Well, it’s the fifteenth anniversary of Sugar Ray/Visor Day, and you know what that means: Time to break out the crystal. Thankfully, I got my blog back after last year’s shenanigans. I can’t believe SRVD is 15 – that means it would be a freshman in high school! So, to honor the holiday, I thought I’d take a look back at some of my favorite high school-related movies. And for those who are gluttons for punishment or just need a refresher on the origins of the holiday, you’ll find that after the list.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure: Two surf dudes who need to pass their history final get a magical time machine and abduct famous people in history. Strange things were afoot at the Circle K.
Varsity Blues: Jonathan Moxon leads a locker-room revolt against Coach Kilmer and (20-year-old spoiler alert) ultimately wins the big game. Maybe the best supporting cast in a football movie: Paul Walker (RIP) as Lance Harbor and Scott Caan as Tweeder.
10 Years: A bit of a cheat, since it’s a movie about a high school reunion. Still, as I’ve said before, the most realistic-feeling movie I’ve ever seen.
Back to the Future: In a world without Star Wars (I shudder at the thought), Back to the Future would be, hands down, my favorite movie. The intricacies (the Twin Pines Mall becoming the Lone Pine Mall), the throwaway lines (“Ronald Reagan – the actor?”), and the sheer fun make this one of the best movies ever. So much so that I did a whole SRVD video about it for the 10-year anniversary:
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Well, don’t ask my sister what she thinks of this movie, as she’s inexplicably never seen it. Still, out of all the movies on this list, I think this one is just the most fun. Who hasn’t wanted to ditch school or work and have a day like Ferris? Still unsolved: What happened to the real Abe Froman?
Donnie Darko: Surely the bleakest movie on this list, and one of the most dramatic. A great, breakout performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, this twisty, time travel-y movie requires repeated viewings.
21 Jump Street: So, here’s something you may not have expected to read: the most commendable thing about this (hilarious) movie? Its structure. The whole thing mocks the idea of reboots and adapting movies for TV shows. It’s a sound three-act structure, and literally at the end of the second act, as the principal (Jake Johnson) is expelling Jonah Hill’s character Schmidt during the performance of Peter Pan, the P.A. says, “That’s the end of act two.” (He meant of the play, but the fact that it’s the clear end of the second act of the movie is, honestly, brilliant.) There are many of those meta jokes in the script, and so it gets better on repeat viewings.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2: Those of us who were devotees of the J.K. Rowling series knew how it was going to end. Still, seeing the actual Battle of Hogwarts on screen, with some fan-favorite moments (Neville beheading Nagini, Ron and Hermione finally getting together, etc.) meant that this franchise actually stuck the landing.
The Breakfast Club: Detentions for, among other things bullying a classmate and bringing a gun to school are sadly all too topical in 2018. But this movie never feels preachy or sad – instead, it ends on a hopeful note that students of all social circles can bond together.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A disparate group of Ridgemont High students, including the greatest movie-football player of all time (Jefferson) and one of the funniest surf-bro performances (Sean Penn’s Spicoli), meander in and out of each other’s lives.
Dazed and Confused: The film that put Richard Linklater on the map, with all events taking place on the last day of school in 1976. Also a launching pad for Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck.
Can’t Buy Me Love: Patrick Dempsey went from totally geek to totally chic. While the movie is probably the most dated on the list, it still presents a quality look at the difficulties of changing one’s peer-given label in high school.
Clueless: Still one of the most quotable movies ever. This movie holds up better than most from the 90s.
Spider-Man: Homecoming: The only comic-book movie on the list. The only Spider-Man movie to make you feel like Peter Parker was an actual high schooler.
Mean Girls: A movie that had no business being nearly as funny, as timeless, and as quotable as it is. Still holds up incredibly well, and has probably the best single teacher-student relationship of any of the movies on the list. (Best teacher-whole class relationship will be mentioned later.)
Easy A: A little while ago, I was discussing with a friend when Emma Stone actually became a star. Surely before her Oscar win for La La Land. Definitely before her Oscar nomination for Birdman. Well before her turn in Crazy, Stupid Love. But when was it? The Rocker? Superbad? No. I think it’s clearly Easy A. This modern “retelling” of The Scarlet Letter is Stone’s coming out party.
American Pie: In 1999, I spent a summer at UCLA. We used to go to movie premieres in Westwood, for films both bad (Wild Wild West, Runaway Bride) and good (Arlington Road). I remember sneaking into the American Pie premiere and laughing harder at this movie than I had at any other in a theater. While it was rare at the time for me to see movies repeatedly in the theater, as soon as I got back home I made my friends John and Micah go with me (Shout-out Mountainside movie theater on Route 22). It made me laugh just as hard the second time, and its original charm still holds up.
Dead Poets Society: OK, so Donnie Darko is bleak, but this is the best pure drama on the list, hands down. An all-time classic. This is the movie that truly shows a teacher reaching every student. O Captain! My Captain!
Can’t Hardly Wait: Beyond a guilty pleasure for me, this is just a genuinely great film. The movie takes place mostly at a graduation party, but presents real character arcs for so many of its characters (Preston, Amanda, Mike, Kenny, Denise, the foreign exchange student, the klepto, etc.). The best. The absolute best.
Side note: That same UCLA summer as I mentioned earlier, I got to meet Seth Green, and all I did was ask him about being Kenny Fisher:
What would you have on your list? Pretty in Pink? Sixteen Candles? Not Another Teen Movie? She’s All That? Drive Me Crazy? Bring it On? Let me know in the comments.
And now…the origin story:
The summer after my freshman year of college, I started wearing visors. And I was listening to that a CD by Sugar Ray called “Sugar Ray” (it had “When it’s Over” on it, and my favorite Sugar Ray song “Disasterpiece.” This isn’t the CD with “Falls Apart” or “Every Morning” (14:59) or “Fly” (Floored)). When I came back to school and it started getting cold outside, I didn’t wear visors any more; I also started listening to other stuff, because music is cyclical. On April 1st of my sophomore year, it was the first nice day outside, the baseball season was starting, and it was time for a visor. As I was driving, by chance some Sugar Ray came on the radio – and it was glorious. Thus, the holiday was born. At first, only one person celebrated. Since then, we’ve had dozens of participants and full recognition from the band itself (in 2006). Now you (and any friends you pass this along to) can share along in the SRVD fun.
Some holidays make you buy cards and presents, or visit family that’s far away. But today, on the best holiday of them all, the only thing you have to do is realize that summer’s getting closer, the weather’s only going to get nicer, and good times are just around the corner.