10 Movies You Need to See Before Heading off to College

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Many high school movies look a bit unrealistic with 35 year-olds playing freshmen or outrageous jock, cheerleader and nerd stereotypes that aren’t really representative of high school at all, but some movies really get it right. These 10 movies totally nail perhaps all of high school’s most defining moments.

1. Dazed and Confused

Alright, alright, alright, this is the best of the bunch. The movie doesn’t really have much of a plot; just a bunch of high school kids hanging out, listening to some jamming tunes and puffing reefer. It’s chock full of before-they-were-famous stars such as a hippie Milla Jovovich, a mustached Matthew McConaughey and a baby-faced Ben Affleck. Every character has his or her little quirks. “They all have their niches, but by the time they have the party at the water tower you can visualize the microcosmic community that director Richard Linklater has created,” music sophomore at Northwestern Aaron Blick said.

2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

John Hughes’ classic chronicles a day of hooky for a popular kid who seems to have life all figured out. Ferris frequently breaks the fourth walk to give some great advice for graduating seniors including the famous line, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Political science sophomore at the University of Wisconsin Chet Edelman felt this movie really hit home. “I love Ferris Bueller’s Day Off because it reminds me of how much I didn’t care second semester senior year,” Edelman said.

3. Superbad

Three socially awkward boys embark on an epic quest to get laid before heading off to college. Hilarity aside, the movie grapples with more poignant subjects like parting ways with your best buds from high school, which resonates with many people about to head off to college. A cultural phenomenon, this is the movie that inspired hundreds to buy fake IDs from Hawaii with the name McLovin.

4. Election

Matthew Broderick played a slacker teen back in the 80s as Ferris Bueller, but he’s all grown up as a teacher in this twisted Alexander Payne comedy about a student body election. Take notes on Reese Witherspoon’s uptight character for what you don’t want to be like when you graduate. “Boy, she reminds me of some people from my high school. Such a funny movie. Hopefully your high school isn’t as depressing as this movie,” junior political science major at University of California Berkeley Rex Escobar said.

5. Dead Poets Society

Carpe diem! Robin Williams gives a phenomenal performance as an unconventional teacher who inspires his boarding school students to seize the day. The scene when all the students get up on the table and recite Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” is one for the ages. When you graduate, you have nothing to lose, so seize the day.

6. Toy Story 3

Little Andy, who we all remember as the imaginative toy-owning kid from Toy Story 1 and 2, is all grown up and heading to college for the third instalment of the beloved Pixar trilogy. As he heads off to higher education he leaves his buddies behind. Graduating high school is entering the adult world, which means you may have to leave some things from your childhood behind. Granted, your friends and family from home aren’t toys, but the film captures the difficulty of parting with the past.

7. American Graffiti

Before George Lucas created mankind’s greatest achievement (I’m talking about Star Wars, of course) he made this great high school flick. The film takes place over the course of one evening, and it feels like one of those last days of high school that you’ll remember forever. Also, keep an eye out for a young Han Solo.

8. Ghost World

A funny yet sad movie about a social pariah (Thora Birch) and her more popular friend (Scarlett Johansson) figuring out life after graduation, the film captures one of the most unconventional romances imaginable. Also, music aficionados will love the countless references to classic blues artists. Beware, the ending will leave you heartbroken. And Steve Buscemi is in it, so you know it has to be good.

9. Grease

Your parents probably watched Grease when they graduated high school. While you might not be performing highly choreographed songs and dances in your gym, this movie gets the spirit of senior year right. Decades later John Travolta and Olivia Newton John are still the coolest cats around.

10. Say Anything

In real life you might get the cops called on you if you stand outside some girl’s window blasting a boom box, but John Cusack is just way too charming for that. Sure it’s a sappy movie but that’s really what we need when we’re saying bye to our friends and loved ones. “This is one of my favorites. All of my tricks for picking up chicks come from John Cusack in this movie,” Berkeley chemical engineering freshman Ramiro Rojas said. “Thank you Mr. Cusack, you’re my hero.”

Dano Nissen is a sophomore English major at UC Berkeley. He enjoys listening to Pearl Jam and watching The Simpsons.

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