10 Good High School Movies

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 9:40 pm

August is National Back to School Month in the United States, so let’s honor the occasion by taking a look at 10 good high school movies. To qualify, films must either be set inside the drab walls of a high school or the main characters must be high school students.

In addition to my list of 10 good high school movies, there are plenty of other films revolving around prep schools, public schools, and those weird kids who get home schooled. You can find these at Netflix, the Internet’s leading movie rental service. You’ll need to become a member to take advantage of their services, but you can get started by clicking this Netflix link.

The Breakfast Club (1985) – Years before films like Twilightwere packing teens into theaters, the late writer/producer/director John Hughes was crafting entertaining tales of angst and romance among high school students. This entry features Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, and Anthony Michael Hall as five Illinois students from radically different cliques forced to serve Saturday detention together. Let the bonding begin. Paul Gleason excels as dickhead Principal Richard Vernon, and you can catch him playing a similar role in Die Hard, another classic example of filmmaking from the ’80s.

Brick(2006) – Ria Johnson directs this modern-day hardboiled private eye story, but here’s the twist: the characters are mostly high school students! Joseph Gordon Levitt plays the role usually occupied by someone like Humphrey Bogart, and he’s on a mission to find the killer of his ex-girlfriend (Emilie de Ravin). In the process, he’ll rub elbows with a number of school cliques, especially the spoiled upper-class kids dabbling in heroin. Shot on a budget of $450,000 and filmed in 20 days, Brickis a refreshing look at the dangers of adolescenceand drug use. Gordon Levitt shines as the wise-beyond-his-years hero, and other standouts include Megan Good, Lukas Haas, and Noah Fleiss.

Cooley High (1975) – Screenwriter Eric Monte was tired of negative portrayals of growing up in the projects, so he penned a script about Leroy “Preach” Jackson (Glynn Turman) and Richard “Cochise” Morris (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), two African-American high school students from Chicago whose lives get complicated when they’re falsely accused of stealing a Cadillac. Filled with Motown hits and likable performances, Cooley Highstill holds up after all these years. On an interesting side note, the film was originally meant to be turned into a television series. But when executives got involved and changed everything around, the final result was none other than What’s Happening!!.

Clueless (1995) – Amy Heckerling wrote and directed this look at rich kids attending high school in Beverly Hills, drawing largely from Jane Austen’s novel Emma. Alicia Silverstone shot to fame in the lead role of Cher, a self-absorbed hottie who decides to “adopt” the unhip Tai Frasier (Brittany Murphy) and help her move to the top of the popularity pyramid. Familiar faces abound, including Paul Rudd, Jeremy Sisto, Donald Faison, Dan Hedaya, and Breckin Meyer. A good-natured comedy about superficiality, the power of negotiation, and true love.

Hoosiers (1986) – Based (loosely) on a true story, Hoosiersis a plucky underdog tale about an undersized Indiana high school basketball team who rallies behind their new coach (Gene Hackman) and challenges for the state title. Barbara Hershey is the small town love interest, and Dennis Hopper is the town drunk with a nose for basketball. If you’re a sports fan, chances are that you’ve already seen it. If not, sign up for Netflix and place it in your queue immediately.

The Last Picture Show (1971) – Adapted from the novel by Larry McMurtry, this Peter Bogdanovich film is set in west Texas and tells the story of two high school students (Jeff Bridges and Timothy Bottoms) coming of age. A brilliant black-and-white masterpiece, The Last Picture Show captures a town in its death throes, and the cast list reads like a Hollywood who’s who with Ben Johnson, Cybill Shepherd, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Randy Quaid, Eileen Brennan, and Clu Gulager. Nominated for eight Oscars, it won two for Best Supporting Actor (Ben Johnson) and Best Supporting Actress (Cloris Leachman).

Mean Girls (2004) – The screenplay was written by 30 Rock hottie Tina Fey, and wild child Lindsay Lohan delivers one of her rare quality performances after transitioning from kiddie roles. She stars as Cady Heron, a home-schooled nerd who attends public school for the first time and becomes involved in a plot to infiltrate the popular clique (comprised of Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, and Lacey Chabert) and bring them down a few notches. Predictably, everyone learns a few lessons along the way, but the fine performances and sharp script help elevate this motion picture to our list of 10 good high school movies.

Heathers (1989) – Winona Ryder is Veronica Sawyer, one of the most popular girls at the fictional Westerberg High School. But she’s low girl on a totem poll also occupied by the three Heathers–Heather Chandler (Kim Walker), Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty), and Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk), three snobby bitches who rule through intimidation and humiliation. Enter Jason Dean (Christian Slater), a rebellious loner who convinces Veronica to fight back against the powers that be. Before long, bodies are beginning to pile up in the otherwise quiet Ohio suburb, leading to plenty of satirical commentary about teen suicide, homophobia, and meaningful passages from Moby Dick.

Carrie (1976) – Life isn’t easy for Carrie White (Sissy Spacek); she’s just received her first period, her fellow students constantly taunt her, and her religious nut mother (Piper Laurie) abuses her. But that’s all about to change, as Carrie’s telekinetic powers are beginning to develop. It all comes to a head at the annual prom, as pig’s blood rains from the sky, an inferno erupts, and more than a few high schoolers meet a grisly end. Co-starring Amy Irving, William Katt, Nancy Allen, John Travolta, and PJ Soles, the film was based on the best-selling novel by horror master Stephen King.

Flirting (1992) – You may have never heard of this Australian coming-of-age tale, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Noah Taylor stars as Danny Embling, an awkward teen enrolled in all-male boarding school in Australia. Across the lake, there’s an all-girls school, and Danny slowly finds himself falling for an Ugandan-Kenyan-British girl (Thandie Newton) who’s living there. Their interracial romance causes all kinds of difficulties, as does the distance between them. The impressive supporting cast includes future stars Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts.

Some of these films play the high school years for laughs, while other take a more bittersweet approach. But no matter what the case, you can be sure that Netflix will have them in stock. We do get a commission if you sign up through our Netflix link, but all proceeds go towards making Only Good Movies the best film recommendation site it can possibly be.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 at 9:40 pm and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “10 Good High School Movies”

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August 19, 2010


The Last Picture Show is one of my favorite films. Few films have ever set the overall mood so well. You can feel the wind and the dust as the town slowly blows away while the main characters find their ways to adulthood.

I’m particularly fond of Sam the Lion’s soliloquy beside the stock tank.

December 5, 2012


have you got any films apart from mean girls that are filmed after 2000 please because I am trying to find movies to watch when I am bored.
Thanks Karen

December 5, 2012


Karen, if you’re looking for high school movies made after 2000, you might try the following:

1. 21 Jump Street
2. Drillbit Taylor
3. High School Musical
4. 10 Things I Hate about You (made in 1999)
5. Election (made in 1999)
6. Easy A
7. Superbad

This should get you started. However, I’d still suggest you try out a few of the films on my list. Just because a movie was made before 2000 doesn’t mean it sucks.


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