to popularity. This is a typical story of a teen girl terrorized by a killer, but Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson turn the genre on its side by making the characters smart-ass teens that know all the usual tropes of horror movies. This movie pokes fun at the way horror movies have a formula, but it doesn’t do so at the cost of true scares. At it’s core it is still a damn good scare fest! The opening scene with Drew Barrymore is one of the scariest in horror movie history.
4. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)- The one that started them all. If you haven’t seen this one, where have you been living for the last 30 years? Sean Penn steals the movie as wasted surfer dude Spicoli, but the cast is loaded with stars of the 1980’s. Screenwriter Cameron Crowe nails the feel of high school in the 80’s, and all the comedy and drama that went along with it. Yes, it is from a specific time period, but the themes it hits on are still relevant even in this social media age.
3. Stand and Deliver ( 1988)- What can I say, I love this movie! Edward James Olmos stars as real life calculus teacher, Jaime Escalante. It is an uplifting movie about a teacher that wants his students to look past their social surroundings, and see they are smarted than they have been told. Olmos absolutely owns this movie, bringing a mix of humor and heart to Escalante, and making me wish I had teachers like this. If you missed this one, I strongly recommend watching it as soon as possible!
2. The Harry Potter film series (2001-2011)- Ok I cheated a little on this one, but Hogwarts is such a character in every movie in this series it was hard to pick just one. Plus it is my blog, so suck it! Every one knows Harry Potter so I won’t bore with details, just simply say who didn’t want to go to Hogwarts? I mean I am an adult and I keep hoping an owl will bust through the door with my invite to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! ( dear God, I need a girlfriend bad)
1.Back to School (1986)- What better way to celebrate going back to school than with ” Back to School”? ( see what I did there?) This is a hilarious comedy with Rodney Dangerfield going back to college with his son. This is Rodney spouting one-liners from start to finish, with the college atmosphere being perfect for him to riff on. Look for a pre-Tony Stark Robert Downey, Jr. as Rodney’s son’s buddy Derek, as well as William Zabka, Johnnie from ” The Karate Kid”, playing the “bad guy”. This is just a lot of fun to watch and it never gets old!
So, there you have it, 10 movies to help you survive the start of the school year!! I realize they are mostly from the 80’s, that is because I am old! Do you have any suggestions for school based movies? I’d love to read them in the comments below. Don’t be afraid to participate. It is OK to be un-cool with The Movie Psycho!!
As always, thanks for your time.
The Movie Psycho