(Photo by © Paramount)

Reluctant teacher movies were a dime-a-dozen in the ’90s and ’00s – think Renaissance Man, Kindergarten Cop, and Freedom Writers – but Richard Linklater’s School of Rock is one of the few, along with titles like Sister Act, that resonates after all this time.

The film, which has a Tomatometer score of 91%, was a success in its day, earning $82.1 million domestically, and received a Golden Globe nomination and an MTV Movie Award win for Jack Black’s performance as Dewey Finn. Fifteen years after its release on October 3, 2003, it remains a cherished early ’00s comedy: it’s a fixture on cable TV, has inspired hordes of kids to pick up instruments, and is currently blowing down doors with its stage musical adaptation across the U.K., the U.S., and Australia.

Why do people keep going back to School of Rock for an encore? Here are five reasons we think Linklater’s most family-friendly flick has endured.


1. IT TAPPED INTO JACK BLACK’S STAR POWER

Throughout the ’90s and ’00s, Jack Black was a rising star known for his bit parts as exuberant stoners in the likes of X-Files, Saving Silverman, and Tenacious D: The Complete Master Works, the HBO series about his two-man rock band. (Deep cut: he was also the highlight of the not-great horror sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.) Black gained big notice with High Fidelity, then stumbled with his first big lead role in the problematic Shallow Hal, but it wasn’t until his role in School of Rock that he carved his place out as a movie star.

Black, a rocker himself and wildly passionate metal head, was Dewey Finn, a down-and-out wannabe rocker who brought his desperation and love of music to a class of sheltered, classically trained private-school fourth graders. Passion and drive made his character’s journey from “schmo conning his way to a quick buck” to a genuinely valued teacher and mentor feel authentic and sincere. As Robert Ebert wrote in his review, “[Black] make’s Dewey’s personality not a plot gimmick, but a way of life.”

Soon after School of Rock, Black scored a major role in King Kong, top billing for Nacho Libre, and would lead the voice cast of the juggernaut Kung Fu Panda series. Nearly all of his best roles capture his – and Dewey’s – unique brand: a passionate lover of the arts and an outsider determined to break in, no matter what.


2. THERE’S A GREAT TRUE STORY BEHIND IT (OR MAYBE THERE ISN’T)

School of Rock isn’t credited as based on a true story, but reports at the time revealed that VH-1 (owned by Viacom, which owns Paramount, which produced the movie) once filmed the Paul Green School of Rock for a reality series that would never make air. Green, a manic and charismatic music instructor, teaches kids aged 12 to 18 to play ’60s and ’70s era rock. Although School of Rock screenwriter Mike White says he had never seen the reality series Rock School, or heard of the school, Green and his students noticed quite a few similarities between his own persona and Black’s Dewey Finn. There may have been some grumblings at the time, but Green acknowledged that with School of Rock‘s release, his real-life school saw a spike in enrollees.

Whether the movie is based on Paul Green’s School of Rock or not, the same principles of that school –harnessing the power of creativity, engaging kids through music, and teaching them to dream in ways they never knew they could – are the same sweet chords that make School of Rock a toe-tappin’, and heart-tugging, showstopper.


3. JOAN CUSACK IS HAVING TOO MUCH FUN – WHICH MEANS WE DO, TOO

After a stream of scene-stealing successes with Grosse Pointe Blank, Runaway Bride, Toy Story 2, and High Fidelity, Joan Cusack gave arguably her quirkiest and most enjoyable performance yet in School of Rock as Principal Rosalie Mullins, the very definition of anal retentiveness. Every aspect of her performance highlights her stress and anxiety – the hand-wringing, the facial twitches, the rigid posture, and the super deliberate speaking style. When she shakes all that off, it’s a great moment. In one of the movie’s defining scenes, Dewey unearths Mullins’ love of Stevie Nicks, and gets her to drunkenly dance to “Edge of Seventeen” – something she clearly hasn’t done in ages – and embrace the sweet, sweet sound of rock.

Cusack’s run of successes continued with a storied voice-acting career in the Toy Story series, Arthur Christmas, and a great role in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.


4. IT GAVE MANY THEIR FIRST BIG TASTE OF SARAH SILVERMAN

(Photo by © Paramount)

Silverman was already a stand-up star by the early ’00s, but most mainstream moviegoers had to wait until Evolution and School of Rock to discover her sizzling brand of funny on the big screen. Her Patty Di Marco is the movie’s voice of hilarious practicality – you’ll never succeed in the world of rock, abandon your dreams for the easy and attainable, etc. etc. If Dewey Finn’s credo is to “stick it to the Man,” Patty is the very manifestation of “the Man.”


5. THOSE RIDICULOUSLY TALENTED KIDS (WHO ARE SO FREAKING GROWN UP NOW)

It wouldn’t be much of a school without students to rock, and School of Rock‘s young cast was electric, each imbuing their characters with as much depth and heart as talent (which was real by the way – they all sang and played their own instruments).

And those child actors have gone far since graduation. Bossy Summer Hathaway – a.k.a Miranda Cosgrove – played Carly on the iCarly TV show, has released her own music, and is the voice of Margo in the Despicable Me series. Joey Gaydos Jr. (Zack) went on to become a guitarist for a Michigan-based rock band. Kevin Clark (Freddy) plays for the band Robbie Gold. Rebecca Brown (Katie) is a YouTube star and sings for her band, the Brothers Star Race. Robert Tsai (Lawrence) sings, dances, plays piano, and teaches.


School of Rock was released on October 3, 2003.

Jack Black returns to theaters this weekend as one of the unwilling adventurers in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and in anticipation of his latest foray into big-budget slapstick comedy, we decided to take a loving look back at some of his many memorable film roles. Whether you’re a longtime fan or just looking to get acquainted, there’s something here for everyone’s queue, so let’s get started — it’s time for Total Recall!


Use the arrows to rank the movies, or click here to see them ranked by Tomatometer!

70 Best High School Movies of All Time

For some, high school is the peak of their life: You’ve got prom and pep rallies, and homecoming and hormones. For others, it’s the pits because you’ve got…well, prom and pep rallies, and homecoming and hormones. And there to capture every awesome/awful moment are these high school movies which earned high grades from film critics.

Some of these beloved movies (like The Last Picture Show or American Graffiti) take a look back on high school with the clarity of time gone by. Others (like Superbad or Booksmart) make you feel like the high school experience is unfolding in real-time right before your eyes.

The best high school movies reflect discovering one’s self (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), questioning authority (Dead Poets Society), taking wild risks (Better Luck Tomorrow), and working for a better future (Hoop Dreams). And some ask the big questions. Like, what if I was in high school and I was also, you know, a superhero? What if one day I’m driving to school and then I time-travel back to 1955? And what if I had a better idea of what to do with that pie than just eating it?

As the jump-gate into adulthood and beyond, high school can be wild and wondrous and heart-breaking and hilarious. (And usually all at once.) The same can be said for these Fresh and Certified Fresh films (each with at least 20 critics reviews), representing the best high school movies ever, all ranked by Tomatometer!

#70

American Pie (1999)
61%

#70
Adjusted Score: 66633%
Critics Consensus: So embarrassing it's believable, American Pie succeeds in bringing back the teen movie genre.
Synopsis: A riotous and raunchy exploration of the most eagerly anticipated -- and most humiliating -- rite of adulthood, known as... [More]
Directed By: Paul Weitz

#69

Bring It On (2000)
64%

#69
Adjusted Score: 67406%
Critics Consensus: Despite the formulaic, fluffy storyline, this movie is surprisingly fun to watch, mostly due to its high energy and how it humorously spoofs cheerleading instead of taking itself too seriously.
Synopsis: The Toro cheerleading squad from Rancho Carne High School in San Diego has got spirit, spunk, sass and a killer... [More]
Directed By: Peyton Reed

#68
Adjusted Score: 67873%
Critics Consensus: It won't win many converts, but High School Musical 3 is bright, energetic, and well-crafted.
Synopsis: Amid preparations for a basketball championship, prom, and graduation, sweethearts Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) vow... [More]
Directed By: Kenny Ortega

#67

O (2001)
64%

#67
Adjusted Score: 68652%
Critics Consensus: Though well-intentioned and serious in its exploration of teen violence, O is an uneven experiment that doesn't quite succeed.
Synopsis: Moving the classic tale of "Othello" onto the basketball courts of a high school, the story focuses on a young... [More]
Directed By: Tim Blake Nelson

#66
Adjusted Score: 72062%
Critics Consensus: Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger add strong performances to an unexpectedly clever script, elevating 10 Things (slightly) above typical teen fare.
Synopsis: Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) is beautiful, smart and quite abrasive to most of her fellow teens, meaning that she doesn't... [More]
Directed By: Gil Junger

#65

Palo Alto (2013)
68%

#65
Adjusted Score: 73059%
Critics Consensus: A promising debut for director Gia Coppola, Palo Alto compensates for its drifting plot with solid performances and beautiful cinematography.
Synopsis: A lack of parental guidance encourages teens in an affluent California town to rebel with substance abuse and casual sex.... [More]
Directed By: Gia Coppola

#64

Freedom Writers (2007)
70%

#64
Adjusted Score: 74047%
Critics Consensus: Freedom Writers is a frank, formulaic entry in the inspirational inner-city teacher genre, with an energetic Hilary Swank leading the appealing cast of unknowns.
Synopsis: A dedicated teacher (Hilary Swank) in a racially divided Los Angeles school has a class of at-risk teenagers deemed incapable... [More]
Directed By: Richard LaGravenese

#63
#63
Adjusted Score: 78234%
Critics Consensus: A charming, quirky, and often funny comedy.
Synopsis: In small-town Preston, Idaho, awkward teen Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) has trouble fitting in. After his grandmother is injured in... [More]
Directed By: Jared Hess

#62

The DUFF (2015)
73%

#62
Adjusted Score: 76417%
Critics Consensus: The DUFF doesn't achieve teen-movie greatness, but offers enough of a postmodern twist on the genre to recommend -- and boasts typically great work from star Mae Whitman.
Synopsis: Frumpy high-school senior Bianca (Mae Whitman) has a rude awakening when she learns that her classmates secretly know her as... [More]
Directed By: Ari Sandel

#61

Elephant (2003)
73%

#61
Adjusted Score: 78322%
Critics Consensus: The movie's spare and unconventional style will divide viewers.
Synopsis: A variety of adolescents at a suburban high school drift through a seemingly uneventful day, until two students arrive with... [More]
Directed By: Gus Van Sant

#60

Pretty in Pink (1986)
73%

#60
Adjusted Score: 78072%
Critics Consensus: Molly Ringwald gives an outstanding performance in this sweet, intelligent teen comedy that takes an ancient premise and injects it with insight and wit.
Synopsis: Andie (Molly Ringwald) is an outcast at her Chicago high school, hanging out either with her older boss (Annie Potts),... [More]
Directed By: Howard Deutch

#59
#59
Adjusted Score: 75996%
Critics Consensus: A feel-good story brought to life by a terrific ensemble cast, Mr. Holland's Opus plucks the heartstrings without shame -- and with undeniable skill.
Synopsis: Composer Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) believes that he'll eventually write a transcendent piece of music, but in the meantime he's... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Herek

#58

Grease (1978)
76%

#58
Adjusted Score: 83674%
Critics Consensus: Grease is a pleasing, energetic musical with infectiously catchy songs and an ode to young love that never gets old.
Synopsis: Experience the friendships, romances and adventures of a group of high school kids in the 1950s. Welcome to the singing... [More]
Directed By: Randal Kleiser

#57
#57
Adjusted Score: 76226%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: World War II veteran Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford) takes a teaching position at a rough New York City school for... [More]
Directed By: Richard Brooks

#56
#56
Adjusted Score: 78225%
Critics Consensus: Some Kind of Wonderful is above-average '80s teen fare for people who need as much John Hughes in their lives as possible.
Synopsis: Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz), an artsy high school outcast, tries to land a date with popular girl Amanda Jones (Lea... [More]
Directed By: Howard Deutch

#55

Better Off Dead (1985)
76%

#55
Adjusted Score: 77438%
Critics Consensus: Better Off Dead is an anarchic mix of black humor and surreal comedy, anchored by John Cusack's winsome, charming performance.
Synopsis: Lane Meyer (John Cusack) is a teen with a peculiar family and a bizarre fixation with his girlfriend, Beth (Amanda... [More]
Directed By: Savage Steve Holland

#54
#54
Adjusted Score: 81248%
Critics Consensus: The Virgin Suicides drifts with a dreamlike melancholy that may strike some audiences as tedious, but Sofia Coppola's feature debut is a mature meditation on disaffected youth.
Synopsis: In an ordinary suburban house, on a lovely tree-lined street, in the middle of 1970s America, lived the five beautiful,... [More]
Directed By: Sofia Coppola

#53
Adjusted Score: 82581%
Critics Consensus: While Fast Times at Ridgemont High features Sean Penn's legendary performance, the film endures because it accurately captured the small details of school, work, and teenage life.
Synopsis: Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a pretty, but inexperienced, teen interested in dating. Given advice by her uninhibited friend,... [More]
Directed By: Amy Heckerling

#52

Scream (1996)
79%

#52
Adjusted Score: 83846%
Critics Consensus: Horror icon Wes Craven's subversive deconstruction of the genre is sly, witty, and surprisingly effective as a slasher film itself, even if it's a little too cheeky for some.
Synopsis: The sleepy little town of Woodsboro just woke up screaming. There's a killer in their midst who's seen a few... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#51

Brick (2005)
80%

#51
Adjusted Score: 84391%
Critics Consensus: This entertaining homage to noirs past has been slickly and compellingly updated to a contemporary high school setting.
Synopsis: After receiving a frantic phone call from his ex-girlfriend, teenage loner Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) learns that her dead body... [More]
Directed By: Rian Johnson

#50
#50
Adjusted Score: 86807%
Critics Consensus: Matthew Broderick charms in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, a light and irrepressibly fun movie about being young and having fun.
Synopsis: Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) has an uncanny skill at cutting classes and getting away with it. Intending to make one... [More]
Directed By: John Hughes

#49
Adjusted Score: 85237%
Critics Consensus: Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are just charming, goofy, and silly enough to make this fluffy time-travel Adventure work.
Synopsis: Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are high school buddies starting a band. However, they are about to fail... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Herek

#48
#48
Adjusted Score: 82748%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A teenager (P.J. Soles) and her friends get even with their principal to music by the Ramones.... [More]

#47
#47
Adjusted Score: 84241%
Critics Consensus: A promising work by Lin, the energetic Better Luck Tomorrow is disturbing and thought-provoking.
Synopsis: An accomplished high school student, Ben (Parry Shen) seems to excel at almost everything except winning over his dream girl,... [More]
Directed By: Justin Lin

#46

Clueless (1995)
81%

#46
Adjusted Score: 89087%
Critics Consensus: A funny and clever reshaping of Emma, Clueless offers a soft satire that pokes as much fun at teen films as it does at the Beverly Hills glitterati.
Synopsis: Shallow, rich and socially successful Cher (Alicia Silverstone) is at the top of her Beverly Hills high school's pecking scale.... [More]
Directed By: Amy Heckerling

#45
Adjusted Score: 89503%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully scripted and perfectly cast, Me & Earl & the Dying Girl is a coming-of-age movie with uncommon charm and insight.
Synopsis: An awkward high-school senior (Thomas Mann) and a gravely ill classmate (Olivia Cooke) surprise themselves by becoming inseparable friends.... [More]
Directed By: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

#44
#44
Adjusted Score: 87152%
Critics Consensus: An acute survey of the football-obsessed heartland that succeeds as both a stirring drama and a rousing sports movie.
Synopsis: A small, turbulent town in Texas obsesses over their high school football team to an unhealthy degree. When the star... [More]
Directed By: Peter Berg

#43
#43
Adjusted Score: 86387%
Critics Consensus: Confident directing and acting deliver an insightful look at young athletes.
Synopsis: Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) are two childhood friends who both aspire to be professional basketball players. Quincy,... [More]
Directed By: Gina Prince

#42

Fame (1980)
81%

#42
Adjusted Score: 83422%
Critics Consensus: Just because Fame is a well-acted musical doesn't mean it flinches against its surprisingly heavy topics.
Synopsis: Young men and women audition for coveted spots at the New York High School of Performing Arts. Those who make... [More]
Directed By: Alan Parker

#41

Rocket Science (2007)
84%

#41
Adjusted Score: 87022%
Critics Consensus: Though Rocket Science appears to be a typically quirky indie, the well-rounded performances and director Jeffrey Blitz's clear affection for his characters gives the film its proper human spark.
Synopsis: High-school student Hal Hefner's (Reece Daniel Thompson) life is falling down around him. His parents have split, his brother picks... [More]
Directed By: Jeffrey Blitz

#40

My Bodyguard (1980)
81%

#40
Adjusted Score: 83416%
Critics Consensus: T. Bill debuts as an affectionate director, keenly aware of growing pains.
Synopsis: Clifford Peache (Chris Makepeace) is a sensitive, well-to-do teen who becomes the target of bully Melvin Moody (Matt Dillon) after... [More]
Directed By: Tony Bill

#39

Sixteen Candles (1984)
84%

#39
Adjusted Score: 86088%
Critics Consensus: Significantly more mature than the teen raunch comedies that defined the era, Sixteen Candles is shot with compassion and clear respect for its characters and their hang-ups.
Synopsis: With the occasion all but overshadowed by her sister's upcoming wedding, angst-ridden Samantha (Molly Ringwald) faces her 16th birthday with... [More]
Directed By: John Hughes

#38

Mean Girls (2004)
84%

#38
Adjusted Score: 90854%
Critics Consensus: Elevated by a brilliant screenplay and outstanding ensemble cast, Mean Girls finds fresh, female-fronted humor in the high school experience.
Synopsis: Teenage Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) was educated in Africa by her scientist parents. When her family moves to the suburbs... [More]
Directed By: Mark Waters

#37
#37
Adjusted Score: 88721%
Critics Consensus: Affecting performances from the young cast and a genuinely inspirational turn from Robin Williams grant Peter Weir's prep school drama top honors.
Synopsis: A new English teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams), is introduced to an all-boys preparatory school that is known for its... [More]
Directed By: Peter Weir

#36

Blockers (2018)
84%

#36
Adjusted Score: 96713%
Critics Consensus: Blockers puts a gender-swapped spin on the teen sex comedy -- one elevated by strong performances, a smartly funny script, and a surprisingly enlightened perspective.
Synopsis: Julie, Kayla and Sam are three high school seniors who make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night.... [More]
Directed By: Kay Cannon

#35
Adjusted Score: 88658%
Critics Consensus: My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea's attention-getting visual style matches debuting writer-director Dash Shaw's distinctive narrative approach -- and signals a bright future for a promising talent.
Synopsis: High school sophomores Dash and Assaf are best friends and the only writers for the school newspaper. When the editor... [More]
Directed By: Dash Shaw

#34

Bully (2011)
85%

#34
Adjusted Score: 90683%
Critics Consensus: Hard-hitting and gracefully filmed, Bully powerfully delivers an essential message to an audience that may not be able to see it.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Lee Hirsch examines five cases of youths who endure vicious persecution at the hands of their peers. Ja'meye, 14,... [More]
Directed By: Lee Hirsch

#33

Easy A (2010)
85%

#33
Adjusted Score: 91150%
Critics Consensus: It owes a huge debt to older (and better) teen comedies, but Easy A proves a smart, witty showcase for its irresistibly charming star, Emma Stone.
Synopsis: Prompted by her popular best friend to spill details of her boring weekend, Olive (Emma Stone), a clean-cut teen, decides... [More]
Directed By: Will Gluck

#32

Chronicle (2012)
85%

#32
Adjusted Score: 92756%
Critics Consensus: Chronicle transcends its found-footage gimmick with a smart script, fast-paced direction, and engaging performances from the young cast.
Synopsis: Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is a socially awkward, introverted teen whose main form of escape and expression is a video camera.... [More]
Directed By: Josh Trank

#31
Adjusted Score: 92003%
Critics Consensus: The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a heartfelt and sincere adaptation that's bolstered by strong lead performances.
Synopsis: Socially awkward teen Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a wallflower, always watching life from the sidelines, until two charismatic students become... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Chbosky

#30

21 Jump Street (2012)
85%

#30
Adjusted Score: 93642%
Critics Consensus: A smart, affectionate satire of '80s nostalgia and teen movie tropes, 21 Jump Street offers rowdy mainstream comedy with a surprisingly satisfying bite.
Synopsis: When cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) join the secret Jump Street unit, they use their youthful appearances... [More]

#29
#29
Adjusted Score: 88145%
Critics Consensus: Peggy Sue Got Married may seem just another in a line of '80s boomer nostalgia films, but none of the others have Kathleen Turner keen lead performance.
Synopsis: Peggy Sue Bodell (Kathleen Turner) attends her 25-year high school reunion after separating from her cheating husband, Charlie (Nicolas Cage).... [More]
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola

#28

Donnie Darko (2001)
87%

#28
Adjusted Score: 90338%
Critics Consensus: Richard Kelly's debut feature Donnie Darko is a daring, original vision, packed with jarring ideas and intelligence and featuring a remarkable performance from Jake Gyllenhaal as the troubled title character.
Synopsis: In a funny, moving and distinctly mind-bending journey through suburban America, one extraordinary but disenchanted teenager is about to take... [More]
Directed By: Richard Kelly

#27

River's Edge (1987)
88%

#27
Adjusted Score: 87795%
Critics Consensus: A harrowing tale of aimless youth, River's Edge generates considerable tension and urgency thanks to strong performances from a stellar cast that includes Crispin Glover, Keanu Reeves, and Ione Skye.
Synopsis: Teenage burnout Samson (Daniel Roebuck) has murdered his girlfriend and left her naked body lying on the bank of a... [More]
Directed By: Tim Hunter

#26

Dope (2015)
88%

#26
Adjusted Score: 94208%
Critics Consensus: Featuring a starmaking performance from Shameik Moore and a refreshingly original point of view from writer-director Rick Famuyiwa, Dope is smart, insightful entertainment.
Synopsis: High-school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) bond over '90s hip-hop culture,... [More]
Directed By: Rick Famuyiwa

#25

Superbad (2007)
88%

#25
Adjusted Score: 96006%
Critics Consensus: Deftly balancing vulgarity and sincerity while placing its protagonists in excessive situations, Superbad is an authentic take on friendship and the overarching awkwardness of the high school experience.
Synopsis: High-school seniors Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) have high hopes for a graduation party: The co-dependent teens plan... [More]
Directed By: Greg Mottola

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 94335%
Critics Consensus: The Breakfast Club is a warm, insightful, and very funny look into the inner lives of teenagers.
Synopsis: Five high school students from different walks of life endure a Saturday detention under a power-hungry principal (Paul Gleason). The... [More]
Directed By: John Hughes

#23

Rushmore (1998)
90%

#23
Adjusted Score: 94790%
Critics Consensus: This cult favorite is a quirky coming of age story, with fine, off-kilter performances from Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray.
Synopsis: When a beautiful first-grade teacher (Olivia Williams) arrives at a prep school, she soon attracts the attention of an ambitious... [More]
Directed By: Wes Anderson

#22

Hoosiers (1986)
91%

#22
Adjusted Score: 94988%
Critics Consensus: It may adhere to the sports underdog formula, but Hoosiers has been made with such loving craft, and features such excellent performances, that it's hard to resist.
Synopsis: Failed college coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) gets a chance at redemption when he is hired to direct the basketball... [More]
Directed By: David Anspaugh

#21

Hairspray (2007)
91%

#21
Adjusted Score: 100580%
Critics Consensus: Hairspray is an energetic, wholly entertaining musical romp; a fun Summer movie with plenty of heart. Its contagious songs will make you want to get up and start dancing.
Synopsis: In 1960s Baltimore, dance-loving teen Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) auditions for a spot on "The Corny Collins Show" and wins.... [More]
Directed By: Adam Shankman

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 97985%
Critics Consensus: The Spectacular Now is an adroit, sensitive film that avoids typical coming-of-age story trappings.
Synopsis: An innocent, bookish teenager (Shailene Woodley) begins dating the charming, freewheeling high-school senior (Miles Teller) who awoke on her lawn... [More]
Directed By: James Ponsoldt

#19

Election (1999)
92%

#19
Adjusted Score: 96964%
Critics Consensus: Election successfully combines dark humor and intelligent writing in this very witty and enjoyable film.
Synopsis: Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), a well-liked high school government teacher, can't help but notice that successful student Tracy Flick (Reese... [More]
Directed By: Alexander Payne

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 96009%
Critics Consensus: Featuring an excellent ensemble cast, a precise feel for the 1970s, and a killer soundtrack, Dazed and Confused is a funny, affectionate, and clear-eyed look at high school life.
Synopsis: This coming-of-age film follows the mayhem of group of rowdy teenagers in Austin, Texas, celebrating the last day of high... [More]
Directed By: Richard Linklater

#17

Risky Business (1983)
92%

#17
Adjusted Score: 95187%
Critics Consensus: Featuring one of Tom Cruise's best early performances, Risky Business is a sharp, funny examination of teen angst that doesn't stop short of exploring dark themes.
Synopsis: Ecstatic when his parents leave on vacation for a few days, high school senior Joel Goodsen (Tom Cruise) cuts loose... [More]
Directed By: Paul Brickman

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 97356%
Critics Consensus: Rebel Without a Cause is a searing melodrama featuring keen insight into '50s juvenile attitude and James Dean's cool, iconic performance.
Synopsis: After moving to a new town, troublemaking teen Jim Stark (James Dean) is supposed to have a clean slate, although... [More]
Directed By: Nicholas Ray

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 121011%
Critics Consensus: Spider-Man: Homecoming does whatever a second reboot can, delivering a colorful, fun adventure that fits snugly in the sprawling MCU without getting bogged down in franchise-building.
Synopsis: Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker returns home to live with his Aunt May. Under the... [More]
Directed By: Jon Watts

#14

House Party (1990)
93%

#14
Adjusted Score: 94522%
Critics Consensus: House Party is a light, entertaining teen comedy with an infectious energy.
Synopsis: Play's parents are out of town, and he's planning the house party to end all house parties. His best friend,... [More]
Directed By: Reginald Hudlin

#13

Heathers (1989)
93%

#13
Adjusted Score: 96433%
Critics Consensus: Dark, cynical, and subversive, Heathers gently applies a chainsaw to the conventions of the high school movie -- changing the game for teen comedies to follow.
Synopsis: Veronica (Winona Ryder) is part of the most popular clique at her high school, but she disapproves of the other... [More]
Directed By: Michael Lehmann

#12

Carrie (1976)
93%

#12
Adjusted Score: 98506%
Critics Consensus: Carrie is a horrifying look at supernatural powers, high school cruelty, and teen angst -- and it brings us one of the most memorable and disturbing prom scenes in history.
Synopsis: In this chilling adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel, withdrawn and sensitive teen Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) faces taunting from... [More]
Directed By: Brian De Palma

#11

Ghost World (2001)
93%

#11
Adjusted Score: 98267%
Critics Consensus: With acerbic wit, Terry Zwigoff fashions Daniel Clowes' graphic novel into an intelligent, comedic trip through deadpan teen angst.
Synopsis: The story of neo-cool Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) who, faced with graduation from high school, take a... [More]
Directed By: Terry Zwigoff

#10

Juno (2007)
94%

#10
Adjusted Score: 102389%
Critics Consensus: One of the brightest, funniest comedies of the year, Juno's smart script and direction are matched by assured performances in a coming-of-age story with a 21st century twist.
Synopsis: When precocious teen Juno MacGuff becomes pregnant, she chooses a failed rock star and his wife to adopt her unborn... [More]
Directed By: Jason Reitman

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 106365%
Critics Consensus: The Edge of Seventeen's sharp script -- and Hailee Steinfeld's outstanding lead performance -- make this more than just another coming-of-age dramedy.
Synopsis: Everyone knows that growing up is hard, and life is no easier for high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), who... [More]
Directed By: Kelly Fremon Craig

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 100883%
Critics Consensus: One of the most influential of all teen films, American Graffiti is a funny, nostalgic, and bittersweet look at a group of recent high school grads' last days of innocence.
Synopsis: On the last day of summer vacation in 1962, friends Curt (Richard Dreyfuss), Steve (Ronny Howard), Terry (Charles Martin Smith)... [More]
Directed By: George Lucas

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 103089%
Critics Consensus: Inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed, Back to the Future is a rousing time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit.
Synopsis: In this 1980s sci-fi classic, small-town California teen Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is thrown back into the '50s when... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#6

Booksmart (2019)
96%

#6
Adjusted Score: 119752%
Critics Consensus: Fast-paced, funny, and fresh, Booksmart does the seemingly impossible by adding a smart new spin to the coming-of-age comedy.
Synopsis: Academic overachievers Amy and Molly thought keeping their noses to the grindstone gave them a leg up on their high... [More]
Directed By: Olivia Wilde

#5

Hairspray (1988)
98%

#5
Adjusted Score: 99759%
Critics Consensus: Hairspray is perhaps John Waters' most accessible film, and as such, it's a gently subversive slice of retro hilarity.
Synopsis: When Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake), an overweight teen, auditions for a spot on a popular teen dance show, she beats... [More]
Directed By: John Waters

#4

Say Anything... (1989)
98%

#4
Adjusted Score: 100657%
Critics Consensus: One of the definitive Generation X movies, Say Anything... is equally funny and heartfelt -- and it established John Cusack as an icon for left-of-center types everywhere.
Synopsis: In a charming, critically acclaimed tale of first love, Lloyd (John Cusack), an eternal optimist, seeks to capture the heart... [More]
Directed By: Cameron Crowe

#3

Hoop Dreams (1994)
98%

#3
Adjusted Score: 101750%
Critics Consensus: One of the most critically acclaimed documentaries of all time, Hoop Dreams is a rich, complex, heartbreaking, and ultimately deeply rewarding film that uses high school hoops as a jumping-off point to explore issues of race, class, and education in modern America.
Synopsis: Every school day, African-American teenagers William Gates and Arthur Agee travel 90 minutes each way from inner-city Chicago to St.... [More]
Directed By: Steve James

#2

Lady Bird (2017)
99%

#2
Adjusted Score: 128246%
Critics Consensus: Lady Bird delivers fresh insights about the turmoil of adolescence -- and reveals writer-director Greta Gerwig as a fully formed filmmaking talent.
Synopsis: A teenager (Saoirse Ronan) navigates a loving but turbulent relationship with her strong-willed mother (Laurie Metcalf) over the course of... [More]
Directed By: Greta Gerwig

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 106111%
Critics Consensus: Making excellent use of its period and setting, Peter Bogdanovich's small town coming-of-age story is a sad but moving classic filled with impressive performances.
Synopsis: High school seniors and best friends, Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges), live in a dying Texas town. The... [More]
Directed By: Peter Bogdanovich

I learned the truth at 17, that movie critics can be mean… but not to Hailee Steinfeld and her new movie The Edge of Seventeen, a high school dramedy starring Steinfeld as a neurotic hellcat on the cusp of adulthood. And if the reviews maintain their pace, then Edge will be a future alumni of this week’s 24 Frames gallery of Certified Fresh high school movies since 2000!

Jack Black returns to theaters this weekend as kidlit legend R.L. Stine in Goosebumps, and in anticipation of his first foray into family-friendly comedy-horror, we decided to take a loving look back at some of his many memorable film and television roles. Whether you’re a longtime fan or just looking to get acquainted, there’s something here for everyone’s queue, so let’s get started — it’s time for Total Recall!


High Fidelity (2000) 91%

01HighFidelity

They’ve always been popular, but book-to-film adaptations are always an iffy proposition, too; no matter how successful they might be with movie audiences, film versions of beloved books often can’t help but suffer in comparison to their invariably more fleshed-out counterparts. Still, every once in awhile, an adaptation works so well that almost no one complains about the changes that were made — and 2000’s High Fidelity, about the emotional travails of a music-obsessed sensitive soul with a checkered romantic past (John Cusack), is a perfect example. Aside from catering gracefully to its leading man’s cinematic strengths, the script (which Cusack co-wrote) made plenty of room for scene-stealing supporting players, led by Black as a cranky record store employee whose stereotypical snobbery is leavened by the hyperactive, wide-eyed overconfidence Black would soon be asked to bring to bear on a long list of comedies. He’d been in plenty of TV shows and films prior to this, but after High Fidelity, Jack Black was finally on his way to becoming a star — and an unforgettable ingredient in a movie that the A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin lauded as “A film pragmatic enough to concede that almost every relationship is doomed, but romantic enough to realize that it’s worth it to carry on in spite of that fact … one of the smartest and funniest romantic comedies of the past few years.”

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Shallow Hal (2001) 50%

02ShallowHal2

A Farrelly brothers movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit? Filmgoers definitely could have been forgiven for assuming Shallow Hal would be a repository for the writer-directors’ grossest and most insensitive gags, but this 2001 comedy — about an appearance-obsessed cretin (Black) who’s hypnotized into seeing only inner beauty after a chance encounter with self-help guru Tony Robbins — is actually rather sweet, and with a talented cast that also included Jason Alexander, it even managed to add a new spin or two to cinema’s long obsession with the battle between the sexes. “A big part of what makes the movie successful is the combination of Black and Paltrow,” wrote Aisle Seat’s Mike McGranahan. “He gives the movie its humor, while she gives it some heart.”

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The School of Rock (2003) 92%

03SchoolOfRock

Jack Black has starred in a number of fine films over the course of his career, but no matter how long he continues making movies, it’s unlikely a project will ever fit his unique combination of talents as snugly as School of Rock. Inspired by a series of recordings culled from a Canadian elementary school project during the 1970s, screenwriter Mike White concocted the story of Dewey Finn (Black), a singer and guitarist whose delusions of grandeur get him kicked out of his band — thus beginning a chain of events that soon sees him jump-starting a local school’s music program while impersonating a substitute teacher. A fat box-office hit whose tangy blend of comedy, drama, and rock ‘n’ roll turned it into a consistent favorite that’s gone on to inspire a stage musical and TV adaptation (as well as persistent rumors of a sequel), it is also — as Desson Thomson wrote for the Washington Post — “A movie for almost everyone, from boomer parents (who remember their teens and twenties) to their teenage kids (who can’t wait to get started with same).”

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Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny (2006) 52%

04TenaciousD

Years before he reached his cinematic breakthrough, Black caught the eye of discerning HBO subscribers through Tenacious D, a series based around the fake musical exploits of the real-life “mock rock” duo he’d co-founded with fellow actor-musician Kyle Gass. The pair filmed a trio of episodes with Mr. Show’s David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, and although the first episode didn’t set the world on fire when it aired in 1997 — HBO neglected to broadcast the other two until 2000 — Tenacious D’s act contributed to the steadily growing cult around the “band’s” brash frontman, and when they finally got around to releasing their debut LP in 2001, it cracked the Top 40 and paved the way for their big-screen debut, 2003’s Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, co-starring Ronnie James Dio as himself and Dave Grohl as Satan. “Black thrives in these grubby environs,” argued the Boston Globe’s Wesley Morris. “His full-throttle bodily chaos makes more sense in movies done on the cheap than in blockbusters and polished comedies.”

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King Kong (2005) 84%

05KingKong

Black’s obviously quite adept at getting laughs, but his gift for playing creeps also lends itself to drama — as director Peter Jackson obviously recognized while casting his big-budget remake of King Kong, tapping Black to play Carl Denham, the financially tenuous (and morally bankrupt) filmmaker whose quest for a hit sets in motion the chain of events that brings a certain giant gorilla to New York and unleashes a hail of CG-assisted destruction. The original Kong remains a towering classic, and Jackson’s version was destined to remain in its shadow long before cameras rolled, but it still acquitted itself fairly admirably; in fact, as far as some critics were concerned, it might even deserve to be considered a classic in its own right. “Monstrous. Monumental. Magnificent,” wrote an impressed Tom Long for the Detroit News. “Use any term you want, there’s no denying the power, genius and spectacle of King Kong, which is certainly the biggest movie of the year and possibly the biggest movie ever made.”

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Margot at the Wedding (2007) 52%

06MargotAtTheWedding

Making a movie about sisters whose tortured relationship is thrown into stark relief by one sister’s impending nuptials to a schlubby layabout? You could definitely do worse than casting Jack Black as the schlub in question, as writer-director Noah Baumbach correctly identified when assembling the stars of his 2007 dramedy Margot at the Wedding. Unfolding over a fraught weekend in Long Island, during which Margot (Nicole Kidman) ends up sharing uncomfortably close quarters with her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Pauline’s underachieving fiancé (Black), Margot might have been merely a comedy of manners in other hands — but as Baumbach fans know, there’s no sense merely tickling the funny bone when you can go for the jugular while you’re at it. Saying it “counts as a bracing, even disturbing experience,” the A.V. Club’s Scott Tobias observed, “Baumbach doesn’t seem to care whether people like his characters; he merely wants them to be seen for who they are, warts and all.”

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Be Kind Rewind (2008) 65%

07BeKindRewind

For film fans of a certain age, the phrase “be kind rewind” will forever conjure memories of the stickers affixed to VHS rentals begging customers not to return their tapes without rewinding them first — but by 2008, VHS had been all but consigned to the format graveyard, making Be Kind Rewind the perfect title for a movie about a hapless video store clerk (Yasiin Bey) whose knuckleheaded friend (Black) accidentally erases every single tape in stock right after the owner (Danny Glover) leaves town. Forced to act fast, the duo set about remaking (“swedeing”) movies on the fly, inadvertently sparking a neighborhood craze for their unintentionally hilarious low-budget attempts to recreate films like Ghostbusters and Rush Hour 2 — and single-handedly reviving the financial fortunes of the store just as it’s set to meet the wrecking ball at the hand of a heartless building owner intent on gentrifying his property. Be Kind Rewind might look like a goofy comedy on the surface, but writer-director Michel Gondry had much more in mind; as Richard Corliss pointed out for TIME, the movie “declares that the riches of cinema history touch each of us personally. Films become so deep a part of us that we own them, that our memories of them, whether faithful or fanciful, become their meanings.”

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The Kung Fu Panda Franchise

08KungFuPanda

The humor potential inherent in casting a husky funnyman as an unlikely martial arts enthusiast is as obvious as it is deceptively tricky to unlock — witness Chris Farley in Beverly Hills Ninja — so DreamWorks Animation casting Jack Black to voice a rotund panda who becomes a kung fu master might have seemed a little on the nose when Kung Fu Panda was announced. Sometimes the obvious choice is the best one, however, and that’s clearly been the case for Black in the role of Po, the panda whose journey from noodle shop to prophecy-fulfilling glory has expanded to fill three theatrical features, a TV series, animated shorts, a video game, and even a planned live show — not to mention critical acclaim and more than a billion in box-office receipts. “Just about all animated movies teach you to Believe in Yourself,” admitted Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman. “But the image of a face-stuffing panda-turned-yowling Bruce Lee dervish is as unlikely, and touching, an advertisement for that message as we’ve seen in quite some time.”

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Tropic Thunder (2008) 82%

09TropicThunder

Ben Stiller’s experiences as a bit player on Empire of the Sun inspired him to write this barbed Hollywood satire about a group of pampered actors (led by Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr. in blackface) whose entitled behavior leads their exasperated director (Steve Coogan) to try using a little cinéma vérité on their war movie, with decidedly unintended results. Each of the stars embodies a particular type of stereotypical Hollywood excess; for Black, portraying the drug-addled comedian Jeff Portnoy offered an opportunity to lampoon the self-serious efforts of lowbrow (and filthy rich) comics who try to prove their depth by “going serious.” Loaded with inside jokes, a marvelously insane Tom Cruise cameo, and thinly veiled insults directed at other actors, Thunder earned a healthy critical buzz to go with its $188 million box office draw. Calling it “Stiller’s Hellzapoppin’ Apocalypse Now,” Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum praised it as “a smart and agile dissection of art, fame, and the chutzpah of big-budget productions.”

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Bernie (2011) 88%

10Bernie

Under the right conditions and parceled out in the proper doses, Black’s stereotypical on-screen persona can be irresistible, which is probably why he’s so rarely been asked to step outside that box over the years — but when he does, the results can be extremely gratifying, as he proved with his starring turn in Bernie. A uniquely twisted, fact-based drama that reunited Black with his School of Rock director Richard Linklater, Bernie led viewers through the incredibly odd story of a Texas mortician whose surprising friendship with a cantankerous widow (Shirley MacLaine) comes to a very bad end — and opens one of the odder chapters in modern small-town American jurisprudence. “I had to forget what I knew about Black,” applauded Roger Ebert. “He creates this character out of thin air, it’s like nothing he’s done before, and it proves that an actor can be a miraculous thing in the right role.”

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Saturday Night Live celebrates the premiere of its 40th season this weekend, and to celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of critically-acclaimed films featuring SNL alums. The movies listed here aren’t necessarily the best or the best-reviewed movies from these stars; rather, we wanted to give a sense of the range and versatility of the not-ready-for-primetime players. Featuring those who rose to prominence during their time on the show (Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Kristin Wiig) and a few you may have forgotten about (Robert Downey Jr., Julia Louis-Dreyfus), our list is a testament to SNL‘s continuing relevance as an incubator for some of the entertainment world’s brightest talents.


Adventureland
89%

Full of humor and nostalgia, and featuring wry supporting turns by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, Adventureland is a sweet, insightful coming-of-age comedy that will resonate with teens and adults alike.


Best in Show
93%

A fine example of writer-director-star Christopher Guest’s gift for improv comedy, Best in Show boasts an appealingly quirky premise and a brilliantly talented cast.


Bridesmaids
90%

A marriage of genuine characters, gross out gags, and pathos, Bridesmaids is a female-driven comedy features star-making performances from Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph.


City Slickers
91%

With a supremely talented cast (led by Billy Crystal) and just enough midlife drama to add weight to its wildly silly overtones, City Slickers uses universal themes to earn big laughs.


Elf
85%

A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell’s funny and charming performance as one of Santa’s biggest helpers.


Enough Said
95%

Wryly charming, impeccably acted, and ultimately quite bittersweet, Enough Said is a grown-up movie in the best possible way, and it offers a chance to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus play an intriguingly complex character.


48 Hrs.
93%

Marking an auspicious feature film debut for Eddie Murphy, 48 Hrs. is a briskly paced action comedy that succeeds largely due to the outstanding chemistry between its two leads.


Ghostbusters
97%

An infectiously fun blend of special effects and comedy, Ghostbusters derives many of its biggest laughs from Bill Murray’s hilarious deadpan wit and Dan Aykroyd’s enthusiastic geekiness.


God Said, Ha!
86%

God Said, Ha! plumbs poignant depths, but Julia Sweeney’s sharp, graceful wit makes this one-woman monologue a wise, big-hearted burst of uplifting — and perhaps therapeutic — entertainment.


Good Hair
95%

Funny, informative, and occasionally sad, Chris Rock’s Good Hair is a provocative look at the complex relationship between African Americans and their hair.


Groundhog Day
97%

Smart, sweet, and inventive, Groundhog Day highlights Bill Murray’s dramatic gifts while still leaving plenty of room for laughs.


Innerspace
82%

A manic, overstuffed blend of sci-fi, comedy, and romance, Innerspace nonetheless charms, thanks to Martin Short’s fine performance and the insistent zaniness of the plot.


Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
86%

Tongue-in-cheek satire blends well with entertaining action and a spot-on comic performance from Robert Downey Jr. in this dark, eccentric film noir homage.


Mean Girls
84%

Sharper and darker than the average teen comedy, Mean Girls benefits from refreshing honesty and a terrific cast that includes Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Tim Meadows.


National Lampoon’s Animal House
90%

The talents of director John Landis and Saturday Night Live‘s irrepressible John Belushi conspired to create a rambunctious, subversive college comedy that continues to resonate.


National Lampoon’s Vacation
93%

Blessed by a brilliantly befuddled star turn from Chevy Chase (as well as strong supporting work from Randy Quaid and a young Anthony Michael Hall), National Lampoon’s Vacation is one of the more consistent — and thoroughly quotable — screwball comedies of the 1980s.


Nebraska
91%

Elegant in its simplicity and poetic in its message, Nebraska is boosted by a poignant, bittersweet dramatic performance by Will Forte.


Obvious Child
90%

Tackling a sensitive subject with maturity, honesty, and wit, Obvious Child serves as both a showcase for Jenny Slate and a promising debut for writer-director Gillian Robespierre.


Punch-Drunk Love
79%

Odd, touching, and unique, Punch-Drunk Love is also delightfully funny, utilizing Adam Sandler’s comic persona to explore the life of a lonely guy who finds love.


School of Rock
92%

Full of high spirits and loads of heart School of Rock into a hilarious, rocking good time, thanks in part to sharp supporting work from Joan Cusack and Sarah Silverman.


Shrek 2
89%

Topical humor and exuberant vocal performances from Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy help to make Shrek 2 a funny, smart animated tale for audiences of all ages.


The Skeleton Twins
86%

Led by powerful performances from Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins effectively mines laughs and tears from family drama.


This Is Spinal Tap
95%

Smartly directed, brilliantly acted, and packed with endlessly quotable moments, This Is Spinal Tap is an all-time comedy classic, and represents a high water mark for stars Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer.


Trading Places
88%

Featuring deft interplay between Eddie Murphy and Dan Dan Aykroyd, Trading Places is an immensely appealing social satire.


The Truth About Cats and Dogs
85%

Sharp, witty, and charming, The Truth About Cats and Dogs features a standout performance from Janeane Garofalo.


Wayne’s World
79%

An oddball comedy that revels in its silliness and memorable catch phrases, Wayne’s World is also fondly regarded because of its endearing leads — played with infectious goofiness by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey.


Whip It
84%

Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut has enough charm, energy, and good-natured humor to transcend its many cliches — and it features fine supporting performances by Kristen Wiig and Jimmy Fallon.

Jack Black and Richard Linklater need to do more movies together. The actor and director first collaborated on 2003’s wonderfully pitched crowd pleaser The School of Rock, and their reunion for this week’s dark comedy Bernie has yielded what might be Black’s best performance since that film. In a strange-but-true story set in Carthage, Texas, Black plays soft-spoken Bernie Tiede, the small town’s beloved mortician who befriends its most despised citizen: wealthy, cantankerous old Marjorie (Shirley MacLaine). When Bernie bumps her off, the locals rally around their folk hero, much to the chagrin of prosecutor Matthew McConaughey (working with Linklater for the first time since Dazed and Confused). We caught up with Black recently for a chat about the movie.


It’s great to see you back together with Richard Linklater. How did he pitch this project to you?

Jack Black: Well we were working on School of Rock 2. We were trying to write it, trying to get it. He and [Rock writer] Mike White and me were in a room in Texas trying to figure out what it could be and we couldn’t all get on the same page, so it was kind of dead in the water. We were all just sort of sitting there and Rick said, “I’ve got this other thing that I’ve been working on for a long time — do you wanna do this instead?” So I read it and said, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

Bernie’s an interesting role — quite unlike anything you’ve played before. Did you hang out in funeral parlors to research the character?

[Laughs] I tried to. There are some rules against it. You have to be licensed to be around a corpse in that way. You can’t do that; you can’t watch. It’s hard to get in there. So I talked to one on the phone for a while and got some info that way, and I got a lot of tips and cues from actually meeting Bernie himself.

What was that like?

It was surreal. It was very strange to go to the maximum security prison. It’s a very intimidating place in general; you get a sense of danger in there. You don’t really wanna be there. There are guards all over the place, so you shouldn’t be nervous, but you can’t help it. You look in the eyes of some of the inmates and you go, “Holy sh-t, what am I doing here?”

You weren’t behind the glass screen to do the interview?

Well no, you were also a few feet away from the people. It wasn’t glass. When I got to see Bernie himself, that’s when it really got surreal, because he didn’t fit in there. He’s a very soft and sweet guy; softly spoken and very nice, and we sat in a room with no glass and just talked for 45 minutes.

Did he explain why he killed Marjorie?

I mean, mostly I was there just to listen to his voice and to get behavioral things, but I did ask him questions about why he did it and why he didn’t just leave [her], you know. He said that he just lost it, because of the abuse that he was receiving from her over the years, as her assistant. She had sort of closed the walls to the outside world around them. She was just mean to him, and he lost it. As to why he didn’t just leave her, the money was part of the equation. He had become accustomed… he was seduced by the money and the life that it afforded them, and the way that he could help other people with the money was a big attraction. But also, he couldn’t leave her — it wasn’t in his nature. He was a real pleaser. He was the most popular person in town for a reason. Everybody loved him, because he wanted them to love him. That was really part of who he was. If he ever sensed that you didn’t like him, he would make it his mission to make you like him. That’s the thing that was locked in with Marjorie — she didn’t like him at first, and he slowly got her to like him. And then, you know, if he ever left her she would hate him, and he couldn’t live with that. So he stayed. Until he snapped.

A review in the Hollywood Reporter called your performance “drippingly ripe” and compared you to Alec Guinness in The Ladykillers.

Oh? [Smiles] That’s high praise.

Was the role a challenge, in that you’re playing the comedy on a very restrained level, almost close to drama?

You know, I wasn’t really thinking about the comedy, or the drama of it, I was just sort of playing it the way each scene seemed to call for. I wasn’t thinking about what’s gonna get me the biggest laugh in any situation. Sometimes things felt funny and I would go with that. I guess I just did what felt right.

How much of the role was informed by the outfit? Gary Oldman said something interesting about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, that the clothes helped him “put on” the character.

[Laughs] It definitely helps. It definitely informs who you are — you know, the hairdo helped me, and the clothes. It’s funny, when you talk about Gary Oldman — he was wearing some pretty sharp duds, compared to my duds. I felt a little ridiculous. But yeah, it did define me. Made me see it, and step into his shoes — literally.

According to my research this is the first time you’ve worn a mustache exclusively for a role since Nacho Libre.

That’s right. Since Nacho. [Laughs]

Is there something in your game plan that every five or six years you decide to pull out the mustache for a role?

[Laughs] No! He had a mustache; I was just trying to be him. It was as simple as that. And actually, his mustache was a little tighter. He had a slightly smaller mustache than what I ended up with, but I was afraid that with my face, the smaller mustache would have started to look like Hitler. And I didn’t wanna do that. [Laughs]

Your Gospel singing in the film is surprisingly angelic. Did you sing in school choir?

I did. I remember singing Vivaldi. [Sings] “Gloria, Gloria! Fa, fa, fa, fa, fa, Gloria!” That’s all I really remember. I know we sang more songs like that in high school, but no gospel — no straight gospel, like this. This was a whole new world opened up to me.

How’d you enjoy singing Gospel?

I loved these songs. I loved listening to them and preparing them and singing them. I could’ve done more. I would’ve loved to have done them on Broadway stage. It would have been fun.

There’s always Bernie: The Musical.

Yeah. [Laughs]

Speaking of musicals, I’m pretty excited for Charlie Kaufman’s Frank or Francis.

Me too.

You play Francis, who’s an angry online commenter on film blogs. Do you pick up character notes from movie bloggers at junkets like this?

Yes. For the character. [Laughs] I would never be looking up myself [online]. [Pauses] Okay, of course I have.

Charlie Kaufman hasn’t made you go and read reviews of your own movies?

No, I’ve read my reviews, of course. I think anyone who says that they don’t is a liar. We all wanna see what people say about us. [Laughs] To a more specific point, I like to see the ones that are negative.

Glutton for punishment, huh?

Right. Exactly.

Still, it’s good material for Francis.

Exactly. [Laughs] That’s one of the central themes in the movie.


Bernie is in theaters this week.


In this week’s roster of UK cinema releases we have the latest addition to the Coen canon in the CIA comedy caper, Burn After Reading. Shia LeBeouf stakes a further claim to the Hollywood A-list in the high concept cyber-thriller Eagle Eye, and a washed up ’80s rockstar wannabe gets another stab at fame with his nephew’s band in The Rocker. But what did the UK critics have to say?

Last year, the Coen brothers picked up the Academy Award for Best Picture for their neo-western thriller No Country For Old Men, and at 94% on the Tomatometer, this was long-deserved acclaim for Joel and Ethan Coen, and set their already high standards to an even higher benchmark. It’s an oft-quoted theory that the Coens make two types of films; Screwball caper comedies a la Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski or the ‘serious,’ tougher and more gritty efforts like Fargo and Miller’s Crossing. With No Country they made, arguably, their toughest and grittiest film yet, with great success, so it makes sense that with their follow up, instead of trying to outmuscle their modern masterpiece, they’ve stepped into screwball mode for Burn After Reading. To many this may have seemed a risk, with their last comedic outing, Ealing comedy remake, The Ladykillers taking a bit of a critical kicking at 55% on the Tomatometer, but the Coens’ gamble seems to have paid off with Burn After Reading, as it currently stands at a respectable 78% on the Tomatometer. Despite a few calls from the critics over the lightweight throwaway feel of the film due to its slender running time of 96 minutes, most have been raving about the daffy turns from all the actors involved, with many praising Brad Pitt’s brainless portrayal of fitness instructor Chad Feldheimer as comedy gold. With a killer one/two combo of their last two movies, fans all over will be waiting with baited breath for their next cinematic outing, A Serious Man, due for release next year.

Shia LeBeouf’s rise to the top of the pile in Hollywood surely hasn’t been hindered after being taken under the wing of Steven Spielberg. With a starring role in Spielberg’s Dreamworks Studio teen-thriller Disturbia, followed by a lead role in the Spielberg-produced, robots in disguise, action adventure hit Transformers and finally being cast as Indiana Jones Jr, Mutt Williams, in Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, LeBeouf has become an instantly recognised presence on the big screen. In Eagle Eye,(produced by Spielberg unsurprisingly) he is back with Disturbia director DJ Caruso, and is out to carry on his winning streak in this cyber thriller, as Jerry Shaw, a slacker who gets embroiled in a terrorist plot, out to clear his name with help from the FBI. Unfortunately, the critics didn’t allow themselves to get carried away with the high octane, low brainer action, and many dismiss the film for its preposterous and implausible plotting, accusing it of borrowing too heavily from many other superior, and classic, films. The critics who liked it enjoyed the snappy and thrilling pace of the brainless entertainment on offer, but not enough to escape the ignominy of a measly 28% on the Tomatometer as it currently stands.

Rainn Wilson is probably not a name too well known to UK audiences, but he has a face that makes you think “Hmm, I recognise him from somewhere” thanks to small roles in Juno, and My Super Ex-Girlfriend, as well as a regular role in the American remake of The Office, and a recurring one in the critically-acclaimed Six-Feet Under. In The Rocker, Wilson takes centre stage as ex-rocker Robert ‘Fish’ Fishman, a drummer with fictitious ’80s rock band Vesuvius, who was given the boot moments before the band hit the big time, and who has been coming to terms with his near brush with superstardom ever since. He gets his second chance to reclaim his rock-god throne, when he joins his teenage nephews, high school rock band A.D.D., whilst showing his young band mates the merits of a rock and roll lifestyle in the process. The Rocker seems to have fared better with the UK critics than it did with the US critics, who, in the main had panned the film for its formulaic and unoriginal style, unfunny and forgettable script and shameless similarities to the vastly superior School Of Rock. UK critics weren’t so harsh, and many enjoyed the brisk humour, snappy one liners and good natured feeling to the whole proceedings, even if some of the slapstick doesn’t quite get the laughs it hopes for. Currently at 39% on the Tomatometer, The Rocker isn’t quite that rocking.

Also worth checking out this week…

Young@Heart – Full of endearing characters, this doc about a choir of “seniors behaving badly” is uplifting and delightful. 88% on the Tomatometer.

La Zona – A slick and smart Mexican thriller of middle-class panic and vigilantism, that is lean, mean and often shocking. 78% on the Tomatometer.

Quote Of The Week

“A worse film might be dismissed as sobsploitation.”

Young@Heart. Nigel Andrews, Financial Times.

She might not be all that big of a movie star, but I bet most of you will still be pretty psyched to learn that comic Sarah Silverman will be hosting this year’s MTV Movie Awards. Plus the show will be live for the first time ever, so that should be pretty fun.

Best known for her TV work and brazenly amusing stand-up material, Ms. Silverman can also be seen in movies like "School of Rock," "School for Scoundrels," "The Way of the Gun," "Rent," "Evolution," and "Heartbreakers." Her concert flick, "Jesus is Magic," houses some of the lady’s best stand-up, in case you need an introduction.

"Ever since I was a little girl, before it even started in 1980 — MTV — I said, ‘Someday, I want there to be an all-music channel that gives out awards for movies. And I want to host that show," is what the intermittently controversial comedienne had to say. "I’m training for this the way what’s-her-face trained for T2."

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

This week at the movies, we’ve got holiday mischief ("Deck the Halls," starring Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito), a phenomenon known as déjà vu ("Déjà Vu," starring Denzel Washington), a spiritual journey through time ("The Fountain," starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz), and a mystical guitar pick ("Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny," starring Jack Black and Kyle Gass). What do the critics have to say?

The holiday season is nearly upon us, which means another poorly-reviewed seasonal comedy is hitting theaters. In "Deck the Halls," Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito star as next-door neighbors competing to hang the shiniest star upon the highest bough — or at least out-decorate each other. Practical jokes and one-upmanship ensue. The critics have made a list of the film’s problems and checked it twice, and they say it’s too juvenile to pull off the combination of slapstick and family togetherness it’s attempting. At 13 percent on the Tomatometer, "Deck the Halls" has coal in its stocking.


"Ok, the first one to cause rolling blackouts wins."

Denzel Washington rejoins director Tony Scott in "Déjà Vu" as an ATF agent who goes back in time to stop the murder of a woman he subsequently falls in love with. And while the movie’s high-concept angle is riling some critics, others are falling in love with Tony Scott’s unique visual twist on time travel. So either it’s an original take on a familiar concept or it’s about as believable as Keira Knightley the bounty hunter… At 59 percent, the pundits seem to favor the latter.


"So how do you say ‘deja vu’ in Aramaic?"

Beautiful and transcendent or muddled and pretentious? Darren Aronofsky‘s "The Fountain" is dividing the critics right down the middle. This philosophical, time-jumping sci-fi tale stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz as a couple in Conquistador-era Spain, the present, and in a space-age future who are obsessed with death and rebirth. "The Fountain" overflows with ideas and images, and while some critics praise the film’s striking visual flair and Aronofsky’s audacity, others say it’s ultimately too incoherent to pull off the "2001"-esque meditation it strives for. "The Fountain" currently stands at 39 percent on the Tomatometer.


Mosh pits have not evolved much in 500 years.

Jack Black and Kyle Gass set out to unleash the Greatest Movie in the World when "Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny" hits theaters this week, but the critics have had a tough time figuring out if they’ve actually done it. The facts are smudged in this would-be biopic telling the story of the formation of The D and their quest to find a magical guitar pick that’ll transform them into rock gods. When the reviews are good The D look set to rock the world, but when they’re bad the word ‘cerebral’ pops up only in reference to what this movie is not. "Pick" currently stands at 48 percent on the Tomatometer.


"Eins, zwei, drei, Hasselhoff!"

"Bobby" and "For Your Consideration" opened in limited release last week, and now both are going wide. Emilio Estevez‘s "Bobby," an Altman-esque tale of the night of Robert Kennedy’s assassination starring half the population of California, is at 51 percent on the Tomatometer, and the Hollywood-skewering "For Your Consideration," Christopher Guest‘s latest ensemble comedy, is at 52 percent. Also opening this week in limited release are "Opal Dream," a coming-of-age tale about a little girl with imaginary friends in the outback, is at 80 percent, and "The History Boys," a tale of hypercompetitive English schoolboys adapted from Alan Bennett, is at 61 percent.


"The History Boys": the UK’s least intimidating street gang.

Finally, while it may be a bit early to call dreday as consistent a hitmaker as is Dr. Dre himself, it is worth noting that he came the closest to guessing the Tomatometer for "Let’s Go to Prison" (8 percent), making it his second consecutive Guess victory in a row. Watch out for player haters, dreday.

Thanks to Joe Utichi for his help on this article.

Recent Denzel Washington Movies:
——————————————-
88% — Inside Man (2006)
81% — The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
39% — Man on Fire (2004)
66% — Out of Time (2003)
79% — Antwone Fisher (2002)

Recent Jack Black Movies:
———————————
37% — Nacho Libre (2006)
84% — King Kong (2005)
35% — Shark Tale (2004)
6% — Envy (2004)
90% — School of Rock (2003)

This week at the movies, we’ve got pirates back for more box office bounty (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest“) and a journey to the center of the mind (“A Scanner Darkly“). What do the critics have to say?

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” was a delightful left field surprise: a funny, rollicking, swashbuckling adventure (as well as the greatest film ever based on an amusement park ride). So what does director Gore Verbinski do for an encore? According to critics, more, more, more. And that’s not necessarily a good thing. In “Dead Man’s Chest,” Johnny Depp is back as the scoundrel Jack Sparrow, with Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom along for the ride, this time aboard a craft containing the cephalopodan Davy Jones and his crew. The scribes say that while there are plenty of interesting effects and exciting set pieces, there’s just too much in this “Chest,” and it lacks the easygoing, organic charm of the original. At 55 percent on the Tomatometer, this “Pirates'” life may or may not be for you. And it’s well below the high watermark set by the original (at 79 percent).


“Dead Man’s Chest”: Rated ARRRGH!

The writings of Philip K. Dick have inspired a bunch of good-to-great movies (“Blade Runner,” “Total Recall,” “Minority Report“) and it’s easy to see why: Dick spun futuristic, Orwellian sci-fi tales that are chock full of paranoia and multilayered plot points. With “A Scanner Darkly,” Richard Linklater adapts Dick’s novel with the rotoscoping techniques he applied to “Waking Life.” The story involves a cop (Keanu Reeves) who is so far undercover in a drug investigation that it’s unclear he’ll ever find his way out. The critics say this one’s a visually arresting head trip, but some say it’s not quite as compelling as it wants to be. At 63 percent on the Tomatometer, this one may be worth a “Scan.”


“You’re sayin’ the FBI’s gonna pay me to learn to surf?”

Also in theaters, albeit in limited release: “Once in a Lifetime,” a documentary about the New York Cosmos soccer team of the 1970s, is at 90 percent on the Tomatometer, and “Heading South,” starring Charlotte Rampling, is at 62 percent.

Recent Johnny Depp Movies:
————————————
31% — The Libertine (2005)
83% — Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
83% — Corpse Bride (2005)
84% — Finding Neverland (2004)
47% — Secret Window (2004)

Recent Richard Linklater Movies:
—————————————-
47% — The Bad News Bears (2005)
94% — Before Sunset (2004)
90% — School of Rock (2003)
75% — Tape (2001)
79% — Waking Life (2001)

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