Back to School: 10 Incredible Films

This is a list of ten great films that are set at school or academic environment. It is in no particular order.

I. The Browning Version [1951]

This film is based on a 1948 acclaimed play The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan (The Deep Blue Sea (1952)). Michael Redgrave gives a touching and memorable performance in the role of unlikable teacher Andrew Crocker-Harris at a boys’ boarding school. As his personal life crumbles and leave looms, Crocker-Harris is forced to reconsider his position in school and in life.

II. Heathers [1988]

This great 1980s black comedy is based on an equally great script by Daniel Waters. Winona Ryder plays beautiful Veronica Sawyer who falls for the bad boy of a class J. D. (Christian Slater). Their “Bonnie and Clyde” days begin, as they take on and challenge a powerful school clique.

III. The Breakfast Club [1985]

One of America’s cinematic “darlings” and a quintessential 1980s film, The Breakfast Clu tells of five teenagers who are left after school to do their detention under the strict supervision of a vice- principal. It is a fun, well-acted film, that also tackles a number of teenage issues.

IV. Monsieur Lazhar [2011]

Based on a one-character play by Évelyne de la Chenelière, this is a story of an Algerian refugee Bachir Lazhar who lives in Montreal, Canada. He starts teaching at an elementary school after its former teacher commits suicide.

V. The Class [2008]

The winner of Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival 2008 and an Academy Award nominee, this semi-autobiographical French film by Laurent Cantet is based on a book Entre les Murs, and is about a teacher in charge of French literature and language at one of the most “difficult” schools in Paris.

VI. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone [2001]

How can this list be without Harry Potter? Arguably, this first film is the best in the whole series, being so faithful to the original book by J. K. Rowling, having a perfect cast, wondrous visuals and an amazing score composed by John Williams. Chris Columbus (Home Alone (1990)) brings the now famous story of a wizard boy Harry Potter splendidly to the screen.

VII. Au Revoir Les Enfants [1987]

This classic autobiographical film by Louis Malle is about a Jewish boy hiding in plain sight at a Catholic school for boys during the World War II. He makes friends with another boy at the school as the Nazis are raiding the country in search of Jews. Malle made this film about his teacher Père Jacques (1900 – 1945) who took actions to shelter Jewish people at his school in the years 1943 and 1944, for which he was later sent to various concentration camps and died shortly after their liberation in 1945.

VIII. Half Nelson [2006]

Ryan Gosling (Drive (2011)) takes the role of a middle school teacher in this film about an unlikely friendship between one student and the teacher, and the latter privately battles his own hell – a drug addiction. Inspirational, with very powerful performances, Half Nelson gained the first Oscar nomination for Gosling.

IX. Grease [1978]

This popular musical film needs no introduction, cementing John Travolta’s status as a heartthrob after Saturday Night Fever of the year prior. A light spin on the story of Romeo and Juliet, it tells of an unlikely romance between Danny Zuk, a Grease boy and a “good” girl Sandy, an Australian transfer.

X. The Kindergarten Teacher [2018]

This film is a remake of the Israel film of 2014. This is a story of a kindergarten teacher who is obsessed with one of her students, young Jimmy, whom she believes to be a child prodigy. Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary (2002), Donnie Darko (2001)) gives a convincing, dedicated performance in the tricky lead role.

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