No matter how we turned out or how unique we think we are, the truth is that most of us fit some high school stereotype or another. And we like to think that, even if we’ve given up our Star Wars action figure collection or stopped playing football, we keep a little piece of that history with us in our adult lives. So, as kids everywhere are preparing to head back to school, and in honor of those inner nerds and jocks, we present a selection of high-school films tailored to your high-school stereotype.
Jock: Friday Night Lights
You are not here to learn; you’re here to score — in sports, with chicks, whatever. In teen movies, there are generally two kinds of jocks: bullying assholes and poor, talented, earnest types with genuine ambition and discipline. We find the latter easier to stomach, so we’re recommending this 2004 drama, which was based on a true story and inspired the TV series of the same name.
Cheerleader: Bring It On
Like totally, for sure, you even got a manicure! When it comes to movies about cheerleaders — and there are a ton of them — the campily funny Bring It On is second to none. This story of two scheming teams vying for the national championship spawned a gaggle of copycats and no fewer than four straight-to-DVD sequels. But there’s no substitute for the original.
Stoner: Dazed and Confused
You may be totally checked out in homeroom, and you wouldn’t touch a competitive sport with a ten-foot javelin, but you’re still the guy everyone’s calling for the Friday-night weed hookup. Richard Linklater’s early ’90s tribute to the ’70s is the quintessential burnout party flick, full of screwball hazing rituals and quotable stoner babble.
Rocker: American Graffiti
Your uniform is denim and leather, and you are literally attached at the hip to your guitar. There have been innumerable wonderful teenage rocker movies over the years, but American Graffiti chronicles the very beginnings of the subculture. Its sock-hop culture may not look particularly bad-ass now, but we’d like to think Rock ‘n Roll High School wouldn’t exist without it.
Are you part of the pocket protector and computer science set? Well, at least you’re not alone. The high-school geek flick is a classic, producing some of teen movies’ most memorable characters, from Gary and Wyatt to Napoleon Dynamite. One of our recent favorites is Superbad, the laugh-out-loud funny comedy that centers on two buddies (Michael Cera and Jonah Hill) about to graduate and their bromantic quest for a night of drunken debauchery and sexual fulfillment. Of course, it’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse who steals the show, as über-nerd Fogell. To be honest, we crack up just hearing the word “McLovin.”
Mean girl: Heathers
Do the lower echelons of the social ladder scatter in fear as you and your posse strut down the hall? Then chances are you’re a mean girl. There is some overlap between mean girls and cheerleaders, but there is also generally a difference: Whereas cheerleaders actually give a shit about athletics school spirit, mean girls are out to shop, manipulate, and defame their way to high-school hegemony. Sometimes, as in the brutally funny Shannon Doherty, Winona Ryder, and Christian Slater flick Heathers, popularity even becomes a blood sport.
Loner: Can’t Hardly Wait
You’re not popular by any stretch of the imagination, but you’re not quite a nerd, either. In fact, you just sort of stay off to the side, not really associating with any particular clique. You could be a closet psycho or a teenage rebel, or you could just be a misfit looking for romance with a dream girl who’s miles out of his league, like Ethan Embry in 1998’s Can’t Hardly Wait. Also notable: Seth Green providing some excellent comic relief as a white kid who thinks he’s a thug.
Arts geek: Fame
You want to live forever! Whether you’re stuck on band camp or ballet or theater, you are fostering dreams of stardom while enduring the taunts of classmates who call you and your friends “art fags.” And your rallying cry is Fame — the original, not the recent remake: the movie that puts the “drama” in drama club.
You don’t need to be wealthy or attend prep school to be a prep — but it sure helps. You’re more upscale and fashion-conscious than your garden-variety jock, and in some (but by no means most) cases you may even be somewhat cultured. If this sounds familiar, then Metropolitan, a talky cult flick about rich New York teens during debutante season, deserves a place on your Netflix queue.
You’re the student council president, the head of the honor society, the kid voted “Most Likely to Succeed” — and you would do anything to give yourself an advantage. In fact, your role model is Tracy Flick, the freaky overachiever desperate to become president of her Nebraska school. The only complication? Her little predilection for sleeping with teachers…