Ranking Cinema’s Spring Breaks From Worst to Best

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Harmony Korine’s controversial Spring Breakers goes into limited release today, just in time for the titular event (it goes wide next week). Reviews thus far have, for the most part, been overwhelmingly positive — to the befuddlement of your Flavorwire, since we found the film to be both a mixed bag quality-wise and a little troublesome from a messaging point of view. Then again, it could just be a matter of expectations — viewers aren’t just surprised that a Korine movie is sort of accessible, but that a movie about spring break isn’t just all-out terrible. You see, it’s not an event with a rich cinematic history; most movies about spring break are, for lack of a better word, stinky. But if you’d like to get in the mood for Spring Breakers, or just enjoy the debauchery from the safe and (presumably) STD-free confines of your living room, here’s a round-up of spring break in cinema, ranked from worst to (relative) best.

Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach

YEAR: 1988 DIRECTOR: Alan Myerson CAST: Bubba Smith, David Graf, Michael Winslow, Leslie Easterbrook ROTTEN TOMATOES RATING: 0%

IN A NUTSHELL: Even Steve Guttenberg had bolted for the door of this inexplicably successful franchise by the time number five, which finds the crew in Miami Beach for a police convention during spring break, came around.

THE CRITICS RAVE: “There oughta be a law… 5 is a comic assault, batteries not included, an insufferable collage of coarse slapstick vignettes.” – Rita Kempley, The Washington Post

From Justin to Kelly

YEAR: 2003 DIRECTOR: Robert Iscove CAST: Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini, Katherine Bailess, Anika Noni Rose ROTTEN TOMATOES RATING: 8%

IN A NUTSHELL: That one American Idol winner that you remember and the runner-up you’d forgotten about bring their white-hot chemistry to an excruciating Frankie-and-Annette style beach movie “musical.”

THE CRITICS RAVE: “How bad is From Justin to Kelly? Set in Miami during spring break, it’s like Grease: The Next Generation acted out by the food-court staff at SeaWorld.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

Welcome to Spring Break (aka Nightmare Beach)

YEAR: 1988 DIRECTOR: Harry Kirkpatrick and Umberto Lenzi (uncredited) CAST: Nicholas de Toth, Sarah Buxton, John Saxon, Michael Parks ROTTEN TOMATOES RATING: n/a (no major reviews)

IN A NUTSHELL: This Italian-American co-production concerns a mysterious killer who ruthlessly dispatches spring breakers via a portable electric chair juiced by his modified chopper. The ‘80s were a strange time, you guys.

THE CRITICS RAVE: “It might not be high art and it surely isn’t a classic, but there’s a sort of comfort in watching these by-the-book ’80s slashers — and the fact that the killer literally has an electric chair on the back of his hog surely does not hurt!” – Jeremy Wheeler, All Movie

Spring Break

YEAR: 1983 DIRECTOR: Sean S. Cunningham CAST: David Knell, Perry Lang, Paul Land, Steve Bassett ROTTEN TOMATOES RATING: 22%

IN A NUTSHELL: Your prototypical “horny guys looking for sex, horny viewers looking for boobs” ‘80s R-rated sex comedy, brought to you by the director of that eternal erotic classic, Friday the 13th (wait, what?).

THE CRITICS RAVE: “(T)he lockstep mentalities who made this movie tell their story entirely from a boring male point of view, supply us with male wimps and studs who are equally uninteresting, and view women only as wet T-shirt finalists. What a letdown for horny movie critics.” – Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times

Reno 911! Miami

YEAR: 2007 DIRECTOR: Robert Ben Garant CAST: Thomas Lennon, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Mary Birdsong ROTTEN TOMATOES RATING: 34%

IN A NUTSHELL: Comedy Central’s series gets the big-screen treatment as the Reno Sheriff’s Department heads to Miami Beach — for presumably the same police convention as the Police Academy crew.

THE CRITICS RAVE: “The TV show excels with its short squad-car bursts of random inanity; here, the plot — stretched out to 84 minutes — feels like a dime bag tossed aside by a fleeing perp.” – Brian Miller, The Village Voice

The Real Cancun

YEAR: 2003 DIRECTOR: Rick de Oliveira CAST: “Documentary” ROTTEN TOMATOES RATING: 35%

IN A NUTSHELL: MTV sends 16 Real World types down to Cancun for spring break and films what happens (or, more accurately, doesn’t happen), but without bleeping the profanities or blurring the boobs.

THE CRITICS RAVE: “The Real Cancun fails as a documentary, a narrative feature, a character piece, a sociological study, and soft-core porn. If I want to see something this badly made, I’ll save a trip to the theater and watch the next installment of any of about a dozen TV ‘reality programs’ instead.” – James Berardinelli, ReelViews

Girl Happy

YEAR: 1965 DIRECTOR: Boris Sagal CAST: Elvis Presley, Shelley Fabares, Harold J. Stone, Gary Crosby ROTTEN TOMATOES RATING: n/a (all mixed reviews)

IN A NUTSHELL: Elvis goes to spring break, and (as usual) sings some forgettable songs, sort of acts, and gets the girl.

THE CRITICS RAVE: “Even with a large throng of clean-cut youngsters and some fetching Fort Lauderdale backgrounds woven in for travel-poster picturesqueness, the picture meanders familiarly.” – Howard Thompson, The New York Times

Spring Breakdown

YEAR: 2008 DIRECTOR: Ryan Shiraki CAST: Amy Poehler, Parker Posey, Rachel Dratch, Jane Lynch ROTTEN TOMATOES RATING: 60%

IN A NUTSHELL: This nowhere-near-as-funny-as-it-should-have-been comedy finds a trio of 30-somethings in South Padre, where they make up for some lost time.

THE CRITICS RAVE: “Spring Breakdown proves that comic actors with well-refined skills and abundant energy can, in fact, turn nothing into something.” – Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat

Piranha 3D

YEAR: 2010 DIRECTOR: Alexandre Aja CAST: Elisabeth Shue, Adam Scott, Jerry O’Connell, Ving Rhames ROTTEN TOMATOES RATING: 73%

IN A NUTSHELL: A loose remake of the Roger Corman classic, itself a rip-off of Jaws, in which man-eating fish have at spring break revelers — in 3D.

THE CRITICS RAVE: “Piranha 3D goes for the jugular. And generally misses, but generally in an amusing way.” – Roger Moore, The Orlando Sentinel

Where the Boys Are

YEAR: 1960 DIRECTOR: Henry Levin CAST: Dolores Hart, George Hamilton, Paula Prentiss, Frank Gorshin ROTTEN TOMATOES RATING: 80%

IN A NUTSHELL: Four college girls head to Ft. Lauderdale and learn some valuable lessons about not having sex.

THE CRITICS RAVE: “As fast as they are with the wisecracks, the cute situations and the gags in Joe Pasternak’s new color picture, Where the Boys Are, you may wonder that this observer is not overwhelmed by the mirth. The reason for that is simple. There is not much to laugh at in this film.” – Bosley Crowther, The New York Times