Close
AsIfCover-copy.jpg

Back To School Watch List: High School Edition

The buses are hitting the road; new planners are blank slates primed for doodling and you're in the homework honeymoon period. Labor Day approaches, which means school is right around the corner, and there's no time like the present to travel back in time and share a little school anxiety and mischief with some of our favorite high school characters.

Who can forget surfer dude Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High or the spirit finger of the Mighty Toros in Bring It On (celebrating its 15th anniversary this week). Some of today’s most popular actors populate these high school classics; we're talking about Sean Penn, Forest Whitaker, Nicholas Cage (billed as Nicolas Coppola), Lindsay Lohan and her Mean Girls Plastics – Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert and Amanda Seyfried. Grease, the highest grossing movie musical ever, starred a hip shaking John Travolta. Who can forget the battling cheerleaders, Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union? And “as if”… no back to school/teen film genre list would be complete without Clueless, where Alicia Silverstone's turn as the immortal Cher Horowitz, sharing the screen with a young Paul Rudd and the late Brittany Murphy.

We hope these films will help psych you up the 2015-2016 school year (or make you glad you graduated)! To find these and more sulking teens go to WhereToWatch.com.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Amy Heckerling's adaptation of Cameron Crowe's Fast Times at Ridgemont High is often considered one of the finest films of a disreputable genre (the teen sex comedy), and kick-started the careers of many future stars. The center of this ensemble film is Jennifer Jason Leigh as Stacy Hamilton. She is a young, innocent high-school student who, as the film opens, is asking for advice from her friend, the sexually outspoken Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates). Stacy takes a liking to nebbish Mark Ratner (Brian Backer), but he is too afraid to make a move even after Stacy all but throws herself at him. She eventually hooks up with Mark's more confident best friend, Mike Damone (Robert Romanus). When not concerning itself with these four characters, the film spends time with stoned surfer dude Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) and his ongoing feud with history teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston). The film includes brief appearances by such future stars as Nicolas Cage, Eric Stoltz, and Forest Whitaker.

Mean Girls (2004)

Tina Fey from Saturday Night Live wrote and appears in this comedy about the alternately funny and terrifying pecking order among teenage girls. Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) is a 15-year-old girl who has spent most of her life in Africa, where she was home-schooled by her zoologist parents. When her family relocates to the United States, Cady finds herself attending a high school in suburban Illinois, where she gets a crash course in the various sub-strata of the student body: the jocks, the cheerleaders, the stoners, the "cool" kids, and so on. Much to her surprise, Cady finds herself embraced by a clique of rich and popular girls known to outsiders as "the Plastics," led by Regina George (Rachel McAdams), Gretchen Weiners (Lacey Chabert), and Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried). While Cady is grateful for her new friends, it doesn't take long for her to realize how manipulative they can be, and she soon discovers she's violated an unwritten law when she goes out on a date with Aaron (Jonathan Bennett), who is charming, good looking…and Regina's former boyfriend. It isn't long before Regina and her pals are on the warpath, and Cady must face a level of vengeful behavior for which years in the jungle never prepared her. Joining Tina Fey in the supporting cast are fellow SNL players Amy Poehler, Ana Gasteyer, and Tim Meadows.

Dazed and Confused (1993)

It's hard to put into words how perfectly Richard Linklater captured the highs (and we mean highs) and lows of high school in the 1970s with this instant classic film. Legendary performances abound, not the least of which was Matthew McConaughey's lecherous lothario Wooderson, a man still cruising high school chicks despite having graduated (or aged out) of high school some time ago.

Fame (1980)

Fame is set at New York's High School of Performing Arts, where talented teens train for show-business careers. The film concentrates on five of the most gifted students: singer Irene Cara, actors Paul McCrane and Barry Miller, dancer Gene Anthony Ray, and musician Lee Currieri. More so than the subsequent TV series Fame, the film emphasizes the importance of keeping up one's academic achievements in this specialized school. The faculty includes no-nonsense English teacher Ann Meara, erudite musical instructor Albert Hague, and martinet dance teacher Debbie Allen. Of the film's cast, Ray, Currieri, Allen and Hague were carried over to the TV version of Fame, which premiered in 1981. The score for the film version of Fame was honored with an Academy Award.

Grease (1978)

"Grease," said the poster and the Barry Gibb song, "is the word." Transferring its setting from Chicago to sunny California, and adding a dash of disco to the ersatz '50s score, producer Allan Carr and director Randal Kleiser turned this long-running Jim Jacobs-Warren Casey Broadway smash into the biggest blockbuster of 1978. 1950s teens Danny (John Travolta) and Australian transfer Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) spend their "Summer Nights" falling in love, but once fall comes, it's back to Rydell High and its cliques. As one of the bad-boy T-Birds, Danny has to act cool for best pal Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) and their leather-clad mates Sonny (Michael Tucci) and Doody (Barry Pearl, in the role Travolta played on-stage). Despite befriending Frenchy (Didi Conn), one of the rebel Pink Ladies, virginal Sandy is "too pure to be Pink," as the Ladies' leader, Rizzo (Stockard Channing), acidly observes. Declaring their devotion in such ballads as "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Sandy," Sandy and Danny split, reconcile, and split again amidst a pep rally, dances, drive-ins, and a drag race, before deciding "You're the One That I Want" at the climactic carnival. With Travolta white-hot from Saturday Night Fever (1977), Grease became the highest-grossing film of 1978, the highest-grossing movie musical ever, and the third most popular film of the new blockbuster '70s after Star Wars (1977) and Jaws (1975). Its sequel, Grease 2, however, did not exactly set the world on fire in 1982.

Bring It On (2000)

The hard work, dedication, and personal politics behind "rah rah rah!" and "sis boom bah!" go under the microscope in this engaging teen comedy. Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) discovers that being captain of her San Diego high school's six-time championship-winning cheerleading squad is more complicated than she had imagined. Torrance's parents want her to spend more time on her homework, her boyfriend wants her to spend more time with him, and she learns that the squad's former captain stole some of their best routines from other teams — and that Isis (Gabrielle Union), captain of a top squad at a crosstown, inner-city high school, plans to fight back this year. To make things worse, when one of the cheerleaders is injured, Torrance is forced to replace her with Missy (Eliza Dushku), a cynical new kid who is involved only because the school doesn't offer gymnastics. In the midst of this chaos, with the national championship around the corner, Torrance couldn't have picked a worse time to fall in love with Cliff (Jesse Bradford), a classmate who cares a lot more about punk rock than school spirit. Dunst trained with a cheerleading squad for her role, though a double performed the more complicated stunts.

Clueless (1995)

Jane Austen might never have imagined that her 1816 novel Emma could be turned into a fresh and satirical look at ultra-rich teenagers in a Beverly Hills high school. Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and Dionne (Stacey Dash), both named after "great singers of the past that now do infomercials," are pampered upper-class girls who care less about getting good grades than wearing the right clothes and being as popular as possible. But Cher, who lives with her tough yet warm-hearted lawyer dad (Dan Hedaya) and hunky, sensitive stepbrother (Paul Rudd), also has an innate urge to help those less fortunate — like the two introverted teachers she brings together ("negotiating" herself improved grades in the process) and new friend Tai (Brittany Murphy), who starts out a geek and ends up a Cher prodigy. Cher also possesses her own sensitive side, and she is looking for the perfect boyfriend, whom she ends up finding where she least expected.

The Credits

Keep up with The Credits for the latest in film, television and more.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Vimeo
  • Instagram
If you are a California resident, California law may consider certain disclosures of data a “sale” of your personal information (such as cookies that help Motion Picture Association later serve you ads, like we discuss in our Privacy Policy here), and may give you the right to opt out. If you wish to opt out, please click here: