Some of the best films ever created revolve around the agony and ecstasy of attending school.
Be it that nerve-racking first day as a freshman, the bittersweet longing of unrequited love or the teenage angst that comes with not being part of the in-crowd, attending school is rife with emotional and social pitfalls. Perfect material for writers and directors to fashion tales of fun, danger, romance and excitement out of.
Not to mention a lot of musical numbers.
As students head back to classrooms over the coming weeks, here are 10 beloved coming-of-age films sure to alleviate any back-to-school blues.
"THE BREAKFAST CLUB" (1985)
Subject material: A jock, a nerd, a punk, a princess, and a Goth chick (Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, respectively) report for detention on a Saturday in the high school library, and find that regardless of their apparent differences they have much in common. A standout in filmmaker John Hughes' oeuvre, "Breakfast Club" looks beyond stereotypes to examine the secret emotional life of teens.
The lesson: No matter your standing in high school, everyone feels like an outcast at some point.
"DEAD POETS SOCIETY" (1989)
Subject material: A classic of its genre made all the more poignant so soon after the passing of the film's lead Robin Williams. "Carpe Diem!" is the takeaway from this story of free-thinking educator John Keating (Williams) who arrives at the tony Welton Academy in 1959, armed only with Whitman, Tennyson and the desire to encourage self-determination in his young male charges (Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke).
The lesson: Though medicine, law and business are noble pursuits, it's poetry, beauty, romance and love that ultimately nourish and educate the soul.
"PITCH PERFECT" (2012)
Subject material: Barden University's all-female a cappella group, the Barden Bellas, strive to make a comeback from public humiliation with the help of reluctant new member Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick), whose participation in the group is at the demand of her dad, a Barden professor. The Bellas attempt to redeem themselves at the national titles with a little help from a hip new arrangement thanks to Beca. This hit musical comedy also stars Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow and Elizabeth Banks.
The lesson: Stick to what you love, and never eat a large meal before performing in public.
"FREAKY FRIDAY" (1976, 2003)
Subject material: Thanks to an enchanted fortune cookie, a mother (Jamie Lee Curtis) and daughter (Lindsay Lohan) at odds with each other magically find their souls switched. It's a remake of the 1976 version starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster, and both films provide laughs as the characters attempt to come to terms with their newly inhabited bodies and the stresses of living one another's life.
The lesson: Putting yourself in the shoes of another, even your mom, provides invaluable insight and empathy.
"MEAN GIRLS" (2004)
Subject material: Another back-to-school vehicle for Lindsay Lohan, this cult favorite focuses on Cady Heron (Lohan), a 16-year-old home-schooled daughter of zoologist parents who has just returned to the U.S. after a 12-year research trip in Africa. In this fish-out-of-water tale, Heron enrolls at a local Illinois high school and makes new, decent friends whom she eventually drops in favor of joining the school's most exclusive clique, the Plastics, lead by bitchy Regina George ( Rachel McAdams). Amy Poehler and Tina Fey co-star, with Fey also writing the screenplay.
The lesson: Like your friends for who they are, not what you wish them to be. And avoid classmates with "cool" moms.
Subject material: So influential was this musical drama about kids attending the New York High School of Performing Arts, it spawned a 1982 TV series, a stage musical and a 2009 movie remake featuring Bebe Neuwirth and Kelsey Grammer. But it's the original starring Irene Cara and featuring the titular hit song that has the cast dancing in the streets. Divided into auditions, freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years, "Fame" has an authentic early '80s' NYC look and feel.
The lesson: It remains a refreshing look at time when fame was something attained only through achievement in a field of expertise, not simply an accomplishment in and of itself.
"FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF" (1986)
Subject material: Sometimes the best lessons are learned outside of the classroom. High school senior Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) decides to skip school and spend the day in downtown Chicago. He convinces his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) to join him, and the trio must find ways to avoid being caught out by their school's dean, Ferris' vengeful sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey), and his none-the-wiser parents. Slapstick comedy is gently balanced with tender moments in this beloved film from John Hughes.
The lesson according to Ferris: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
"HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE" (2001)
Subject material: A young orphan discovers he has magical powers and must attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in order to learn his craft and reveal his true destiny. Based on the first novel of the hugely popular series of Harry Potter books by British author J.K. Rowling, the movie follows Harry as makes what will become lifelong friends, develops his magical gifts, and learns that darkness lies in wait in the form of "he who must not be named."
The lessons: Never judge a book by its cover, and with the support of friends, anything is possible.
"10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU" (1999)
Subject material: A modern update on Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," it takes its title from a poem written by high school outcast Kat (Julia Stiles) regarding her eventual romance with fellow fringe-dweller Patrick (Heath Ledger). Miscommunication and romantic confusion abound in this bittersweet tale also starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik and Gabrielle Union. A teen film with big heart, it proved a breakout success for Stiles, Ledger and Gordon-Levitt.
The lessons: Don't be afraid to be yourself, and don't drink and swing.
Subject material: It's 1958 and sweet and innocent Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) enrolls as new senior at Rydell High School where she re-encounters her summer fling Danny (John Travolta). But Danny is revealed to be a bad boy member of the leather-jacket-wearing T-Birds and plays it cool with his former flame. With a little help from the Pink Ladies, Sandy may just win Danny's heart all over again. A musical comedy classic about first loves, it features a a stellar cast (Stockard Channing, Jeff Conway, Eve Arden, Frankie Avalon) and a soundtrack stuffed with hit sing-a-long numbers.
The lesson: "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" because I'm "Hopelessly Devoted to You."