What's the quintisential 1960's high school movie?
July 29, 2012 7:33 PM   Subscribe

Help me fill the gaps in my travel-through-the-history-of-high-school movie list, from Grease to Mean Girls! Got one for the '60's?

I'm trying to come up with the perfect multi-night movie list, starring Americana and high schools, through the decades. The list starts off with Grease, then followed by Dazed and Confused, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, Clueless and finally Mean Girls.

I also considered Rebel Without a Cause instead of Grease (too serious) and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (and the kajillion other awesome 80's movies about high school) instead of The Breakfast Club, but The Breakfast Club is decidedly my favorite.

BUT I'm trying to figure out a movie to fill the gap between Grease's sock-hoppin' and Dazed's bell bottoms. Across the Universe captures the time period pretty much perfectly, but fails to express that distinct cinematic love affair with the American high school student that I'm looking for. I'm looking for accessible and lighthearted movies, preferably popular ones, about quintessential American high school kids doing pretty much nothing. Any ideas?

Also, is there one that should come before Grease or after Mean Girls?
posted by Grandysaur to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
American Graffiti
posted by Ardiril at 7:37 PM on July 29, 2012 [10 favorites]

Heathers between Breakfast Club and Clueless.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:37 PM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

(sorry, didn't RTFQ, but add it anyway)
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:38 PM on July 29, 2012

Hairspray, either version, is set in 1961.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:39 PM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Follow "Mean Girls" with "The Easy A"
posted by Sunburnt at 7:40 PM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Rock N Roll High School would throw everyone for a loop.
posted by Ardiril at 7:44 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bye Bye Birdie?
posted by Mchelly at 7:49 PM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Beach Party movies with Frankie and Annette. That's the sixties.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:49 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Outsiders? It's peripherally a high school movie.

How about 1967's "To Sir, With Love," starring Sidney Poitier

Also, not to displace the essential Breakfast Club, from '84, but 1987 gave us the wonderful "Three O'Clock High," a high-school-student-against-the-world-[of-high-school]. Agree, the 1980s were a bit saturated, but many movies were really set *during* high school, or with graduation as an plot device (Say Anything, I'm looking at you), but Three O'Clock High was primarily set in school, with conflicts only a school can bring.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:50 PM on July 29, 2012

To Sir, With Love is fantastic, but is very much not set in the U.S.
posted by rtha at 8:01 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Gidget, Bye Bye Birdie, and any and all Frankie and Annette movies. Where the Boys Are is sort of from that group too, but damn, is it sad.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:18 PM on July 29, 2012

Are you looking for a movie from the sixties that was made for actual teens from the time or are you looking for something made later that is set in the sixties? If the latter, are you looking for like a hippy/stoner comedy made well later than the sixties? I can't think of a lot of hippy movies made for hippy high school students.. made DURING the sixties. I just wanted to clarify if you're thinking of something like the myriad beach/surfer movies or if you're looking for something more anachronistic, like the movies you've chosen. I only ask because it seems like you're picking Grease and Dazed and Confused over actual 'high school'/teen genre films from the 1950s and 1970s, respectively. I'm not meaning to make this more difficult. I'm just curious before I actually recommend anything! Also, do you want all the movies to have scenes taking place IN a school or can they just be about the teenage experience? (Also, what no Bill and Ted?!)

[I do wish I could recommend a tv show instead because The Wonder Years is the absolute perfect answer to this question.]
posted by Mael Oui at 8:35 PM on July 29, 2012

Maybe Up the Down Staircase?
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:46 PM on July 29, 2012

I think American Graffiti is a very accurate picture of early 60s High School life. Unfortunately, hardly any of its action actually happens at school. On the other hand, "Grease" has very little resemblance to the reality, and the music is 70s anachronistic (as well as just being bad, along with most of the picture's acting 'talent') -- in the same vein, Animal House has similar flaws, but it's a much more entertaining picture.The original Back To The Future's 50s are pretty accurate; Peggy Sue Got Married's 50s sequences are also top-notch, if we ignore Nicholas Cage's peculiar performance.

For a FANTASTIC black&white 1950s juvenile delinquent flick try to get ahold of High School Confidential!, and don't forget Blackboard Jungle but it's a downer, may not be appreciated if you're rejecting Rebel Without A Cause (a mistake, IMO).

Another good little-known 60s flick is Cooley High but like American Graffiti, school isn't very important. Which is why we come back to Sir which,although British, is very 1960s.Its stateside counterpart was Up The Down Staircase but that one's downright lame compared to the other two.

One last comment from one who was there: "Dazed and Confused" is a weird film from an alternate dimension. Initiation/hazing happens on the first day of school -- seniors hassling freshmen on the last day of the school year makes no sense, except in Texas, I guess.

posted by Rash at 8:47 PM on July 29, 2012

These are all fine flicks, but tend to be suburban and white.
posted by k8t at 11:10 PM on July 29, 2012

The best high school film of the '60s may not be giddy enough for you, but Frederick Wiseman's documentary High School ('68)
filmed in the '60s, in the city of Philly (pre-white-flight), is masterful.

In the early '70s, TV movies broached the encroachment of the counterculture on high school kids. I fondly remember Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring starring Sally Fields as a teen runaway. Again, not a comedy.
posted by doncoyote at 11:44 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

A somewhat obscure film set in the 1960's about a boy going to a Catholic school is Heaven Help Us.

Rash, I think, is pretty much spot on in his comments, and I agree that skipping Rebel Without A Cause for the 1950's is kind of a mistake, particularly watching Grease instead. If you must skip Rebel, then use American Graffiti instead. Though it is set in the early 1960's, the early '60's (i.e. any time before the Kennedy assassination) was really an extension of the 1950's, so it would actually work for both eras. Hoosiers is another option for the 1950's but American Graffiti is less serious.

An alternative for Dazed and Confused for the 1970's would be My Bodyguard (came out in 1980, but basically set in the the 70's), but Dazed and Confused feels more specifically '70's to me than that film does.
posted by gudrun at 12:25 AM on July 30, 2012

Say, why begin in the 50s? Kids went to high school before that. For the 1940s, I wish the March Of Time "Teenage Girls" was on YouTube, it's got great interviews with actual students about what they do and their dreams of the future. Another view into that world is Are You Popular? which is available at archive.org. Some more Teenage Dating Films from the 1940s at a site selling 1950s-60s Rock'n'Roll movies.
posted by Rash at 10:38 AM on July 30, 2012

IMDB has a keyword for High School Movies. The search alone tells you only the title and year, but perhaps there's a 1960s keyword.. or the like.

That's how I found "To Sir," without noticing that it wasn't in the USA. Doh!

I don't suppose Dobie Gillis ever made a TV movie? "The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis" (1957-61) often focused on his high-school experience. It gets bonus points for featuring Maynard G. Krebs, a safe-for-television beatnik, played by Bob Denver of Gilligan fame. Another possibility is The Patty Duke Show, '63-'67.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:26 AM on August 1, 2012

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