If The Dark Knight is only making 3 million a day at the box office then it must mean that Summer’s almost over. It’s time for girls to trade in their tube-tops for textbooks and guys to put down the dumbbells in exchange for a mental workout. But have no fear. We here at FSR are students of film, in spite of what our title may lead you to believe, and we have the cure for your post-Summertime blues. Here’s 10 reasons to get your ass back in class, brought to you by some of the best films about school… and the letters FS and R.
1. You Can Skip It
Some of the best memories I have of school were made while I was ditching it. If any film can teach us the merit of absence it’s the John Hughes classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Matthew Broderick’s turn as a charming slacker stands as the on-screen character that every high school male strives to be, so cool the band Save Ferris took their name after the donation fund discussed in the film. Broderick’s role is so good it almost makes me forgive him for starring in Godzilla. And you can never go wrong with one of the all-time babes, Mia Sara, in the role of Sloane Peterson.
2. Going to The Big Game
Everybody has big dreams. Unfortunately many of ours aren’t realized. That’s why we look to films like The Karate Kid, where a crane kick can get you the respect of the Cobra Kai and a date with Elizabeth Shue. Other films like Hoosiers and Rudy, (who we were more than happy to nickname a 4 foot Jewish kid on my high school football team), give us inspiration and the belief that if we work hard and follow our hearts that we can maybe, just maybe, end up on top. That last sentence was brought to you by Hallmark gift cards.
3. Getting Hot For Teacher
The news may tell you that student-teacher relationships are bad, but films like one of my personal favorites, Rushmore, take delight in showing us a more sinful side of academia. Hell, Katie Holmes’ underage infatuation for Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys may have been what led her to jump on Tom Cruise’s spaceship. Anna Paquin has double-dipped in the subject, hitting on Philip Seymour Hoffman in 25th Hour and Jeff Daniels in The Squid and the Whale. Whether you wanna watch these more overt examples or the strange relationship between Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick in the hilarious Election, there is something fun about watching the boundaries being pushed between a professor and their pupil.
4. You Can Get Back at the Bully
Tired of getting hell from the star quarterback because your mom cut your hair? Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds give us some playful tips on how to get even with the douche-tacular prom king and queen. (Remember the word douche-tacular, by the way. It will be on your SATs.) But if living vicariously though a darker form of payback is more your style, the dark-comedy Heathers or horror classic Carrie may help soften the blow of being a wallflower. I still have to shake the memory of Sissy Spacek doused in pig’s blood.
5. You Deal with Issues
Racism, sexism, social class segregation, and abusive upbringings are sobering subjects that affect us all in varying degrees. Brilliant films like Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, or John Singleton’s Boyz N Tha Hood help us relate to these heavy matters. Movies are meant to entertain us, but in a world that seems to be tearing itself apart, films like the racially tense Higher Learning or story of anti-semitism School Ties can allow us to walk away more thoughtful, if not more educated, about the matter at hand.
6. Going to Prom
Prom undeniably represents the culmination of all the anxieties and anticipations of adolescence. Any emotion we’ve felt about the moment has been covered on film. Pretty in Pink and Footloose encompassed the sappy nostalgia, Prom Night and Saved! offer differing types of horror that come along with the pressure of teens making adult decisions, and American Pie showed both elation and embarrassment in a “gentleman’s bet” between friends to lose their virginity before the momentous event. I’m pretty sure that in real life that’s known as every boy’s goal. Plus, tons of prom films contain the cheesiest/coolest on-screen scene: the choreographed group dance. Take your pick from She’s All That, Teen Wolf, or another school’s set of moves. I’m going with Patrick Dempsey’s African Anteater Ritual from Can’t Buy Me Love.
7. Sex, Drugs, and Rock N’ Roll
Seeing that these three topics rank as what parents worry most about, it’s only natural that the great high school and college films would be chocked full of them. The folks at FSR don’t encourage drug use, but damn if it hasn’t sparked (pun intended) some of the greatest stories and characters ever. Where would a film like Dazed and Confused or a character like Jeff Spicoli be without the element of drug use in the plot? Fast Times at Ridgemont High IS sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. My first encounter with Phoebe Cates as a child was in the family friendly Gremlins, so needless to say it was a shock to the system to see her come out in Fast Times, cementing her place in boys’ dreams everywhere. And who can forget Rock N’ Roll High School? The Ramones, we salute you.
8. It Feels Good to Be Bad
It seems like all girls love a bad boy, and films like PCU and Real Genius glorify the rebel in all of us. James Dean took the role of an outcast to a new level in Rebel Without a Cause. John Travolta won girls’, and a lot of male musical theater fans’, hearts everywhere as Danny Zuko in Grease. Plus, unless you’re a fan of New Jack City, you probably remember Judd Nelson best for his performance as John Bender in The Breakfast Club. Even Michael J. Fox got in on the bad boy action, somewhat, in Back To the Future. The guy was such a badass he got his mom to want to nail him, adding a twisted new chapter to the Oedipal complex psychologists still can’t wrap their heads around.
Those who were or are the bad boys in school can relate to all these characters. The rest of us sit back hoping that the stud in the leather jacket will fly off his Harley, scarring his pretty, yet rugged, face forever.
9. A Chance to Stand Out of the Crowd
Sure, there’s strength in numbers, but school films tell us it’s okay to walk alone. Whether you’re thawed out in Encino Man, seeing rabbits named Frank in Donnie Darko, or practicing killer moves in Napoleon Dynamite, the point is to be yourself and not afraid to color outside of the lines. Alicia Silverstone and Lindsay Lohan did it by shooing away cliques in Clueless and Mean Girls, Will Ferrell did it by saying “We’re going streaking!,” in Old School, and Rodney Dangerfield was glad to drop Triple Lindy on youngsters’ asses in Back To School. At any age, be yourself and you’ll be fine.
10. True Love
Diane Court, Jake Ryan, Long Duck Dong. All these names are synonymous with the perfect high school film heartthrob. Okay, maybe not the Donger, but we all know how much he kicks ass. The great romances of Say Anything, Sixteen Candles, and even the under-appreciated Can’t Hardly Wait give hope to all of those out there who dream of finding that perfect partner. Maybe Lloyd Dobler, Samantha Baker, and Preston Meyers were out of their leagues, but an undying faith in destiny and a little bit of movie magic help us believe that, as songwriter Daniel Johnston once said, “true love will find you in the end.” Hallmark, no joke, you can mail the checks to me any day now.
Hopefully our readers who are heading back to school – and Robert Fure, who will be making his 7th attempt at finishing the 11th grade – will feel some excitement or at least gain some solace by checking out the films on this list. If not, keep in mind that being an adult sucks way more than getting the occasional pop quiz. Trust us.