29 School Movies That We Give an ‘A’ for Entertainment Value
Class is in session. Sadly, legions of kids know this to be true, as they begin to head back to school for another year of filling their brains with knowledge.
What goes on in the classroom is only part of the education, though. Hollywood has a long history with school on the big screen, with many films telling stories that take place on campus, whether in kindergarten or in college. And one thing is for sure: what happens at students’ desks can propel a story in the outside world.
There is no shortage of movies about school. Here’s a glimpse at just a few of the notable ones. Some are classics, some you may have forgotten about, but one thing is for sure: you’re about to get an education in the history of school movies.
School Ties (1992)
Anti-Semitism propels this heavy drama about a Jewish student (Brendan Fraser) who deals with prejudice. In retrospect, the film is probably most notable for starring a pre-famous Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
Dead Poets Society (1989)
One of Robin Williams’ signature roles, he stars as John Keating, a prep school teacher whose unorthodox methods and pleas for students to think for themselves has tragic consequences.
Old School (2003)
Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson are 30-somethings who start a fraternity. It’s one of Ferrell’s most beloved movies and the scene where he goes streaking is an absolute riot.
Andrew McCarthy, in his film debut, is a college student who has an affair with his roommate’s mother. The roommate is played by an on-the-cusp-of-stardom Rob Lowe. The film was also the first for John Cusack and Virginia Madsen.
Mean Girls (2004)
Newsflash: high school is cut-throat, what with all the backstabbing and gossiping. A pre-punchline Lindsay Lohan stars as a girl learning just how brutal a place high school can be.
The Principal (1987)
James Belushi is the principal of an inner-city high school determined to clean things up. Naturally, it’s not so easy. If it was, there wouldn’t be a movie, right?
Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Glenn Ford is a World War Two veteran determined to make a difference when he takes a job at a tough inner city school. The film, which also starred Sidney Poitier, was nominated for four Academy Awards.
Dangerous Minds (1995)
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: a military veteran (Michelle Pfeiffer) who takes a job at a rough-and-tumble school encounters all sorts of hardships while bent on getting through to the students. This drama, based on a true story, may very well be best remembered for giving us Coolio’s classic “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
Lean On Me (1989)
The trope of a resolute educator out to clean up a messy urban school continues with this true story of Joe Clark (played by Morgan Freeman), a New Jersey principal who went to drastic measures to turn around his high school.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Hands down, this is the best movie about playing hooky ever. Ferris, brilliantly played by Matthew Broderick, remains one step ahead of his principal, Mr. Rooney, as he and his girlfriend and best pal enjoy a day of fun when they should be in school.
As cool as Broderick was as Ferris Bueller, that's how square he is in this clever comedy. He's a high school teacher and Reese Witherspoon is an overachieving student who leads to his undoing during a student government election.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Cameron Crowe went undercover to get a glimpse at what really goes on in high school. The result? Sex, drugs and scalping. This comedy is a classic and features a stellar cast, including future Oscar winners Sean Penn, Forest Whitaker and a then completely unknown Nicolas Cage, in a very tiny role.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Five very different students are forced to pass the time together in Saturday morning detention, while dealing with an angry proctor. It's an '80s classic and underscores just how much director John Hughes (who also helmed Ferris Bueller's Day Off) understood teenagers.
Easy A (2010)
Emma Stone stars as a teen whose reputation takes a hit after lying about losing her virginity in this modern telling of The Scarlet Letter.
An unabashed pop culture phenomenon with tremendous staying power, this classic musical about summer lovebirds who reconnect at school propelled John Travolta, already a star thanks to Welcome Back, Kotter, to superstardom.
School of Rock (2003)
Jack Black won raves for his role as a substitute teacher who turns a class into a rock band.
Never Been Kissed (1999)
Drew Barrymore plays a reporter -- who was a total geek in high school -- who goes undercover for a story on what the current teenage scene is like. Things blow up in her face.
Stand and Deliver (1988)
Have you been waiting to see Edward James OImos on this list? Well, your patience has been rewarded. He garnered an Academy Award nomination for his role as Jaime Escalante, the real-life teacher who insisted his underprivileged students learn calculus. Yeah, sounds like a snoozer, but it’s actually a well-crafted film.
Can’t Buy Me Love (19870
Patrick Dempsey is a huge nerd who longs to be accepted, so he pays a popular girl to pretend to be his girlfriend. After duping his way into the in crowd, he learns a lesson about what real friendship means.
Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Arnold Schwarzenegger is an undercover cop forced to pose as a kindergarten teacher. A fish-out-of-water story, this one didn’t connect too much with audiences, but at least it gave us the famous "It's not a tumor!" line and for that we can't be too grateful.
Animal House (1978)
College life gets the ultimate treatment in this classic about a rogue fraternity.
Van Wilder (2002)
Ryan Reynolds is a college student who’s been in school so long he knows the ins and outs of university life to the point he doesn’t want to leave.
Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
Long before The Big Bang Theory made geekdom cool, this comedy pitted the socially awkward tri-Lambs against the jock Alpha Betas.
Back to School (1986)
Rodney Dangerfield’s Thornton Melon goes back to school with his son and all sorts of hijinks ensue.
21 Jump Street (2012)
Based on the ‘80s Fox show, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play cops who must go undercover at a high school to bust a drug ring. The comedy is one of the better big-screen adaptations of a TV show and spoawned a successful sequel that took place at a college.
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Cut from the same cloth as Dead Poets Society, Julia Roberts plays a teacher at a 1950s girls school who makes her students question the roles they’re expected to fill.
Higher Learning (1995)
This tense ‘90s drama explores issues of race, anti-Semitism and sex on a college campus. In today’s political climate, it’s still relevant.
Real Genius (1985)
Val Kilmer headlines this comedy about a group of brilliant college students who discover they’re building a weapon for military use.
The Faculty (1998)
What happens when aliens take over a sleepy high school? Well, you get an eclectic cast to help show you. Jon Stewart, Usher, Salma Hayek, Elijah Wood, Jordana Brewster and Josh Hartnett are just some of the names who starred in this flick.
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