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.
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.
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.
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.
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‘.