School is now in session even in those post–Labor Day straggler counties, so what better way to celebrate the start of the new academic year than to take a look at some of the best and worst schools in movies. From bastions of magical and superhero education to frightening campuses more likely to inflict heartache, humiliation or worse than offer a quality learning experience, here's a look back at movie schools.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, 'Harry Potter' Series
Do we even need to explain why we'd love to get an owl advising us to report to Platform 9 3/4? We'd be the first ones to get our trunks on the Hogwarts Express, take our candlelit boat ride, have our first feast, get sorted into our House and rock our first flying lesson. There's Quidditch and ghosts and any-food-you-can-think-of buffets. Sure, there are a couple of dungeons and creepy professors (and annual brush-ups with You Know Who), but all in all, it's most magical school you could ever attend.
East High School, 'High School Musical' (2006)
This is the most diverse, happy-go-lucky group of teenagers we've ever met. Even the basketball team breaks out into catchy musical numbers in the cafeteria. Nerdy girls are beautiful, and the biggest problem anyone has is that the campus' big jock is in the closet about his love of music. We'd happily enroll at East High, if only to get our chance to sing about our secret obsessions like Troy and the gang.
'Sky High' (2005)
Think of it as a "lite" version of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, but these teens aren't mutants, they're superheroes! Sure, there's a slight caste system dividing the kids with "cool" superpowers from those with less-useful abilities (the sidekicks), but come on, the school is literally in the sky! And you're taken to school via a flying bus (that beats the nauseating Knight Bus any day), and your classmates can do everything from melt to replicate themselves to run faster than light itself.
New York High School of the Performing Arts, 'Fame' (1980)
Clearly we have a thing for high schools where students know how to sing, dance and step on the lunch tables. Who hasn't dreamed of being of being a prodigy -- not the scary-kid-genius kind, but an amazing performer? Unlike the 'High School Musical' kids, who are ordinary high schoolers who happen to break into song, the SPA teens are aspiring artistes, so when they start to harmonize, leap, act or play, you'd be good enough to join them. Awesome.
Rydell High, 'Grease' (1978)
We're fairly certain the average age of matriculation at Rydell is actually closer to 25 than 15, and the principal looks like she's resigned herself to teaching a bunch of leather-jacketed greasers and their Pink Lady girlfriends. But there's something so irresistibly upbeat about a place where summer flings turn into the real thing, beauty-school dropouts are visited by guardian angels, and the school dance is a televised contest. We'd don our best poodle skirt or pompadour to sing 'We Go Together' with all our classmates.
And Now the Worst:
Hogwarts, 'Order of the Phoenix' (2007)
Yeah, we know we just called it one of the best schools to attend, but the magical atmosphere does not apply to Harry, Ron and Hermione's fifth year, under the tyrannical rule of Professor Dolores Umbridge, who may look like a kitten-loving, pink-iced cupcake but is actually as soul-sucking and abusive as a dementor.
Unnamed California High School, 'Brick' (2005)
It's a fabulous teen noir, but could that high school be any creepier? At first glance it seems like a standard-issue suburban learning establishment, but if you delve a bit deeper, you realize there's an underground criminal syndicate involving drugs, money and murder that's intricately tied to the school's various social tiers. Every school has its mystery, but Dashiell Hammett–esque whodunits aren't usually part of the equation.
Westerburg High, 'Heathers' (1988)
We would've had serious "damage" too had we gone to Westerburg High, where a trio of girls (Heather I, II and III) make high school miserable for just about everybody, including protagonist Veronica, who, despite being part of the in crowd, secretly hates her cliquish queen-bee friends. Pretty soon, the cool kids start offing themselves like it's a Shakespearean tragedy, and honestly, that's just way too much drama and heartache -- even for high school.
Thomas Ewen High School, 'Carrie' (1976)
We would ask for a transfer right quick if we'd had to attend Ewen High. Any school where the cool clique schemes and executes a plan to spill pig's blood on the world's most fragile, misunderstood student -- at the prom! -- is not for us. Not that anyone, especially caring P.E. teacher Miss Collins, deserved to die a fiery death, but you can't blame the poor girl! Thank goodness it was the '70s, because nowadays the blood prank and subsequent horror would've been recorded and uploaded to Facebook.
Shermer High School, 'The Breakfast Club' (1985)
We don't care how beautiful the library is (oh, to snap and kick on its shelves!), or how the wealthy the students are, or even that crafty ones can get from one end of the expansive suburban Chicago high school to the other in the ceiling. Any high school that has in-school Saturday detention sounds horrible. Not to mention the unethical principal, creepy custodian and bullying wrestlers. Still, at least the students are cool.