We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but it’s that dreaded time of year again:back to school. Luckily, there is a simple way to ease the pain of having to start learning again: watch lots of movies! Because we’re concerned about your well-being, we set out to compile the ultimate, end-all list of the top 10 back to school movies that you can queue up to get yourself in the mindset of class schedules, cafeteria food and atomic wedgies. Just remember not to stay up toolate watching these — it’s a school night, after all!
PCU is the perfect reminder of why we really go to college: fun and parties! Starring pre-famous Jeremy Piven, Jon Favreau and David Spade, PCU may stand for Port Chester University, but it might as well stand for “Politically Correct University,” where every club speaks out for a social cause. A prospective student touring the campus learns this the hard way as he soon runs afoul of every last club, pitting them against each other (as well as pitting them against the fraternity where he’s taken refuge). PCU is a stoner/raunchy/comedyof errors in a party-hearty atmosphere where the frat realizes the only way to survive and unite the student body is to throw a massive party featuring George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic (naturally).
Clueless portrays the high school experience we can all relate to: who hasn’tfallen in love with their ex-stepbrother after being turned down by their gay boyfriend while attending a rich, super-cliquey valley-girl high school? As if! OK, maybe we can’t all relate to that, but this Alicia Silverstone-led comedy does ring true for anyone who has dealt with the trials and tribulations of being a teen (read: everyone) — from driver’s ed and squabbles with friends to puppy love crushes and “rolling with the homies.” And no matter how hard things get, well, there’s certainly time to party with the Haiti-ans.
8. Revenge of the Nerds
NERDS!!! They may be the bane of every jock’s existence, but they’re an integral part of the school social structure. This movie serves as a reminder that you should be nice to the nerds in your life, lest they seek revenge on you by means of panty raids and jock strap sabotage. If you’re still not convinced, let us lay this mind-blowing fact on you: without nerds, there’d be no jocks, so we’re all naturally dependent on each other. Or maybe we’re just trying to justify being huge nerds ourselves.
7. The Breakfast Club
Nothing says back to school like the dreaded (and, let’s be honest, inevitable) detention. Five teens spend a Saturday together and learn that they aren’t so different from each other, despite their stereotypical social standings. Starring “brat pack” favorites Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy, this is the quintessential coming-of-age dramedy from the only adult who ever understood teenagers, John Hughes. Don’t you forget about adding The Breakfast Club to your back to school playlist so you can spend your next eight Saturdays watching this freeze-frame, fist-in-the-air delight.
6. Animal House
Never before has someone done a dramatic impression of a zit with such gusto, grace and conviction. John Belushi binge-drank his way into our hearts not just for that infamous scene, but because he personified all that was fun about college in his larger-than-life performance as Bluto in Animal House. Also, he smashes an acoustic guitar and there are toga parties and about a million other things happen that make this movie so good it almost makes us want to go back to school ourselves. Almost…
5. Mean Girls
Kids can be so cruel. Teenagers can be, well, downright mean. In Tina Fey’s hysterical take on high school drama, Mean Girls teaches us that nutrition labels on snack foods are important, “small” parties are not a thing that teens do and you should never write down every single piece of gossip you’ve ever heard in a book. But if there’s just one thing we should take away from this movie, it’s that we should seriously stop trying to make “fetch” happen.
4. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
There’s more to being a teen than just high school, whether it’s the loathsome after-school job or the rarely-successful dating scene. It’s about just survivingmore than anything else, and the students of Ridgemont High are going to have to do just that if they want to make it through the school year. So spend some “our time” with Judge Reinhold, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Romanus, Phoebe Cates and Ray Walston (aka Mr. Hand) in this hilarious comedy of teenage angst and awkwardness. And seriously, who would have thought this film would launch the career of two-time Oscar®-winning actor and social activist Sean Penn, who co-stars as Jeff Spicoli, the perpetually-stoned surfer/slacker?
3. Rock ‘n’ Roll High School / School of Rock
Some movies prove that school really can rock, as long as your schoolmates are The Ramones or your class is hi-jacked by Jack Black. Both the classic Roger Corman-produced tale of student uprising and the more recent Richard Linklater-directed tale of a substitute teacher gone rogue show that the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll can lift spirits and turn class into a rousing good time — who needs a pesky curriculum, anyway??
2. Back To School
Could we possibly have a list like this without a movie that’s actually called Back To School? Maybe, if it weren’t a total classic. But it is; Rodney Dangerfield is a street smart, self-made millionaire who decides to attend college to support his son who intends to drop out. He soon realizes that money can’t buy everything, and he’s going to have to buckle down and earn his grades if he wants any chance of making an impression on his son. Dangerfield’s signature brand of self-deprecating and sarcastic humor is in full force here. With supporting performances from Keith Gordon, perennial “’80s douche” William Zabka, Sally Kellerman and Sam Kinnison (in one of only two-ever film performances!), this film is a true “Triple Lindy” of comedy films.
1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
When all is said and done, the most definitive back to school movie is one where the main character doesn’t even set foot in a school at all. Matthew Broderick’s romp through Chicago as Ferris Bueller still captures our imagination and makes us wonder if we, too, could ever pull off such a historically-epic day of hooky. But the truth of the matter is this: while Bueller spends his day absorbing fine art, taking in a ball game and joy-riding in a classic Ferrari, the rest of us are content to sleep in and live vicariously through him. We’ve got some more movies to watch, anyway.