Movies have become ubiquitous as online streaming services compete everywhere. Amazon Prime alone offers 26,300 movies. Add that to the 3,600 movies at Netflix and the over 2,000 movies shown on HBO Max, and viewers have a plethora of choices.
So what should high school students stream?
Sometimes the classics are still the best. ESGI and ThinkFives asked hundreds of teachers what movies they would recommend for high school students. Not surprisingly, many of them involved kids or high school students. Here’s their Top 5 list.
Remember the Titans
Based on real events, “this remarkable story celebrates how a town torn apart by friction and mistrust comes together in triumphant harmony,” according to Amazon. After leading his team to fifteen winning seasons, beloved football coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) is demoted and replaced by tough, opinionated Herman Boone (Denzel Washington).
How these two men overcome their differences and turn a group of hostile young men into champions is a remarkable portrait of courage and perseverance. Watch the action unfold play-by-play in the astounding visual clarity of high definition, while you thrill to the roaring of the crowds and experience the full impact of every sack with spectacularly enhanced audio.
You can see why teachers would recommend this movie to high school students.
Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the story of August Pullman. Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to discover their compassion and acceptance, Auggie’s extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.
Teachers everywhere applaud Auggie’s ascension from being the school goat to a school hero.
Stand and Deliver
Stand and Deliver is the true story of Jaime Escalante, the East Los Angeles mathematics teacher who challenges the system and the stereotypes to raise the standard of life for his inner-city students.
That description fails to capture the commitment and determination of Jaime Escalante as he “transformed a classroom of potential dropouts into calculus wizards. In doing so, the film’s title takes on extra resonance. The phrase ‘stand and deliver’ (originally a military term) has come to define how a person—any person—is capable of succeeding if he or she works hard, stands tall, and presents him or herself positively and intelligently.” (Rob Edelman, Encyclopedia.com)
According to Roger Ebert, “The last shot of Stand and Deliver puts some astonishing statistics on the screen, indicating that in every year since 1982 (the year of the story), even more students from this East L.A. high school have passed the difficult ETS exam. That is a dramatic story, and this is a worthy movie for telling it.”
The Breakfast Club
John Hughes’s classic captured the essence of the 80’s in this high school movie that any teacher over 40 knows.
As the movie trailer asks, “What happens when you put five strangers in Saturday detention? Badass posturing, gleeful misbehavior, and a potent dose of angst. With this exuberant film, writer-director John Hughes established himself as the bard of American youth, vividly and empathetically capturing how teenagers hang out, act up, and goof off.
The Breakfast Club brings together an assortment of adolescent archetypes—the uptight prom queen (Molly Ringwald), the stoic jock (Emilio Estevez), the foul-mouthed rebel (Judd Nelson), the virginal bookworm (Anthony Michael Hall), and the kooky recluse (Ally Sheedy)—and watches them shed their personae and develop unlikely friendships. With its highly quotable dialogue and star-making performances, this film is an era-defining pop-culture phenomenon.
If you close your eyes, you can still hear Simple Minds’ melodic, Don’t You (Forget About Me) with the narration, “an athlete…a basket case…a princess…and a criminal… The Breakfast Club.”
Dead Poets Society
A new English teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams), joins a prestigious all-boys prep school known for traditions and standards. Williams turns in a memorable performance using unorthodox methods to reach and inspire students. Mr. Keating not only instructs his students but changes lives. His methods are at odds with parents and the administration who frustrate him at every turn.
More than just a movie, Dead Poets Society takes the top spot because of how it changed the lives of many teachers and those aspiring to teach. These quotes from the BBC News Magazine’s exemplify its impact.
“He made you feel like it matters, that poetry matters,” says Jonathan Taylor, a lecturer in creative writing at the University of Leicester, who was 16 when he saw the film. “I loved the film so much that maybe on one level it is the reason I became a teacher. He understands in the film that education isn’t just one little part of your existence, it is life. It’s the same thing. It’s not just learning Wordsworth by heart, it’s about feeling it and understanding why it’s important,” says Taylor. “I was the target audience. I was a 16-year-old who loved writing, poetry and literature. The film said things I was already thinking.”
What movie do you think every high school student should see?