Back to school

Whether you’re the type of person who’s drawn a timetable and stocked up on stationery, or are already complaining about early-morning lectures, there’s no denying that uni is on your mind. Here’s a list of school-themed films ranging from the dark to the comical to get you back into the classroom mood.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

The Breakfast Club is a true classic and one which everyone can identify with when looking back to their school days. Set in the 1980’s, this film centres around five students who couldn’t come from more opposing social cliques, defined as a ‘brain’, an ‘athlete’, a ‘basket case’, a ’princess’ and a ‘criminal’. Being forced together during detention makes them question whether they are really so very different after all, and whether they have simply been living with superficial identities. Regarded as

one of the greatest high school films, The Breakfast Club remains very powerful in its ability to remain relatable to the present day. Sophie Marner

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Now that we’re all finding ourselves somehow back in lectures halls and seminar rooms after a long summer off, what more appropriate film is there than one about students scheming their way out of class? Ferris Bueller’s Day Off provides just that, along with one amazing musical number, a scene-stealing appearance from Charlie Sheen, and some powerful lessons about growing up. Life moves pretty fast, readers – if you don’t stop and watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off once in a while, you could miss it. Louis Cheslaw

If… (1968)

Lindsay Anderson’s offbeat If… about anarchy and rebellion at a British public school delivers an allegorical message about regimented subservience in society as a whole. A pre-Clockwork Orange Malcom McDowell plays schoolboy Mick Travis who, brutalised by the cruelties of the public-school system, discovers a weapons cache and leads a violent coup against the school authorities. Made with minimal resources, Anderson employs a series of techniques to emphasise the clash of the old and new orders, using title cards, choral music and the mixing of colour with black-and-white photography to juxtapose reality and surrealism. McDowell is brilliant- part-swaggering rebel, part-sociopath- and the film’s anti-establishment tone is both an unobtainable fantasy and a cautionary fable, with stark warnings over the oppression of free spirit that are still relevant today. Flawed, disturbing and exhilarating. Will Hunter

Starter for 10 (2006)

Starter for 10 tells the engaging story of Brian, an 80’s Essex lad addicted to University Challenge. The film documents his turbulent first year at Bristol University. Certain elements of the film are unconvincing such as lead actor James McAvoy’s accent, and the plot is, at times, predictable. However, the story is extremely tender, and offers a rare chance to see Benedict Cumberbatch, before he donned the famous deerstalker hat, as the stuck-up university team captain. The film offers an amusing insight into university life and the potential awkwardness of certain first encounters. Caitlin Arthur

The Faculty (1998)

The Faculty operates like Body Snatchers meets Scream meets The Breakfast Club, with a collection of disparate teenager archetypes (among them the geek, the goth and the popular girl) putting aside their rivalries in order to stop the alien entity slowly taking over the minds of their teachers. Lifting from the “high school is hell, literally” metaphors of its late 90’s pop culture contemporaries, The Faculty is full of gratuitously self-aware yet endearing protagonists, while director Robert Rodriguez adds a cool, stylized polish with the film’s comic-book violence and pithy humour. Highly-rewatchable, and an underrated classic of its genre. Adam White

Confessions (2010)

Adapted from a Kenae Minato novel, Tetsuya Nakashima’s Confessions (or Kokuhaku) charts the intricate revenge plot of school teacher, Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu) after two of her pupils murder her four-year-old daughter. While it unfortunately loses something when moved away from the claustrophobic tension of the initial scene of confrontation in the classroom, this is an incredibly intense psychological thriller with a deliciously psychotic, debut performance from Yukito Nishii and will provoke some fascinating discussions on culpability. This film should be on all ‘to-watch’ lists unless of course you disdain to read and see moving images at the same time, in which case just learn Japanese. Just kidding. Joe Frost

Dazed and confused (1993)

One of Richard Linklater’s earliest films, Dazed and Confused is an atypical high-school comedy foreshadowing his unique observant style. It is set during the last day of school in the summer of ’76 and follows various groups of teenagers as they grapple with the tensions of fitting in and defying authority. Though there are recognisable stock characters such as the popular, bitchy girls and the brain-dead stoners, there is something refreshingly odd about it. The humour is off-kilter, there is undeniable cruelty, and most importantly it captures the truly wild, reckless spirit of teenage life. Featuring an array of big names before they were big names (most memorably Matthew McConaughey as a lecherous older guy), it is not surprising that this film has achieved cult status and features on Tarantino’s best films of all time list. Silvia Rose


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January 2022
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