5 Still-Relevant High School Throwback Movies You Probably Haven't Seen
No offense to Clueless...
Everyone loves a good high school movie, but be honest: Do you really want to watch Clueless, Dazed and Confused, or even The Breakfast Club for the thousandth time? Rather than sticking with your predictable Netflix queue (don’t worry, you can watch Heathers next weekend!), we suggest branching out with these five truly cult favorite high school films. They might span the decades, but these throwback movies are still just as relatable as ever.
Whether it’s relationships, teacher problems, or cool-but-adorable weirdos, some things about high school never really change…
Election: There’s a type A teacher’s pet at every school, but trust us—even the most annoying overachiever in your class doesn’t come close to Tracy Flick. Alexander Payne’s 1999 dark comedy Election follows high school junior Flick (Reese Witherspoon) as she campaigns to become the school president against the resident dumb jock Paul Metzler (portrayed by a floppy-haired Chris Klein). The storyline might be universal, but this award-winning film is more of a punchy satire than a traditional high school film. Ridiculous one-liners, some dark teacher-student drama, and Witherspoon’s portrayal of a ruthless yet earnest anti-heroine make this a winner—even 15 years later. Watch it on Netflix to meet the new favorite character you’ll love to hate (and even maybe feel a little bit sorry for) now.
Dead Poets Society: You should never need an excuse to watch a movie that stars a young Ethan Hawke (just saying). But, as one of the best high school tales of nonconformity, Dead Poets Society is worth watching for about a zillion other reasons, too. Written by Tom Schulman—who, fun fact, is the guy behind Honey, I Shrunk The Kids! and What About Bob?—and co-starring the late Robin Williams, this 1989 flick offers a rare glimpse into the lives of high school guys. Rather than focusing on overused high school tropes like prom or getting the girl (OK, there’s a little bit of that), the story instead explores the relationship between one amazing teacher, his group of students, and a bunch of, yep, dead poets. Bring on the warm and fuzzies!
Fast Times At Ridgemont High: If you think Clueless holds the crown as the #1 teen movie of all time, then you need to stop everything and watch the other teen comedy by its director, Amy Heckerling. Heckerling’s 1982 directorial debut is based on the real-life experiences of Cameron Crowe (who you already know as the director of Almost Famous). It follows what really happens when a Rolling Stone journalist goes undercover at a large California high school. The whole incognito thing might not happen IRL, but relationship problems, annoying jobs, and plenty of blowing off assignments definitely do. If the hilarious plot is one of the things that make this comedy so great, then the cast—which includes Nicolas Cage, Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and more—is the other. Pre-Superbad, American Pie, and even She’s All That, consider this movie the grandfather of high school slapstick comedy.
The Last Picture Show: This classic film was made all the way back in 1971—meaning you can only watch it in black and white—but the oldie-but-goodie is still totally relevant in 2015. Starring Hollywood greats like Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd, the drama follows a group of high school seniors in a run-down, one-horse Texas town. As they get closer to graduation, dark secrets between the friends suddenly come to surface: affairs with married adults, blow-up breakups, and the truth behind the deaths of some of their classmates. Despite these painful issues, this heart wrenchingly honest movie thankfully never becomes too much of a downer. It even won a coveted 4/4 stars from famed movie reviewer Robert Ebert (practically unheard of!), which means you should probably add it to your must-watch list ASAP.
Rushmore: Spoiler alert: Wes Anderson’s first-ever high school movie is so Wes Anderson. This 1998 flick (his follow-up to The Royal Tenenbaums) casts an adorably awkward Jason Schwartzman as Max Fischer as he tries to navigate the cringeworthy halls of high school. Max is, uh, eccentric in the best ways possible, participating in every extracurricular imaginable, falling in love with his teacher, and even getting expelled for attempting to build an aquarium on school property (just go with us here…). The plot is stellar, the onscreen style is Halloween costume-worthy, and the soundtrack is A+.