These Nostalgic High School Movies Are Approaching 40

According to Forbes, during this pandemic the most binge-watched TV shows are dysfunctional documentaries about serial killers and big cat owners, and foreign TV serial killer dramas.

Regardless, I’m dragging you away from the dark side to time travel with me and binge these nostalgic 80s high school movies. So gather your friends for virtual screenings, put on your 80s outfits, buy some 80s snacks, remove all modern devices, switch the HD off on your TV, and fix your best angsty expression towards the screen, as you press play on these nostalgic delights.

Sixteen Candles

If someone has ever forgotten your birthday or any important date, cut them out of your life immediately and tell your therapist. I’m joking because that would have made Sixteen Candles a very boring movie.

Part of the iconic John Hughes High School Trilogy, Sixteen Candles served as the catalyst for the rise of the female teen-movie protagonist, paving the way for the likes of Clueless and Mean Girls. The importance of Sweet Sixteens may have died out a little, but watching Sixteen Candles brings back the joy and embarrassing pains of turning sixteen. A time when you're officially a survivor of puberty, and barreling towards adulthood.

So, what is it about Molly Ringwold as Samantha in Sixteen Candles that made John Hughes name her his muse, made me stick sixteen candles to my body and dress in drag in her image, and inspired an 80s tribute band ‘The Molly Ringwalds’ to take her name?

Is it her Oscar-worthy range of facial expressions as she encounters every embarrassing hurdle (that we can all relate to)? Is it her wallflower vibes at the cringy school dances, looking like a painting entitled ‘unrequited love,' begging that ‘popular person’ with dimples to deem her visible? Is it the eclectic 80s playlists of Patti Smith to Spandau Ballet she's soundtracked by? Is it realizing her stalker with bad breath is really just an underdog that could fulfill her life? Is it because she was one of the first age-appropriate actresses in a teen movie? Is it her pathological dissatisfaction with Baby Boomer parents? The answer is, it’s all of these beauties, mixed into a cake that I put 40 candles on so we can wish fictional Samantha a Happy 40th Birthday!

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Fast Times At Ridgemont High

Fast Times is such a nostalgic force it succeeded in bringing together Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, and Julia Roberts to table read its screenplay—with Morgan Freeman masterfully reading the stage directions. The warm, fuzzy smiles on the actors' faces who themselves would have been teenagers at the time of the movie's release (except for Morgan), showcases the deep nostalgia that is this film.

The film was named the ‘first real teen movie of the 80s' by many, after following a succession of 70s teensploitation movies that lacked a real reflection of our teenage lives. Fast Times gave birth to a teen movie that presented teenage life more realistically in its mediocrity—but in such a bright and vivid manner. It also provided better sex education than what I got in high school, and made me eat a lot more carrots after this genius scene:

Fast Times is full of rare treasures. The first is a less serious role for Sean Penn, who plays a stoned student by the name of Spicoli. He wields his stoner influence, getting many students to get stoned and order fast food to their class (myself included). His nemesis is his teacher of course, aka the hilarious Mr Hands.

The second treasure is the one and only Judge Reinhold making his 80s diner uniform look like high fashion. I pray that one day Vogue Magazine will announce this nostalgic uniform as the next up-and-coming trend.

The last treasure amongst all of the drugs, sex, and rock 'n roll is the well-observed abortion storyline that the movie’s writer, Cameron Crowe, says would be too controversial for today's audiences. The female perspective is on point thanks to Amy Heckerling’s direction. Played non-dramatically, with marvelous mundaneness by Janet Jason Leigh as 15-year-old Stacey, we watch the young woman as she tries to raise money and get a ride to her abortion. The film brings compassion and empathy to such a progressive storyline, that it almost feels as though time has gone backwards when watching it.

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

‘Because life is too beautiful a thing to waste,’ and ‘One Man's Struggle To Take It Easy’ were both loglines for Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the third in John Hughes’s 80s high school movie trio, that became a top ten earner of the decade. But you didn’t have to be alive in the 80s to relate to this flick.

The hook of this cult classic film has stood the test of time. I was in an elevator with a mature woman last week and she said she was nostalgic for a time when the world knew how to rest, and a proper education was learned out in the world in a pre-iPhone world. The truth is, we all need a day off sometimes, a day to explore our surroundings. If you're struggling to do that while ironically stuck at home being force-fed news, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off will be your inspiration to go on an adventure. I remember playing hooky to go into Manhattan and just roam the streets, meet strangers and self-educate myself through people-watching as Ferris does on his trip to Chicago, both of us creating love letters to our beacon cities.

Ferris’s tips to get out of High School in his charming opening monologue (by a young Matthew Broderick), was my inspiration for faking an ingrown toenail to get out of physical education class, which I deemed just as meaningless as Ferris deems European History. Unlike Ferris, I didn’t persuade my best friend and ‘girlfriend’ to come with me. However, the endearing trio’s bond is the real glue of this movie. Watching the three of them on their spontaneous musical adventure into Chicago is enough to convince you to stop everything, and have fun.

This film is an education in nostalgia, referencing Star Wars, Grease and John Lennon. It even made my miserable father who stagnates in nostalgia break out into a smile.

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