Top 5 Back-to-School Flicks

The summer break is almost over (sigh), which means kids are headed back to school. As we count down the days to fall TV season premieres and football season’s first Monday Night Football, let’s celebrate this entertainment limbo by throwing on a few choice back-to-school movies.

1. American Graffiti: Which begs the question,“Where were you in ‘62?” Although I wasn’t around in 1962, American Graffiti does remind me of dragging Grand Avenue on Friday and Saturday nights, listening to music and car hopping with friends. If a movie can transport you to a different time, this is a good trip to take; from the well waxed cars to the always busy Mel’s Drive-in, you will live out a night of cruising in the 60s. The film is directed by George Lucas, back before he got so wrapped up in Star Wars. Richard Dreyfuss stars as Curt, who is trying to decide whether to go off to college the next day with his best friend, Steve, played by Ron Howard. This is also one of those rare films where the music literally drives it along and probably could be considered a character as well. Even if you don’t see the film, grab the soundtrack and throw it on in your car for a road trip back to ‘62!

2. The Breakfast Club: A close second on my list, Breakfast Club is about five strangers with nothing in common, other than one very memorable Saturday together. Since I graduated in ’86, this movie falls right in my high school wheel-house — I can really relate to having friends that were a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Anyone of any age can relate to some, if not all, of these characters. What makes this movie great is that every character goes through some sort of transformation, and they are also each given their time to shine. Great movie– and by far the best of the “Brat Pack”; you could even make the argument that it is the movie of the 80s. Check out this original trailer from 1985, introducing the Breakfast Club members for the first time.

3. Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Who can forget, “Hey Bud, let’s party.” Cameron Crowe’s script still works as well today as it did in 1982. This is another high school movie with very distinct characters and very different personalities. It is hard to believe Sean Penn as the perfect stoner, always ready to party and deliver some of the most memorable lines in movie history, such as, “This is U.S. History; I see the globe right there.” The great cast included newcomers, at the time: Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz and Nicolas Cage. You know a movie has made an impression on a generation when there is at least one pair of Vans in every classroom. Check out the original trailer below.

4. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “The question is, what aren’t we going to do?” is a line that perfectly captures the whole movie. Although the action technically took place out of school, every kid has sat in class and fantasized about what they could be doing, if only they didn’t have to be at school. And Chicago: what an awesome city to play hooky in. After an elaborate plan to skip school, Ferris, Sloane Cameron make it to a baseball game, the art museum and even the Sears Tower. John Hughes (who also directed The Breakfast Club) really has a knack of evoking the audience’s nostalgia for feeling young again. Just for kicks, here’s the clip of the famous “Twist and Shout” scene in the streets of Chicago.

5. Animal House: “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”  Because back to school means college too. And if there is a movie that defines college, it is Animal House. This National Lampoon comedy reintroduced things like toga parties and food fights, following a frat house through school, parties and eventual expulsion. John Belushi was perfect in what may have been his best role ever– although I am pretty partial to Jake from The Blues Brothers. You can’t have much more fun than Animal House unless you have 10,000 marbles. Here’s a clip from the food fight scene.

So many movies remind my of my childhood and school days for different reasons. What films remind you of going back to school? What would you add to my list? Good luck with the new school year!

Remember, no talking or texting during the feature presentation.

— Jim