School's out movies: 7 classics to mark the onset of the summer holidays

The 2020 school summer holidays are upon us. And while it's been a strange year, to say the least, who can resist the lure of a long summer of freedom?

It's a theme that cinema has returned to time and time again. So scroll down to read our blog list of classic school's out movies.


1. Grease (1978)

For many people in the UK, Grease cements the cliches of the 'high school coming to an end' movie. Forget that tired old Grease megamix that's forever rolled out during club nights. The hit parade on display in this classic musical doesn't feature a single bum note, from the plaintive 'Summer Nights' to the exuberant, cathartic 'You're the One That I Want'. And, of course, selling every second of it are stars John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, playing star-crossed sweethearts Danny Zuko and Sandra 'Sandy' Dee Olsson.

As the film builds towards the final day of high school, and Newton-John's infamous final reveal in a leather suit, it's all we can do to stop shaking our hips and joining in.

2. The Breakfast Club (1985)

Writer-director John Hughes was, quite simply, the voice of the teenage generation throughout the 1980s. But few of his films cut as deep as The Breakfast Club, the funny yet melancholy story of a disparate group of losers stuck in detention on a Saturday.

Technically speaking, this isn't a school's out movie, as the characters are poised to return to class at the start of the following week. This even prompts a philosophical point from nerd Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) who, upon noticing that the group is bonding, wonders what the nature of their interaction will be once school starts again.

Nevertheless, it's a school's out movie in spirit. Each of the characters comes to a realisation that they don't need to be defined by the stereotypes and conventions of their academic environment. Across the course of one Saturday, they each grow up to become richer and better people, embarking on a hopefully bright future. That's all we can hope for, right?


3. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Another John Hughes classic, and another movie that might flaunt the parameters of the school's out movie. Still, in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, our central ensemble (led by Matthew Broderick's wise-alec Ferris) do actually bunk off and leave the college grounds to enjoy a day of freedom. So, in that sense, the movie's inclusion in this list makes sense.

In contrast to the somewhat darker The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a much more jubilant, fun and freewheeling affair. It's a film that drinks in the euphoria of being away from class on a school day, peppered with surreal touches, from the use of John Williams' Star Wars as a priceless Ferrari is hijacked, to a moment of existential crisis in a Chicago art gallery. 

4. Dazed & Confused (1993)

Before he sculpted time in front of our eyes with Boyhood, director Richard Linklater was an expert chronicler of high school cliques. In his landmark college drama Dazed & Confused, Linklater takes a typically laid back, empathetic look at the ramifications of leaving the familiar academic environment behind.

Many people remember Dazed & Confused for being the breakout movie of one Matthew McConaughey. But there's much more to it than that. Set in 1976, the film features a memorable ensemble cast of then-rising actors, including Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck and Parker Posey, seamlessly gliding between the jocks, frats, nerds and prom queens. Even Quentin Tarantino listed it as one of his favourite films – vindication for a movie that is punchdrunk on the possibilities of a long hot summer.


5. The Inbetweeners Movie (2011)

The UK school experience is, in all honesty, somewhat less romanticised than the image that comes out of America. We tend to be more cynical and grounded on these shores, refusing to dress up how bad behaviour and infantile attitudes can be exploited for darkly comic effect. 

The Inbetweeners Movie is the perfect example of this. Adapted from the popular E4 series, it sends the titular misfits on a post-school summer holiday to Malia, one filled with bad dancing, hopeless attitudes towards picking up women, an excess of alcohol and more besides. The film's crude yet honest approach yielded massive box office returns and a sequel in 2014.


6. Lady Bird (2017)

The notion of finishing school and attending university is a huge step experienced by millions around the world. This relatability helped spur Greta Gerwig's excellent debut feature Lady Bird to critical acclaim, focusing as it does on a bored Sacramento teenager and her desire to get into an east coast college.

Saoirse Ronan is typically superb as the eponymous Lady Bird, a prickly teenager whose desire to escape her 2002-era surroundings will surely strike a chord. The film's authentic portrayal of the teenage experience, by turns alienating, infuriating, funny and moving, makes this an excellent school's out movie. And the supporting cast is superb: Laure Metcalf as Lady Bird's overly protective mother, and Beanie Feldstein (more on whom momentarily) as the loyal best friend.


7. Booksmart (2019)

What does it mean when you realise that you're on a different path to your best friend? That's the poignant truth underscoring the ribald comedy of Booksmart, Olivia Wilde's accomplished feature film debut. As with Lady Bird, it taps into a universal truth: finishing school may well send you and your bestie on your separate ways. The key, however, is to make the most of what you have left, and remember the good times in the process.

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever are irresistibly funny and believable as the academic bookworms determined to go hog wild on the final night before graduation. The film's expert balancing of surreal moments (a drug-induced stop motion doll sequence) with the hard-hitting ones (a devastating argument where the words fade away) make it a classic school's out movie.


What are your essential school's out movies? Let us know @Cineworld.