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Film studies

Before you put your nose back in the books, take a look at 10 classic school movies

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TORONTO -- Even for those who won't be heading back to class in September, school-centred films offer a nostalgic look at the highs, lows, adventure and acrimony that colour student life. Here's a look at 10 of them:

-- To Sir, With Love: Mark Thackeray is confronted with a nightmarish scenario for any teacher: a class teeming with unruly, inattentive teens. Set in a high school housed in a gritty East London neighbourhood, the 1967 film features Sidney Poitier as the beleaguered educator determined to instil discipline and respect among his pupils -- a group who seem equally compelled to drive him out the door.

-- Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Matthew Broderick takes the act of cutting class to elaborate extremes as the titular character in this famed 1986 flick. Shy pal Cameron (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) join Ferris on the adventure ride -- in a Ferrari, no less -- around Chicago, all while finding inventive ways to avoid his parents, sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) and suspicious dean of students, Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones).

-- The Breakfast Club: John Hughes transformed the teen film genre with his string of youth-focused flicks. The late filmmaker's 1985 classic chronicles five high school students from different cliques and social backgrounds (Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall) tasked with writing an essay while holed up in Saturday detention. The disparate characters soon reveal there's more to the brain, athlete, basket case, princess and criminal than their stereotypes.

-- The School of Rock: Jack Black gives an eclectic class of private school students an education in the art of rocking out in this 2003 comedy. The funnyman portrays down-on-his-luck rocker Dewey Finn who cons his way into a gig as a substitute teacher and helps transform the kids into a tight-knit musical outfit who vie to compete in a battle-of-the-bands contest.

-- Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Decades before becoming an award-winning actor and activist, Sean Penn left a lasting imprint as bleached-blond, stoned surfer dude Jeff Spicoli in Amy Heckerling's feature film directorial debut. Adapted by Cameron Crowe from his book of the same name, the 1982 coming-of-age tale -- centred on a motley group of California high school students -- showcases several stars in the making, including Oscar winners Nicolas Cage and Forest Whitaker.

-- Grease: Beachfront summer lovin' heads to the halls of 1950s Rydell High -- complete with a pep rally, sleepover and school dance -- in the 1978 movie musical. The toe-tapping classic centres on the opposites-attract romance between bad boy Danny (John Travolta) and good girl Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and the colourful characters in their respective gangs, the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies.

-- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: School's in session for the orphaned boy wizard in the 2001 film, the first in a series of blockbuster adaptations based on the bestselling novels from J.K. Rowling. Newcomer Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is invited to study magic at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, becoming fast friends with Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint).

-- Clueless: This modern-day update of Jane Austen's Emma sees the popular, ever-stylish Cher (Alicia Silverstone) keeping busy on and off school grounds playing matchmaker for teachers and pals and making over an awkward new transfer student (the late Brittany Murphy). But the 1995 teen comedy soon shows there's more depth to the seemingly superficial Cher than shopping trips and socializing with her cool clique.

-- Election: High school politics go haywire in the 1999 dark comedy helmed by Alexander Payne. Irked by perky perfectionist Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), who is running unopposed for student-body president, her disgruntled teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) seeks to derail her path toward a coronation by encouraging waylaid football star Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) to join the contest -- igniting the start of a messy campaign.

-- Dazed and Confused: A 1976-set period piece released in 1993, Richard Linklater's second directorial effort is actually set on the last day of the school year. It follows the various activities of a massive group of Texas high schoolers -- including would-be stars Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Joey Lauren Adams and a scene-stealing Matthew McConaughey as Wooderson, who memorably drawled, "That's what I like about these high school girls. I keep getting older; they stay the same age" -- who fritter away the night chugging beer, smoking pot, hazing freshmen and listening to '70s gems by the likes of Aerosmith, Foghat and War.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2013 G10

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