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Top 10 Movies Teachers Show in High School

VO: Rebecca Brayton

Written by Victoria Toltesi

The best movies that teachers show in High School thanks to their educations and entertainment value. WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Movies Shown in High School. But what will take the top spot? The classic 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' the modernizes 'Romeo + Juliet,' or the film that best captures the holocaust, 'Schindler's List'?

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Big thanks to Greggory Ohannessian for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Movies+Used+for+College+Coursework


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These are the two words every high school student loves to hear: movie time! Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for Top 10 Movies Shown in High School.

For this list, we’ll be looking at interesting, entertaining and informative films that are shown by many teachers as part of their regular high school curriculum. However, we’re excluding documentaries, as that is a list for another day.

#10: “Good Will Hunting” (1997)

You either love psychology, or you hate it, but there’s no better way to study it than by sitting down, and watching an inspirational movie about it. Matt Damon plays tortured genius Will Hunting, who’s stunted in his personal and professional life by inner demons. Will has a classic case of Attachment Disorder, which - for all you non-psychologist types - means he has a hard time building long-lasting relationships because of past traumas – like the childhood abuse he suffered. Luckily for Will, psychologist Sean Maguire, played by Robin Williams, refuses to give up on him, despite his difficult personality. And that’s a great lesson for any high school student to come away with.

#9: “Forrest Gump” (1994)

The lovable Forrest Gump stumbles and runs us through numerous major moments in American history: he meets three presidents, teaches Elvis to dance, and even participates in the Vietnam War. It’s one of those movies where you don’t realize you’re learning something, but you walk away more familiar with 38 years’ worth of American history – with a cinematic twist, of course. And it’s not just history that you learn either, but important life lessons as well. Forrest Gump may not be the brightest bulb in the box, but he works hard and he’s a good person, which gets him far in life. Oh, the film also teaches you not to be a Jenny… and to stay away from drugs – another valuable message for teens!

#8: “Hotel Rwanda” (2004)

This movie is about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, when between 500,000-1 million people were murdered by members of the Hutu Majority government and Hutu-backed militias. The movie focuses on Paul Rusesabagina, who saved over 1,200 refugees by giving them shelter in a hotel he managed. There’s a lot to be learned from this catastrophe and its depiction in the film: for one, it proves how dangerous apathy can be, as many major countries around the world failed to act despite round-the-clock media coverage and full knowledge of the events taking place. A valuable history lesson on film, the movie goes into gruesome detail, and is hard to watch, but the lessons from this massacre must never be forgotten.

#7: “American History X” (1998)

One of the most profanity-laced movies you’ll ever watch in a high school classroom, this controversial drama delves into the lives of American Neo-Nazis. This is a political movement comprised of people who see Hitler as a role model, believe that white is the superior race, and are notorious for their racially based violence. The movie itself follows two brothers, and shows how their elitist view of the world causes them nothing but tragedy. “American History X” also does a good job of showing the negative sides of this political movement and its cult mentality, making for a compelling addition to any history curriculum.

#6: “Stand by Me” (1986)

This entry is a heart-warming story about friendship, with a Stephen King twist. The story follows Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern on their quest to find the body of a missing boy so they can be proclaimed town heroes and get their pictures in the newspaper. While their goal is morbid, and may be a bit misguided, these boys show that sometimes, the only people you can depend on are your friends. Friends will listen to you when you need to rant, they’ll keep you from getting stabbed, and they might even prevent you from being hit by a train. It’s a feel-good lesson on friendship, coming-of-age and more that’ll get you excited for your next summer adventure with friends!

#5: “Of Mice and Men” (1939; 1992)

Get your tissues ready, because this is definitely not a feel-good movie. Based on the John Steinbeck novella, both adaptations of this story go into the dirty details of the Great Depression through the tale of George and Lennie. Even though the story was originally published in 1937, many of its themes remain relevant , which is why the novella is still being studied. One such subject is bullying: mistreating others is never a good idea, and it’s an even worse idea if the person you’re bullying is twice your size and freakishly strong. The drama also gives a rather bleak life lesson: even if you work hard, and even if you have a dream, life doesn’t always work out the way you want it to.

#4: “Dead Poets Society” (1989)

This movie will get those creative juices flowing, and give you a newfound love of poetry. Robin Williams plays John Keating, an English teacher at an uptight academy who uses poetry as a tool to get his students out of their shells. The movie talks about some of the most well-known real-life poets like Lord Byron, and Shakespeare, giving them new life, and shows the kids at home a few tips on how to score some points with the ladies. This movie is perfect not only for aspiring poets and English majors, but also for those stubborn students who think poetry is lame.

#3: “Schindler’s List” (1993)

Like “Hotel Rwanda,” this movie shows that even in the worst moments, good people can rise up and become heroes. This Steven Spielberg masterpiece about the Holocaust is centered on Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who managed to save over a 1000 Jews by outsmarting the Nazis. This film is based on survivor testimony, and Spielberg actually visited the locations where all the events occurred to bring some realism to his retelling of history. It’s more than your average Hollywood portrayal, and should be seen by everyone – not just students studying World War II.

#2: “Romeo + Juliet” (1996)

A high school student’s worst nightmare: Shakespeare! But don’t worry, because director Baz Luhrmann has your back! He took the classic story of Romeo and Juliet, two star-crossed lovers kept apart by a family feud, and gave it a modern setting. This means that the context of the play is easier to understand and the story is more relatable. However, it keeps the original Shakespearean text… so you may still need a dictionary to follow along. But guns, cars, and Leonardo DiCaprio make studying Shakespeare that much more enjoyable, and will definitely keep you awake in class!

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Freedom Writers” (2007)
- “Edward Scissorhands” (1990)
- “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” (1975)

#1: “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962)

This film is heartwarming, full of wisdom, and perfect for students interested in history and law, or who hate reading but still want to do well on that English test. Based on the novel by Harper Lee and required reading in many high schools, the story follows the experiences of young Scout, as she learns about racism and about doing the right thing. The moral beacon in this movie is Atticus Finch, Scout’s father, and he spits out so many life lessons it’s hard to keep track of all of them. If every lawyer were like Atticus, the world would be a better place – so future law students, take note!

Do you agree with our list? What was your favorite movie in high school? For more entertaining Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to

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