Six of the Best Films about School

Gloucester Cathedral Cloister - Best films about school

With the Oscars over for another year, we found ourselves casting our minds back over a cinematic genre that, understandably enough, is pretty close to our hearts here at Oxford College. Here are a few of our favourite films about school…

The Breakfast Club

Made in 1985 this iconic high school movie revolves around a group of students who find themselves in a Saturday morning detention group. Each student is completely different – and would never normally mix in normal high school society – but they’re brought together for a day and come to realise they have more in common than they ever thought when they learn each other’s stories. Starring Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Emilio Estevez amongst others, it’s one of the most famous of the “Brat Pack” films of the 80s.


It had to be in here – one of the originals and best. This film inspired a generation of would-be actors, dancers, singers and musicians and made studying drama and going to stage school seem accessible to students from all walks of life. Set at the New York High School of Performing Arts in 1980, it’s the story of kids from different backgrounds trying to make it in the world of performing arts. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must-watch, and while there’s a more up-to-date remake made in 2009, the original film and subsequent TV series will always be the best.


The original Carrie move was made in 1976, based on the book by Stephen King. It’s a supernatural horror story about a high school girl who has always been different but on finding she has telekinetic powers her life takes a turn for the worse. It’s a tale of not fitting in at high school – and how cruel kids can be – but it’s also about kindness and friendship (which, spoiler alert, in Carrie’s case comes a little too late). Carrie is still as popular as ever and has been remade several times, along with a sequel and a stage production (although the original Sissy Spacek version is still the best).


Heathers is a dark tale of American high school set in 1988. About a clique of four high school friends, three of whom are named Heather, it stars a young Christian Slater and Winona Ryder and is about a quirky new boy in school who stands up against the bullies. A very clever film that launched the career of lots of famous names, it’s retained something of a cult status and has ever really been given the credit it deserves. Give it a watch.

The Dead Poets Society

This 1989 film starring Robin Williams was a change from his usual comedy roles and it was nominated for many awards. It’s based on the life of the writer Tom Schulman at an elite prep school and is the story of some of the senior students there. Robin Williams plays a new English teacher whose methods of teaching don’t fit in with the standards of the school – for which he is loved by the students. A story about following your dreams, be warned it’s a major tear jerker!

The Harry Potter Series

This had to be in there didn’t it? Hogwarts is arguably the most famous fictional school of all time and the eight films of the series are the highest grossing series in the world. For those of you that don’t know (is there really anyone out there who doesn’t?) the Harry Potter films are based on the series of books by British author J.K. Rowling and are about a young wizard of the same name. With the first film released in 2001 and the final one in 2011, they follow the story of Harry, his journey into wizardry and the adventures he gets himself into. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Like our favourite films about school? Check out our pick of top Shakespeare adaptations.

(Image: Gloucester Cathedral Cloister by MD Beckwith.)