Before coming to university, I was very much in love with teen/coming of age films. That hasn’t changed much, and in the midst of all of this craziness, I’m gravitating back towards films that got me excited about studying and growing up.
Now, as a third year about to miss out on a lot of final moments, I’m a little sad and I want to delve back in. Here’s a few of my top picks, all movies that feature secondary school and university. There’s nothing like projecting on to fictional characters to pass the time.
Dead Poets Society (1989)
This remains to be one of my favourite movies of all time. Set in a boy’s boarding school, it tells the story of a group of teenage boys who become inspired by their literature professor (Robin Williams) and form a secret society. The boys come together as an eclectic group, all finding common ground in their love of poetry and searching for meaning. As a literature and creative writing student, I completely geeked out over this movie, happily listening to Professor Keating recite Thoreau and Whitman. The characters are memorable and relatable. The story is beautiful and heartbreaking, definitely one I will never get over. What more could you want? This film still gets me excited about learning, and it still makes me cry every time. If you watch anything from this list, make it this.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
As far as high school rom-coms go, this is right at the top. Starring Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles and loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things is almost everything you could want. New student Cameron (a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is crushing on Bianca Stratford, and to get around her father’s strict dating rules, Cameron forms a plan to get Patrick (Ledger) to date Bianca’s sister Kat (Stiles). The writing is faultless and hilarious. And that scene when Kat reads out her poem about Patrick? Amazing. Movies just aren’t doing it like this anymore (apart from one honourable mention, Easy A). 10 Things is on the elite level of high school movies and I won’t accept any criticisms at this time.
Edge of Seventeen (2016)
An underrated gem, Edge of Seventeen stars Hailee Steinfeld as teenager Nadine struggling with the loss of her father, and a complicated relationship with her mom and brother. It comes across as another run of the mill coming of age story, but it does things a little differently. It’s relatable and sad without trying too hard, and while not much even happens, Nadine’s character development and learning to love herself is enough. Plus, the classic ‘emotional support teacher’ is played by Woody Harrelson and it couldn’t be more perfect. It’s definitely going to be one of those films we revisit when we’re older and reminiscing.
Good Will Hunting (1998)
Another Robin Williams mention, Good Will Hunting follows 20 year old Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon), an unrecognised genius who struggles to reach his highest potential. After being sent to compulsory therapy, he builds a heartwarming bond with his therapist and finally begins to understand himself. Both Williams and Damon’s performances are perfect, and very well deserving of all the awards they received. I watched this for the first time just before coming to university, and I can’t fault it. As with Dead Poets Society, it got me excited about learning. Maybe it’s one to revisit during these crazy times.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
This is one we all know and love. Based on the novel by Stephen Chbosky, Perks stars Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson as they grow up in the 90s. The high school aspect of this movie is so accurate; all of the uncertainty, the waiting, the counting down of days. Maybe that was just me. I can’t fault this movie, although I do have to be in a certain mood to watch it because of its heavy themes. But for me, it really does capture some of my teenagehood and it always grounds me when I rewatch it. The soundtrack is also amazing, including the Rocky Horror numbers. It’s definitely one to rewatch every now and again.
Legally Blonde (2001)
Okay, so this one differs completely from the rest of this list but hear me out. Legally Blonde is still brilliant. It doesn’t do it all right, with some outdated themes and stereotypes. However, Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of Elle Woods defined a generation of women-led movies. Elle decides to go to Harvard Law to get her ex back, and ends up loving her studies. She ditches her ex and thrives in law school. The various studying montages have given me so much motivation over the years. And even though it gave me unrealistic expectations for university (like with many other movies, mostly the American ones), I still love it. This movie is one I always revisit to cheer myself up.
Last modified: 10th April 2020