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10 Back-to-School Movies for Parents

The Breakfast Club

Rated: R

Year: 1985

Cast: Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy

Attention, detention! A jock, a nerd, a punk, a princess, and a Goth chick report for detention on a Saturday in the high school library, and unexpectedly find common ground. Out of all the John Hughes movies, this one shows the secret, emotional life of teens -- and why every one feels like an outcast at one time or another.

What Parents Like: Everyone can relate to at least one stereotype, and sometimes the dialogue has the rawness of a group therapy session.

What Makes Our Inner Kid Squeal: Opposites attract, especially after a lot of painful, awkward staring and trading insults, of course.

Dead Poets Society

Rated: PG

Year: 1989

Cast: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke

"Carpe Diem!" is the lesson of the day when the free-thinking Williams shows up at the traditional Welton Academy, spouting Whitman and Tennyson. We know the reserved students have learned to think and stand up for themselves when a shy Hawke literally stands up on his desk and shouts, "Captain, my captain!"

What Parents Like: Admit it, after you saw this movie, you felt relieved you couldn't afford to send your kids to some posh boarding school.

What Makes Our Inner Kid Squeal: It's 1959. Young men throw off the shackles of convention and defy authority by sprinting through the forest at night and reciting poetry in caves.

Fame

Rated: R

Year: 1980

Cast: Irene Cara, Barry Miller, Gene Anthony Ray, Maureen Teefy

Before American Idol, Alan Parker's fictional film showed us what it was like to be young and hungry for show business, by focusing on eight students attending New York City's famed High School of Performing Arts. In between classes, rehearsals, and tryouts, he exposes their ambitions, talents, and frustrations with exuberance and honesty.

What Parents Like: It's still not too late to get that accounting degree! The film definitely shows the grittier side of show business.

What Makes Our Inner Kid Squeal: Who hasn't dreamed about dancing like Martha Graham on the tops of cars stuck in rush-hour traffic?

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Rated: PG-13

Year: 1986

Cast: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jennifer Grey

Playing hookey, borrowing a Ferrari, singing on a float in a parade, and going out to lunch with your best friend and girlfriend never looked so good. Ferris' cheeky outlook makes taking a sick day -- and evading the principal -- seem like child's play.

What Parents Like: For all the elaborate ruses, nothing really bad happens...to your car anyway.

What Makes Our Inner Kid Squeal: Charlie Sheen, in a bad-boy cameo, melts the frost off Ferris' sister at the police station.

Footloose

Rated: PG

Year: 1984

Cast: Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dianne Wiest

All the Right Moves: Chicago teen moves to a town where dancing is forbidden, and hooks up with the preacher's daughter. These are rebels with a prom, man!

What Parents Like: That's easy. Moms like Kevin Bacon. Dads like Lori Singer.

What Makes Our Inner Kid Squeal: We hate to admit it, but the Kenny Loggins soundtrack does get us fired up.

Grease

Rated: PG

Year: 1978

Cast: Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, Stockard Channing

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta may be the oldest high school students in the Guinness Book of World Records, but they're still cool. This musical about drag racers, Pink Ladies, and sock hops rules with corny dialogue and bubble-gum perfect songs.

What Parents Like: A nostalgic movie that makes parents feel young again.

What Makes Our Inner Kid Squeal: Forget about Zuko's moves on the dance floor -- everyone is floored when good girl Sandy goes bad! "I got chills and they're multiplyin'..." Who said nice girls finish last?

Mean Girls

Rated: PG-13

Year: 2004

Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Tina Fey

Survival of the Fittest: Cady is the homeschooled daughter of zoologists who enters public high school for the first time. There she encounters a new species: alpha-females called the Plastics, and quickly trades the veldt for the svelte.

What Parents Like: See what happens when you hang out with the wrong crowd? Honestly, this has less bite than Heathers -- and no suicidal subplots.

What Makes Our Inner Kid Squeal: Catty humor and plots of revenge.

October Sky

Rated: PG

Year: 1999

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Laura Dern

It's 1957, Sputnik has launched, and a young high school student looks skyward for inspiration. Homer is a determined coal miner's son in West Virginia who likes to build rockets. His burning ambition leads him to a winning science fair project.

What Parents Like: Yes, blowing up things in the backyard can lead to a wonderful future, a college scholarship, and becoming an engineer for NASA...

What Makes Our Inner Kid Squeal: Anyone who has ever tried to fold a paper airplane can relate to the thrill Homer feels when his rocket gets off the ground.

Say Anything

Rated: PG-13

Year: 1989

Cast: John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney

Underachieving boy meets overachieving girl in this sweet and quirky romance. Diane is the class valedictorian with her sights set on England. Lloyd's only ambition is to be with Diane. As he confesses to her strict father, "What I really want to do with my life -- what I want to do for a living -- is I want to be with your daughter. I'm good at it."

What Parents Like: There are priceless moments of teenage angst: Lloyd holding up his boom box to play Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" under Diane's window, or an obsessive Corey penning 65 songs to commemorate her breakup with Joe.

What Makes Our Inner Kid Squeal: Young love conquers all; overprotective parents get sent to jail for fraud and tax evasion. As Diane's dad bleats, "I'm incarcerated, Lloyd!"

Sixteen Candles

Rated: PG

Year: 1984

Cast: Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Michael Schoeffling

Poor Samantha. Turning 16 is no fun when your family has forgotten your birthday, your grandparents have moved into your room, you have a crush on an unattainable senior, and find yourself pursued by a geek.

What Parents Like: Um, would this be a good time to play "The Way We Were."

What Makes Our Inner Kid Squeal: John Hughes captures the embarrassing moments of adolescence really, really well.