Ten films that rule

Brittany Murphy, Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash star in “Clueless.” (The Associated Press)

Published: Friday, August 19, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 19, 2011 at 3:22 p.m.

Soon, parents will have to cajole, warn and possibly wrestle their children to the ground in order to get them ready for school in the morning.

Others long removed from school may start having that recurring dream where they suddenly realize they have not been going to class and are going to flunk.

Yes, school is near once more. And these 10 films allow you to enjoy a slice of school life without the prospect of getting whacked by a ruler.

1. ‘The Breakfast Club' (1985)

Saturday detention brings together a brain (Anthony Michael Hall), an athlete (Emilio Estevez), a basket case (Ally Sheedy), a princess (Molly Ringwald) and a criminal (Judd Nelson). Writer/director John Hughes didn't invent the teen movie, he just perfected it. Here, he shows what happens when kids have a chance to put the cliques and high school social pecking order aside for a day and share something that is real and honest.

2. ‘Pretty in Pink' (1986)

Andie (Molly Ringwald), a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, stands out at a school that has more snobs than a “Real Housewives” reality show. She makes her own clothes, is smart and has an equally quirky best friend/permanent shadow named Duckie (Jon Cryer). Different worlds collide when she falls for rich boy Blane (Andrew McCarthy). What makes Andie an enduring character is that she doesn't try to be like everyone else. She's her own person.

3. ‘Brick' (2005)

In this high school whodunit, Brendan (Joseph Gordon Levitt) tries to find out who pulled the string that led to his ex-girlfriend's unraveling. In a nifty twist, the young characters talk like they are in an old movie, saying things like: “With you behind me I'd have to tie one eye up watching both your hands, and I can't spare it.” Once you get used to that, you are quickly sucked into a plot that is as clever and inventive as the words the characters use.

4. ‘My Bodyguard' (1980)

When mop-topped Clifford (Chris Makepeace) becomes the favorite target of school bully Moody (Matt Dillon), he thinks big. And they don't get any bigger than the hulking, skulking Linderman (Adam Baldwin), a troubled boy who Clifford gets to be his bodyguard and, more importantly, his friend.

5. ‘Chops' (2007)

This documentary follows students in the jazz band at Jacksonville's Douglas Anderson School of the Arts as they work their way toward the prestigious Essentially Ellington competition. These kids put their heart and soul into their music, and it's impressive to see how much they grow as musicians. Just making it to the contest is an achievement. Once there, the students will find out if they truly have the chops.

6. ‘Blackboard Jungle' (1955)

New teacher Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford) soon finds that the profession can be hazardous to his health. He is jumped outside of the classroom and taunted inside it. Lies are spread about him to the principal and to his wife. His only hope is Gregory Miller (Sidney Poitier), a bright student and born leader who just might help him turn the tide.

7. ‘Friday Night Lights' (2004)

At Permian High School in Odessa, Texas, the football team is the lifeblood of the community. Coach Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) and his players face constant pressure and scrutiny as they try to win state. Quarterback Mike (Lucas Black) is also dealing with a mentally ill mother while teammate Don (Garrett Hedlund) must cope with an alcoholic father. It's not easy to carry the weight of a whole town's hopes and dreams on your shoulders when you are just a teenager.

8. ‘Napoleon Dynamite' (2004)

Napoleon (Jon Heder) perpetually has the facial expression of someone who has just run into a wall, the grace of a string puppet and all the excitement in his voice of a surfer on tranquilizers. From his failed attempt to take a bike on a “sweet” jump to his campaign to get his best friend Pedro elected class president, Napoleon makes being a geek look so cool.

9. ‘The Class' (2008)

Francois Begaudeau, playing himself in this film adaptation of his book about his time teaching at a Paris school, works hard to engage his students, but it is difficult. They are distracted, disrespectful at times and moody. Francois is not perfect either. This French film — filled with small moments, not big ones — doesn't provide any easy answers, but there isn't a single moment that doesn't feel genuine. Sometimes painfully so.

10. ‘Clueless' (1995)

The beautiful, popular Cher (Alicia Silverstone) goes to the kind of school where you are more likely to see a girl sporting a bandage after a nose job than crutches for a sprain. When Cher fixes up two of her teachers in a scheme to improve her grades, the satisfaction she feels makes her want to do more good deeds. That includes making over new girl Tai (Brittany Murphy). Yes, Cher's attic is a little empty, but her heart isn't.

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