Pop culture

Back to school? TV and movie classrooms that don't make the grade

Sep. 2, 2013 at 7:52 AM ET

It's back-to-school time, and kids from kindergarten on up are preparing for pencils, books, teachers' dirty looks ... you know the drill. Not all real-life schools are great, but a whole heckuva lot of movie and television high schools are kind of terrible. Here are a few at which we'd never want to enroll.

Meadowbrook High School, 'Pretty in Pink'
We imagine Meadowbrook can be a nice place to study, if you are a blue-eyed blonde model with a Rockefeller-sized trust fund. Poor Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) came from a working-class home with no mom and was mocked relentlessly by Stef (James Spader) and his rich-kid pals, except for Andrew McCarthy's Blane. It actually seemed like you'd have a lot more fun at Meadowbrook if you weren't a rich model type — you could hang out behind the school with the New Wavers and other unaccepted folks, go see the Rave-Ups at Cats, and buy records at TRAX, where Andie worked. But then you might be forced to wear a prom dress that looks like Andie's homemade pink monstrosity, and well, not even Duckie (Jon Cryer) developing a mad, ride-his-bike-past-your-house-100-times-a-day crush on you would make up for that. —Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

IMAGE: Grease
Paramount Pictures
Rydell High from 'Grease' was not your typical high school.

Rydell High, "Grease'
Rydell High had its moments. John Travolta was pretty cute, and who could resist the chemistry he had with Aussie transfer Olivia Newton-John? Their summer nights sounded pretty good, wella, wella, wella, UH! But life at Rydell could also be flat-out terrifying — like when Danny took his life into his hands in that car race and almost lost Greased Lightning, and when pink-haired Frenchy had an unnerving encounter with guardian angel Frankie Avalon. (What did he have against beauty school, anyway?) And we wouldn't want to land on Rizzo's bad side. But mainly, we fear we're just not good enough at the hand jive to go to any dances at this school. We'd just end up Stranded at the Drive-In, watching the animated hot dog jump into the cartoon bun, and ... wait a minute, NOW we finally get the double entendre there. —G.F.C.

Sunnydale High School, 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
As if trig homework, cafeteria food and oh-so-exclusive cliques didn't make high school unpleasant enough, there were far bigger reasons to want to want to transfer right out of Southern California's fictional Sunnydale High — things like hungry vampires, ancient curses and all manner of deadly dilemmas. That's because the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" institution was situated on a portal of evil known as the Hellmouth and packed enough death and destruction to make normal high-school tortures seem downright pleasant. At Sunnydale, bullies weren't just mean; they were possessed by demonic hyenas and apt to eat the principal. And local politicians didn't just serve as boring graduation speakers; they were eager to bring the school down to a pile of rubble (and again, apt to eat the principal). —Ree Hines

From sassy Mis-tah Kot-tah on "Welcome Back, Kotter" to Cameron Diaz's sexy educator who just doesn't care in "Bad Teacher," school's always in session in Hollywood.

Lee High School, 'Dazed and Confused'
It’s tough to come across as one of the cool kids and still be critical of the setting for this 1993 stoner classic — after all, it looks like a kind of fun place if you're not the one getting eggs and flour smashed on your face. But in case Mom's reading, let's have it be said: The smoky haze of marijuana and the violent hazing of students has no place in a civilized society. Both are celebrated in Richard Linklater’s comedy about the last day of school in 1976 Texas and we think young people can do better. Wait, what else is there? Aerosmith, hot rods, Ben Affleck, and Parker Posey ... and Matthew “Wooderson” McConaughey ogling young co-eds? Hey, that is better! We’re transferring to Lee High School. —Kurt Schlosser

From 'Animal House' to 'The Amazing Spider Man,' these movies show there's more to school than reading, writing and arithmetic.

West Beverly Hills High School, '90210'
Going to school at West Beverly Hills High, near tony Rodeo Drive and a few miles from the ocean, might seem like a wonderful dream. It's not. This is why: Your classmates look like they're at least 100 years old. Your deejay is this guy and these are your dance moves. While you’re summering in Paris, your best friend steals your man. Forget the mall or the back seat of a car: your guy and your BFF carry out their affair in fancy places like the Bel Age Hotel. The seemingly all-around sweet guy who will later jump inside a shark with a chainsaw during a tornado is a racist pig. As the only member of the middle-class in the 'hood you get a part-time job at the retro diner where your friends hang out only to have one of them ruin it by bringing in Color Me Badd. When you get drunk and lose the right to graduate with your class, your friends lose their minds and start chanting. Try another ZIP code, people. — Maria Elena Fernandez

IMAGE: Saved By the Bell
Everett Collection
Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Dustin Diamond, Mario Lopez may have been "Saved By the Bell," but we wouldn't want to enroll at Bayside High.

Bayside High School, 'Saved by the Bell'
Planning on running for class president? Hoping to be voted head cheerleader? Forget it if you go to Bayside High School. The only kids from Bayside High on “Saved by the Bell” who had any shot of doing anything cool were the members of Zack Morris’ uber-popular gang. Not only did Zack’s six-pack of friends snag all of the most-coveted roles at the school— homecoming queen, captain of the football team, writer of the school song — but they also basically ran the school, relegating everyone else who wasn’t lucky enough to be pals with Zack to the background. Sure, you might have a shot to make the cheerleading squad, but everyone knew that Zack’s girlfriend, Kelly Kapowski, was always going to be on top of the pyramid. —Ashley Majeski

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