Several years out of high school, I still get a serious kick out of a good teen comedy. I love the predictable, safe rules and plots that bind all of the predictable, safe characters. Even the bad ones are great. I feel a nostalgia for high school movies, not because they’re old, but because they remind me of high school — and specific people in high school. In fact, every teen movie could potentially fit into one high school clique or another. So let’s pretend high school movies actually went to high school and give ten of our favorite classic teen flicks the yearbook treatment.
1. The Breakfast Club would be CLASS PRESIDENT
There’s something so doggedly optimistic about John Hughes movies, particularly this one, wherein all the stratified social types come together. The brain, the criminal, the athlete, the princess and the basket case are like a cross-section of student government — idealistic and unified.
2. American Pie would be CLASS CLOWN
American Pie is practically a parody of the teen comedy. All the goofiest tropes are employed: people scramble to lose their virginity, the jock goes for the nerd, Dad gets in the way. If this flick were a student, it would be the goofball in the back of the classroom who spins out all the obvious jokes. But somehow, you loved him anyway.
3. Mean Girls would be THE MATHLETES
This movie holds up as one of the smartest, most mathematically precise satires of high school. At first look, it seems obvious that Mean Girls embraces the Mean Girl – but if you think about it, this was a Mathlete of a movie. The smartest people win, and the message is all about embracing your uncoolness. Case in point: we all know Kevin Gnapoor was the real hero.
4. Dazed and Confused would be THE ULTIMATE FRISBEE TEAM
Richard Linklater’s proto-mumblecore, day-in-the-life flick is as deliberate as it is loping. Nothing really happens on this vague day in 1976, and yet, everything does. Just like the Ultimate Frisbee team, this movie shelters the unconventional and knows how to have fun.
5. Ten Things I Hate About You would be THE DRAMA CLUB
This movie is as dramatically sound and (snugly predictable) as the Shakespearean drama it’s based on – which is of course a well-known category of high school flick. Plus, the costumes are wild, the Pacific Northwest setting is exquisite and the soundtrack is aces. Ten Things is theatrical because it’s the drama club – every aspect of the movie is carefully rendered, yet totally over the top.
6. Fast Times At Ridgemont High would be THE MALLRATS
Because it doesn’t follow a particular person, Fast Times offers a kaleidoscopic view of high school. This movie is more about how it felt to mill around in a cluster of people, overhearing snippets of everyone’s gossip. There are no lasting allegiances. Just like at the mall.
7. Heathers would be THE GOTHS
This practically goes without saying, but Heathers’ stylized, offbeat, utterly black humor makes it the dark horse in the cafeteria. These are the kids who found drama club too conventional. These were the kids who wore black (as opposed to bright scrunchies) and communed with the dead.
8. She’s All That Would Be THE PROM COMMITTEE
Just like American Pie, She’s All That is pretty aware of itself – but that’s what makes it so perfect. No one in this film looks like they’re in high-school! People go from hideous to beautiful when they merely replace their glasses with contacts and WALK DOWN STAIRS. And yet, SAT takes itself just seriously enough that we’re really rooting for Laney Boggs and Zack Siler by the end. This flick wants you to have a good time, but knows its limits – just like an anxious-but-creative prom committee dealing with a budget crisis.
9. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off would be THE MAGIC GUY
You probably knew one or two of the Magic Guys in high-school – those charmers who could always get the the beautiful girls to say yes and get the teachers to bend the rules. My Magic Guy? He once winked at a science teacher, and she let him sit at her desk for half a semester. These people floated above the rules and systems that bound the rest of us. As Ferris’ day off is improbable, imaginative, and downright mathematically impossible (how did he do all those things in a day? HOW?), I dub this flick our movie Magic Guy. Ferris floated effortlessly between the social groups. He often appeared to fly.
10. American Graffiti would be THE SUPER-SENIOR
American Graffiti – that flick that launched a thousand careers – is the de facto ruler of the school. This movie buys the beer for all the parties, because it invented the party. It also has the only legit ID, because…well… it’s the oldest.