That’s it, the end of summer. Kids are back at school and the long, sunny(ish) days drawn in. In honour of the back to school blues, we are taking a look back over the best school-themed blockbusters to enjoy with your little (or big) ones this weekend.
Over the last few weeks our wonderful members have been busy voting on our social media platforms and telling us which school-themed films fill them with school-day nostalgia. A few were then chosen to review the most popular films, and here are the results:
Reviewed by Jill Andrew, Edinburgh. SFF member since 2011.
The iconic opening bars of that classic Simple Minds song will always, to me, be The Breakfast Club. The High School Saturday morning detention film that propelled John Hughes to the forefront as a director and introduced us to the young Brat Pack stars such as Emilio Estevez and Molly Ringwald.
The film is set in a Chicago High School on a Saturday morning in detention, where we are introduced to 5 teens who would never be together in any other circumstances. The Jock, The Princess, The Weirdo, The Nerd, The Tool and School Jerk. The harsh headteacher has no idea of the things they get up to whilst being bored senseless in his detention class. They slowly bond over their predicament and gradually learn to accept one another for what they all are – spirited individuals each with their own personalities rather than the stereotypical cliques they seem. It has a fab 80s soundtrack, and is one of the iconic High School films of all time. Blender (Judd Nelson) punching the air at the end of the film, is as iconic as the opening bar of the Simple Minds theme tune. A fab film that unbelievably is now 30 years young.
2) Clueless (1995)
Reviewed by Helen Morris, Manchester. SFF member since 2012.
Abandoning the semi-angst attitude found in numerous school themed films of the 80’s, Clueless is as colorful as its lead character Cher’s wardrobe, with an incredibly witty script.
The film follows 15 year old Cher and her school friends at a school in Beverly Hills. Cher uses her charm and looks to manipulate others and meddling in others business. Literally reshaping others’ lives, from color highlights to raising their popularity status, Cher constantly molds others in her own image, yet neglects to see her own faults or weaknesses. Eventually she comes to terms with her oblivious state and strives to be selfless (for indeed, “’tis a far, far better thing doing stuff for other people”).
Clueless sticks out to me as the best ‘school film’ as it successfully avoids any unpleasant teenage moments. Unlike others, repetitive themes in teen flicks take a back seat (crude sexual humor, perhaps a pregnancy scare, and humiliations galore.) Refreshingly, the worst peer pressure in Clueless may be proper color coordination. While Heckerling’s Fast Times At Ridgemont High adhered to many of the cliché plots of the teen comedy, Clueless wholly rejects them in favor of verbal quips and a blatantly optimistic attitude.
Best line? “So you’re probably going, ‘Is this like a Noxzema commercial or what?’ But seriously, I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl”
Reviewed by Paul Jones, London. SFF member since 2014.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off follows student Ferris’ school skiving shenanigans, in particular the motivation behind his ninth sick day of the term. Knowing he’ll struggle to get away with more days off before summer, Bueller plans to make the most of his last hurrah before moving into the adult world of responsibility.
The way John Hughes smartly disguises very real teenage problems within what is essentially an anti-authoritarian teenage joyride is brilliant. Ferris’ battle with looming adulthood, college, even marriage is handled superbly. Adults are taken for fools and sibling rivalry triumphs in the face of educational persecution.None more so are the adults mocked than at the very beginning. Lying in bed with faux sweaty palms is our teenage anti-hero Ferris Bueller, played by Matthew Broderick. His parents bought his little ruse and on the back of an iconic monologue prepares himself for sick day nine of the term. It’s hard to put my adoration of Ferris Bueller into words but if ever there was a one song that successfully sums up his contagious moxie it would be ‘Oh Yeah’ by Yello.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is my ultimate ‘school’ film (or rather lack of). Ferris’ irreproachable attitude to life, Cameron’s coming-of-age, Sloane’s perfection, Jeanie’s brooding sass, Jeffrey Jones’ Ed Rooney, Dean of Students, who deserves a blog all by himself, and for the soundtrack which oozes 80s chic and compounds Ferris Bueller’s relentless rewatchability. Stay in school kids!
Reviewed by Cat Wallis, Crawley. SFF member since 2015.
We all thought our school teachers may have been from a different planet but in this instance, it’s right. Six Breakfast Club inspired students (an Athlete, a brain, a basket case, a princess, a criminal & an additional new girl in school) discover all the teachers have been taken over by aliens & are planning to take over the whole school and turn them into mindless drones.
Made in the late 90s when Buffy The Vampire Slayer & the Scream movies ruled the small & big screens, this brilliant movie is brimming with pop culture references and nods to this time, the soundtrack consists of very 90’s versions of Bowie’s Changes & Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall.
A fantastic ensemble cast featuring Elijah Wood, Clea DuVall, Famke Janssen, Salma Hayek and Josh Harnett, and directed by Robert Rodriquez, this movie will make you pay a little more attention to your teachers during assembly! Essential back to school viewing.”
Best line? “I’m allergic” “yeah? I’m Portuguese, who cares”
5) Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Reviewed by Ron Moger, Kent. SFF Member since 2015.
Most films about US High Schools focus on either a troubled teen, a rebel, or an outsider we are supposed to believe is the “freak” but we know is actually normal as heck. Napoleon Dynamite is about none of these things.
Living in Idaho with remnants of his dysfunctional family, his parents are noticeably absent, his guardian uncle is a sleeze, and his brother is too busy talking to girls on the internet to give him any guidance.
Struggling with friendships and the very concept of girls, Napoleon is left with a view of the world where the promises of TV and film are real: martial arts might just get you the girl, dancing like a star can make you the coolest kid in school, and all this would be easily achieveable if everyone else in the world wasn’t just so damn stupid. In short: he’s a normal teenager.
Napoleon Dynamite doesn’t have a traditional plot structure, it doesn’t even have traditional characters, but it does have a warming, deadpan, humour running throughout that is nothing short of endearing. Where “Heathers” and “The Breakfast Club” try telling you to change in order to be successful, Napoleon Dynamite says that it’s just fine being who you are, and that’s why it might just be the best high school film out there.
Best line? “I see you’re drinking 1%. Is that ’cause you think you’re fat? ‘Cause you’re not. You could be drinking whole if you wanted to.”
6) Mean Girls (2004)
Reviewed by Jess Hamilton, Norwich. SFF member since 2015.
Lindsay Lohan plays new girl Cady Heron, the girl who has no idea what to expect of her new school. Beginning her junior year, Cady has a blank slate when it comes to the intricacies of social relationships due to being home schooled, leaving her trying to figure out the status quo in the pyramid of popularity.
The film follows Cady’s school year and her plot to expose the popular clique as the mean, superficial girls they are and learn their many secrets, she becomes her own arch enemy, a Mean Girl. From there, the movie takes many twists and turns and the true fun of thinking back to your own school day trials begins.
Comparing public school to the jungle it really is, Mean girls exposes the true volatility of schools for young girls. Despite revealing the dirty secrets of cliques and society – I believe it is the ultimate school film due to its laugh out loud moments, brilliant script writing and and all star cats.
Best Line? “It’s October 3rd”
7) Grease (1978)
Reviewed by Beth Coates, Birmingham. SFF member since 2013.
Who can deny they spent their school days dreaming of a high school romance when grease came around? The iconic film and its soundtrack has stood the test of time, and for good reason. Good girl Sandy Olsen spent the summer in California where she meets Danny Zuko at the beach. When her family’s plans to go back to Australia after summer fall through they end up staying in California, and Sandy joins the new school year at Rydell High… where, unbeknownst to her, Danny is also a student. It would seem that the fates are trying to keep the couple together, but Danny’s not quite willing to sacrifice his “tough/cool guy” reputation in favor of acting like the sweetheart she spent the summer with.
With a nod to all the coming of age problems kids face during their final years of education (sex, careers, relationships, cars, popularity) this film is the true back to school hero!
Best line? “Who wants their hair done by a slob?”
So Members- you have spoken! Enjoy a school filmed movie-thon with us.