Many people are heading back to school or uni this week, and even if it was a long time ago since you were last in a classroom, there are still plenty of back-to-school movies to enjoy.
Put a tie around your head, roll up your skirt and enjoy some of the classics.
You can’t have a list of school movies without Clueless. Yellow tartan and fluffy pens became a must-have, and every girl wanted a computerised walk-in wardrobe. Alicia Silverstone stole the show as Cher, and also features Paul Rudd who doesn’t appear to have aged since.
2) Eighth Grade
Utterly charming, Eighth Grade caught a lot of people by surprise when it was released in 2018. Written and directed by Bo Burnham, it stars Elsie Fisher as Kayla. She struggles for acceptance from her peers in her final week of eighth grade, and spends her time recording videos on social media with her self-styled advice.
One of the most iconic high-school movies, 1989’s Heathers is a darkly comic tale of a clique – three of them named Heather, and the new arrival at school who has murderous intent. The film was intended to offset the sweet teen movies that were everywhere thanks to John Hughes.
High School is all about politics in every sense, and Election satirizes the school political system, with Reese Witherspoon playing Tracey Flick, a massively overachieving student, versus Matthew Broderick as Jim McAllister, a popular high school social studies teacher. Sabotage is afoot.
5) Rebel Without a Cause
The 1955 classic Rebel Without A Cause stars James Dean, Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood. It’s a teen movie in the ultimate sense, focusing on the lives of confused suburban teens muddling their way through life. It was meant to show the moral decay of teens at the time and seems hilariously mild by today’s standards.
6) The Last Picture Show
The pinnacle of coming-of-age dramas, released in 1971, set in a small town in North Texas it covers the friendship between two friends Sonny Crawford and Duane Jackson and some of the ups-and-downs that they experienced, paving the way for many of the modern films.
It wouldn’t be a back-to-school list without a Wes Anderson wonder, and Rushmore definitely makes the grade. The film was Jason Schwartzman’s debut, which is hard to believe looking at his performance and then everything else he’s starred in since. He plays student Max Fischer alongside Bill Murray’s super-rich Herman Blume, cemented by their mutual love for teacher Rosemary Cross, played by Olivia Williams.
8) Mean Girls
One of the most quotable films in this list, Mean Girls was is still hugely popular even more than 15 years after release. Written by Tina Fey and starring Lindsay Lohan, the film tackles cliques and how damaging they can be – and deciding on costumes for Halloween has never been the same since.
9) High School Musical
When High School Musical was released as a made-for-tv movie in 2006, nobody knew what a massive thing it was going to become. The writer of the film described it as a modern-day telling of Romeo & Juliet, just without the death and added basketball. It catapulted Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens to instant stardom and has since turned into multiple movies and tv series.
10) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Every teenager has dreamed of ditching school for the day and running riot, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off captures it perfectly. The wise guy is determined to get a day off, no matter what the principal says. This 1986 movie inspired a lot of missed school days and probably caused a lot of headaches for teachers and parents.
One of the quintessential teenage horror movies, 1976’s Carrie has been remade badly and nothing ever matches the original. Adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name, Carrie shows what happens when a bullied girl who everyone underestimated was pushed too far. Gruesomely good fun.
12) Easy A
Emma Stone is in top form in Easy A, a very modern movie that had a surprising origin, inspired in part by an 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter. She plays Olive, a girl who finds a small lie to try to escape a camping trip soon snowballs with disastrous consequences, until she decides to embrace her new reputation.
13) Lady Bird
One of the coolest films on the list, Lady Bird won major critical acclaim in 2017 as the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig. Saoirse Ronan stars as a frustrated teenager and high school senior and the film focuses on the strained relationship with her mother. Many praised the quiet details and lots of recognisable true-to-life moments.
14) The Breakfast Club
Another eighties classic, The Breakfast Club is one of John Hughes’ most famous films, as he wrote, produced, and directed it. Regularly cited as one of the coolest films around, it has an iconic soundtrack and closing scene that is recreated everywhere.
Booksmart is another appearance for Beanie Feldstein who was also in Lady Bird. It tells the story of two academic overachievers on the eve of their graduation who realise their cohorts had fun and partied and still did well. They try to cram four years of fun into one night.
The ultimate teen movie and with songs still played at school discos everywhere, Grease is somehow timeless and endless inspiration for fancy dress outfits. Prepare to sing along.
17) Dead Poets Society
It wouldn’t be a best-of film list without an appearance from Robin Williams, who stars as the much loved teacher John Keating. An alumnus of the school he’s teaching in, Keating sets about inspiring students through poetry, with some unusual methods.
18) School Of Rock
Every kid wishes they could go to the School of Rock and learn music with a teacher as enthusiastic as Jack Black’s Dewey Finn, disguising himself as a substitute teacher and forming a band of fifth-graders to win a Battle Of The Bands contest to pay his rent. Ethically questionable but good fun.
19) Monsters University
Monsters University is another success for Pixar, who manage to notice every minute detail of college life and recreates it perfectly in a fluffy, slimy monstrous form. It’s these seemingly mundane details that make everything so relatable, and so funny.
20) 10 Things I Hate About You
Often described as a teen movie with a brain (see also: Legally Blonde) the pairing of Heath Ledger and Julia Styles was remarkable for their chemistry, in this modernisation of Shakespeare’s Taming Of The Shrew. It was the breakthrough roles for the duo as well as Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
21) American Pie
You’ll never look at apple pie in the same way again, sorry. Shockingly funny and raising many eyebrows at the time, American Pie stood out amongst teen movies for how explicit it was and a lot of the adult humour led many films to try to copy their style from then on.
22) Legally Blonde
Proof never to judge a book by its cover, Legally Blonde was another groundbreaking movie that on the surface looked fluffy and fun but had a feminist’s heart beating underneath, as Elle Woods proved everybody wrong by going to Harvard Law.
23) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The infamous Harry Potter found out who he truly was, and created a generation of youngsters (and not so youngsters) who wished they could go to Hogwarts and waited for the owl to arrive every year.
24) The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Another appearance for Emma Watson, keen to shed the cloak of Harry Potter’s Hermione by taking on another much-loved story. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower came out in 2012, and is a coming-of-age drama based on the 1999 novel of the same name. Expect a lot of emotion and angst.
25) Pitch Perfect
If this list has taught you anything, it’s that we love singing. From High School Musical to Grease, Pitch Perfect came along with highly quotable moments as the Barden Bellas took acapella singing to the global stage. One of the rare films where the sequels are just as good.
How many have you seen?