School and college films are important to everyone. They can represent nostalgic pasts or chapters in life that have thankfully closed. Universal for everyone, the school-college film can achieve an immortality without needing to strive for ‘greatness’. Here are some of our favourites…
School of Rock (2003)
Jack Black was all the rage in the 00s, and his colloboration with director Richard Linklater for the mighty School of Rock is a creative highpoint. Giving one of the most committed and energised performances ever as a small-time, failing rock musician who sneakily lands a gig as a school cover teacher, Black’s manic persona brings out the best in the talented class of children who he secretly trains in the ways of rock’n’roll.
Thematically, the radicalisation of very young children with anti-authoritarian lifestyles that “stick it to the Man” may be slightly dubious, but the film is far too much fun to dwell on such issues. Wielding a soundtrack of rock music’s biggest legends, and stuffing as many other artists into the backgrounds as possible, Black and Linklater will educate both the classroom and the viewers into the meaning and appreciation of rock music. Ultimately though, School of Rock is an ode to the cover teacher; the bad ones who don’t bother and the great ones who let rules slip to the side in favour of creativity. We all wish we had a Mr Schneebly at school.
– Jacob Hando
Pitch Perfect (2012)
Pitch Perfect follows ‘alternative’ Beca’s (Anna Kendrick) freshman year at Barden University. However, her roommate turns out to be a real B, she hates the subject she studies, and she is left lonely and isolated. Ah the classic first two weeks!
As a final blow she is forced to join the Barden Bellas, after being hilariously cornered by Brittany Snow in a shower cubicle, but, behind all the rigorous rehearsals and ruthless competition, are the many besties she’ll make at uni.
There’s Aubrey (Anna Camp), the uptight Bella president who is prone to nausea, gaslighting, and perfectionism (all thanks to her daddy issues), Jesse (Skylar Astin), the kind of guy you’ll most likely date because he subconsciously reminds you of Jim from The Office, and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), the slightly unhinged girl you’ll spend hours getting drunk with and carrying home. And as crazy as these people seem, they’ll become your best friends in no time!
If Pitch Perfect has taught me anything, it’s that you’ll constantly feel like the only normal person at uni, but always keep an open mind! You never know, you might even win the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella!
Spider-man: Homecoming (2017)
Spider-Man Homecoming is a total romp. Combining a probably unbeatable career-best performance from Tom Holland with the good evidence that smaller stakes can be even more compelling than a giant sky-beam, Jon Watts and co assemble one of the MCU’s best adventures. The momentum of the film is magnetic; on every rewatch it feels only an hour long, carried almost entirely by a joyful lead performance (something puzzlingly lost in later MCU inclusions of Holland as Spider-Man).
With the exception of one wincingly patent Ferris Bueller reference, the “high school movie” influence remains tasteful and operates as a backdrop rather than a stylistic crutch. It’s no John Hughes, but it’s only really flirting with this idea. Throw in a wicked second-act twist and speedy action sequences and you have a superhero film that feels effortless; a glimmer of hope in between the faux-playful gruff-fests of Marvel’s other main entries. It’s far from perfect, however. There is a stomach-churning “hero moment” in the finale involving a flashback voiceover and the opening sequence is clunky, but as far as MCU films go, there isn’t one more fun or rewatchable.
– Harry Geeves
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2013)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower started as a coming-of-age novel written by Stephen Chbosky, achieving huge success due to the main character, Charlie, who starts high school whilst battling a dark past. The book was refreshing in its treatment of mental health in teenagers and for focusing on alternative characters (two elements which set it apart from the majority of media featuring teenagers, which tend to be more nostalgic). Thankfully, the film adaptation maintained the majority of the book’s best traits.
Perks is undoubtedly imperfect but it also captures teenage angst in a surprisingly genuine and heartfelt manner. Logan Lerman is great as Charlie, an anxious introvert who finds his place in the world during the film and manages to guide the audience through these changes excellently.
It also captures many of the nuances of teenage life that make the film much more convincing, from Charlie counting down the days he has left at school before even starting to the awkward first time interactions with classmates… and the inclusion of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ doesn’t hurt either. It’s flawed, but it is charming.
– Reece Beckett