Movie Syllabus: Back to School Lessons from the Big Screen

While I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I’m an adult(ish), I find myself reflecting on my past life as a student at the end of every summer. So what better way to welcome in another semester than with a movie syllabus? There’s lots you can learn from some of these school-themed films.

How to stand up to mean teachers, “Matilda”

This was one of the first movies I ever saw in theaters and coincidentally, one of the first movies that gave me serious nightmares. Ms. Trunchbull, the chokey, and Bruce forced to eat chocolate cake made out of Cookie’s “blood and sweat,” was more than enough for me to not sleep for a solid week. But I also looked up to Matilda and admired her ability to stand up to the Trunch.

How to succeed in school, “Billy Madison”

Don’t eat glue… help your friends out when they pee their pants…O’Doyle rules!… don’t let anyone tell you you’re stupid. But most importantly: Don’t piss off your bus driver. Side note: The ’90s may have been the last time Adam Sandler was actually funny.

How to deal with bullies, “Angus”

Learning how to deal with different types of people is one of the biggest lessons you actually learn in school, but it’s not always easy. There are plenty of movies that illustrate the struggle to fit in and the harsh reality of cliques (“Mean Girls,” “Heathers”), but one of my favorites is the lesser-known “Angus.” If you ever find yourself down or feeling bullied, just listen to Angus’ grandfather’s wise words: “Screw ’em!”

How to get a reputation, “Easy A”

A modern day version of the infamous Scarlett Letter, this movie follows a quirky high school student on her path to sluttiness. OK, so that’s not literally true, but her peers believe she’s on the path to Whoreville so she endures some horrific slut-shaming. Fun fact: This may be the only time you’ll see a religious, straight-edge Amanda Bynes. Cherish it.

How to make prom memorable, “10 Things I Hate About You”

This may be my favorite movie of all time. It’s the quintessential ‘90s filmangsty teens with controlling parents, popular kids vs loners, badass and douchey hearthrobs (Heath Ledger, Andrew Keegan), hysterical one-liners (“that must be Nigel with the brie!”), a major musical number, and one hell of a climactic prom scene.

How to embody school spirit, “Bring It On”

Kirsten Dunst has been in the movie industry for years, but “Bring It On” has to be one of her most memorable roles ever. We’ve got spirit yes we do, we’ve got spirit, how ‘bout you?! Say it with me! “These are spirit fingers. And these are GOLD.”

How to keep living the dream, “Old School”

Is it every guys dream to go back to college, drink endless amounts of beer and meet younger girls? Probably. Just living the dream…Frank the tank! Frank the tank!

How to rock your high school reunion, “Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion”

For the old farts out there like me who have their 10-year high school reunion to look forward to, take a cue from Romy & Michele and come up with a solid reunion strategy. So what if you’re not married, have no kids and a rather unimpressive job? Just tell everyone you invented Post-its. OWN IT.

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