10 films that capture the nerves, drama, and challenges of going back to school

YP Team

Team YP shares their favourite movies to watch to ring in the new academic year. Sometimes it’s just nice to know every school has its ups and downs

YP Team |

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"O captain! My captain!" Robin Williams was unforgettable in 1989's Dead Poets Society.

Grease (1978)

An oldie but a timeless goodie: Grease! It’s a new school year after many long, lazy summer nights, and innocent exchange student Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) is the new girl at an American high school. Much to her surprise, and initial delight, she finds there her summer boyfriend, Danny (John Travolta). But what with peer pressure, high school inter-group politics, and general teenage drama, a high-intensity, emotional roller coaster ensues. Despite how dated this 1978 film and some of its themes are, I still love it and can’t help but sing along to every number.

Heidi Yeung, Web Editor

Mean Girls (2004)

In Mean Girls, new girl Cady moves to the US after having spent the last 12 years in Africa. At her new school. she finds new friends, romance ... and a trio of the meanest girls that exist – and then becomes one of them herself. Come on, it was always going to be Mean Girls for me, cause it’s so terribly quotable, and such a product of its time. The mid-00s hair, the fashion, the way this film effectively uses humour to touch upon loads of important social issues you experience as a young adult – there’s literally nothing wrong with this film. Apart from trying to make fetch happen. Cause that’s not going to happen.

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Dead Poets Society (1989)

Dead Poets Society. This back-to-school coming-of-age drama revolves around John Keating (Robin Williams) the new English teacher at the Vermont boarding school Welton Academy, who uses unconventional methods to teach poetry and challenge his students’ mind. I always think of it as one of the most thought-provoking and moving films ever made, and a must-watch for everyone. If only I had an English teacher in high school who, like Keating, would stretch my brain to view the world through a different lens!

Nicola Chan, Reporter

Fight Back to School (1991)

This classic Stephen Chow comedy and its sequels revolve around a police officer who must go undercover as a student and fight crime. A bit off-the-wall for a back-to-school movie, but the trilogy is some of Chow’s finest work in the area of comedy. And even now, over 20 years and many dozens of rewatches later, it remains as funny as the day it came out.

Wong Tsui-kai, Web reporter

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10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

This is the perfect back-to-school rom-com. Featuring Heath Ledger, in what was probably his most romantic scene ever (Can’t Take My Eyes Off You will now forever make me cry), the film is a feel-good flick that will never get old. Joseph Gordon Levitt plays the adorable Cameron James, a new student Padua High School; and Julia Stiles gives a hilarious performance as feminist, Kat Stratford. Perfectly encapsulating humour, with some tears, the film is my most-watched on Netflix and my first choice for a sleepover. It’s also a modern day adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew. So really, it prepares you for your English class.

Rhea Mogul, Junior Reporters Club Manager

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is more about skipping classes than going back to school, but its still great fun to watch. It’s a teen-comedy film directed by John Hughes, who was a pioneer in the teen movie genre, having directed highly memorable classics like The Breakfast Club.

The film follows Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) as he skips day of school to have one last day of fun in downtown Chicago before he graduates high school and heads to college. Although it might feel slightly cliched, The regular breaking of the fourth wall and Ferris’s antics make this film funny and enjoyable to watch.

Joshua Lee, Intern

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School of Rock (2003)

The film that made everyone wish Jack Black was their teacher, School of Rock. Hopeless wannabe rockstar Dewey Finn (Black) has been kicked out of his band and is about to be kicked out of his apartment, and is in need a of a get-money-quick scheme. When he answers a phone call for his flatmate from the head teacher of a prestigious school looking for a substitute teacher, Dewey decides to take the job himself. While at first he appears to have none of the makings of a good teacher, all this changes when Dewey discovers that his students are musical prodigies. He then sets out to put together “the greatest rock band of all time”. With a talented cast, a heartwarming message and, of course, great music, School of Rock is a back-to-school classic.

Charlotte Ames-Ettridge, Sub-editor

Clueless (1995)

Ugh, as if! Clueless has to be the best back to-school movie. Although having to think of an acceptable outfit to wear to school every morning or passing your driving license test might not be things high school students in Hong Kong need to be concerned about, this 90s coming-of-age classic is, like, TOTALLY relatable in so many other ways. From dealing with bad grades, relationships, and fitting in, the film covers many teen issues that are relevant today, is cleverly written, and has a great cast.

Nicole Moraleda, Sub-editor

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was a spectacular film that managed to bring the magical world of wizards and witches to the big screen. From the beautiful visualisation of the Great Hall with all its floating candles to the budding friendship between the three main protagonists, this movie really captures the spirit of starting over at a brand new place. Watch it again today if you want to recapture the sense of wonderment that a new school year always manages to bring.

Jamie Lam, Special Projects Editor

Bring It On (2000)

I don’t care whether you watch Bring It On to appreciate its social commentary, surprisingly mature treatment of race relations, and knowing satire of fluffy teen films, or just to experience pure wonder at the athleticism and artistry of cheerleaders, just watch it. Also, the “spirit fingers” scene is one of the greatest in cinematic history.

Karly Cox, Deputy Editor