Welcome to Part II of The Daily Caller’s best ever school-related movies.
The guidelines are simple: School — any kind of school — is central to all these films’ plots. “Kindergarten Cop” would qualify, if it weren’t a horrible movie, because it involves Arnold Schwarzenegger yelling “It’s not a tumor!” at kindergarteners. “Rudy,” however, is out because it’s basically a sports movie that happens to take place at Notre Dame.
10. The Breakfast Club (1985)
The suits at Universal Studios were reportedly certain that they had an unmarketable, plot-free turkey on their hands with “The Breakfast Club.” You really can’t fault them. The movie is a purposeful assemblage of the broadest possible high school stereotypes. The plot involves some kids in detention. John Hughes manages to pull the whole thing off transcendentally, though, and the film still feels relevant today.
9. Dazed and Confused (1993)
The acting is grossly uneven and nothing much happens, but Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused” is a lovingly curated time capsule of small-town high school life that is perfect in virtually every respect. As you get older, you will change. And your outlook may change. But this movie will stay gloriously the same.
8. American Pie (1999)
At the end of the last millennium, it seemed that some weird combination of mawkish sentiment and ostensibly profound philosophical musings had permanently infiltrated the market for teen entertainment. Thankfully, “American Pie” writer Adam Herz was able to recall that unadulterated raunchiness can also be profitable. “Jeopardy!” later featured an entire quiz question category titled “This one time at band camp…”
7. Clueless (1995)
How do you make a story about ultra-materialistic, disturbingly rich high schoolers palatable and even endearing? Well, base it loosely on Jane Austen’s novel “Emma,” of course. With “Clueless,” Amy Heckerling bestowed the more fabulous but otherwise lesser of her two classic school-related movies upon the world.
6. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Matthew Broderick was 24 years old when he played the lovable, high-school-hooky-playing rogue Ferris Bueller. Alan Ruck was 29 when he played his uptight best friend, Cameron. But John Hughes couldn’t risk hiring a couple of amateurs to step into the roles of these two teenagers. He was, after all, forging cinematic greatness.
5. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Amy Heckerling’s “Fast Times” is quite simply the raunchy coming-of-age teen comedy by which all others will forever be judged. A young, bold Cameron Crowe wrote it long before he began phoning in crap like “We Bought a Zoo,” and gathered material by posing as an actual high school student. Sean Penn’s legendary portrayal of Spicoli is the most memorable of many great performances, and the Phoebe Cates bikini removal scene is unforgettable. Trust me.
4. Back to the Future (1985)
Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly accidentally goes back in time in a modified DeLorean. He has to figure out a way to return without disrupting the course of history — especially the first kiss between his parents at Hill Valley High’s “Enchantment under the Sea” dance. The movie was a smart, funny, suspenseful, and generally coherent summer blockbuster. How often do those come along?
3. Harry Potter (the whole series)
The eight fantasy films in J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” franchise, beginning with “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (2001) and concluding with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” (2011), concern wizards in training at a place called Hogwarts School. More importantly, muggles worldwide coughed up some $7.7 billion to see them. If only for crass commercial reasons, the Harry Potter series deserves a spot near the top of this list as a new generation of filmgoers’ school-movie benchmark.
2. Risky Business (1983)
In the movie that launched a young, earnest Tom Cruise to stardom, Joel (Cruise) ends up running a brothel out of his suburban Chicago home to raise money after wrecking his father’s Porsche. Also, his pimping excellence gets him admitted to Princeton. That description sounds like a standard teen sex romp, and Warner Brothers marketed “Risky Business” exactly that way. It’s a slow-building, almost pensive film, though, and more lurks just beneath the surface — including either an indictment of capitalism or a celebration of capitalism, or both.
1. National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)
“Animal House” is undeniably a timeless classic. Although the final parade scene and many of the exterior shots were filmed at the University of Oregon, the script was based on a young Chris Miller’s fraternity remembrances from Dartmouth College in the Ivy League. It’s easy to forget that the movie was also completely original: Until 1978 no one had ever made an ensemble movie about a fun-loving bunch of college guys who do outrageous things. Dozens of imitators, including two movies on this list, have followed in its wake but none have come close to equaling it. That’s greatness, man.