TOP 10 Movies about High School

Labor Day is over, and school is in As we send them off, we can’t help but get a little bit nostalgic about our own school days.  So, hop on the school bus because we are taking a field trip back in time to the days of poodle skirts, football and detention.

#10 – GREASE

Grease was released in the summer of 1978 and starred Olivia Newton John and John Travolta. New girl Sandy (Newton John) is as wholesome as apple pie when she falls in love with bad boy Danny (Travolta).  Why this movie makes the list: Grease is a lighthearted musical with songs you can’t help but sing along to. The soundtrack ruled the air waves during the summer of 78 and was the 2nd bestselling album that year.  Trivia:  The song “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was written and filmed after the movie wrapped. Paramount felt that Newton-John needed a strong ballad. It was nominated for an Academy Award. Elvis Presley died the day the Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee scene was filmed. How can we forget that line, “Elvis, Elvis let me be, keep that pelvis far from me?” 


Peggy Sue Got Married is a 1986 film directed by Francis Ford Coppola.  On the night of her 25th high school reunion Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) passes out and goes back in time to her senior year of high school.   Aware that she went back in time, Peggy Sue must decide if she should change her fate.  Why this movie makes our list:  Peggy Sue tells her math teacher, “I happen to know that in the future I will have not the slightest use for algebra. And I speak from experience.” Has any line from a movie ever been truer?  Trivia: Turner hated her co star Nicholas Cage and in her 2008 autobiography she wrote that during the film’s shooting he was arrested twice for DUIs and once for stealing a dog. Cage sued Turner and her publisher for defamation.  He won. Turner and her publisher had to make a public apology and donate an undisclosed amount of money to charity. Penny Marshall was originally chosen as the film’s director; but she was fired after only 3 weeks for going over budget.


CARRIE, Sissy Spacek, 1976

Based on Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie was released in November of 1975. Sissy Spacek played the role of Carrie, a shy, naive girl who is the product of an insane woman with outrageous religious beliefs. As a result, Carrie is bullied at school. In a cruel joke, Carrie is chosen prom queen so that a bucket of pig’s blood could be dropped on her.  Using telekinesis Carrie kills everyone in the gym. Why this movie makes out list:  King was ahead of his time by being one of the first to address bullying. Trivia: King was paid only $2,500 for the movie rights.  Stephen King’s first name was misspelled in the movie trailer – it was spelled Steven King.


This high school comedy made marks for being one of the few that addressed real life issues faced by teenagers: school, holding down a job, buying a car and losing one’s virginity. This movie was originally meant for limited release but did so well at the box office the release was widened.  Why this movie makes our list:  Early roles by Sean Penn, Nicholas Cage, Forest Whittaker and Erick Stoltz. Trivia: Nicholas Cage is credited as Nicholas Coppola because he hadn’t yet changed his surname in order to not be associated with his uncle, Frances Ford Coppola.  Cage has said in interviews that he wanted to get roles based on his own acting skills and not because he is related to a famous director.


The John Water’s movie Cry Baby is a tongue in cheek movie poking fun at the teen pin up image while at the same time paying tribute to all those musicals based on the 1950’s.  Johnny Depp plays gang leader Wade “Cry Baby” Walker who falls for goody two shoes socialite Allison Vernon Williams (Amy Locane). (Editor’s note: Hmm! Where have we heard this storyline before? Hint movie #10).   Why this movie makes our list: Astandout musical number “Please Mr. Jailer,” reminiscent to the Elvis Presley number, “Jailhouse Rock.” Trivia: To find an actor for the role of Cry Baby, John Walters brought $30 worth of teen magazines. Johnny Depp was on the cover of everyone. Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr and Jim Carrey were also considered for the part of Cry Baby. Drew Barrymore was considered for the role of Alison Vernon Williams.


Friday Night Lights is about an Odessa, Texas high school foot ball team as they vie for the state championship. The movie is based on H.G. Bissinger’s book, “Friday Night Lights, A Town, A Team and a Dream”. It earned over $60 million at the box office and won 2 awards, 2005 Espy Best Sports Movie and the 2005 AFI Movie of the Year award.  Why this movie makes our list: What would high school be without football?  Trivia: Roy Williams, Wide Receiver for the Dallas Cowboys has a cameo as assistant coach to a rival team. Real high school coaches deliver some of the lines during game sequences.


Michael J. Fox starred as Marty McFly, a high school student who travels back in time to the year 1955 with the help of his eccentric friend, scientist Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). McFly must somehow make his parents fall in love to ensure that he will exist in the future. Back to the Future was released on July 4th weekend in 1985 and grossed over $200 million at the domestic box office and close to $400 million worldwide.  Why this movie makes our list: The idea of seeing one’s parents as teenagers. Scary! Trivia: For the video release “to be continued” was added before the closing credits. It was removed for the DVD release. The script was rejected 44 times before it was green-lit. The script references to then President Ronald Reagan and had to be approved by the White House.


Rebel Without a Cause is the final James Dean movie. (The actor died in a tragic car accident before the film was released). Jim Stark (James Dean) is the new kid in town. His middle-class family moved because Jim had gotten in trouble elsewhere. He finds love in Judy (Natalie Wood). The movie takes place over a 24-hour period in which Jim must prove himself to his new peers via a switchblade fight and a game of chicken. Why this movie makes our list: This 1955 movie was a groundbreaking attempt to analyze the moral of American youth and explore the conflicts between generations. Trivia: A real switchblade was used in the fight scene and Dean was cut and bleeding. In the adult animation show Futurama the character Philip J. Fry is based on James Dean.


Morgan Freeman gave a powerful performance as the real-life Joe Lewis Clark. Eastside High School was in trouble – overrun by gangs, drug use and bad morale by teachers and students alike. Principle Joe Lewis Clark (Freeman) was hired to save the school. Lean on Me made $31 million at the box office and won two 1991 NAACP awards for Outstanding Motion Picture and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Motion Picture (Morgan Freeman).  Why this movie is on our list: Lean on Me is a gritty, true life portrayal of an inner-city school. Trivia: In preparation for his role, Morgan Freeman spent time with the real-life Joe Lewis Clark.  Real life students and teachers from the real Eastside High appear in the film as extras.


John Hughes’ 1985 movie earned $51.5 million at the box office. The Breakfast Club is about 5 high school students stuck together in detention. Each student is from a different clique: popular girl, geek, jock, troublemaker and outcast. Their Vice Principle instructs them to each write a 1,000-word essay on “who you think you are?” Why this movie makes our list: The wording of the essay is as relevant today as it was 34 years ago. “You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Does that answer your question?’  Trivia: John Hughes wrote the screenplay in just 2 days.  The album Allison is looking at during lunch is 1999 by Prince.  The film was shot in sequence. The dandruff from Allison’s hair was Parmesan cheese.