It’s that time of year again — when the weather gets cooler, the days are gradually getting shorter, and students are scrambling to finish their summer reading. Yes, that’s right. It’s back-to-school season. And what better way to get the mood for academia than with a good old-fashioned movie night? Well here’s a helping hand: a nice list of movies to take you from having fun in the sun to diving into those textbooks and bonding with your fellow classmates.
Let’s open up with a double feature. Both Grease and its underrated sequel Grease 2 are the musicals to put any returning student in the mood to step foot on the campus. These movie musicals are more interested in the students’ romantic lives than what’s being taught in the classrooms, but everyone needs an outlet away from homework and pop quizzes. There’s also an element of transformation to the movies that are very much a product of their time but still hold a certain charm to them. There will always be a tiny part of us that wishes getting the guy or the girl we like was as easy as a change of clothes and a new persona. Or that we could become a motorcycle prodigy in a single school year. Don’t forget to check out the series, Rise of the Pink Ladies on Paramount Plus. No matter how many years have passed, it always remains true that grease is the word.
Bring It On
There’s always going to be something exciting about a movie that centers on a group of athletes and their fight to the top. Or in this case, their fight to stay on top. In Bring It On, Torrence is the new captain of the Rancho Carne Toro’s cheer squad and things aren’t going so well for her. The previous captain is revealed to be a lying cheater who steals routines from the East Compton Clovers. After a mishap at cheer camp, Torrence is convinced she’s cursed. She’s not cursed, she’s just in a situation in which her ethics and morals are being tested — something many students and student-athletes are faced with. Are you someone who wants to be on top no matter who you have to step on to get there? Or do you want to be the best based on your hard work and talent alone? Well in the end, talent and hard work are what wins because the Clovers are finally able to show the cheer world what they’ve got. If you’re a fan of early 2000s teen flicks, this one is just what the doctor ordered.
What has Samuel L. Jackson, three A Different World alumni, and a catchy song about colorism? Why it’s none other than School Daze! A Spike Lee joint set on an HBCU campus with an interesting cast of characters that captures the ups and downs of university life and that awkward transition period of early adulthood. The movie covers multiple topics such as sorority and fraternity culture, the varied attitudes towards higher learning in the black community, and as mentioned before the colorism that is just as topical today as it was in 1988. For all the Uni students who are making their way back to campus, give School Daze a watch.
The Breakfast Club
You can’t talk about school movies and not bring up The Breakfast Club. Considered by many to be John Hughes‘ magnum opus, the movie does a great job of tackling issues like broken homes, isolation, peer pressure, and abuse without being heavy-handed or preachy. It’s an honest look at the way teenagers think and orbit around each other. There are also amazing performances from the cast. Judd Nelson as John Bender plays a perfect bad boy, right down to the way he antagonizes to get his point across. Molly Ringwald plays rich and popular Claire who is constantly stuck between her parents as they use her as a tool in their crumbling marriage. Add to that she’s under pressure from her friend group to be the perfect popular role model for the school. There’s Andrew the jock who goes to extreme lengths to please his overbearing father, Brian who is slowly buckling under the academic weight his parents put on him, and Allison whose parents barely even acknowledge her existence. It’s an intimate look at how being a teenager is not the walk in the park that adults tend to think it is. It also serves as a way to remind those of us who are far removed from our teen years to give the kids of today the grace that many of us didn’t receive. It’s a movie so iconic that many have paid homage to it.
You can watch The Breakfast Club on Netflix.
Could there ever be a list of movies set in school and Clueless not be on it? As if! Directed by Amy Heckerling and based (roughly) on the novel Emma by Jane Austen, Clueless is a story about a girl who goes from a selfish and self-absorbed teen to a mature, giving, and caring young lady. Cher is the kind of character who shows what the road to being a good person usually looks like. She doesn’t always get it right, but usually her heart is in the right place. She learns how to apologize when she’s wrong, and she takes responsibility for the part she plays in her life and the lives of those around her. Cher also does something that’s not seen very often in movies. She takes stock of the people around her and notes all of their good qualities that she admires and wants to emulate. It’s a useful tool if you’re looking to go on your own self-improvement journey.
You can watch Clueless on Paramount+.
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Gamer, anime fan, and lover of TV and movies. I've been a writer since 2017.