Context: There is a movie coming out called “Booksmart” (truth be told iono how it’s stylized but why the fuck do people stylize shit anyway?) directed by Olivia Wilde. I saw a trailer for it when I went to see “Us” and it looked not totally dissimilar to “Superbad” in the best ways possible, swapping in female leads and the unique challenges that girls encounter in adolescents as opposed to boys. It looked funny and endearing in the way only High School Movies (note the fucking capital letters) can. It’s getting rave reviews and I look forward to seeing it.
Leading up to it’s a release, a certain website, spearheaded by a certain media personality known for his affection for Boston sports and who made his bones working for a certain, global leader in sports, posted a list of their top 25 High School Movies (notice themmmmm!) of all time. It was aggregated and synopsized by the writing staff, and while the content is good, especially at calling out some truly repugnant scenes from John Hughes’ work in the 80’s, there were some also some holier-than-though Woke Generation criticisms (I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY HAD THE GUYS IN HIGH SCHOOL TALKING ABOUT WHO’S HOT AND WHO’S NOT IN “SHE’S ALL THAT!!!) and some GLARING omissions and misorderings.
So here I am, Uncle Joey B, to save you all with my list of the Top 10 High School Movies Of Our Time. What does “of our time mean”? Well, I was born in the late 80’s and really began to be aware of pop culture by the late-90’s. So, while I did not get to see High School Movies that came out beginning in the late-90’s, I did a few years after their release when they still were still relevant with casts I recognized and soundtracks I enjoyed. A critical piece of this is that technology had not begun to evolve at breakneck speeds yet as it has now. In contrast to the timeline of my life, someone who was only 7 or 8 in 2007 would have (probably?) been too young to have seen “Superbad” upon its release. By the time they were 13ish, it’s 2012 or 2013 and Michael Cera holding a flip phone perusing porno MAGAZINES looks likes a total dickhead. That inability to relate just wasn’t as much of a problem as I cruised into my teenage years.
One quick note: I’m also going to include “All-Timers”. These are movies from any era that regardless of when they came out speak to you and your sense of nostalgia, to a time when you had no idea what was going on with your mind, body, or soul.
But enough preface. Here is the list, starting with a couple that didn’t make the cut.
Joey B’s Personal Selection – “The Spectacular Now” (2013)
This is by and large a drama and a love story, but it is specifically about two broken people. One has done an inspiring job keeping it together (Shailene Woodley) and one is perfectly fine self-destructing (Miles Teller). This movie will make you uncomfortably relate to it, whether you care to admit it or not.
Honorable Mention #1 (So I Don’t Get Executed) – “Mean Girls” (2004)
This is literally everyone I know’s “favorite movie” in some capacity. It is considered a sin to be a graduate of the classes of 04′-07′ and not worship at the temple of this movie. I like it and think it’s funny, it launched Rachel McAdams, but it just doesn’t land as much with me. Still a phenomenal flick though, just not my thing.
Honorable Mention #2 (Just Plain Fuckin Weird) – “Virgin Suicides” (1999)
Sofia Coppola’s directorial debut told the story of three blonde sisters who were controlled by overprotective parents and therefore….see the title. That’s all I’m telling you.
Honorablest Of Mentions – “Dead Poet’s Society” (1989)
I’ve written about how Robin Williams was my hero growing up and quite frankly this one transcends being a High School Movie so I couldn’t include it in the list. That said, Williams costars alongside a number of talented young actors in a movie that explores how we navigate class, wealth, education, and relationships from the POV of a prep school in the 50s.
10.) “Can’t Hardly Wait” (1998)
One in a slew of “last night of high school/last party” movies, this one appears to be just a melting pot of cliches mashed together for pure cheesy entertainment: the geek going after the hot chick, the nerds trying to go to their first party, the wanksta (particularly relevant in the 90’s). However, “Can’t Hardly Wait” had fuckin LAYERS. The wanksta (Seth Myers) was actually lonely and sad, the hot chick fucking hated the attention. Every insecurity we now know, in retrospect, lay within ourselves and our friends, is laid bare.
9.) “She’s All That” (1999)
Accidentally catching feelings for someone, especially in high school when your hormones are about as predictable as an unlabeled edible, is a tale as old as time. In this one, Freddy Prinze Jr. makes a bet with Paul Walker that he can turn the geek of their H.S into prom queen. GUESS WHAT HAPPENS?! Anyway, I never thought Rachel Leigh Cook got enough credit, neither for being as stunning as she is nor for being a fucking FORCE in “She’s All That”.
8.) “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Some might criticize me for the low ranking, but as years have gone by, this one has started to seem like it moves slow to me. It still is a fucking hilarious tale of a kid skipping school to hustle his way into the ultimate day off. Not to mention each actor NAILS their character, from Broderick’s cocky, slick Ferris, to Cameron and his neuroses, to Genie the jealous, bitter, goodie two-shoes sister. A flawed masterpiece if there ever was one.
7.) The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)
This is purely a favorite movie of mine, probably top-20, and I know a favorite of Mattes’ as well. A scared-shitless freshman with a troubled past is befriended, not without some bumps along the way, by a group of older misfits including, of a course, “a girl”. Just gut punch after gut punch of teenage confusion and young love, but in the more serious context of mental illness. Just wow, not a ton to write man. (LoveyouEmma).
6.) “The Girl Next Door” (2004)
I’ve recently begun reminding anyone who will listen and a handful who didn’t want to about this forgotten treasure. To be very, very clear, this is “my” High School Movie. This is what brings back allll the feels, as the kids say. I watched this with a couple of my buddies probably 10 times between the ages of 15 and 16. Emile Hirsch stars as a bookish high school senior who tries to figure out how to pay for his upcoming four years at Georgetown, all the while falling for the girl who has moved in next door and has a couple of scantily clad skeletons in her closet. I recently watched again and remembered every dumb thing I said to every girl I went after in high school and every dumb way I got dumped for every dumb fuck up. And I smiled all the way to the credits.
P.S – The limo scene with David Gray playing is the GOAT High School Movie scene.
5.) “10 Things I Hate About You” (1999)
Another favorite of mine as well as friend of the blog Patty B’s. This movie is just fucking iconic. You have Heath Ledger before we knew what he could REALLY do. Joseph Gordon-Levitt at his baby-faced, affable best. A smokin hot Alex Mack. David Krumholtz still being David Krumholtz all the way back in 1999. Just excellent. Interesting it was also a dating-for-cash movie like “She’s All That” but this one is based on Shakespeare, as Ledger tries to woo a not-having-it Julia Stiles as part of a bigger plot, except, you know. Also: a BANGIN mid/late-90’s alt-rock soundtrack set in a bougie high school. You couldn’t tell if you were jealous or hated everyone in it.
4.) “Varsity Blues” (1999)
Do I really need to explain this one? When the star-QB (Paul Walker again) goes down, backup and popular every-man Jonathan “Mox” Moxon (James Van Der Beek) has to come in and finish the season out under the pressure of his town, his overbearing father, his psycho coach, and his disillusioned concern for his cliched present and hopeful future. Also featured is horrrrrrrrrrribly underrated 90’s chick Amy Smart. There’s all the partying, girls, and frivolity that make these movies great with the sensitivity that makes them mean something.
3.) “American Pie” (1999)
Aftermath Records albums and High School Movies, THAT’S WHAT 1999 DOES (DID…apparently). Anyway the aforementioned dipshits at the aforementioned website left this one off. their list. altogether. How you even begin to create such a list without “American Pie” is beyond me. It is a tale as old as time: A group of self-conscious guys facing the end of high school want to lose their virginity while their smoother or more advanced friends help them do it. That’s it. That’s the movie. Except along the way they learn one of life’s greatest lessons: there are far better things to discover in the fairer sex than just carnal pleasures. Trust me on that one, I’m 30, single, and have severe trust and commitment issues. “American Pie” also boasts maybe the GOAT High School movie feud in Stiffler-Finch. And Tara Reid.
2.) “Dazed And Confused” (1993)
I either wrote or considered writing a blog awhile back with the thesis being “Dazed And Confused” is the greatest “Rainy Day Movie” of all time. That is a very specific, unquantifiable, and inflammatory thing to state but I stand by it. On a lazy Saturday when it is rainy and you don’t want to go outside, if this Linklater classic comes on you are all set. The story of popular QB Randall “Pink” Floyd and the complicated way one has to navigate friendships between cliques in high school, “Dazed And Confused” is hysterical, touching, and a great look into that moment in your life when you realize there just might be more to it.
1.) “Superbad” (2007)
Did anyone else get caught drinking/smoking something/fucking/making out/doing literally anything in high school? Well up to when “Superbad” came out, movie party scenes always seemed overblown and inaccurate to me. They just didn’t encapsulate what I experienced. Then “Superbad” came out and the final party scene was so dead on I remember feeling a momentary panic as if I had been caught as referenced above. Like, “Oh shit, they know.” Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg did it, man – they nailed what it was like to wrap up high school, go to a party, hang out with your best friend, and be terrified of what happens next. GOAT.