Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Movies About School

In addition to everything else going on this time of year, September also traditionally marks the start of the school year. As either you or your kids head back to class, let’s use this week’s Roundtable to reflect on some of our favorite movies about school or teachers.

Wayne Rowe

Hmmm… favorite movie about school. Gosh, that’s a tough one. If you asked my wife, she’d say ‘Stand and Deliver’. I, on the other hand, started hemming and hawing about ‘Donnie Darko’ and ‘Dazed and Confused’, but I think I’m going to have to go with ‘Heathers‘. Dark humor at its best, and Christian Slater and Winona Ryder in top ’80s form. Love it.

Aaron Peck

One of my favorite movies about high school also happens to be one of the greatest documentaries of all time. ‘Hoop Dreams‘ is about two high school basketball players who have dreams to get to the NBA. Student athletes William Gates and Arthur Agee are profiled here. These two African American kids are recruited to go to the predominantly white St. Joseph High School in Illinois. Basketball is only a backdrop to present real, prominent issues in our society. Everything from racial divides to socioeconomic problems are raised during the movie. This is one of my favorite high school-centric movies, and continues to be one of the absolute best documentaries out there.

M. Enois Duarte

I’m going to try to be a bit different with my selection by avoiding the usual suspects – and I think we all know which ones those are. A long-time favorite of mine is probably also one my most embarrassing guilty pleasures: ‘Just One of the Guys‘. Speaking objectively, it’s a rather badly-made movie, but there’s something about it that I just love. I can watch it repeatedly without ever being bored. No, it’s not because of the final reveal where Joyce Hyser comes clean with her little experiment. Although, as a guy, that is a pretty spectacular conclusion to a fun high school flick. The movie also features William Zabka being his usual jerk self and marks the time I developed a crazy fan-crush for Sherilyn Fenn, before seeing her again in ‘Twin Peaks’. What I actually enjoy about the mostly-forgotten movie is how it breaks down and has fun with the social hierarchies of high school life. It’s not accurate and is mostly exaggerated, but that’s part of the humor. I like it and I’ve enjoyed it ever since I first saw it.

Luke Hickman

Ive always had a soft spot for ‘School Ties‘, even though my love of Brendan Fraser has diminished to pure hate. Dealing with social and racial issues, ‘School Ties’ starts off light, and then shifts to the heavy side. The film also co-stars best buddies Matt Damon and Ben Affleck before anyone knew who they were. As no-names, how in the world did they get these roles together?

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Since there’s such a woeful lack of flesh-eating zombies in this back-to-school Roundtable, I’m going to go with ‘Dance of the Dead‘. It’s the heart-warming… errr, gut-munching tale of a particularly eventful day in some sleepy little town in Georgia. 1) It’s prom night! 2) The dead rise from their graves and start chomping on everyone in sight. The legions of zombies make a beeline for the local high school since the big dance makes for an irresistible all-you-can-eat buffet. Pretty much the only people left to fend off the undead are the nerds and outcasts who couldn’t get a date for the prom in the first place. Horror-comedies have a nasty habit of not being all that scary and not being all that funny, but ‘Dance of the Dead’ is a blast. Sopping with splatter, howlingly (and intentionally!) funny, and screaming ahead at a manic pace, it’s up there with ‘Shaun of the Dead’, ‘Evil Dead 2’, and ‘Return of the Living Dead’ as one of the only flicks that can pull off the whole horror-comedy thing. It’s everything I want in a movie set in high school: pretty girls, barrel drums of blood, and flesh-eating ghouls.

Josh Zyber

I think that I made a mistake when I sent out the staff instructions for this week’s Roundtable. I said that I’d prefer it if not everyone picked ‘Dead Poets Society‘, which I assumed would be most people’s first thought. As a result, it appears that everyone believed I was saying that I didn’t want anyone to pick ‘Dead Poets Society’. That wasn’t my intention, but that’s how it worked out. I guess that leaves it to me to go with perhaps the most obvious choice for this topic.

While there have been countless “inspirational teacher” movies over the decades, Peter Weir’s 1989 boarding school drama remains the gold standard for the genre. As I recall, one of my film school professors back in the day argued vehemently that Robin Williams’ character was a fascist. I guess I can see where that interpretation comes from, even if I don’t really agree with it. Regardless, the movie captures the emotional truth of the teenage years in a very direct and honest way.

Honorable mentions to ‘Animal House’, ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ and ‘The Breakfast Club’. Also, in case anyone is wondering, the banner image photo above this post comes from ‘The 400 Blows‘.


    • Ha. I did my writeup at the eleventh hour, so I figured all the ones that immediately leapt to mind like The Breakfast Club and Rushmore would’ve been covered already. I figured it was a pretty safe bet that no one would go for an indie zombie flick, so I merrily skipped off in that direction.

    • Alex

      Excellent choice!!!! Without Goodbye Mr. Chips, Dead Poets Society and Mr. Holland’s Opus (one of my personal favorites) probably wouldn’t even exist.

  1. Alex

    I gotta say, I kinda dig “Young Sherlock Holmes.” Its treatment of a British boarding school has to be the reason Chris Columbus got the job directing the first two Harry Potter movies, and while it is a woeful interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes character and legend, it’s kind of a fun little flick.

  2. Barsoom Bob

    Ahhh! British boarding schools I have to bring up Lindsey Anderson’s ” If ” This movie profoundly predicted the violent clash of generations that was to come in the sixties and also introduced us to Malcom McDowell (?) A great great flick with a great score to go with it.

  3. You’ve got at least one friend with your pick M. “Just One of the Guys” is not a perfect movie by any stretch, but I also can’t help but love it. I last watched it on Netflix just a couple weeks ago in fact.

  4. Jane Morgan

    I second ‘Battle Royale,’ and kick in ‘The Social Network.’

    I also have a soft spot for ‘Lost and Delirious.’

    I’m surprised no one mentioned ‘Harry Potter.’

  5. Alex

    It’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s about a schoolboy there’s certainly a lot of school in it: Hope & Glory.

  6. Eric

    Dazed and Confused will always be one of my favorites. If you can’t relate to someone in that film, I hate to break it to you, but you never experienced high school. I don’t care how many bad flicks Matthew McConaughey makes, I will always have a soft spot for him, because Wooderson is one of the most enjoyable characters of all time.

  7. paramedic0112

    I like American Graffiti, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Taps, Ferris Bueller, Risky Business, Back to the Future, Social Network, Dead Poet’s Society. I can’t decide if Mr. Holland’s Opus is really good or really bad.

  8. It’s funny to see someone mention “Just One of the Guys”. It was one of my favorite movies back in the ’80s, and it’s been a guilty pleasure ever since. There’s a good version available on DVD, although it’s not in widescreen. Hopefully this will be corrected someday with a proper BD release!

  9. EM

    Les Diaboliques (1955)—for some reason marketed in the US as Diabolique, which, so far as I know, isn’t English either. Anyway, it’s a film noir set at a French boarding school. The headmaster is married to the owner of the school and is fooling around with one of the teachers. Not only is the wife aware of the affair, but she has forged a strange friendship with the mistress, based on the headmaster’s cruelty to both women. The two women conspire to murder him and make it look like an accident. One of the best scenes has the wife, a teacher of English, leading her class through verb conjugations while looking out her window, anxiously waiting for the corpse to be discovered. The suspense builds until she finally has the class conjugate the verb to find! The movie has twists and turns that veer through spooky-horror territory. I’m glad none of my schools were like this, but it’s a great film and a good time.