Back To School In 10 Movies

Fall can be tough. The days are shorter, temperatures are dropping, and it’s hard to trade long days at the beach or in the woods for afternoons in the classroom. Here are some movies to help ease any back-to-school blues.

“Grease” (1978)

GREASE, IT'S THE WORD: Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in "Grease."
GREASE, IT’S THE WORD: Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in “Grease.”

Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta) were summer lovebirds, and when they end up at the same high school, things change as Danny’s distracted by his bad-boy, greaser act. Good-girl Sandy finds friendship in the Pink Ladies, as the two pine for each other from afar. Expect musical numbers and hand-jiving. Best scenes: include a ferris wheel, a drive-in and a Frankie Avalon cameo.

  • Available: Amazon Video, Netflix Instant

“The Breakfast Club” (1985)

THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, 1985.
THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, 1985.

Five very different high-schoolers are sentenced to daylong detention — on a Saturday. After being stuck in a room together, their personas melt away, and they find out they’re more alike than they thought. It’s John Hughes, it’s classic and it stars Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and Anthony Michael Hall. Best scene: a harmonious dance and a slow-mo fist in the air to that Simple Minds song.

  • Available: Amazon Video

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986)


BUELLER, BUELLER: Mia Sara, Alan Ruck and Matthew Broderick in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."
BUELLER, BUELLER: Mia Sara, Alan Ruck and Matthew Broderick in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Ferris (Matthew Broderick) is set on taking a “sick day” from high school to explore the city with his BFF Cameron (Alan Ruck) and his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara). He’ll stop at nothing to make it happen without his parents finding out — while his high school principal Mr. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) will stop at nothing to catch Ferris playing hookie. Best scene: Involves a parade, a slow-mo Ferrari ride and, believe it or not, a Charlie Sheen cameo.

  • Available: Amazon Video

“Heathers” (1988)

Winona Ryder and Christian Slater in "Heathers."
Winona Ryder and Christian Slater in “Heathers.”

The Heathers and Veronica (Winona Ryder) are the tight-knit, self-destructive high school elite.  Veronica wants out, but there’s nothing much for her outside of the clique until handsome J.D. (Christian Slater) rides into town. It’s punch-drunk love at first sight, and things start getting a little murder-y at school. Hint: Corn nuts will never be the same again. Best (ob)scene: Veronica pukes at a “Val party,” and her verbal tirade with Queen Bee Heather (Kim Walker) is brutally and hilariously quotable for all time. Another pro: See Shannen Doherty pre-“90210.”

  • Available: Amazon Video, Netflix Instant

“Billy Madison” (1995)

Adam Sandler in “Billy Madison.”

Billy (Adam Sandler) is a rich-kid-adult drinking his life away. When his dad refuses to hand him the business, he admits bribing Billy’s teachers through all of his education to help him pass. Billy strikes a deal to go back to school to prove to dad that he’s not a fool — as a way to earn his birthright, aka the company. Best scene: There are so many, but, watch for (a sad and funny) Chris Farley cameo, “Goo” and something with Steve Buscemi and lipstick, and a penguin, it goes on and on.

  • Available: Amazon Video

“Rushmore” (1998)

Jason Schwartzman as Max Fischer in "Rushmore."
Jason Schwartzman as Max Fischer in “Rushmore.”

The only thing that can temper 16-year-old Max Fischer’s love for his private school and all of his extracurriculars is his connection-turned-infatuation with teacher Miss Cross (Olivia Williams). Note: This isn’t “Fatal Attraction,” this is Wes Anderson. To add insult to injury, Miss Cross is dating Max’s bestie, Herman (Bill Murray), an over-the-hill mogul who hates himself. A juvenile battle royale ensues. Best scene: A vengeful Max (Jason Schwartzman) walks in slow-mo down a hallway to The Who’s “A Quick One While He’s Away” after stymying Herman with some buzzy friends. Also, the whole movie is the best scene.

  • Available: Amazon Video

“10 Things I Hate About You” (1999)

Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles in "10 Things I Hate About You."
Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles in “10 Things I Hate About You.”

All the guys want to date Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), but it can’t happen until her older sister finds a beau. Older sis is a toughie (Julia Stiles), so lovelorn Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), in a roundabout way, hires a high-school ruffian (Heath Ledger) to tame the shrew. It’s a ’90s version of Shakespeare’s play, and it was a breakout role for Stiles and Ledger (R.I.P.). Best scene: It’s gotta be a soccer-field serenade or a rapping English teacher, or an impromptu dance to Biggie Smalls. It’s all gold here.

  • Available: Amazon Video   

“Old School” (2003)

old school

After a bad breakup, Mitch (Luke Wilson) rents a house on a college campus. His friends Frank (Will Ferrell) and Beanie (Vince Vaughn) try to cheer him up, and what starts out as a big party, turns into the start of a fraternity that takes anyone. All is well until and an old high-school rival, who’s now the college dean, butts in. Best scene: It includes a tranquilizer gun, all the way.

  • Available: Amazon Video

“Napoleon Dynamite” (2004)

Jon Heder and Tina Majorino in "Napoleon Dynamite."
Jon Heder and Tina Majorino in “Napoleon Dynamite.”

High-schooler Napoleon (Jon Heder) is kind of a loner; he’s not a fan of his grandma’s llama, his uncle Rico is kind of a skeeze, and his brother is strapped to the family computer. Things change when Napoleon meets Pedro (Efren Ramirez) who dares to dream big when he pursues the class presidency. Throw in a side-ponytail-ed friend Deb (Tina Majorino), and can the trio succeed together? Best scenes: visits to the thrift store and “moves with Jamiroquai.”

  • Available: Amazon Video

“Mean Girls” (2004)

mean girls

Previously homeschooled Cady (Lindsay Lohan) navigates high school. She befriends two outcasts, who eventually put her up to spying on/acclimating with the Plastics, the most popular girls in school. Things get tricky when Cady falls for the ex of Queen Plastic Regina George (Rachel McAdams). This marks Tina Fey’s first screenwriting credits, and there are so many quotable moments from “You can’t sit with us” to “You go, Glen Coco.” Best scenes: the lunchroom rundown, a trust exercise among high school girls and “Jingle Bell Rock.”

  • Available: Amazon Video, Netflix Instant

Other notables

Anthony Edwards, Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong in “Revenge of the Nerds.”

“Van Wilder,” “Revenge of the Nerds,” “Art School Confidential,” “Footloose,” “Say Anything.”