High School is the glorious time of your early life when you’ve (mostly) recovered from the crippling insecurities of middle school and realized you can take pride in being your own individual without reflecting on other people’s opinions. It’s the age of unrequited crushes and finding places to make out while living under your parent’s roofs, where everything seems to be the end of the world.
While countless films have captured the prom dances and the fate-deciding football games, only a handful of them actually capture how emotionally impacting the changes are and how not all school life is Ivys and Prom Royals.
16 Candles (1984)
A sloppy ride of missing each other, 16 Candles features Samantha “Sam” Baker (Molly Ringwald) and Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling), high school students who might just be on the path of falling in love. Sam’s 16 birthday is a disaster when her entire family forgets it on account of her sister’s marriage the next day. A quiz at school reveals her crush on Jake, and she keeps sneaking glances at him. At the same dance that night, they keep trying to reach and run away from each other.
While Jake and Sam find their happy ever after eventually, the ride involving underwear and banged-up cars is one to watch if you’re missing high school.
Say Anything (1989)
A heartfelt story of the quirky popular guy falling for the shy valedictorian, Say Anything tells the story of Diane Court (Ione Skye) and Lloyd Dobler ((John Cusack). Lloyd falls head over heels for Diane, who agrees to date him at first, but after her father’s disapproval, is forced to break up with him. The plot twist no one sees coming is a secret her father has been hiding from her.
Except for the embezzling father, saving money for your “financial independence”, which is not as common in a high school setting, the movie makes you long for the days of unrequited crushes and loyal to a fault best friends.
When talking about high school, there’s no way Clueless can be left out of the loop. The film offers immense laughter and nostalgia as it traverses through the many adolescent examinations with disarming ease: the driver’s test, the constant struggle to score better grades, the temporary fallouts between best friends over a guy they’re both crushing on, and the excruciating need to be just the most popular student.
Very loosely based on Jane Austen‘s Emma, Clueless is every high schooler’s life, minus (sometimes) the successful makeover and (always) hot ex-stepbrothers like Paul Rudd.
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Dazed and Confused is the perfect example of “high school kids doing high school kid things.” The movie is essentially plotless, just a group of high schoolers who plan to utilize their summer vacations getting drunk, getting high, and getting it on. Nothing iconic takes place in the movie, yet at the same time, everything is happening.
The movie is filled with football, hazing, raving, making out in hidden corners, and getting grounded, the ultimate definition of high school.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
If there were to be one film to capture the essence of the insecurities of all the different “groups” high schoolers are divided into, it would be The Breakfast Club. When five fundamentally different students are forced to attend a Saturday in detention together, it’s a mess, but one that might just help them rediscover who they are and who they’d rather be.
The five disparates- a jock (Emilio Estevez), a princess (Molly Ringwald), a brainster (Anthony Michael Hall), a hooligan (Judd Nelson), and a nervous wreck (Ally Sheedy) – do end up discovering common ground in the end, with the occasional awkward dialogue and random outburst of emotion. Even decades later, it’s hard to hear Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” without flashing back to this film.
Mean Girls (2004)
Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) is all set to make her debut at a Chicago public school after a lifetime of being homeschooled in Africa. She’s a blank slate when it comes to cultural and social issues. When The Plastics: leader Regina (Rachel McAdams) and Gretchen sycophants (Lacey Chabert) and Karen (Amanda Seyfried) assimilate her into their friends’ group, she knows at a glance this is going to be a jungle stampede.
Mean Girlsperfectly captures the intimidating feeling of “I want to be myself but following the crowd pays a reward in the long run” that high school ingrained into us, summarizing the important lesson of being one’s own person and not fighting to embrace where we do not. fit.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Being a teenager is messy and complicated, and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower captures it to the point. When Charlie (Logan Lerman) starts high school, his brain is haunted by fuzzy memories from his early childhood and by the recent suicide of his best friend. He soon meets and befriends Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), two quirky kids in his grade. While Charlie deals with crippling depression, Patrick has his own heaviness of being a gay kid among hypermasculine boys.
The movie does not shy away from adolescent ordeals that can be both painful and tragic, and other moments that might seem excessive in a film but are daily occurrences in the life of a high school student.
Veronica (Winona Ryder) is tired of the shallow and cruel antics of her friends, all three of who are coincidentally (and creepily) named Heather (Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falkand Kim Walker). To catch a break from their baloney, Veronica starts dating the new kid in town, JD (Christian Slater). Her haze of freedom is shattered when she discovers that he is making sure the “harmless” pranks they pull on their obnoxious classmates are in fact sadistic tricks leading to their deaths.
Even decades after its release, the reputation of Heathers remains unscathed and the film has spawned a musical and a reboot TV series.
High School Musical (2006)
Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens actually look young enough to be in a high school (as opposed to 30-year-old actors – 30 going on 13… perhaps?) and have the lovely connection that can only be called high-school sweethearts love. Even Troy Bolton acts like a basic teenager – scared to express his true opinions or embrace his true self but in the end, he learns the lesson of just being himself.
Despite the huge disparity of being a musical – something high schools only in our brains are (with children yelling and creepy music playing in the background) – High School Musical was actually pretty accurate about the life of a teenager in high school.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Even though their high school is just on the other side of a royal, Kat (Julia Stiles), Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), Patrick (Heath Ledger), and Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are pretty much the regular crowd high school is filled with. From crushing on a girl way out of their reach to ending up tripping in love with bets, the story is a cliché that lives to entertain. The characters are as high school as high school gets, feeling real emotions for the first time, and striving their best to survive just another day.
10 Things I Hate About You is such a classic teen movie that you tend to forget it’s loosely based on William Shakespeare’s classic, Taming of the Shrew.
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