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My Top Five Back to School Movies

Finally, school starts this month. Personally, I can’t wait to see all my friends. Honestly, I’m a little excited to actually go to class again but most of all, I’m ready to get out of the house after six long months. However, this doesn’t mean everything will be all fun and games. As we all know, return to Millsaps means the return of the Millsaps workload that we all know and love. I know just as well as everyone else that stress levels are going to go through the roof. For me, when this happens, it always helps to take a break from the books, sit on the couch, and watch a good movie. What better way to do it than with these five phenomenal back-to-school movies?

  1. Dead Poets Society

When I told my friend I was writing this article, he insisted I watch Dead Poets Society. I’m very glad I took his advice. This movie takes place at a boys-only high school in 1959. It follows the English class of Mr. Keating, played by the late and great Robin Williams. Mr. Keating’s classroom pushes back against the uniformity and structure of these teenage boys’ lives, inspiring them to follow their true selves and express their passions. Specifically, he uses the Latin quote “carpe diem”, translating to “seize the day.” His message particularly resonates with a group of friends that re-create the “Dead Poets Society.” Neil Perry leads this group, bringing along his new roommate Todd Anderson, a shy boy plagued by doubt and self-consciousness. The story centers around Todd and Neil’s friendship. You can see Todd slowly finding his confidence and stepping out of his shell as Mr. Keating and Neil push him to believe in himself.

All the while, Neil finally fights back against his overbearing father, desperately trying to follow his passion for theatre against his father’s wishes. I enjoyed the variety of elements this movie contained: a love story, heart-warming moments of friendship, and heart-wrenching moments of dead silence, finished off by a twist towards that left my jaw on the floor. It was an emotional rollercoaster between hopelessness and inspiration as I watched these students push against their tyrannous headmaster and step out of typical male social expectations during the 1950s. Ultimately, Mr. Keating’s message left me feeling inspired to follow my own personal passions and dreams. Feeling unsure about your major or future plans? Give this movie a try, it truly will make you want to seize the day and break out of whatever barrier is holding you back from doing what you love.

2. 21 Jump Street

Simply put, it’s hilarious. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play Morton Schmidt and Greg Jenko, two inexperienced, childish, police officer best friends. The duo is sent back to high school to bust a drug trade within the school. However, the two quickly realize how much times have changed since their high school experience when Schmidt, who was considered “unpopular” in high school, finds himself plugged in with the popular kids. On the other hand, Jenko, who fills the stereotypical high school jock, finds himself doing science experiments in AP Chemistry. This stereotype reversal just adds to the comedy as the two characters explore these uncharted waters and find themselves diving deeper and deeper into their high school lives. While this movie is very much a comedy, I enjoyed the development of the characters Schmidt and Jenko as individuals and in their appreciation of each-other’s friendship. Overall, the movie turned out to be a very fun and wholesome experience. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play off each other hilariously, and the film left me in a very good mood, which I know I will appreciate once school starts back. If you like this movie, be sure to try out its sequel, 22 Jump Street, where Jenko and Schmidt head off to college.

  1. Remember the Titans 

While Remember the Titans is known mostly as a football movie, the larger portions of it take place in high school, which justifies it being classified as a “school movie” to me. This movie takes place in Virginia in 1971 at a recently integrated high school. The story centers around the school’s football team, and the racial tension they must overcome in order to succeed. Denzel Washington plays Coach Boone. Coach Boone is appointed the head coach of the Titans over the current head coach, Bill Yoast, who is destined for the Virginia High School Hall of Fame. To add some context for those of you who maybe aren’t from the south, high school football is a pretty big deal in these small towns. Back to the point, Coach Boone has to not only figure out a way to overcome the racial boundaries poisoning his integrated football team, but he also has to fight the obviously racist board of directors at the school. These board members tell him that if his team loses even ONE game, he is fired. The question then becomes, can Coach Boone and the rest of the Titans overcome these obstacles, love and accept each other in spite of the blatant and outspoken racism of the mid 1960’s, and have an undefeated season? You just have to watch and find out! Let me just say, Coach Boone’s resilience, leadership, and good-heartedness will leave you inspired, and the friendships formed will leave your heart full of love, which a lot of us may need right now with everything going on in the world.

  1. Good Will Hunting

Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon) is a rough-around-the-edges orphan living in South Boston. He works as a janitor at MIT to make ends meet. Will is happy with his life, happy with his friends, happy going out every night, and happy not caring. However, Will has a problem, a problem that many people wish they had: he is a genius. A genius in terms of math, science, history, and anything on the intellectual spectrum. Abandoned at birth and abused as a child, Will is happy to accept his three friends who would do anything for him, and push away anyone who he could possibly love him out of fear of abandonment. When Will finds himself working for a professor at MIT solving math problems, going to therapy, and falling in love with a girl from Harvard, he is forced to face his issues. Initially, he instinctually tortures everyone who tries to help him unlock his potential. You see, Will is not worried about material things in life. He cares not for money, fame, or recognition. Instead, he works “honorable” jobs like construction. However, Will begins to feel real love from his girlfriend Skylar and his therapist Dr. Sean Maguire. This love and care from Dr. Sean Maguire blossoms into more than a patient-doctor “obligation”, but into a friendship, mentorship, and fatherhood that neither characters experienced as a child. There are immensely beautiful and powerful scenes as you see Sean unlock Will’s soul, plunge into his problems, and finally show him the power of love that he has never experienced before.

  1. Sky High 

This movie is blast from the past for me, bringing nostalgia and happy memories from when my brother and I watched it on our portable Blu-ray player as a child. Will Stronghold is a 9th grader at Sky High, a high school for individuals with superpowers. As soon as he gets in the building, everyone knows who he is because of his famous superhero parents. However, Will struggles as he has not yet developed any superpowers, resulting in him taking classes to be trained as a sidekick. As Will settles into school, he soon gains his father’s power of super-strength. This development causes him to be placed in the superhero classes. Will now faces an internal conflict as he tries to stay loyal to his sidekick friends, while also being allured by the “popular” crowd. Soon thereafter, he faces an external conflict that stems all the way back to his father’s high school experience. This movie was so much fun to watch again. It’s graced by goofy characters and their anecdotes, and it contains the typical Disney-movie charm that most people adore. However, it still has the character conflict, drama, and love story that will keep you glued to your seat.

Honorable Mentions
These movies couldn’t quite crack my top five, but I still feel like they should be recognized! If you enjoy my top five back to school movies, give these a try too!

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
• Akeelah and the Bee
• The Breakfast Club
• Grease
• Monsters University
• Spider-Man Homecoming
• Riverdale TV Series (available on Netflix)