The Most Accurate High School Depictions in Film

Nicole Martin, Copy Editor

As teenagers and students in high school, many of us have a pretty good idea of what high school is like, along with the kinds of people and experiences we come across. It goes without saying that high school is not like the movies, and it for sure did not turn out to be anything like Disney’s “High School Musical.” However, there are a select few movies that fully encapsulate the true feeling of what it is like to be a teenager in a high school environment.

  • “The Edge of Seventeen”

The “Edge of Seventeen” follows the story of 17-year old Nadine Byrd: a sarcastic, dramatic and raging hormonal high school junior, with a not-so-perfect life. When Nadine finds out that her childhood best friend, Krista, is in a relationship with her picture-perfect popular jock brother Darian, Nadine’s life starts crashing down. 

Finding unlikely friendship and trust in her sarcastic teacher, Mr. Bruner, Nadine places her trust in him to help her with cliche teenage issues like having intense crushes on boys who are not good for her.

Following common high school dilemmas such as mental health, family issues, losing and finding true friendship, romance and figuring out emotions, “The Edge of Seventeen” provides a very authentic characterization of a teenager forging her path through high school.

  • “Dead Poets Society”

Though the all-boys preparatory school “Welton Academy” is not an average high school, the people in it are an average teenage bunch.

The movie follows the lives of seven teenage boys in the 1950s: Neil Perry, Todd Anderson, Steven Meeks, Charlie Dalton, Knox Overstreet, Gerard Pitts and Richard Cameron. Throughout the movie, viewers see how the characters live behind the school’s shadow of extreme academic pressures, ancient traditions and high standards. However, things get a little more interesting when a new English teacher, John Keating played by Robin Williams comes to the school. 

Breaking the barriers of tradition with unusual teaching methods, John Keating teaches the boys valuable lessons, such as “carpe diem” or “seize the day,” telling the boys that each day and each opportunity is a gift to take advantage of.

Throughout the movie, the boys take this lesson to heart in pursuing their dreams, including reviving a secretive club by the name of “dead poets society” where the boys read the works of romantics and poets like Walt Whitman and Lord Byron. 

A story of rebellion, passion, identity, friendship, love and death, the boys’ lives are forever changed the day Keating became their mentor. This movie is a personal favorite and alters your perspective on things.

  • “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower”

This coming-of-age story, adapted from the book of the same name, follows the story of the main character, Charlie. Charlie, a high school freshman, is shy, introverted and lonely; a self-proclaimed “wallflower.” 

Viewers follow the movie through Charlie’s narration by the letters he writes to a “friend” of no name, which became a coping mechanism after losing his best friend to suicide a year prior. Finding it hard to assimilate to the high school environment and only being able to befriend his English teacher, it is not until Charlie meets seniors and fellow “wallflowers” Patrick, Sam, Mary, Alice, and Bob, where he finds true friendship. 

With this new group of friends, Charlie slowly learns to break out of his shell by experiencing all the most notable high school experiences: his first high school party, first kiss, first relationships and so much more. 

The reason why “Perks Of Being a Wallflower” is so accurate not only to current teenagers now, but adults who were once in high school, is because the story tackles every type of heavy issue that many teenagers now and in the past have had to deal with. This includes dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, LGBTQ+ discrimination, sexual abuse, drug use and loneliness. 

However, while the story has a large focus on these topics, it is important to know that the movie has its fair share of lighter, more comedic moments. 

This movie is by far an absolute classic for coming-of-age films and one that many teenagers can relate to. 

  • “The Breakfast Club”

To be fair, it is not too common that teenagers have all-day detention on a Saturday morning with an overbearing principal, and proceed to make friends with everybody else in their detention, which is precisely what John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club” storyline is all about. However, similar to “Dead Poets Society,” the teenagers in this movie are what make it so realistic. 

The story follows five completely different teenagers: John Bender “the rebel”, Claire Standish “the beauty”, Allison Reynolds “the recluse”, Andrew Clark “the jock” and Brian Johnson “the nerd.” 

The five clique-based teenagers, though completely different from one another, spend a morning in detention where they become the most unlikely of friends, learning about the stories and struggles each of the teenagers deal with daily. Some of these issues remain pretty relevant to some teenagers even now in the 2020s. Among these issues are teenagers conforming themselves to certain social groups and possibly having a biased viewpoint on groups who differ from theirs, familial pressures, familial absence, the pressure of high academic standards, peer pressure and more.

This film explores the idea that teenagers deal with a lot behind the scenes, which is never really shown unless you get to know the person, and not just from an outsider’s point of view. This movie is a classic and if you enjoy movies like “Sixteen Candles” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” this movie is for you. 

  • “Lady Bird”

From the director of the 2019 film, “Little Women,” Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” follows the story of Christine McPhearson or as everyone else calls her ‘Lady Bird.’ 

Lady Bird lives in a small town in Sacramento, where she hates her “boring” life and her “boring” Catholic school and dreams of getting away to a big city like New York. The one issue is: her family does not have the money to send her off to college anywhere out of state, and her mom does not like the idea of Lady Bird moving away so far from home. 

The reason why “Lady Bird” feels so authentic to high school life is because Christine is the perfect depiction of a teenager. She gets into short-lived and futile relationships, joins her school’s theatre club, has arguments with her mom 24/7, gets into mischief and even listens to sad songs in the car with her best friend after a heartbreak (which many of us do now with Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” playing in the background.) 

Many of the scenes in the movie mimic real-life events. Whether it be scenes where Lady Bird sits in her math class daydreaming or walking through the halls with her best friend just eating and talking, the movie shows snapshots which compare to the day-to-day of high school. Even the prom scene is accurate to a real high school prom. It is moments like these that give a very real feel to a high school environment. 

“Lady Bird” deals with many themes that teenagers may be familiar with, such as socioeconomic struggle, trying to belong, real and fake friendships, mother-daughter relationships and finding identity. 

This movie is becoming a coming-of-age classic as well as a cult favorite for many teens. Everyone, especially those in high school, should take a moment to watch this movie.