Anyone growing up in the 80s of Flock of Seagulls and the 90s of the Macarena will undoubtedly also have grown up with the phenomenon of the High School movie, followed by the High School series. From Pretty in Pink to The Breakfast Club and from Degrassi Junior High to arguably the most famous postcode in the world and West Beverly High; many teaching staff today will raised on a diet of Principal Belding and Edward R. Rooney. They are likely to know the origins of the phrase, ‘You’re a slacker’ and tell you exactly who said it and to whom.
With so many weird, wonderful, wacky and wise role models, we thought it might be a nice idea to ask our teaching staff for a little bit of educational movie advice and to challenge them to come up with their favourite film that is somehow connected to the subject that they teach. In true educational style, we also asked them for the reasons why. It may not come as a surprise that many staff opted to gloss over this last question.
This would not be an interesting blog post if we didn’t have a couple of surprises up our sleeves. If you look beyond the usual suspects, you might find a little inspiration for a Netflix playlist. If you are struggling with a particular subject, it may be useful to know which film your teacher believes is good to watch. It may not help you in your studies but you could perhaps score some brownie points by striking up an ‘interesting’ conversation about ‘this film’ you happened to watch last night. If nothing else, it might be a decent list for the chilly North Yorkshire nights that are in store.
Biology We will be honest here, with biology teachers looking into subject-specialist motion pictures, we were getting a little bit concerned. Luckily, they came up with the less-controversial biological topic of – well – staying alive. Based on the book The Martian, the film The Martian features some interesting elements of science and biology. This blog post, The Martian: A Science Movie Review in Physics Today, has a couple of fantastic paragraphs about farming on Mars (in case anyone’s interested) and musings on body heat.
English Bracing ourselves for Robin Williams, ‘Oh Captain!, My captain!’ and quite a lot of sadness; we were surprised to find Educating Rita on the English department list. The, now, slightly not-so correct story of an English professor with issues and a young woman intent on making changes in her life against all the odds. Completely new to some of us was the wonderful Akeelah and the Bee. Interestingly, this film is quite similar to Educating Rita though in lots of different ways. This is the story of a young girl with a great talent for spelling. Without anyone supporting her dream of winning the national spelling Bee, she is discovered by a mysterious teacher who starts tutoring her.
Maths There are a number of excellent mathematically charged films, including A Beautiful Mind and The Imitation Game, both of which are based on true stories. Chosen by our maths department, Hidden Figures is another biographical drama that focuses on the role of three black American female mathematicians during the Space Race. It is much more common to see white male characters in these types of films, so it is refreshing to watch such an empowering story set amidst the racial segregation of 1960s America. The film tells the story of Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury; Dorothy Vaughan, a mathematician and NASA supervisor; and Mary Jackson, a NASA engineer. This truly is a story of resilience.
History Strangely enough, the choice for history was actually made by one of our English teachers! The History Boys is a fantastic film that examines all aspects of education. Written originally as a play by Alan Bennett, the film stars a very young James Corden in one of his early roles, acting alongside the late, great Richard Griffiths and other famous faces, such as Frances de la Tour and Dominic Cooper. The marvelous thing about this film is that all the actors originated the roles for the stage, so the characterisation is incredible. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll never look at the entrance system for Oxford and Cambridge in the same way again.
Music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: one of the most revered composers of all time. It is natural, then, that the music department would choose the biographical film Amadeus for this list. Although not factually correct, the film does give a great sense of the life of a composer in the 18th century.
Physics Several films were thrown into the mix by the physics department, but the clear favourite was Interstellar. Directed and produced by Christopher Nolan, best known for the Dark Knight Trilogy, this is a brilliantly imaginative film, which weaves together realistic physics (as explained by Space.com) and educated guesses, with a healthy ‘but-what-if’ sci-fi speculation thrown in for good measure. However, like many other speculative science films – and other Christopher Nolan ones – we have been warned that this will make your brain hurt by the end!
Chemistry When you think of potions, what film automatically springs to mind? It has to be the Harry Potter series. Based on the best-selling books by J. K. Rowling, these films focus on the life of the eponymous child wizard, and much of school life at Hogwarts. Potions master Severus Snape, played by the sadly departed Alan Rickman, is one of the most memorable teachers of the series. Join Harry and friends as they produce such concoctions and spells as Felix Felicis (Liquid Luck), Amortentia (a love potion) and, my personal favourite, Polyjuice Potion, which turns Hermione into a cat!
Boarding One of the fantastic things about Harry Potter is the presentation of boarding, but there are other films that show this side of school life. Who could forget the old St. Trinian’s films and their modern counterparts? But the focus here is on the 2008 teen romantic comedy Wild Child. Starring Emma Roberts (the niece of the slightly more famous Julia), this film follows affluent Malibu teenager Poppy Moore, who is forced into an English boarding school after her father becomes exasperated with her wild behaviour. Despite being initially reluctant to follow the school rules and participate in school activities, Poppy eventually makes friends and enjoys her time at boarding school. Now where have we seen this before?!
ESL A very seasonal choice has been provided for us here! The Disney version of A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey as Scrooge is an absolute favourite. From beginners to more advanced students, everyone can recognise the inspiring message about kindness throughout.
Drama Last, but by no means least, we have the choice of our LAMDA teachers – Fame There have been various incarnations of this story through the years, from the short-lived TV show to the stage musical, to the recent adaptation, but the best has to be the original 1980 film version. Partially inspired by the musical A Chorus Line, the film follows a group of students through their four years at the High School for the Performing Arts (known as “PA”) in New York. Originally cast as a dancer, Irene Cara impressed the producers and screenwriter so much with her singing voice that they rewrote the role of Coco to include singing. Cara went on to singe the title song “Fame”, which won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
There you have it. Not quite a top-10 of films or even a top-10 of subjects and perhaps not a list of films worthy of Academy fame but we do hope that one or two of titles might work if you are failing to come to terms, so to speak, with one of the subjects above. We’re off to submit our playlist, buy popcorn and fix our soundbar.