I’m a high schooler. While there is absolutely no shortage of high school films out in the world, unfortunately not very many of them are that appealing. For every Tall Girl (2019) or The Kissing Booth (2018), you may get one high school film that actually displays the experience authentically. In this article, I want to highlight those few and far between high school movies that actually feel like high school.
Lady Bird (2017, dir. Greta Gerwig)
I am by no means the first person to sing Lady Bird’s praises. While it is mores about Lady Bird’s (Saoirse Ronan) relationship with her mother, the film perfectly illustrates the hardship’s that high school bring. The movie is also easy to connect with. My relationship with my parents is not quite like Lady Bird’s: I get along with them most of the time and we very rarely argue. While this is true, the scene where Marion (Laurie Metcalf) and her daughter go to pick out Lady Bird’s prom dress always get’s to me. Two moments in particular bring me to tears: The heavy bickering back and forth until the climax of Marion finding the perfect dress, and the infamous “Do you like me?” exchange between the mother and daughter in the changing rooms. For the former moment, I always feel like my relationship with my parents can switch on a dime. One comment can change the conversation from the topic of how their day at work was to a lecture about how I put no effort into what I do and how I’ll go nowhere in life, or vice versa. The latter moment is one that, while this may seem sad, I cherish. I love the moments where I can openly and honestly ask my parents things. Even if the answer isn’t what I want to hear. Since seeing the film with my mom in November of 2017, I genuinely have asked myself, “do they even like me?” In my year of therapy appointments, I’ve dedicated much time to talking about how my dad feels disconnected from me, maybe due to my sexuality or my lack of interest in religion or sports, and how my mom feels burdened by my constant presence. Lady Bird, like the other films on this list is one of a kind, and few films will capture the feeling that Lady Bird gave audiences.
Eighth Grade (2018, dir. Bo Burnham)
Eighth Grade has to be another one of my favorite films of all time. It came out one year after I had finished Eighth Grade myself, so all the memories were still fresh in my mind. The fact that Elsie Fisher and I are the same age blows me away because she gives one of the best performances by a young actor I’ve ever seen. She filmed this around the same time as her eighth grade year, and it shows. You can tell that while it’s tightly scripted, the emotion came easy for her. This film and its small moments like the superlatives, the less than commanding principal, or the realization that your musical theater phase was just a couple years ago, all come together to make a re-watchable film. The pool party scene hit very close to home for me, as it perfectly displays the need you feel to fit in when you’re a teenager. In the weeks following my seventh or eighth grade year, I was invited to a friends pool party, and I was terrified of people seeing my torso. The shot of Kayla crossing her arms, holding her sides in an attempt to hide herself, is one I am very familiar with. What makes Eighth Grade all the more special to me is that Bo Burnham is one of my favorite comedians from middle school to today, allowing my relationship with the film come full-circle.
Perks of Being A Wallflower (2012, dir. Stephen Chbosky)
Out of every high school film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is my favorite. It’s also one of the best book to movie adaptions of the 2010’s. While some may not be able to relate to topics of family sexual assault or secret affairs, the snapshots of hanging out with friends or making jokes about school teachers are universal. The small aspects blown up into life changing moments have always stuck with me. The scream-singing along to music with friends or standing up in the back of a pickup truck are just what I pictured teenage life to be. And to my surprise, Chbosky wasn’t far off. I don’t just love Perks of Being a Wallflower because it has a gay character named Patrick, living my dream of hooking up with the hot football quarterback. This film allows me – and everyone who watches it – to have cool, funny, senior friends, something I never thought I’d have. But now I do.