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10 High School Movies That Favor The Cool Kids




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Summary

  • Movies about growing up often position popular kids as the bad guys, but some stories choose to focus on positive popular kid narratives.
  • Popular versus unpopular narratives aren’t always true to life or compelling, so some movies opt for dynamic and original stories instead.
  • Movies like Grease, Varsity Blues, and Bring It On showcase popular kids without creating a big divide, focusing on love stories, football, and cheerleading competitions.

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It’s typical for most movies about growing up to position the popular kids as the bad guys, but some choose to steer clear of that narrative and focus on positive popular kid stories. Everybody loves an underdog story. When a hero has to face adversity and may not be the most celebrated person from the outset, it creates an uphill climb that can see them overcome challenges and win respect and acceptance. This underdog story can be satisfying, but it isn’t always the most true to life or even the most compelling.

Movies that focus on high schoolers and kids growing up may present jocks, cheerleaders, and other more generally popular kids as being bullies. While that can be true, it isn’t always, and telling a story where the kids who have a degree of popularity grow to a greater sense of maturity can be even better than the typical underdog story. Better yet, some movies decide to put labels like popular and unpopular to one side in order to focus on a dynamic and original story, instead of retelling the usual popular versus unpopular narrative.

10 Grease (1978)

A Greaser Love Story

Grease is a teen rom-com musical starring John Travolta as Danny Zuko, and Olivia Newton-John as Sandy Olsson. Danny is the leader of a cool and edgy greaser gang who love nothing more than tinkering with their cars. For the most part, the movie focuses on students from the male and female greaser gangs without paying too much attention to any other groups. The greasers aren’t particularly horrible to anyone, they just love to fix up and drive their cars, while they talk about girls they have crushes on. The movie doesn’t create a big divide between popular and unpopular and instead focuses on a great love story.

9 Varsity Blues (1999)

Everybody Loves Football

Varsity Blues TV show in the works

Varsity Blues is a movie that details the lives of a high school football team that is the heart of their small-town community. Game days are a city-wide event and the players are closely watched and adored by the community, but so much attention at such a young age can take its toll. Starring James Van Der Beek, Paul Walker, and Jon Voight, the film dives deep into the relationship between the team players, their overbearing coach, and the wider community. The kids may be praised for their athletic abilities, but it also comes with intense scrutiny.

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8 Bring It On (2000)

Fierce Cheerleading Competition

Gabrielle Union leading the cheer team in Bring It On

Directed by Ant-Man and Yes Man director, Peyton Reed, Bring It On follows two competing teams of cheerleaders from different schools. The movie stars Kirsten Dunst, Gabrielle Union, and Eliza Dushku in the roles of cheerleaders who lead the Toros team and the Clovers team at their respective schools. The movie is largely a teen comedy film, so it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but by focusing on the more athletic and popular girls at two separate schools and the competition between them, it avoids a popular versus unpopular narrative.

7 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

The Cool Kid Takes A Sick Day

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of the best films to come from John Hughes, who created several films focused on themes of growing up and going through high school. Matthew Broderick stars as a kid who is part class clown, and part the most popular kid in town, Ferris Bueller. When Ferris decides to take the day off from school, he is able to perform elaborate schemes to get his girlfriend and best friend out too, and set off on a magical big day out. Ferris is clearly beloved by everyone at school and in the community, except for his jealous sister, and his principal who suspects Ferris to be faking.

6 Dazed and Confused (1993)

The Last Day Of School

An image of Matthew McConaughey talking in Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused follows a large ensemble cast of actors, many of whom went on to have highly successful careers after this film. Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, and Matthew McConaughey are some of the most successful. The story follows several separate groups of students from different cliques as they go through their last day of school in 1976. The stories ultimately tie together and crossover, but for the most part, the film simply follows this theme rather than a specific story or narrative arc. No one is painted to be an absolute bad guy, and everyone experiences ups and downs.

5 Clueless (1995)

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Cher on the phone in Clueless

Alicia Silverstone stars as the all-American popular girl, Cher Horowitz in Clueless. The movie is a loose adaptation and modernization of the classic Jane Austen novel Emma. The movie focuses on Cher discovering a passion for helping others, and in doing so, she makes some misguided mistakes in judgment and places value on the wrong things. She couples up some of her teachers in hopes of earning a better grade and gives a new girl a makeover, so she can better fit in. Ultimately, this film portrays Cher as kind-hearted and somewhat immature, but the movie gives her an arc to grow and learn through positive experiences.

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4 Sixteen Candles (1984)

Teenagers Struggling To Find Their Place

Jake and Sam smiling at each other in Sixteen Candles

In John Hughes’ directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, the story revolves around a young girl named Sam (Molly Ringwald) on her sixteenth birthday. However, all of Sam’s family has forgotten about her birthday because her older sister is getting married the next day and everyone is busy. Sam is decently popular, with one of the most popular boys in school having a crush on her. In addition, the geeks of the film are portrayed as being highly creepy and while it’s played for laughs, many of their actions cross serious lines.

3 American Graffiti (1973)

Cruising Culture In California

Harrison Ford in a car in American Graffiti

One of George Lucas’ first films, American Graffiti, is a coming-of-age dramedy exploring the lives of high schoolers in the Modesto, California region where Lucas was born and raised. A large cast of characters spends their evening driving around town, listening to music, and getting into drag races. The characters depicted are clearly all among the more popular groups and, rather than being pitted against other groups and cliques, the relationships explored are mainly between this group of popular kids.

2 Easy A (2010)

Everybody Does It

Emma Stone stars as Olive Penderghast in Easy A. The film is loosely inspired by the 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter, but the story is updated and adapted for a modern audience. Olive is fairly popular and hangs out with other high school students who vary in popularity. She doesn’t turn people from specific cliques away, and she is invited to popular kids’ parties. Once again, more geeky students are portrayed in the movie, but they are assigned the role of creepy and desperate kids trying to get approval, rather than underdogs, or even just normal people.

1 Chronicle (2012)

With Great Power, Comes Great Irresponsibility

Michael B Jordan, Dane Dehaan, and Alex Russell laughing and walking through the woods in Chronicle.

Chronicle is a dark superhero thriller that follows three high school students who stumble upon an alien meteor that grants them incredible powers. Of the three, two are popular kids who play sports and have a wide circle of friends, and one is the victim of bullying at home and in school. Chronicle depicts how power changes the students, with Andrew (Dane DeHaan), the less popular student, quickly developing his powers as a weapon to get justice against his bullies. Meanwhile, the more popular Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) exclusively use their powers to help others and have fun.

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