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Sunday February 17th 2019

“School” Movies that Make the Grade

By Jim Joplin

It’s back to school time, and I’ve decided to look at a few of the “school” movies that get an A+ from me. But, what makes a school movie a school movie and not just a movie that takes place in and around a school? Well, to me, a school movie either takes place more than ¾ of the time in a school, or follows the adventures of school-aged kids or their teachers. I can already tell your minds are abuzz with the possibilities, so let’s get started.


Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995), is probably my favorite school movie. As a musician, and a former band-geek and music teacher, I was able to connect with Mr. Holland through the rough times teaching, and how his ideals and goals changed throughout his musical career and life. I’m not a composer, but as someone who has tried and failed to write music, watching Mr. Holland work on his piece throughout his life, and finally, in the end, getting to conduct and hear his life’s work must have been an unforgettable experience.


To lighten things up a little, the next movie is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). Granted, not much happens in the school, but isn’t that sort of the point? Although this movie had an all-star (or soon-to-be-star) cast, the critics weren’t all the fond of it. But, what do critics know? Not much, it seems, because the Day Off was a box office smash. If you get a chance to see this, watch for Charlie Sheen as the boy in the Police Station.


We’ll stick with the John Hughes theme, and talk about my next film, The Breakfast Club (1985). We could probably talk about school movies and never leave the subject of John Hughes, but I digress. The Breakfast Club, for those of you who didn’t grow up in the 80s, is a movie that shows all of us, that we aren’t as different as we think we are. I suppose it also shows us that we are just as screwed up, as the guy or girl sitting next to us. These five kids, who thought they were nothing like any of the others, found that they were all, “a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal…Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.”


Next we’ll talk about a musical about teen love, with snappy tunes, and teenage angst – no, not High School Musical (although, it is certainly a movie about school). No, I’m talking about THE high school musical – that came out thirty years before High School Musical. Grease (1978) is the epitome of the high school musical. After seeing Grease, every girl wants to be a Pink Lady and every guy wants to be a Thunderbird. I say ‘wants’ because this movie is as popular with audiences today as it was when it came out. The only difference is that now everyone knows the words to the songs.


There are literally hundreds of school movies that I could have talked about. These four are at the top of my list. To be fair, I have to give you my “honorable mention” list. If you haven’t heard of a few of these, you really should check them out, they’re really great “school” movies. Napoleon Dynamite (2004), My Bodygaurd (1980), Fame (1980), Get Real (1999), The Karate Kid (1984), and of course, every single one of the Harry Potter flicks. Maybe, I’ll do a retrospective of the HP movies, now that the last one has been released. As for now, it’s back to school. Until then, I’ll see you at the movies!


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