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The 411 Movies Top 5 09.07.12: Week 338 - Top 5 Movies to Cheer You Up During Back to School
Posted by Trevor Snyder on 09.07.2012



5. Billy Madison (1995)

If you're bumming about being back in school, take some solace in the fact that at least you're done with whatever grades you've already made it through – and that you'll almost certainly never to re-do them, as Adam Sandler's titular character must in this, Sandler's first big starring role. One of the most infinitely quotable comedies of the modern era, Billy Madison still stands as a nice reminder that Sandler's films used to be just the right amount of dumb, and truly funny.

4. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Starting with this film, the rest of my list concerns "school movies" that don't really focus on classroom scenes, per se, but that doesn't mean they're not "school movies." Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of the best teen comedies of all time, and is relevant to this topic because it works as a nostalgic reminder of all the crazy stuff you might have to got up to with your friends and romantic interests in high school. And if you're watching it while in high school, let it serve as a reminder that these are the sort of memories of this time that you will cherish later. Especially if you're lucky enough to have your own Phoebe Cates moment. Well, maybe not the whole her walking in on you part, but you know what I mean…

3. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Look, I'm not advocating that you deal with your back to school doldrums by playing hooky. But, if you do, I hope you at least make the most of it and have an epic day as memorable as the one Ferris brings his girlfriend and best friend along on the ride for. Some might say this movie teaches the wrong lesson – skipping class is of course not something you're supposed to encourage. But, you know, I think if a kid is willing to put in the amount of work that Ferris does to both pull it off and avoid Principal Rooney, he kind of deserves the break, doesn't he?

2. The Breakfast Club (1985)

John Hughes' The Breakfast Club remains a classic today because, no matter when and where you're going to high school, you can recognize some, if not all, of the teen stereotypes that populate this group. But Hughes makes it interesting – and real – by tearing through those stereotypes and revealing the personalities underneath. Yes, it's a funny movie – a very funny movie. But it's also a moving testament to the idea that people aren't as different as they might initially think, and that these various cliques really could get along if they tried. That's a pretty good message for anyone in school, where the clique mentality can be a little overwhelming at times.

1. Dazed and Confused (1993)

Really, what better way is there to get your mind off of "back to school" than to imagine the upcoming end of the school year? So every time it feels like the year isn't ever going to end, just pop in Richard Linklater's ode to the last day of school and the parties that follow, and live vicariously through its multitude of awesome characters. And don't worry – you'll be there yourself soon enough.


5. Better Off Dead... (1985)

This John Cusack classic comedy doesn't take place exclusively in school, but there are several great high school centered scenes. Who can forget the scene where Cusack's Lane has to go the front and show everyone his solution to the big equation? The scenes in the cafeteria are also hysterical (Charles snorting Jell-O, Ricky throwing a kid's book and eating those chocolate cake things, the bit where Lane accidentally removes the cheerleader on skates' uniform, much to the consternation of the basketball team). And how about that prom? The ridiculous remark that Stalin makes towards Charles that causes Charles to laugh uncontrollably, and Ricky's entrance (the way the door just opens... awesome). And then there's Charles' famous line, "I've been going to this high school for seven and a half years. I'm no dummy. I know high school girls." Still one of Cusack's best movies.

4. Just One of the Guys (1985)

Terri, a female high school journalism student decides to go undercover at a different high school to see if sexism is to blame for her internship contest article not getting picked. I bet this kind of thing happens all the time. Ha. Ignoring that aspect of the movie, there's some great school stuff here. Douchebag bully Greg Tolan (everyone knows a "Greg Tolan." EveryoneJust One of the Guys is one of the best school movies of the 1980's, one that still makes me laugh twenty-seven years later.

Oh, and I bet that scene where the male teachers talk about Terri's legs happens damn near every day. Because men are pigs. Am I right? Am I?

3. Summer School (1987)

Mark Harmon's Mr. Shoop is probably the kind of teacher everyone wishes they had in school. A cool guy with a penchant for trying to reach his students by any means necessary, even if he doesn't really want to do it. I mean, think about it, the only reason he "acted cool" with his summer school English class was because he made an agreement with his students. He was essentially trying to bribe them. While that may seem kind of underhanded, Mr. Shoop had his limits. He was only going to take that bribe so far. If you, as one of his students, didn't keep up your end of the agreement he'd let you have it (and he'd threaten to quit. You don't want the cool guy to quit!). And think about this: Mr. Shoop allowed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to be screened in class as part of the class. How often does something like that happen outside of a film class? Why the heck didn't Harmon or director Carl Reiner ever make a sequel? I'd really like to know what Mr. Shoop did with his tenure.

2. Back to School (1986)

Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield), the mega rich owner of the "Thornton Melon's Tall and Fat" clothing chain, decides to go to college after his son Jason (Keith Gordon) threatens to drop out of school. Thornton buys his way into school (the man barely graduated high school), has a bunch of parties, gets drunk, and basically fails damn near every class he takes. Damn near. He manages to move on to the next semester and get his son Jason to stay (Thornton also manages to win a swim meet). And throughout he has a damn good time. If only all of our college experiences were the same. Of course, if we were all rich and Ned Beatty was the dean of the college it probably would happen the same way for all of us.

And there's always this; this is college for some of us:

1. National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)

Animal House, thirty plus years later, is still the quintessential college movie. There's the drunken debauchery within the fraternity system, the sexy sorority babes, the asshole dean, the asshole rich guys (Greggy, Dougie, and the rest of the Hitler Youth), and the dejected, failed professional acting as a teacher (I had several professors exactly like Donald Sutherland's Dave Jennings. Exactly like him). It's a wonder anyone gets anything out of the four (or seven, if you're Bluto) years you end up spending there. Always worth watching.

Agree with our choices? Disagree? Be sure to share your thoughts and your own Top 5's below. And don't forget to include suggestions for future Top 5 columns...we're always looking for the next great list.

Till then, check out Mommy Porn and Me, my ongoing chapter-by-chapter review of the erotic bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey. I'm reading it so you don't have to!

See you next week with a brand new topic.


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