You’ll Never Guess the Rotten Tomatoes All-Time Top High School Movie
I will give you five guesses to name the number one high school movie of all time, as measured by the Rotten Tomatoes freshness rankings, and you will not be correct.
Even if I gave you 20 guesses, you would not get it.
No, it’s not Dead Poets Society. (#37, 85% fresh).
Not The Breakfast Club (#24, 89% fresh) or Rushmore (#23, 90% fresh).
Looking at the list of the top 70 high school movies as compiled by Rotten Tomatoes, I see a lot of movies I’ve loved. Seeing them compiled in one place, it becomes clearer why so many of the 70 have become enduring favorites.
High school is a time for figuring out who we are and, perhaps more importantly and dramatically, for figuring out if we feel worthy of love and affection from people who are not obligated to give it, like family. These adolescent concerns transcend any particular era.
The oœuvre of John Hughes—Pretty in Pink (#60, 73% fresh), Sixteen Candles (#39, 84% fresh), and Some Kind of Wonderful (#56, 75% fresh)—was almost exclusively focused on these questions—as are the more contemporary versions of a very similar story—The Duff (#62, 73% fresh), The Edge of Seventeen (#9, 94% fresh), and Lady Bird (#2, 99% fresh).
Even movies that are ostensibly about high school party shenanigans (nice word choice, Gramps) from three different eras—Fast Times at Ridgemont High (#53, 77% fresh), American Pie (#70, 61% fresh), and Blockers (#36, 84% fresh)—are more alike than they are different.
[Though, it is interesting to note the evolution of parents in these films: from absent (Fast Times), to shenanigans-adjacent (American Pie), to more messed up than the kids (Blockers).]
For the record, the top ranked high school party movies are House Party (#14, 93% fresh) and Booksmart (#6, 96% fresh).
There are a number of high school sports movies in the top 70, though none are number one. Basketball is by far the most represented with Love and Basketball (#43, 83%), Hoosiers (#22, 91% fresh), and Hoop Dreams (#3, 98% fresh).
Movies where students (and others) break into song are also well represented with High School Musical 3 (#68, 63% fresh) a rare case where the sequel surpasses the original)—Grease (#58, 76% fresh), Rock and Roll High School (#48, 81%), Fame (#42, 84% fresh), and Hairspray (the musical) (#21, 91% fresh) all making the list.
Risky Business (#17, 92% fresh) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (#50, 80% fresh) do not count because the famous musical numbers in those movies are lip-synced.
You’re now really wracking your brain at what could be number one. It’s not a high school horror flick like Carrie (the original) (#12, 93% fresh) or Scream (#52, 79% fresh).
It’s not a 1950’s classic like Blackboard Jungle (#57, 76% fresh) or Rebel Without a Cause (#16, 92% fresh).
The number one high school movie according to the Rotten Tomatoes freshness meter is undoubtedly a great movie. But for some reason, even though it involves high school-age characters and a plot concerned with sex and relationships like a lot of the movies listed above, I’ve never thought of it as a high school movie.
Go look for yourself and see if you agree.
And then come back and vote in the Educational Endeavors poll for the best high school movie of all time.