Top 5 Back to School Movies

Paul McGuire Grimes, creator of Paul’s Trip to the Movies, gives us his top 5 Back to School movies.


If you hear the phrase, “Carpe diem, seize the day” you’ll probably think of the great Robin Williams movie, Dead Poets Society. He plays Professor Jack Keating, the new teacher at an all-boys boarding school in Vermont in 1959. These schools come with strict guidelines, rules, and teaching methods, and Keating dares to go against every one of them telling them to rip up their books, stand on their desk, and quote the great poets and writers. His unusual teaching methods lead to a renewed engagement for his class leading to the ultimate “O, Captain! My Captain!” in their phrase for what Keating has done for them.


When you think of ‘80s comedies set in schools, you often think of John Hughes movies. Director Amy Heckerling and writer Cameron Crowe made their coming of age, high school romp. The film takes place over the course of the school year featuring a collage of students from sophomores to seniors who are trying to get by, exploring their sexualities, working deadbeat jobs, and acting older than they are.

-Streaming on Peacock

  1. MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS (1995)

One of the most inspirational films dedicated to teachers is Mr. Holland’s Opus, starring Richard Dreyfuss. He stars as the title character who went from being an “on the road” musician to becoming a high school band and music appreciation teacher. At first, he sees this as a fallback position. He hates teaching as the kids are terrible. His attitude slowly turns around as he uses rock and roll, jazz, and anything else to get these kids to love music. Throughout his career, we see Mr. Holland struggle with that work, life, family balances as he is raising a deaf son, Cole.

-Streaming on Disney+


Detention was never as fun as it was portrayed in The Breakfast Club. John Hughes’ movies defined a generation with this film being my personal favorite featuring The Brat Pack. During one all-day Saturday detention, five students spend the entire day defying the stereotypes and images they each have toward one another. They prove to themselves and Principal Vernon that they are more than a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.

-Streaming on Peacock


Sister Mary Robert, Sister Mary Patrick, and Mother Superior head to Las Vegas to see their good friend Deloris Van Cartier, who is back to performing in a high spectacle show. After her concert, they reunite with Deloris where they plead for her to don the old nun’s habit one more time as Sister Mary Clarence.  They all work at St. Francis Academy in San Francisco, which is facing closure from the archdiocese. The high school students are unruly and follow their own set of rules.  Sister Mary Clarence is their only hope at setting them on the straight and narrow.  She accepts their offer and is tasked with teaching the music class.  When she arrives on her first day, she finds the situation worse than she had expected. She makes the bold choice to turn the students into a choir, redecorate the choir room, and enrolls in them into an all-state music competition. Her hip, but no- nonsense ways are just the direction these students need.

-Streaming on Disney+

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