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Monday, June 20, 2011

Top 10 Most Influential High School Movies (1960-2010)

Although anyone can think of tons of movies about high school or teens, there are a few from each decade that become historical classics for their ground breaking or influential impact on culture and society. Here’s my list of the top ten most influential movies from the last five decades:


Splendor in the Grass (1961). Starring: Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty. Director: Elia Kazan. A love story involving conflict between moralistic standards and following the heart, this unrequited romance drives the girl insane and the boy almost to ruin. This movie was ground breaking for portraying the first French kiss in Hollywood.

To Sir With Love (1967). Starring: Sidney Poitier. Director: James Clavell. One of the first films of the now-familiar genre featuring a misplaced but inspired teacher faced with a class of cynical teens. This excellent movie portrays the sexual infatuation of student towards teacher, before it was always the teacher’s fault.


American Graffiti (1973). Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, and others. Director: George Lucas. The story of two high school buddies, on their last night before leaving for college, cruising the strip and having all sorts of adventurous experiences, in an oh-so-accurate portrayal of teenage pop culture. Lots of off-camera drama with actors’ drunken antics, like when Harrison Ford got arrested in a bar fight and was kicked out of his hotel room.

Grease (1978). Starring: John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Director: Randal Kleiser. This classic musical love story between good girl and bad boy is still popular with viewers of all ages. Marie Osmond turned down the lead female role because she didn’t like having to turn bad to get the boy. Sooo goody-goody!


Breakfast Club (1985). Starring: Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy. Director: John Hughes. Story of five high school students from different cliques who end up together at an all-day Saturday detention and find out that they are really deeper than the stereotypes they live. Judd Nelson, who stayed in character off-camera, was almost fired for bullying Molly Ringwald even when the camera wasn’t rolling. Sooo high school!

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). Starring: Matthew Broderick. Director: John Hughes. This hilarious coming-of-age comedy about a street-wise teen who decides to take a day off school and drag his friends with him for a day of mishaps and adventures in Chicago will probably always be a classic. The hot red Ferrari used for most of the scenes was a remade fake, though.


Clueless (1995). Starring: Alicia Silverstone. Director: Amy Heckerling. Based loosely on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel, Emma, Clueless is a fresh and funny comedic portrayal of an ultra-rich and pampered high school student wading her way through her teenage angst as a chic diva. One of those movies you can watch over and over again, and giggle every time.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999). Starring: Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. Director: Gil Junger. A modern version of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”, this teenage love comedy about bittersweet romances sparked the TV series by the same name and holds the interest of viewers of all ages, partly due to the intelligent script and double entendres with, of course, a lot of sexual innuendoes.


Napoleon Dynamite (2004). Starring: Jon Heder. Director: Jared Hess. A cult classic, this wildly funny portrayal of high school life is so accurate that every character reminds you of someone you knew in high school. Being weird is the norm here, or in Napoleon Dynamite’s own words, “You guys are retarded.”

High School Musical (2006). Starring: Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgins. Director: Kenny Ortega. This world-famous Disney musical is the classic story of two high school students from rival cliques who fall in love. What makes this movie so spectacular – besides Ortega’s great chorographical directing – is that it makes it okay for teens to be themselves.


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