The first ten years of this millennium were pretty great years when it comes to high school movies. The films in this decade explored teen femininity, sexuality, and pushed genres from comedy to horror.
10. Bring It On- Yes, it is incredibly cheesy. But Bring It On is also responsible for nearly every jazz hands vs. “spirit fingers” joke that you heard in the past fifteen years.
9. Napoleon Dynamite- The movie about the adventures of a misfit was a breakaway hit. Admittedly, it got referenced a little bit too much at the height of its popularity, but it was a hit for a reason. The dorky Napoleon was oddly relatable, and it remains one of the few high school movies to accurately depict the awkwardness of high school.
8. Jennifer’s Body- Weird? Yes. Gross? Yes. Potentially sexist? Maybe. But Jennifer’s Body is also bizarrely watchable. It’s kind of like Mean Girls but with a lot more murder. Megan Fox is terrifyingly gorgeous, which works well in the role of a living dead succubi that eats men alive. The movie takes “man-eater” to a literal level, and the results are interesting.
7. Juno- Written by Diablo Cody, who also penned Jennifer’s Body, Juno was a huge hit. Cody’s screenwriting is a little bit obvious (there are lines that could be written by no one else but her), and the film seems a little bit pleased with itself. But once you get past that, you have a surprising and interesting story that makes a good point about the expectations that people put on young girls.
6. Brick- Brick is very strange until you realize what it’s doing. The tone, the mood and the dialogue and plot are all off putting until you see the pattern. It’s a film noir that takes place in high school, with a high school student protagonist (played by Joseph Gordon Levitt), and somehow that conceit totally works. It is almost Chinatown.
5. She’s the Man- Perhaps not the best Shakespeare to high school adaptation (of which there are more than you’d think), but definitely a fun film. It is total camp, but Amanda Bynes (pre-crazy) is actually pretty funny in it. The movie also has a fairly cool protagonist in Viola. She dumps her boyfriend when he doesn’t support her, and plays soccer.
4. Superbad- While I do have some issues with this movie, there is no denying how hard I laughed the first time I saw it. The caper of two boys just trying to get to a party while everything goes wrong is hilarious and unexpected in a lot of ways. Nearly everyone who is in the movie is funny, and when seeing it for the first time, the uproarious laughter of the crowd filled the room with that “we are watching a classic” vibe.
3. Donnie Darko- The adventures of the un-hinged Donnie and his rabbit friend, Frank, and a jet engine are bizarre and otherworldly. And yet, a lot of the movie feels just like hight school. Donnie’s struggle with the fear vs. love assignment are relatable to anyone who has had their time wasted with mediocre curriculum. The PTA outrage about the Graham Greene book that the students are reading is also familiar.
2. The Virgin Suicides- Based on the Jeffery Eugienides novel, The Virgin Suicides is beautiful. Sofia Coppola directs so beautifully that we can feel the yearning of the neighborhood boys at the same time as the claustrophobia and grief the girls feel. Couple that with a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by Air, and you have a movie that stays with you for longer than you expect. And ends up being about far more than high school.
1. Mean Girls- This movie had to be in the number one spot. When it comes to 2000s high school movies, you have to put Mean Girls in the top spot. It’s ten year anniversary was last month, and the internet blew up with Mean Girls quizzes and fan theories and tribute articles. I haven’t seen anything for the anniversaries of these other films. And that’s because Mean Girls is just that funny and just that good.