High school movies have always been a massive part of the American cinema canon, with the corridors of an educational establishment providing plenty of room for characters to work through a variety of issues. The high school tends to serve as a metaphor for the world as a whole, and that's certainly true of the best movies of this type, which have littered the last few decades of cinema like the internet is littered with energy casino bonus codes.
The genre is currently riding high at the multiplex, with the critically acclaimed Booksmart on the verge of arriving in UK cinemas and Eighth Grade – technically a middle school movie, but who's counting? – in the midst of trying to catch a bite of box office against the juggernaut of Avengers: Endgame.
So now's a good moment to take a look at the best high school movies of all time...
5. AMERICAN PIE
It spawned a franchise of rather diminishing sequels – especially when they got into the world of direct-to-DVD shlock – but the original American Pie stands tall as a high school movie for the ages. The central male protagonists are as likeable as they are problematic and it's a film that, like so many of these stories, foregrounds a desperate need to be having at least as much sex as everyone else around you.
4. MEAN GIRLS
One of the most quotable films of all time, Mean Girls was the movie of choice for a million noughties sleepovers and remains a delight today. It gave viewers early glimpses of actors who would go on to great things – Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried – as well as not so great things – sorry Lindsay Lohan. The film serves as a showcase for the writing skills of Tina Fey, who crafted comedy that remains biting, self-aware and devastatingly funny.
3. THE BREAKFAST CLUB
John Hughes is the master of the high school movie, and several of his films could easily have made the list. The best of the bunch, though, is 1985's Brat Pack comedy The Breakfast Club – a film packed to the brim with slacker feeling. Its gender politics are quite rightly getting a second look through modern eyes, but the film still stands as an exploration of youth that's as emotionally potent as it is hilarious.
2. 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, 10 Things I Hate About You is a none-more-90s comedy that fizzes with comedic energy and social frustration. A loose reworking of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, the film uses the complex romantic entanglements of its plot as a framework on which to hang snappy dialogue and a catering-sized portion of comedy. If the only thing you remember is the Heath Ledger musical number, it might be time for a rewatch.
Yes, the cast all look like they're old enough to be their own parents. Yes, there are problematic elements to the way in which Olivia Newton-John's character transforms herself into a male fantasy. Yes, John Travolta is a mad Scientologist. However, there's no denying the sheer joy of Grease – one of the best musicals of all time and definitely the best high school film ever made. I still don't know what “hydromatic” means though.