While there's nothing worse than sitting in class, it's a special thrill to watch other people struggle through it. Who can forget the exhausted expressions on the faces of the kids in Ferris Bueller's Day Off while they listen to Ben Stein drone on about the Hawley–Smoot Tariff Act? Anyone? Anyone?
There's a special kinship we all share thanks to the universal struggle that is high school and, to a lesser degree, college. While some may have loved every second of those school days, most of us were simply biding our time until the bell rang. We all know that feel, which is why movies that recreate the experience are so much fun. We can experience school through someone else's eyes. With that in mind, here are five great school movies on Netflix to kick back and enjoy. I've tried to stay away from the obvious (Ferris, Grease) in favor of lesser-known films. Summer vacation is just around the corner... almost.
[The following films were selected from the American Netflix menu. Apologies if any aren't available in your area.]
Writer/director Alexander Payne's comedic masterpiece, Election has the added bonus of featuring Ferris Bueller himself, Broderick, in a pseudo-Ed Rooney role as a high school authority figure. Although, he's nowhere near as villainous as Rooney. The real villain of Election is the spritely Witherspoon as Tracy Flick. She'll do anything to become class president, but one teacher has a plan to ruin the obnoxious overachiever's plans.
The Paper Chase (1973)
Based on the novel of the same name, The Paper Chase is an inside look at the uphill marathon that is Harvard Law School. James Hart is smart, but he's ill-prepared for legendary Professor Kingsfield's contract law course. Humiliated on the first day, the young man devotes himself to improving while sleeping with the professor's daughter along the way. The story is great, but the performance of Houseman, who won an Oscar for the role, is the biggest reason to watch.
With future megastars Cruise and Penn in supporting roles, Taps is a showcase of early talent. It stars Hutton as a newly-promoted Cadet Major at Bunker Hill Military Academy where things go terribly wrong. An accidental shooting leads to a standoff between the school and the town and things escalate to real tragedy. This is one of the few Cruise roles where he doesn't end up a hero.
The black comedy answer to John Hughes' pink-bordered Molly Ringwald movies, Heathers is one of the classic films of the 1980s, capturing the time period perfectly. The "Heathers" are a group of three popular girls, all named Heather, who rule Westerburg High School. Their new recruit, Veronica (Ryder), is sick of their behavior and gravitates towards the troubled J.D. (Slater), who has a master plan to get revenge.
Fat Kid Rules the World (2012)
Cheating a bit here since much of this film takes place outside the school, but Fat Kid boasts a great high school friendship that anyone should enjoy. Starring Wysocki as the overweight title hero, Troy, the movie follows his growth from suicide case to punk rock drummer. Troy makes a new friend, the rebellious and dangerous Marcus, and a new world of music, girls, and confidence finds him. It also marks the feature debut of rising star Lili Simmons (True Detective, Bone Tomahawk, Banshee).