I was not, if I am being completely honest, the model high school student. It wasn’t that I was a bad kid, but I was inclined to bend those rules I found inconvenient. Did it cause me, and my parents, some headaches and heartaches? Certainly, and there are many moments that, to this day, I am not proud of. Still, my high school rebellions, in the grand scheme of things, were relatively minor.
Clearly, I was underachieving.
High school has always provided filmmakers with a convenient metaphoric microcosm for society, with the rebel character often serving as a dramatic catalyst for change.
Below is a list of five films about high school rebels who, for better or worse, affected their cinematic universe and have had a profound effect on audiences.
What are they rebelling against? What have you got?
OVER THE EDGE (1979): Set in a planned community at the edge of a desert, this tale of bored youth left to their own devices manages its melodrama and, even in moments of high drama, is able to dial in a certain sense of authenticity. Of note is a star-of-the-future performance by Matt Dillon and a killer soundtrack that includes Cheap Trick, the Cars and the Ramones.
ROCK ’N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979): Speaking of the Ramones, the legendary punk band plays an important role in this movie about rock-loving rebels sticking it to an oppressive high school administration. P.J. Soles stars as a Ramones superfan and the rebellion’s ringleader and the band both appears in the movie and provides a more than suitable soundtrack.
HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL! (1958): One of the first films to address the idea of drugs as part of high school culture, this film focuses on a new kid’s criminal enterprises and the resulting entanglements. Look for iconic ’50s star Mamie Van Doren, a pre-West Side Story Russ Tamblyn and a cameo by the Killer himself – Jerry Lee Lewis.
HEATHERS (1988): This pitch-black satire addresses the gap between the haves and have-nots, the popular and the marginalized. While certain aspects of this movie haven’t aged as well as others – Christian Slater’s faux-Nicholson characterization comes to mind – the writing remains strong and the escalation of tension and, ultimately, violence is powerful and powerfully funny.
BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955): The rare literary adaptation that works as well as its source material, this story of a young teacher, a tough school and the war of wills that develops in the classroom features standout performances by Glenn Ford, Vic Morrow and a young Sidney Poitier.