Alma mater: The Breakfast Club
Best subjects: Mocking authority, wearing leather gloves.
Teacher’s comments: Bender is the bad boy of the John Hughes’ era-defining Breakfast Club.
If they had a yearbook he’d be voted ‘Most like to be a criminal’ – he’s sarcastic, rude and defiant, although like the disparate classmates he finds alongside him in detention, he finds unexpected common ground with the group.
Alma mater: The Karate Kid
Best subjects: Manual labour, balancing, keepy-ups.
Teacher’s comments: Daniel is your typical high concept fish-out-of-water, the new kid in town who not only struggles to make friends, but makes enemies with the local karate deathsquad.
Enter Mr Miagi, a sage neighbour willing to teach the nice but basically super-whingy Daniel how not to get his ass kicked.
Alma mater: Dazed And Confused
Best subjects: Paddling, flunking.
Teacher’s comments: Fred is the inadequate repeating year senior, covering up for his embarrassing failures by throwing himself overzealously into the annual freshmen hazing ritual. He’s a lug, but in the end way more memorable than the film’s cast of nostalgic drifters.
Alma mater: Cruel Intentions
Best subjects: Machiavellian politics, sexual deviancy.
Teacher’s comments: Kathryn is an arch-manipulator so skilful and uncaring that she places bets on the outcome of her pupeteering with her step-brother Sebastian.
She’s a classic villain, with an expertly maintained front of innocence, and, as shown in more than one seen, a powerful talent for seduction – this is without doubt Sarah Michelle Gellar’s sexiest role.
Alma mater: Napoleon Dynamite
Best subjects: Drawing, dancing, kick butt ninja skills.
Teacher’s comments: Napoleon is a dysfunctional nerd-hero. What sets him apart is just how dysfunctional – there’s a savage broken awkwardness to him that’s never redeemed, even after his climactic body-popping triumph.
Alma mater: Mean Girls
Best subjects: Zoology, bitchiness, remembering her roots.
Teacher’s comments: Mean Girls is a lot like Heathers as seen through a Saturday Night Live prism.
Tina Fey’s script has Cady as the nice home-schooled new girl who initially observes high school social cliques like an anthropology exercise, but soon gets swept up in the back-biting and belonging.
Alma mater: Dead Poet’s Society
Best subjects: English literature, moments of inspirational defiance.
Teacher’s comments: Todd is the one who gets it. In Peter Weir’s buttoned-down prep school, a factory churning out the conservative leaders of tomorrow, it’s Todd that grasps off-track teacher John Keating’s inspirational message and delivers the film’s euphoric payoff. O Captain my Captain!
Alma mater: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Best subjects: Neurosis, impressions, Freudian despair.
Teacher’s comments: The ultimate ‘80s high school sidekick. Cameron is the privileged kid too intimidated by his parents and his wealth to move (we meet him, off school, paralysed by hypochondria).
He’s a shrinking violet, then, but also the perfect foil for the ebullient Ferris, a Jiminy Cricket-style conscience for Matthew Broderick’s senior year superman.
Alma mater: High School Musical
Best subjects: Drama, music, manipulation
Teacher’s comments: The spoiled little princess who intends to bop to the top of the drama club
She's a sanitised Paris Hilton whose machinations (against Troy, Gabriella and her own twin brother) make her loathsome - lovably so, thanks to Ashley Tisdale’s pouting pratfalls.
Alma mater: Risky Business
Best subjects: Dancing in pants, throwing away his future.
Teacher’s comments: The big grin, dark glasses and y-front stomping session that launched Tom Cruise’s stellar career all belong to fallen model student Joel Goodsen, the tame middle-class achiever whose life falls to satirical strips when he hooks up with Rebecca De Mornay’s insanely hot call girl.
Alma mater: Superbad
Best subjects: Social studies, dance.
Teacher’s comments: The premier movie nerd of the 21st century – a stick-thin dork with goofy looks who seizes his moment with both oversized hands, using a fake ID to transform himself into the legendary cop-befriending, party-ruling McLovin.
Alma mater: Pretty In Pink
Best subjects: Geek chic, New Wave outsider status.
Teacher’s comments: Andie is the poor girl with the heart of gold, the trampy princess waiting for her yuppie prince (a typically big-collared Andrew McCarthy) to break away from his preconceptions. She’s a modern day Juliet, then, defying in a world of high school cliques instead of family divisions.
Alma mater: Rebel Without A Cause
Best subjects: Playing chicken, smouldering.
Teacher’s comments: The original Angry Young Man, misunderstood by dysfunctional parents and finding himself repeatedly on the wrong side of the law but without doing anything morally wrong.
The film might seem a storm in a teacup now – hauled into a police station for drinking ! – but James Dean is as emotionally primed as ever, the hot-blowing kid with eyes wide against the world.
Alma mater: Clueless
Best subjects: Shopping, bad matchmaking, having a rich dad.
Teacher’s comments: A modern day Emma, Cher is the airheaded matchmaker with zero social sense and a habit of picking the wrong guys for herself.
With her Beverly Hills worldview and cliquey vocab she’s should be a hate figure, but Alicia Silverstone and pals play with a dizzy, winning charm.
Alma mater: Back To The Future
Best subjects: Rock ‘n’ roll, skateboarding, inappropriate time-travel romances.
Teacher’s comments: Marty is a artful dodger in the style of ‘80s classmates Joel Goodsen and Ferris Bueller. But unlike them he doesn’t just skip through detentions and absent-parent adventures – he skips through time itself, fixing his fortunes with his trademark hummingbird energy.
Alma mater: Carrie
Best subjects: Adolescent awkwardness, murderous telekinesis.
Teacher’s comments: Tortured soul Carrie is the school scapegoat who’s moments from acceptance and happiness when her prom queen dreams turn to pig blood humiliation. Which is bad news for just about everybody, because she’s also a powerful and deadly psychic.
Alma mater: Friday Night Lights
Best subjects: First downs, completion percentages, tragedy.
Teacher’s comments: Of all Friday Night Lights’ brilliantly conjured high school sportsmen, it’s the tragic near-miss of Boobie Miles that stays with us longest.
He’s the star player whose NFL dreams are broken by a ligament tear, whose desperate moment of realisation (“I can't do nothing else but play football”) is a guaranteed audience choker.
Alma mater: Harry Potter Years 1-7
Best subjects: Snake charming, learning the meaning of life, messiah studies.
Teacher’s comments: The consummate articulation of the ‘magical apprentice’ archetype.
He is the outsider with the mystical mentor, the messianic last hope for wizardkind, and also a thoroughly well observed Boy Growing Up, written with sensitively and depth, and played with increasing assurance by Daniel Radcliffe.
Alma mater: The Virgin Suicides
Best subjects: Adolescent seductiveness, morbidity.
Teacher’s comments: Kirsten Dunst’s lilting, ethereal angel wafts through Sofia Coppola’s debut film like the sweet scent of deadly candy. She’s beautiful, mysterious and wonderfully, eternally aloof.
Bill Preston and Ted Logan
Alma mater: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Best subjects: Music (in the future), history (thanks to the past).
Teacher’s comments: Bill and Ted are vacuous Californian airheads – terrible musicians, failing students, and the key to peace and happiness throughout the galaxy.
Their innocence gets them on the list – a smiling open-mouthed naivity towards everything from time travel (“But it did happen!”) to delivering a philosophy for governing mankind (“Be excellent to each other”).
Alma mater: Heathers
Best subjects: Bad boy charm, wild hair, killing popular kids.
Teacher’s comments: At first glance Christian Slater’s J.D. is a straight James Dean rip – the wild child rebelling against whatever his new high school’s got.
But he – and the film – are much darker (Slater’s uncanny Jack Nicholson eyebrows should have given it away) and lead Winona Ryder’s clique queen into murderous territory.
Alma mater: Donnie Darko
Best subjects: Teen rebellion, time travel, giant rabbits.
Teacher’s comments: A time travelling lost soul, peering through a Lynchian vortex of overlapping meanings to find purpose in life and his imminent loss of it. He’s also a cheerably defiant naysayer, an independent thinker with memorably charm and a killer grin.
Alma mater: Rushmore
Best subjects: Beekeeping, debating,
Teacher’s comments: Max is a paragon of almost entirely talentless enthusiasm.
He’s a captain and a campaigner, the organiser of countless extra-curricular activities, and while he sucks at actual school (he’s eventually expelled) he does know the secret of happiness. “Just find something you love to do, and do it for the rest of your life.”
Alma mater: Scream
Best subjects: Survival, self-reflexive peril, revenge.
Teacher’s comments: Sidney is the ’70s scream queen, reinvented. She’s no longer the wailing, waify, “why the hell are you running up the stairs?” victim. She’s strong, savvy and – even though she has sex with the killer himself – a survivor. A new heroine for a new era of slashers.
Alma mater: Brick
Best subjects: Hard-boiled patter, taking a beating.
Teacher’s comments: The centrepiece of Rian Johnson’s noirer-than-noir high school thriller.
Frye is the Hammett-style hero working the angles and unravelling the secrets of a drug-infused social elite that got his girlfriend killed, using unusual smarts and a capacity for being slugged to stumble through one of the best hard-boiled mysteries you’ll see.
Alma mater: Election
Best subjects: Ruthlessness, manipulation, winning.
Teacher’s comments: Tracy is a cute blond bundle of smiles with narrow eyes and a ruthless streak a mile wide. She’s the buttoned-down face of tomorrow – outwardly perfect, but passive aggressive on a nuclear scale and willing to take down anyone who opposes her.
Alma mater: if….
Best subjects: Insurrection, disobedience, taking a beating.
Teacher’s comments: The Mick Travis of if…. is the first stage in director Lindsay Anderson’s everyman character, who would grow through O Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital.
Here’s he’s a public schoolboy revolutionary swept up in late ‘60s insurrection, taking up arms against the injustices of the class system and, more specifically, tyrannical prefects with a liking for a lashing.
Alma mater: Say Anything…
Best subjects: Kickboxing, trench coats, flamboyant romantic gestures.
Teacher’s comments: The quintessential John Cusack role – the smart slacker with an offbeat approach to life (he’s a fast-talking kick-boxer) with killer sad eyes and an irresistible smile. Cusack’s been playing versions of him (he’s basically a version of Cusack) ever since, and we hope he never stops.
Alma mater: American Pie
Best subjects: Lacrosse, swearing, humiliating nerds.
Teacher’s comments: Stifler is the zenith of jock evolution – a foul-mouthed tsunami of aggression and awesomely ignorant sexism, somehow made loveable by Seann William Scott’s smirking triumph of a performance.
Alma mater: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Best subjects: Breaking the fourth wall, seizing the day.
Teacher’s comments: Ferris is the ‘80s wunderkind who breezes through a day of close calls and catastrophes like a cat dodging raindrops.
He’s smooth - quick thinking, fast-talking – but the reason he places so high is his determination to live life to the full, packing art, romance, tragedy and singing Beatles songs in a giant street parade into a single bunked day.