Best Movie High Schools

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During five long years of high school, pupils often welcome - long for even - classic time-wasting distractions such as fire alarm tests, heavy snow, power-cuts, uninvited wildlife and malfunctioning stationery. Inciting teachers to chat about their personal lives becomes an art form and persuading substitute staff that lessons are always moved outside when its sunny is a given.

However, thanks to America's preoccupation with coming-of-age flicks, we've been blessed with several secondary schools that really are the places to be. Some of the actors are a little older in real life than the students they portray (Olivia Newton-John - 29 in Grease, Michael J. Fox - 29 in Back To The Future) and the teachers somewhat more attractive than the ones of our experiences (Cameron Diaz - Bad Teacher, Michelle Pfieffer - Dangerous Minds) but if anywhere needs a dose of movie magic, it's high school. Check out our picks of the best in the gallery below.

Words: Anna Pollitt. Pictures: Rex Features

  • Clueless

    Graced by tartan-loving label chasers Dionne (Stacey Dash) and Cher (Alicia Silverstone), fictional secondary school West Beverly High is a skiver's paradise. Grades can be negotiated, P.E avoided and classes cut with excuses as flimsy as "I left my Walkman in the quad."

  • Mean Girls

    The hallways and classrooms of North Shore High School may be ruled by vacuous clique The Plastics (Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert, Amanda Seyfried), but it does boast possibly the world's coolest Maths teacher, Ms. Norbury, aka the hilarious Tina Fey. Also, do you know of a high school that has its own TV weathergirl? Not least one whose breasts can predict the rain?

  • Election

    G.W. Carver High School possesses all the qualities of a great high school - pupil/staff affairs, manipulative overachievers and vengeful, obsessive teachers. Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is the obnoxious student star you love to hate, while Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) is the teacher who sacrifices professionalism to bring her down.

  • Breakfast Club

    Imagine the good times if you had attended Shermer High School, with a student body comprised of such diverse characters as the "athlete, basket-case, princess, brain, and criminal" (Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson) and discovered that being locked in a room together was all it took to bring out your common interests. On the other hand, the eight-hour Saturday detentions and 1,000-word essay punishments would be a bit of a wounder.

  • 10 Things I Hate About You

    Padua Stadium High School is a middle class haven where Patrick (Heath Ledger) is a cool and edgy outcast from the wrong side of the tracks who gets involved in a bet to tame the stubborn Kat (Julia Stiles). We'd trade in a GCSE or two to have witnessed Ledger's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" serenade on the school field. We also appreciate the school's conservative-looking guidance counsellor, Ms. Perky (Allison Janney), who furtively bashes out a Fifty Shades of Grey style novel on her laptop when no-one's looking.

  • Heathers

    With high school feeling like a dark comedy for much of the time, Heathers' murder-laden Westerburg High School is an ideal venue for some fictional revenge. Veronica (Winona Ryder) is the reluctant fourth member of a bullying queen bee clique, until new pupil Jason Dean (Christian Slater) rocks her world with his bad-boy charm and merciless appetite for murder.

  • Grease

    Few teen movies offer such a warm and watchable staff and student body as Rydell High. Comic moments from Principal McGee (Eve Arden) and Coach Calhoun (Sid Caesar) complement the sizzling chemistry of the too-cool-for-school T-Birds and Pink Ladies. Also - scene of the best prom dancing ever?

  • Back To The Future

    Imagine a band from 20 years in the future coming back in time to rock your high school dance with a future track as kicking as Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry). That's why Back To The Future has one of the best high schools in film (we're ignoring the creepy complication of running into future children you haven't yet given birth to).

  • Dangerous Minds

    Parkmont High School is not the kind of place you want to get assigned on your first substitute teacher placement, but thanks to retired U.S. Marine, LouAnne Johnson (Michelle Pfeiffer), the drug-pushing gang members of her student body respond well to the then revolutionary approach of theme park trip and chocolate bar rewards and becomes not only cool, but OFSTED-worthy.

  • Teen Wolf

    This Californian high school has a pupil who turns into a werewolf - and no-one cares because it means he can play an awesome game of basketball for the school team. Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) also dusts off a natty Saturday Night Fever-esque disco suit for his hairy prom night.

  • Footloose

    His soft-wash denims may meet the Simon Cowell waist requirement, but Ren (Kevin Bacon) and his buck-wild city dance moves manage to bring us one of the best high school proms ever when he reverses the dance ban instilled by the god-fearing book-burning townsfolk of Bomont.

  • American Pie

    American Pie's cheery East Great Falls High has to be one of the best movie high schools ever for its deliciously hapless students Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs), Paul Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott) and Michelle "bandcamp" Flaherty (Alyson Hannigan).

  • Spider-Man

    Nerdy Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is given superhuman skills when he's bitten by a radioactive spider on his high school field trip. Beats Alton Towers.

  • Bad Teacher

    A pot-smoking young substitute teacher with a salty turn of phrase whose idea of teaching a class is putting a DVD on? We'll take it. Louboutin-loving gold digger Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz) is the cool yet irresponsible member of school staff we never had.

  • Dazed And Confused

    "If I ever say these were the best years of my life, remind me to kill myself."

    Lee High School makes students pledge not to take drugs during the summer holidays and new pupils are ritually beaten and humiliated by older pupils - so what's good about it? In Richard Linklater's classic 1993 ensemble flick, it's the fact that it's graduation day and senior pupils will never have to endure it again.

  • High School Musical

    East High School is a Disney dream of a high school. A place where handsome, popular, floppy-haired jock Troy (Zac Efron) can sing in musicals without fear of mockery from his peers and his good-natured, brainy, sporty, beautiful love interest Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), who can also sing like a superstar, are able to manipulate the school's computer systems to make sure Troy shines in both the basketball championship and the musical auditions.

  • Carrie

    If ever there was a case for sex education, Carrie's Bates High School is it. Bullied Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is raised by an abusive Christian fundamentalist mother and believes she is dying when she gets her first period in the school showers. The cruel mocking that follows from her peers triggers Carrie's deadly telekinetic powers and no-one, from the teacher who calls her "Cassie" to the handsome jock who's persuaded to take her as his date to the prom, is safe. Bates High School is so bad it's good.

  • School Of Rock

    Dewey (Jack Black) is a heavy metal guitarist masquerading as a substitute teacher at fancy private school, Horace Green. As well as granting unscheduled breaks and free periods, the unqualified, comical professor, manages to eke out the musical talent of his pupils.

  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off

    Ferris (Matthew Broderick) may be faking his mystery illness, but it's sweet that the school body in John Hughes' classic coming-of-age comedy pulls together to form a "Save Ferris Fund". Ferris pays them back by seeing that obsessive Dean of Students, Mr. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) gets his comeuppance for doggedly trying to expose his truanting lie.

  • Dead Poets Society

    The stuffy Welton Academy relaxes to almost fun levels with Robin "I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way" Williams running the show.

  • Pineapple Express

    "I'm a teacher, okay? You can't talk to me like that, guy."

    Think back to your most annoying, officious high school teacher and imagine them being told where to go, on school grounds, by Seth Rogen. That's exactly what happens in Pineapple Express when likeable loser Dale (Rogen) is interrupted from chatting with his 18-year-old girlfriend Angie (Amber Heard) by the "Heyyy people" teacher.

  • Superbad

    Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) may be considered co-dependant social outcasts by their high school peers, but it's in home economics class that the pair get a shot at making their virginity-losing dreams come true when Jules (Emma Stone) invites them to her house party.

  • Never Been Kissed

    When copy editor Josie (Drew Barrymore) is put on an undercover assignment at South Glen South High School, she finds herself back at the bottom of the popular pile and is forced to relive her hellish teenage years. Luckily though there's a handsome English teacher to see her through and it's a crush that has non-creepy potential, as she's technically not a student.

  • Harry Potter films

    We'd put up with Hogwarts' robe and cloak uniform for a school where geometry and periodic tables are replaced with flying lessons and magic spells - not to mention those fraught Quidditch matches.

  • The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie

    "She thinks she is Providence ... She thinks she is the God of Calvin, the beginning and the end."

    Miss Jean Brodie may be a born fascist but we'd appreciate being at the back of the class for a lesson or two with Maggie Smith portraying the formidable moulder of minds.

  • Rebel Without A Cause

    High schools were just places to learn stuff until James Dean sauntered onto the silver screen as terminally moody and misunderstood pupil Jimmy Stark.

  • Fast Times At Ridgemont High

    Sex drugs and rock 'n' roll are the central subject on Ridgemont High's curriculum. Cameron Crowe went undercover at a California high school for a whole year to write the novel and it features Sean Penn in his break-out role as surfer dude Spicoli.

  • Napoleon Dynamite

    Class president elections are the preserve of American high schools and are seemingly as dull as they sound - that is unless you go to school with liger-loving Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), the nerd king with the sensational Canned Heat dance moves.

  • Easy A

    For every high school boy deemed a stud, there's a girl with a "reputation." Olive has the confidence to revel in her soiled (albeit fabricated) public image in Scarlet Letter rip off Easy A - and pull it back with a song and dance number in front of the whole school.

  • She's All That

    The high school that brought us 90s heartthrob Freddie Prinze Jr. as prom king jock Zack - and allowed him to turn up naked to graduation - surely deserves an honourable mention.


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