Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in the high school neo-noir by Rian Johnson

‘Brick’- High school noir on Criterion Channel

Brick (2005), the debut feature from Star Trek: The Last Jedi filmmaker Rian Johnson, puts the collected works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett in a blender with a jigger of teenage melodrama and pours it into a high school mold. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays things so close to his chest that he’s almost unreadable as […]

‘Whip It’ – grrrl power on the roller derby rink on Hulu

Whip It (2009), the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore, is a grrrl power movie on wheels. Set in the funky DIY world of local roller derby leagues, it stars Elliot Page in their best role since Juno. Bliss Cavendar is neither as smart-ass nor as confident as the sardonic Juno MacGuff. This restless girl in […]

‘Napoleon Dynamite’ – high school eccentrics arise

Napoleon Dynamite (2004) is the quintessential high school misfit. Gawky and slack-faced under a red afro and windowpane glasses, Napoleon (Jon Heder) runs in a squatting shuffle, whines every single utterance, and punctuates his eternal disappointment with a sigh like a slow leak on a Mack Truck. With a fantasy inner life and an outsized […]

Patrick Fugit and Kate Hudson star in Cameron Crowe's autobiographical 'Almost Famous.'

‘Almost Famous’ – living the rock dream on Amazon Prime

Almost Famous (2000), Cameron Crowe’s thinly fictionalized autobiography, is deftly poised between rosy affection, thoughtful remembrance, and giddy adolescent awe. As perhaps it should be. The story of 15-year-old William (Crowe’s stand-in, played by Patrick Fugit) sent by Rolling Stone magazine to tour with an up-and-coming band (Stillwater, a fictional amalgamation of real-life bands The […]

Richard Linklater's 'Dazed and Confused

‘Dazed and Confused’ on Peacock

Cinema has the unique ability to create a sensory experience vivid enough to make the past suddenly present and alive. Richard Linklater’s cinematic flashback Dazed and Confused (1993) captures a rich pageant of high-school life, circa 1976, in a mere 100 minutes, leaning on nostalgia without wallowing in it. Jason London is the center of […]

Bruce Willis and Reece Thompson in the film by Brett Simon

‘Assassination of a High School President’ on Amazon Prime Video

The name’s Bobby Funke. I write for the paper.” At least that’s how this picked-on sophomore imagines himself in Assassination of a High School President (2008): the loner who walks a straight line through the crooked halls of his corrupt Catholic high school. Funke (who is inevitably called “Funky” by his schoolmates) narrates his tale […]

‘Freaks and Geeks’ – complete and restored on Hulu

Somewhere between Dawson’s Creek and Booksmart is the sharp, funny, and surprisingly poignant high school dram-edy (for lack of a better word) Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000). Linda Cardellini grounds the series as Junior Lindsay, the former class brain who rejects her place in the school hierarchy and, in startling identity crisis, gravitates toward the school […]

‘Night is Short, Walk on Girl’ on HBO Max

A teenage girl’s long, eventful night on the town becomes a fantastical adventure in Night is Short, Walk on Girl (Japan, 2017), an animated feature from Japanese filmmaker Masaaki Yuasa. A high school sophomore, known only as “The Girl with Black Hair” (or Otome), joins a pair of harmless con artists for a night on […]

Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine , and James Franco star in Harmony Korine's 'Spring Breakers'

‘Spring Breakers’ free on Kanopy and Hoopla

Spring Breakers (2012) is not your traditional fun in the sun spring break movie. But then you wouldn’t expect that from Harmony Korine, the self-appointed agent provocateur of American indie cinema confrontation, even with a cast that includes Disney Channel sweethearts Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. They play two of the four college girls (Ashley […]