25 great schoolyard films

As the Harry Potter franchise comes to a close, Time Out Film heads back to school

As everyone's favourite boy wizard takes his final broomstick ride through the blackboard jungle that is Hogwarts in 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2', Time Out looks back at the all the japes and scrapes that have gone down in the schoolyard of cinema.

Browse through our 25 favourites from across the decades using the tabs below.

  • Flirting (1991)

    Dir. John Duigan (Noah Taylor, Thandie Newton, Nicole Kidman)

    Curriculum: Race relations and star-crossed romance. Fresh from the outback and still wet behind the ears, Noah Taylor’s Danny doesn’t know that in a 1950s Australian boarding school it isn’t considered particularly good form to go sneaking off with the beautiful African pupil from the girl’s school across the way. Bullying, social exclusion and the wrath of Nicole Kidman ensue.

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  • Dazed and Confused (1993)

    Dir Richard Linklater (Wiley Wiggins, Jason London, Rory Cohchrane)

    Curriculum: To par-tay! School’s out for the summer, and the teenage citizens of one small Texas town are ready to shake off the shackles of scholarly suppression, get leathered and rock the forest to the sweet sounds of Aerosmith, Foghat and Ted Nugent.

    Head boy: Wiley Wiggins’s Mitch, the skinny stoner whose experiences over the course of one night run the teenage gamut from bullying to drunkenness to budding romance.

    Life lessons? Just, you know, be cool. Kick back. Don’t try so hard. Shit’ll happen. TH

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  • The Faculty (1998)

    Dir Robert Rodriguez (Josh Hartnett, Famke Janssen, Elijah Wood)

    The Curriculum: The usual gubbins: Math, science, phys-ed, uncovering an extra-terrestrial plot to take over the world that appears to stem from the teachers’ common room.

    Head Boy/Girl: Josh Hartnett rules the roost as the drug peddling, muscle car owning emo-jock, though it’s Elijah Wood who earns the mantle of Best Boy due to his ace skills in dispatching amphibious alien bastards.

    Life lessons? How to explain a violent supernatural plot by referencing as many Hollywood action movies as humanly possible. DJ

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  • Rushmore (1998)

    Dir Wes Anderson (Jason Schwartzmann, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams)

    Curriculum: Individuality, its promise and its pitfalls. And there’s no one more individual than Max Fischer, publisher of the Yankee Review, president of the Calligraphy Club, the French Club and the Rushmore Beekepers, VP of the Stamp and Coin Club, captain of the Debate team and the Fencing team, Manager of the Lacrosse Team, Choirmaster, Founder of the Bombardment Society, the Trap and Skeet Club, the Astronomy Society and the Yankee Racers, Director of the Max Fischer Players and lover of the entirely unattainable Miss Cross.

    Head Boy: Max, in all his simultaneously overachieving and disastrously underachieving glory, is one of cinema’s great heroes: a man among boys, or probably vice versa.

    Life lessons: If it makes you happy, do it. And keep on doing it, even if it’s clearly going to end in total disaster. TH

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  • Election (1999)

    Dir Alexander Payne (Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein)

    The Curriculum: A no-holds-barred race for school president in a sleepy Omaha suburb, where stuffed-shirted go-getter/Stepford-level Nazi-in-training Tracy Flick (Reece Witherspoon) has her mad eyes on the prize and will stop at nothing to attain it. Although what Tracy doesn’t factor in is that she is loathed by Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), the teacher charged with organising the student government, and he’s not averse to employing dirty tricks and even egging on a beefy dolt (Chris Klein) to throw his name in the hat in order to crush her dreams of triumph (of the will).

    Head Boy/Girl: Future governor, senator, president and inevitable psycho-bitch-queen of the entire universe, Tracy Flick.

    Life lessons? Don’t mess with the political juggernaut, because the likelihood is you’ll be trampled in to the dirt, stung in the eye by a bee and divorced from your wife. And ritually humiliated. And be forced to leave the state. So there. DJ

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  • The Winslow Boy (1999)

    Dir David Mamet (Nigel Hawthorne, Rebecca Pidgeon, Jeremy Northam)

    The Curriculum: That most Edwardian conceit, a tricky situation over a (stolen) pound note, hangs heavy over accused naval cadet Winslow Minor in tough-guy director David Mamet’s masterfully restrained adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s stage play. The solipsism and perceived persecution of childhood take on a cosmic reality for the poor lad when his idle pilfering provokes familial meltdown, media hysteria and even questions in the House of Commons. Happily, like many errant schoolboys, the capricious whippersnapper soon loses interest in the whole affair and skips off to new adventures, leaving the whole ghastly mess for others to clear up.

    Head Boy/Girl: Probably not Winslow Jr, who looks like a right toffee-nosed little shit – and who one suspects probably did actually pinch the loot after all!

    Life lessons? If you feel you’re all alone in the dark little centre of the universe, you probably are. ALD

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