Straight to Detention - the Back to School List
Hey everyone! It's back to school time, and I'm sure we're all very excited and not at all stressed about the prospect of surviving another year of learning. To celebrate this totally relaxing time, I thought I'd put together a list of my favorite back to school movies, a surprising number of which focus on the slackers, troublemakers, outcasts, and rebels (so, no Say Anything, because aside from violating some noise ordinances with his boom box and being super clingy, Lloyd Dobbler's not really a bad guy).
1) Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) - There's no point in burying the lede here. Anyone who knows me knows this is easily my favorite school-centric movie, and one of my favorite films, period. The adventures of easy-going rapscallion Ferris, his best friend, the world-weary teenager, Cameron, and Ferris's love Sloan skipping school and roaming the streets of Chicago had a huge effect on me. This includes, in no particular order, a love of Chicago, a love of the Beatles' cover of "Twist and Shout" (which, as a dumb eleven-year-old I was convinced was performed by Ferris), a crush on Sloan Peterson, and a desire (when I started high school) to BE Ferris Bueller - long story short, I wound up being way more of a Cameron.
2) Summer School (1987) - Hey, do you know that stodgy, straight-laced guy from that NCIS show your grandma watches? He was cool once! In Summer School, Mark Harmon plays the epitome of the "cool" teacher, Freddy Shoop. Shoop is the gym teacher who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets stuck teaching a memorable gang misfits in the title and titular summer school. He quickly learns that there are limits to how cool you can be while still teaching students something (a lesson that serves me well), but not before taking field trips to the beach, an amusement park, hosting a screening of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and more. This is a ridiculously fun movie that is so much better than it should be.
3) Heathers (1988) - If you haven't seen Heathers before, I'm not sure how (or if) I should describe it. It's a dark, DARK comedy starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater about the perils of cliques, the dangers of dating the "bad boy", and serves as a reminder that teenagers are capable of being terrible, terrible people. Everyone's all nostalgic for Winona and Keanu, but I'm team Ryder/Slater all the way. In an age of cyber-bullying, #MeToo and school shootings I'm not sure this movie has aged all that well (not to mention some of the less than PC identity politics) but it's really, really funny.
4) Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) - Sure, a lot of the high school cred for this film is borrowed from a plethora of John Hughes films, but it's such a perfect fit for Spider-Man, and such a fun, rewatchable movie that it had to be on the list. A lot of that is due to Tom Holland, who is fantastic as Peter Parker. But credit also has to go to his school friends, including best friend Ned, antagonist Flash (cleverly reimagined from the muscled-jock bully into one more class-based), and the sarcastic MJ. I reviewed the movie when it came out, but it's worth mentioning just to add that I was right in my initial review - this is a film I've watched multiple times and will continue to do so.
5) Real Genius (1985) - This film has the humor of Ghostbusters, the politics of WarGames, the nerdiness of Revenge of the Nerds, and a recluse who lives inside the walls. It's a weird movie, with Val Kilmer in one of his top 5 greatest roles (the others include Doc Holliday, Gay Perry, Iceman, and a tie between Nick Rivers and Madmartigan). It technically stars someone else, but Kilmer pretty much steals the movie with every cheesy, yet quotable line. In a nutshell, a jerk of a professor (played by William Atherton, who ALSO played a jerk in Ghostbusters and Die Hard) runs a lab consisting of some of the most brilliant young minds in the country, as they attempt to build a functioning laser. Hilarity ensues.