Ah, high school. If you miss navigating through all those cafeteria cliques, awkward first relationships, and stressing out about THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, then you’re in for a treat. We’re recapping some of the best high schools in pop culture, just in time for Back-to-School. So grab your Trapper Keepers, put on your D.A.R.E. shirt, and get nostalgic with us.
The Breakfast Club
Five angsty teens from different backgrounds and social statuses are placed in detention and arguably become some of the greatest characters in high school movie history. As EW put it: “If hell is other people–and high school is hell–then John Hughes is the genre’s Sartre, and [The Breakfast Club] is his No Exit.”
Who says movies about high school teenagers need to star teenagers? Exhibit A: Grease. The entirety of your high school experience is all here, replete with singing, dance numbers, and Stockard Channing in a wig.
What happens when you combine Tina Fey’s screenwriting, a baby-faced Lindsey Lohan, and then-newcomer Rachel McAdams? Mean Girls/movie magic, that’s what. This classic tale of outsiders vs. the popular girls quickly reached cult status thanks to its quirky one-liners and its underlying theme: High school is a jungle where only the strong (and those with fantastic bone structure) survive.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer were so endearing and relatable that we followed them all the way to the apocalypse (or: college). Side note: If you’ve ever wanted to see a group of high school kids in trendy early aughts outfits, there is a treasure trove of choice selections waiting for you.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Three best friends cut school and have the best day ever. There’s a parade, luxury vehicles, a tinge of nihilism (just check out this fan theory about Ferris and Cameron), and a young Jennifer Grey in probably the best/moodiest role of her life.
Part of the beauty of Glee — and really, anything Ryan Murphy is involved in — was how insanely over the top the episodes could get, yet still nail the nuances of being a teenager in high school. (The amount of Billy Joel songs they cover really is comical.)
Freaks and Geeks
After its first season, Freaks and Geeks — iconic, feminist, and HILARIOUS 1980s teenage drama — was cancelled. It quickly gained cult status and its talented cast (which included James Franco, Jason Segel, and Seth Rogan) managed to find success elsewhere, despite being #GoneTooSoon.
The plagues of being a high school student as a popular and insanely well-off daughter of a lawyer is surprisingly entertaining. (Probably because it’s based on the Jane Austen novel, Emma.) Clueless has it all: hilarious one-liners, fabulous ’90s outfits, and Brittany Murphy in her breakout role.
Dazed and Confused
Richard Linklater’s first foray into teen drama features a lecherous Matthew McConaughey and a sadistic Parker Posey. Dazed and Confused is like American Grafitti with stoners.
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion
From Janeane Garofalo‘s signature eye roll to Alan Cumming playing it straight, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is a heartwarming tale of high school misfits blossoming into the beautiful adult butterflies they always were. As was the trend of many a late ’90s high school movie, the film’s denouement is a dance number (this one is set to Cyndi Lauper).
BONUS: Harry Potter
While it isn’t TECHNICALLY a high school, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is impossible to not mention. The school includes students of all ages, but the real magic happens at the high school grade levels where you can get an education in the magical arts, spend your free time in your house’s common room, take in Quidditch match, and get a hot date to the Yule Ball, all while defending the world from the darkest forces of evil.