Memorial Day weekend holds an extra appeal for kids cooped up at school. They don't know it now, but they're truly lucky because the last weekend in May usually marks the beginning of a two-month reprieve.
Few days are as joyous as the last day of school, so it's no surprise that it's served as the setting for many films. Here are five noteworthy examples.
The alpha and omega of end-of-school-year movies, Richard Linklater's masterpiece hovers around the last day of school for a menagerie of students: rising freshmen, rising seniors, and even a rising fifth-year senior (Ben Affleck's O'Bannion) who will be returning to Lee High School after flunking out.
And then there's Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey), the guy who graduated years ago and still hangs around the scene. Wooderson manages to be Linklater's prophet of wisdom when he ensures his younger counterparts that life is just a series of answering to authority.
"Dazed and Confused" is a perfect movie that captures the anxiety and excitability of adolescence. Everyone is right on the precipice of transition, but none of that is as important as getting your third wind and worrying about scoring Aerosmith tickets with your buddies.
Speaking of anxiety, few actors inhabited the awkward and anxious teenage boy like John Cusack did in the '80s. One of his best turns came in Cameron Crowe's directorial debut, in which Cusack plays the freshly graduated Lloyd Dobbler, an average student and aspiring kick boxer on the verge of … well, not much.
That proves a problem when he eyes the much more ambitious class valedictorian (Ione Skye). She takes an unlikely liking to him, much to the chagrin of her disapproving father (John Mahoney), and Lloyd must spend the entire summer trying to win him over along with his daughter.
Most of this late '90s film is situated during a graduation party that's sort of lighter, frothier take on the one-night epics provided by efforts like "Dazed and Confused" and "American Graffiti." "Can't Hardly Wait" mixes sweetness with sex comedy antics (Seth Green is on a virginity quest), not unlike "American Pie," which would debut a year later.
"Pie" would go on to be the more iconic teen flick of the time, but "Can't Hardly Wait" boasts a sneakily impressive cast when you consider who pops up. Aside from obvious names like Green, Jennifer Love-Hewitt, and Ethan Embry, you'll find Breckin Meyer, Jason Segel, Donald Faison, Selma Blair, Melissa Joan-Hart, Eric Balfour, Jaime Pressly, and Jerry O'Connell.
Everyone feels a little anarchist on the last day of school; the rules are usually lax, and everyone just can't wait to get home. However, nobody ever went as far as the kids did in this Roger Corman cult classic, as they (with a little help from The Ramones) blow the school up.
A great, silly, punk-rock-fueled tale of teenage rebellion, "Rock 'N' Roll High School" brims with an infectious spirit and bops along to the affable beats of The Ramones, who performed the title song.
Freddy Shoop (Mark Harmon) is a gym teacher who probably loves the last day of school just as much as his students. He can't wait to ditch the place and head to Hawaii. Freddy's plans hit a snag, though, when he's tapped to teach an English summer school class, which is a total bummer until he learns to love his ragtag bunch of kids.
One of the more affably sweet '80s underdog movies, this one proves that summer school can still be a blast, even though some of Shoop's behavior would have certainly gotten him fired (seriously, allowing horror movie fanatics Chainsaw and Dave to screen "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is maybe at the bottom of his list of "offenses").
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