UTG LIST: 10 Essential Back To School Films

Summer is slowly coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean you should dedicate any less time to movie watching. In fact, as the heat begins to fade and Fall arrives, we highly recommend upping your weekly intake of film.

To make the transition from outdoor living to indoor easier, especially for the majority of our readers, we thought long and hard to develop the following list of 10 Essential Back To School Films. We know a few may seem “obvious,” but this category isn’t exactly rocket science either (which is also a film the didn’t make the list). So kick back, read up, and hopefully you’ll find something here that’s new to you!

10. School Of Rock

Perhaps the best example of obviousness in this category, School Of Rock is a film that succeeds at both exploring unfamiliar territory on film and being widely accessible, which alone makes it worthy of recognition. Jack Black gives perhaps the strongest performance of his career as the faux-substitute teacher of musically gifted students who teaches them the beauty and power of rock and roll. We’re guessing most of you have seen it, but we recently screened it in the offices and fell in love all over again.

9. Waiting For “Superman”

Just because they’re essential back to school films, doesn’t mean we want you to shut your brain off. Waiting For “Superman is an award winning 2010 documentary on the state of education in America that may scare you more than horror film possibly could. From its’ broad, yet eye-opening approach to our education system as a whole, to the individual children and families they follow, this movie may make some of you want to become a teacher (which we support).

8. Cruel Intentions

Though beginning to show slight signs of age, Cruel Intentions is still easily the sexiest back to school film (that doesn’t involves also involve the use of “xxx”). A mainstream, yet surprisingly honest and often heartbreaking look at love and sex through the eye’s of young people in the city. It sucks the sequels never held up and, if anything, actually damaged the reputation of the first, but one viewing of the performances of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, and Selma Blair will still likely make this film an instant and permanent part of many aspiring film buffs’ collections.

7. Dead Poets Society

This is the most parodied film on our list, as well as one of the oldest, but it still rings more true and hilarious than 90% of today’s mainstream films. Starring Robin Williams as an English Teacher using unorthodox methods and classic poetry to teach a group of prep school boys to break out of their societal cages, Dead Poets Society is a film that continues to shine as one of the legendary comedian’s best performances (the near opposite of what you saw in Jack), as well as an all-round dramedy-gem.

6. Back To School

If the term “unorthodox” could be applied to any flick on this list, this would be the one. Rodney Dangerfield, a name anyone born before 1990 should know that may unfortunately fall prey to question marks in the minds of the young, plays an obnoxious rich business man that decides to help his discouraged Freshman son by enrolling in college alongside him. We admit, at face value this film sounds a bit too cheesy for today’s standards, but that is part of what makes it great to watch. Dangerfield is spot on and you’ll like end each viewing with a slew of new catchphrases and punchlines to utter jokingly amongst friends.

5. Good Will Hunting

We keep talking about performances, but this is really the one to watch for sheer moviemaking skill. Written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting blew audiences away when it premiered in 1997 and continues to do so with each repeated viewing to this day. The on-screen camaraderie between Affleck and Damon, as well as the other cast (comprised of many of their family/friends, as well as Robin Williams) is undeniably lifelike and turns what could be an average coming-of-age tale into an unforgettable drama that fires on all the right cylinders.

4. Animal House

If UTG existed a decade ago, Animal House would be our number one film. It’s a truly timeless comedy that has never been (nor really could be) duplicated and single-handedly made John Belushi a timeless icon. Seriously, has anyone ever seen those blue “college” shirts and not thought about pictured his impression of a zit? No, we have done the research and can assure you that has never occurred once following a viewing of this flick. See it, hell, buy it. You won’t regret adding this film or any from here on out to your collection.

3. Mean Girls

Maybe the last great hurrah of Lindsay Lohan’s reign over American audience (no, we aren’t counting the Lovebug move), Mean Girls is the only film on our list featuring an all-girl main cast and was written by the endlessly talented Tina Fey. Male or female, we guarantee you’ll be quoting this movie for weeks, if not years after every viewing. The only question is, “Do you even go here?”

2. Van Wilder

We fought for much longer than any adults should over the this list. While we agree on many of the early picks, these final spots were fought for as if we had each directed the films we were backing, except for Van Wilder. Brought to us under the National Lampoon brand (same name that gave us Animal House), this is the quintessential film for today’s college student. Sex, drugs, and a great lesson on growing up, what is there to not love?

1. Fast Times At Ridgemont High

We know knocking Animal House out of the top three would shock some of you, but did anyone doubt this film would retain its’ well-deserved throne? Fast Times was and continues to be the blueprint for nearly every back to school film and further, many teen films in general. It made Sean Penn a household name and gave him the level of success needed to gain enough audience trust to later take the dramatic turn that delivered countless great performances. Comedy needs this movie and really, film as a whole does. There is no excuse for having missed it. Find it. Own it. Share it.

Did we miss something? Comment below and let us know!

James Shotwell
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One Response to “UTG LIST: 10 Essential Back To School Films”

  1. Keith says:

    10 Things I Hate About You, Can’t Hardly Wait, She’s All That…