Whether you're heading back to school or suffering that annual bout of chem class flashbacks, you know what September means for the young of the world: Nine months of homework, student body drama and teachers that infect their students with parasitic aliens bent on world domination.
Just kidding. We're reasonably sure that only happens in the movies.
Our anxiety dreams are always reignited in August — so as you kids get your back-to-school shopping out of the way and sharpen your pencils (pencils? Remember pencils? Sharpish yellow things with magical scribbling properties?), we'll reflect on nine movie academies that will make you grateful for even the crappiest real-life high school.
9. Hemery High School, 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' (1992)
Before she showed up on TV, Buffy Summers (Kristy Swanson) walked the hallowed halls of Hemery, where Jack Bauer's dad revealed her foretold destiny: vampire slayer. The subsequent influx of the undead was bad for the super-powered cheerleader -- the vampire's only natural predator -- but think about the impact on Buffy's regular Joe classmates. It's hard to enjoy a school dance when an army of bloodsuckers crashes the party.
8. St. Matthew's, 'School Ties' (1992)
No evil creatures at this New England prep school... except for regular old human teenagers. When David (Brendan Fraser), a working-class Jewish student, scores a football scholarship to this prestigious academy, he's treated to a top-notch education and a never-ending onslaught of abuse and prejudice -- from classmates, love interests and faculty. When some anonymous classmate draws a swastika over David's bed, we can't help thinking our Saturday S.A.T. prep classes weren't really that bad.
7. Los Angeles-area Catholic school, 'The Craft' (1996)
We all did things in school we're not proud of: dumped a girl in front of her friends, maybe, or picked on someone's stupid hair. Retribution usually comes in the form of the deep shame we feel when we're old enough to know better. But Fairuza Balk and her friends conjure up a more direct punishment for everyone who's wronged them, and trust us: there's nothing creepier than dark magic spells by teenage witches with emotional baggage.
We guess there's a good lesson in there: don't bully your classmates, kids. You never know when someone's going to invoke the spirit and make your hair fall out.
6. Kennedy High School, 'Class of 1999' (1990)
Director Mark Lester had a lot of faith in science, apparently. His 1990 movie was set just nine years in the future, but boasted a high school faculty secretly staffed by human-shaped androids with a full arsenal and a penchant for discipline. We're all for controlling violence in high schools, but students eschewing the pleasure of spitballs for fear of getting Terminated in the head seems... a little extreme.
5. Westerberg High School, 'Heathers' (1989)
Most high schools have a cliquey in-crowd and some gothy loners -- but when they meet in real life, the sparks that fly don't lead to forged suicide notes, multiple murders, grief counseling and demolition of the entire building. Also, few schools have a Jack Nicholson impersonator roaming the halls. Thank God.
4. Hogwarts, 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' (2007)
We know, it's crazy-talk. Hogwarts, the stuff of nightmares? The place where portraits talk, food is replenished constantly and professors sometimes turn into cats?
Usually we'd agree -- but the year bureaucratic terrorist Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) takes Dumbledore's place as head of Hogwarts turns the magical wonderland into a prison. Among the perks of Umbridge's reign: corporal punishment, truth serum-fueled inquisitions... and no trips to Hogsmeade!
3. The Regis High School, 'Toy Soldiers' (1991)
It could be the plot of a coming-of-age comedy, but the Colombian terrorists who take over this private boys' school are missing the requisite hearts of gold. When the children of influential men are taken hostage at Regis, the students use their well-honed teacher-evasion skills to launch a rebellion. Disrespect for authority is a common theme in regular high schools -- but the administration rarely packs heat.
2. Herrington High School, 'The Faculty' (1998)
See above re: parasitic aliens. They're the menace within the faculty and staff of Herrington, and spread the infection to students through a series of mandatory ear infection checks. The lessons of "The Faculty" are simple: only medical professionals should examine your ears, and go easy on your annoying science teacher. At least he's never tried to take over your planet.
1. Kanagawa Prefecture School, 'Battle Royale' (2001)
Before "The Hunger Games" marked the ruin of future America, there was "Battle Royale" in Japan. In the movie (and the novel it's based on), a class of delinquent ninth-grade students is captured by the government, relocated to an island, outfitted with weapons and forced to kill each other -- all under the Millennial Educational Reform Act, revolutionary legislation created to cure absenteeism and high school hijinks. We're not trying to tell any futuristic governments how to run their countries, but we gotta say... that's overkill. Literally.