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Overstreet

What are the best movies for high schoolers?

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This weekend, I'm going to be speaking to a conference of high school teachers about how to talk to their students about art... especially movies.

I'm sure we'll end up talking about a lot of different movies, and I suspect I'll be asked to recommend a list of films for use in the high school classroom.

I have my own favorite suggestions, but some of you have shown films to high schoolers... either in Sunday school or high school... or to your own teenagers.

If you were teaching high school English, or History, or Christian Perspective... what movies would you show them?

We've talked about a LOT of great movies for discussion groups, but most of those movies have been for discerning adults.

When you're talking about the classrooms in Christian schools, a teacher takes a big risk in showing movies AT ALL.

Which films are "safe" enough to bring into the classroom for examination and discussion?

Which would be the most provocative, while also being wise and responsible choices?

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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Movies I've used in my high school English class:

Brazil

Romeo & Juliet (both Zefferelli and Luhmman)

The Big Sleep

Whale Rider

Firefly episode "Out of Gas"

Spirited Away

I showed Stalker to my AP World Lit class one year, but I consider that exercise to have been a failure.

Brazil and the Zefferelli R&J each needed a momentary cutting off of the picture to skip over a high-skin scene, which is easy enough to do.

I'm not a history teacher, but if I were I think that Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Strangelove would both find their way into my classes.

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Thanks. Whale Rider and Spirited Away are especially good choices, and while I think Brazil would qualify as "risky" I'd be willing to recommend it! (Ahhh, but which version??)

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Anders   
Thanks. Whale Rider and Spirited Away are especially good choices, and while I think Brazil would qualify as "risky" I'd be willing to recommend it! (Ahhh, but which version??)

There is never any question as to what version of Brazil one should watch. The Criterion Director's Cut is the one for sure. Just be sure to avoid the "Love Conquers All" Version.

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We've talked about a LOT of great movies for discussion groups, but most of those movies have been for discerning adults.

When you're talking about the classrooms in Christian schools, a teacher takes a big risk in showing movies AT ALL.

Which films are "safe" enough to bring into the classroom for examination and discussion?

Which would be the most provocative, while also being wise and responsible choices?

I always go for form over content with the answers to these questions, thereby defeating the purpose, right? I mean, high-school teachers aren't interested in discussing film, are they? They want to talk about themes -- the plot, in other words. They want to teach literature. So why bother with film?

I know that you understand that form and content don't have to be separated, that the best choices would be exemplary in both aspects. But I suspect that the teachers are interested only in talking points that relate to story. To work within that framework is, I think, potentially damaging. It puts kids on the wrong foot early in life, misleading them into thinking that most important thing about film is the script, and the "moral lesson(s)" of the story.

That's a good framework if you want to mold future Ted Baehrs, but not so much if you want kids to understand that movies operate on multiple levels.

OK, I realize this is a strawman argument -- and Jeffrey, this is not directed at you as an enabler of this sort of thing (you've proven time and time again that you don't fall into that trap) -- but I thought it might be a useful red flag to wave ahead of time.

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I would think that teachers would really benefit from movies where the students are able to identify with the central characters, or at least see kids from another time, or another place. Then the film works as both art and also as a prime motivator.

So I would wager any of the three James Dean movies, or Blackboard Jungle, or A Hard Day's Night, or Breaking Away. Or Romeo & Juliet. Or The Miracle At Morgan's Creek. Or Born Into Brothels. Or Hoop Dreams. Or one of the early Apted "Up" movies. Or Fanny & Alexander. Perhaps "The 400 Blows" or "Au Revoir Les Enfants." Even "It's A Wonderful Life"... which I admit I didn't see all-the-way-thru until I was older.

I love Brazil too, but it wasn't until I saw it a second time that I finally understood the story.

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Anders   

Ooh, I want to echo Nick's recommendation of The 400 Blows. It would be a wonderful film for high schoolers.

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DanBuck   

Here was my film appreciation list, but these were watched with parental approval and with discussion in class.

Citizen Kane

Rear Window

Harvey

The General

Life is Beautiful

Man w/o a Past

Yi-Yi

Spirited Away

The Elephant Man

Jaws

Quiz Show

The Insider

The Professional

What's Eating Gilbert Grape

Quiz Show

Hudsucker Proxy

Gattaca

Glory

The Straight Story

The Truman Show

Good Luck

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I think I have an all-out awesome recommendation. So shockingly obvious, I'm utterly dumbfounded nobody here has mentioned it.

Beauty and the Beast.

Cocteau's version.

Talk about an easy sell; everybody knows the story, but I bet NOBODY ever envisioned something like THAT.

Of course, Ty Burr's recent book should remain an indispensable guide:

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Old-Movies-Fami...6101&sr=8-1

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