Thursday Movie Picks: Movies Set in High School


I never went to high school except during a short amount of time in my mid teens. I was mainly home schooled from elementary school up until adulthood. So I never really had to deal with bullies and cliques. As an obese girl with Asperger’s and depression, I’m grateful, and I have my mother and fellow blogger Mysterious Bibliophile to thank for this. My mother handpicked subjects that coincided with my interests and turned me into lifelong lover of literature, whereas I like to think I had a part in turning her into a fan of cinema. Thank you, Mom 🙂 I tried to pick movies that few others would of chosen (no “The Breakfast Club” and “Mean Girls,” Y’all :P) but each and every one of these movies is worth watching, especially for those who are cinematically curious (like me) and have a taste for the subversive. Thank you to Wandering Through the Shelves for bringing about this Blogathon. And now, without further ado, my handpicked choices.


1. L.I.E. (2001,) Directed by Michael Cuesta

This might seem like a controversial choice since most of the scenes in the movie take place outside of the teen protagonist’s local high school, but there are a select few (including one set in the school guidance counselor’s office) and the film deals with many high school-savvy themes like identity and peer pressure, so, oh what the hell, it stays. Paul Dano played in this movie before making it big and his youth and apparent naivete lend credibility to a tricky role. He is also a total cutie as Howie Blitzer, a latently homosexual teen reeling from the death of his mother and neglected by an irresponsible father. Frustrated and lonely, he finds himself waist deep in the wrong kind of  company and picks up the unscrupulous pastime of breaking into peoples’ houses. It is in this kind of compromising situation (having burgled into somebody’s basement) that he meets Big John Harrigan (Brian Cox,) a war veteran with a predilection for underage boys. Howie and Big John form a predatory and yucky yet complicated relationship which contains no actual sex but lots of sexual tension, which might gross some people out because- yes- Dano really does look fifteen. An ambiguous ending leaves you wondering what will become of Howie after he experiences the cataclysmic chain of events running throughout the film.


2. Ben X (2007,) Directed by Nic Balthazar

Poor Ben never can catch a break. Autistic, bullied, and at the end of his rope, the suicidal teen (Greg Timmermans) wheedles away his lonely days on Archlord, a fantasy role-playing game. At school, his tormenters are relentless and, quite simply, total fucking assholes. They make what is supposed to be an educational and social experience (school) a complete hell on earth for Ben, who just wants to be accepted, or at the very least, left alone. Nic Balthazar’s debut highlights the perils of high school for kids with Asperger’s or similar disorders. Asperger’s youngsters are often at best the odd man out, and at worst, outright targets of bullying and other abuse because of their awkwardness and lack of social experience. The main issue I have with this film is it’s fairy tale-ish, preposterous ending; that said, it’s one of the best films available on Asperger’s and High-functioning Autism, most of which function only as a joke or a live-action cartoon. There is nothing funny about “Ben X.” It might, on the other hand, make you think about the times you maybe have not treated people as well as we could have and dismissed that behavior as child’s play. If you were one of the victims, this movie might remind you of that horrifying stage of adolescence that adults swore were going to be the ‘best years of your lives.’

ginger snaps

3. Ginger Snaps (2000,) Directed by John Fawcett

Okay. While not as good a lycanthrope comedy as “An American Werewolf in London” (how the Hell could it be?) “Ginger Snaps” is still a highly entertaining piece of teen angst-turned-bloodbath. Sisters Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins and Katherine Isabelle) are two self-obsessed goth girls concerned with, y’know, death, suicide, the universe and stuff as well as being self-consciously emo and different when two earth-shaking things suddenly happen within hours of each other- Ginger gets her (way-late) first period and is bitten by a werewolf that’s been killing and eating all the town dogs. So begins this spooky feminist parable about the dangers of puberty and the finality of a gory death. Most suicidal teens don’t realize just how final death is, but Brigitte gets a good idea while trying to prevent her newly transformed sister from rapidly raising her body count. I recommend this movie to horror lovers and people in touch with the dark side of themselves (who maybe have a little of Brigitte and Ginger in them) as well as those who love a good, innovative monster movie.

4 thoughts on “Thursday Movie Picks: Movies Set in High School”

  1. I haven’t seen any of these though I’m been meaning to watch L.I.E. for years, I’ve never heard of the others however. New titles to explore that’s one of my favorite parts of this series. Ginger Snaps in particular sounds like fun, I agree American Werewolf in London would be hard to top in the genre.

    I like that you found more obscure choices, I try and do the same although my first pick for the week turned out to be unexpectedly very popular. That’s the first time that’s happened in all these weeks.

    Here’s the ones I chose with an obscure extra thrown in:

    Brick (2005)-Attempt to make a modern noir in a high school setting is unique for sure. Laced with deadpan humor and anchored by a strong performance from Joseph Gordon Levitt as a loner who involves himself with a drug ring to try and find out what’s happened to his girlfriend when she disappears.

    School Ties (1992)-In the 1950’s David Greene, a Jewish teen, wins a football scholarship to an Ivy League prep school, advised by the coach he keeps his faith to himself. Despite some cultural differences he is welcomed into the elite group at first, he grows close with the young men, falls for a girl and all is well. However eventually his secret is discovered and along with simmering resentments the prejudice of some conspire to put at risk all he has achieved and his hopes for the future. The cast is filled with actors, Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Chris O’Donnell, who at the time were on the rise.

    Up the Down Staircase (1967)-Well acted drama of a young teacher’s struggle to adapt to a tough inner city school. Some of the sheen has worn off the topicality of the issue since there have been many versions of it but this is a fine rendering of the tale with excellent direction from Robert Mulligan. In the lead Sandy Dennis is the best she ever was on screen keeping her signature flutters and twitches to a minimum.

    Honorable Mention-2:37 (2006)-Dark complex drama of the interwoven lives of a group of high school students and a horrendous tragedy that binds them together. Small Aussie drama was one of the first credits for currently rising actress Teresa Palmer, has some very unsavory elements and is grim, grim, grim but well-acted.

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