As long as there have been high schools, there have been teenagers with their share of ups-and-downs. How to get into the popular group? How to get into the right college? How to win the big game Friday night? How to win the heart of the quarterback on Friday night? Luckily, these filmmakers have the answers. From Molly Ringwald’s charmingly ’80s version of a teen princess to Tom Cruise dancing in his socks (and not much else), here are the top five movies about high school.
The Breakfast Club: High School Cliques on Film
Featuring the bulk of Hollywood’s Brat Pack (Emelio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, and Ally Sheedy), this John Hughes classic tells the story of five completely different students all sentenced to detention on a Saturday by their strict principal. With Estevez as the athlete, Ringwald as the princess, Nelson as the criminal, Hall as the brain and Sheedy as the basket case, the group fights, dances, reveals deep, dark secrets, and generally bond. A very funny and touching movie – and proof that everyone has their problems – The Breakfast Club is more than just another ’80s film.
Written and directed by John Hughes
Starring Emelio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, and Ally Sheedy
Running Time: 97 minutes
Grease: High School in the 1950s (as Imagined by the 1970s)
With a cast of actors much older than the high school characters they were portraying, Grease still manages to work – and does it with panache! The classic story of the relationship between good girl Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and bad boy Danny (John Travolta), all of the predictable high school problems are present here: puppy love, teenage pregnancy, what to do after graduation. The music, outlandish costumes, and bright colors keep the film from getting too bogged down in the problems of adolescence, though, and the overall message seems to be: enjoy it while you’re young!
Directed by Randal Kleiser
Starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta
Running Time: 110 minutes
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer: Dating the Older Man
In this hilarious screwball comedy, a pair of sisters get mixed up with playboy Dick (Cary Grant) with very strange results. When Dick finds himself in front of Judge Margaret (Myrna Loy) to be sentenced for his part in a barroom brawl, she eventually comes to realize that her younger sister Susan (Shirley Temple as the bobby-soxer) has fallen in love with this very man! She thus forces Dick to date Susan until her little sister gets over him – never suspecting she’ll fall for him herself. Cary Grant gives one of his best performances as the vexed artist and Shirley Temple is earnest and in love. From basketball games to the soda shop, the classic high school markers are all here – only it’s Grant who has to put up with them!
Directed by Irving Reis
Starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and Shirley Temple
Running Time: 95 minutes
Risky Business: Don’t Try This at Home
When his parents go out of town, Joel (Tom Cruise) gets excited at all of the possibilities – after all, he’s home alone! But when he accidentally gets involved with a prostitution ring, he’s in over his head. Cruise is charming, of course (the legendary singing without pants scene is still a classic) and provides a great view of the stressed senior who just wants to let go! College admissions, illicit parties – except for the prostitution part, most high school students should recognize a few elements of their lives here. A refreshing high school picture from the guy’s point of view (Ferris Buller’s Day Off is great for those still left unsatisfied!)
Directed by Paul Brickman
Starring Tom Cruise
Running Time: 98 minutes