perhaps the top 5 school movies in existence. maybe.

Colin Browne gives you a good learnin’.

For many of you, the end of summer is less about fly ointment and tending to your pea garden as it is about getting back to school. In light of this, here’s a few end of summer/school-related movies to check out, if by chance a rainy day might happen to interrupt the usual balmy St. John’s climate, keeping you about the house.

#1. Animal House (1978)
Directed by John Landis (3 Amigos, The Blues Brothers) and starring a fresh-faced John Belushi, this film is the cornerstone of bawdy university humor, influencing any number of films from Revenge of the Nerds (1984) to Superbad (2007). While some of the jokes may seem dated for a modern audience, now accustomed to the once-taboo sex and drugs arena, its candid approach to these and other subjects reflects a narrative craft that is lacking in many of today’s comedies.  A strong supporting cast consisting of Mark Metcalf (the pissed-off dad from Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take it” music video), and Donald Sutherland as a righteous pot-smoking professor,  add just enough spike to the punch to keep things moving behind Belushi’s vibrant portrayal of Bluto: the Delta fraternity’s loveable booze-hound with a 0.0. G.P.A.
Choice quote: “Every Hallowe’en the trees are filled with underwear. Every spring the toilets explode.”

#2. American GraFFiti (1973)
Were it not for a little movie called fricking Star Wars, George Lucas might have crafted his masterpiece in American Graffiti, an imperfect love-letter to innocence lost and early 60’s high-school hijinx.  Lucas’ eye for exacting detail within his work is not lost upon the slight sepia tone of the film, imbuing much of the imagery with a well-aged feel that has not grown weathered through exposure. Ron Howard practically reeks of Americana as the capricious Steve Bolander, preparing for his first semester away from home and girlfriend, while Richard Dreyfus’ Curtis Henderson – conflicted do-gooder faced with the decision of joining local gang of toughs The Pharaoahs or accompanying Steve on a plane out of town –  provides an intriguing glimpse into a time when cars were personalities and even the baddest dude had a heart of gold. Incidentally, this was the only non-sci-fi picture Lucas would direct in his 40-year-plus career.
Choice Quote: “Go ahead, slug me. Scar my face. I wouldn’t dance with you if you were the last guy left in this gym.”

#3. The Breakfast Club (1985)
No list of school-related movies would be complete without mentioning this flawlessly written, sparsely directed John Hughes classic. Arguably the strongest of the short lived, but highly influential “Brat Pack Films”, The Breakfast Club unites a group of diverse high-school kids – each representing a specific clique (the jock, the burnout, the princess etc.) – and examines the psychology of each individual with a reckless blend of humor and drama that makes for something much more than another “teen movie”.

Choice Quote: “ Dork. You, are a parent’s wet dream.”

#4. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Without feeling corny or judgmental, director Richard Linklater (Slacker, Fast Food Nation) manages to capture the vibe of a typical mid 70’s summer, Foghat and all, as filtered through a group of high school layabouts who would rather toke weed on the 50 yard line than study for finals. The soundtrack alone is worth the price of admission (not to mention this is about the only place you are likely to see Ben Affleck actually playing a real character), but what keeps the film truly involving is its honest portrayal of youth. For those of you who have never spent the summer partying with friends, listening to music, meeting girls or running away from bullies, after seeing this movie you will probably want to go out and give it a try.

Choice quote: “That’s what I like about those high school girls. I keep gettin’ older… they stay the same age.”

#5. 3 O’ Clock High (1987)
In no uncertain terms, this film epitomizes the dread of an after-school fight, where nothing but the end of time itself can prevent the apparent inevitability of your ass getting beat. Casey Siemaszko as the tense but pathetic Jerry Mitchell –  warm-hearted   kinda-nerd who runs the student store but is so disorganized that he resorts to simultaneously heating his t-shirt and pop tart in the microwave – is nothing short of a model student in the eyes of the faculty. Unfortunately, this would be “just one of those days” for Jerry as he is assigned the duty of interviewing violent transfer student Buddy Revell (Richard Tyson) who hates to be touched, once pulling a knife on his football coach at a previous institution. With perhaps the greatest scene ever set in front of a row of urinals, this David and Goliath story will have you cheering for blood, for all the right reasons.

Choice Quote: *No choice quote. It’s all about the sibling transfer of brass knuckles. •

3 comments

  1. Luke Q · May 13, 2011

    Solid list. But it could’ve been a toss-up for ten. How about Rushmore! Not about college, but . . . too genius to be left off.

    “They’re O.R. scrubs”

    “Oh, are they?”

    ‘course, there’s also *16 candles, Ferris, et. al.! Man, what a great genre :)

  2. scrappy mcpalin · May 13, 2011

    ditto on rushmore.

    billy madison