Americans Explain How Hollywood Movies About High School Compare To Their Own Experiences

group of fresh graduates students throwing their academic hat in the air
Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash

My entire childhood was comprised of watching Hollywood movies about high school.

From High School Musical, I learned that theater is uncool and no jock would be caught dead in a musical. The Breakfast Club made me think Saturday detention wasn't so bad. I learned that teachers can be manipulated from Clueless, and Mean Girls showed me how divided high school kids are based on their cliques.

When I actually started high school, none of those lessons helped me. I knew several jocks who were talented musicians and starred in every musical. I never had Saturday detention, but I heard enough horror stories to know it was awful. Teachers are not fools who bend to a student's will, and cliques are almost a myth. Yes, the cheerleaders hang out with other cheerleaders, but they don't dump food all over the honors kids.

Very few high school movies reflect the actual high school experience. Redditors know this all to well and were ready to share their stories.

It all started when Redditor Many-Guide-8986 asked:

“Americans, how true are ‘American high school movies’ compared to real life high school?”

Unrealistic Understanding

"Different enough to warp the expectations of certain people. Someone upthread said that movies are designed by Hollywood execs to fill story niches and archetypes, which is pretty accurate. We're watching a story that has to be carefully crafted to fill the expectations of all the audience members, and the audience expects Reese Witherspoon as prom queen, Bill Gates as captain of the chess team, Jack Black's the clown, and Brad Pitt's the quarterback...even though that doesn't actually happen."

"There's more truth in Napoleon Dynamite than there is in Bring It On or Mean Girls."

– ScarnAndMacklinFBI

Party In The Parking Lot

"Most high school students don’t arrive to school early enough to tailgate in the parking lot"

– mattpsu79

"most are also not in their mid 20's and driving BMW's and Range Rovers, etc."


Time To Talk

"A weird thing is how they seemingly show it as if kids just have time to talk and chat in the middle of the day in the hallway by their lockers when in reality you're booking it across the building because you have 5 minutes to go from the first floor, get to your locker on the second floor, and then run all the way across the 3rd floor to your 3rd period class."

"Also dunno about y'all but I got only 25 minutes for lunch in HS, so nobody was milling about during lunch either in the halls."

– 14DusBriver

I Vant To Drink Your Blood

"there are way less vampires in real life high schools."

– NorthImpossible8906

"way less"

"i notice you didn't say none 👀"

– thedustynerve

"yeah with all the werewolfs they dont stand a chance"

– lunamuna239

Bullying Isn't Funny

"Speaking just for my school, not even close. Bullying is never as obvious as it is in movies (nobody dumps their tray on anyone or purposefully trips the new kid, actually most people are pretty friendly), most of the teachers and the principal are well- liked, there aren't well- defined cliques (nerdy group, jocks, cheerleaders, etc.) but there are large friend groups that intertwine and overlap and there is definitely drama. They do get active shooter drills and the amount of drugs/ smoking/ vaping right, though. Also, crazy, entitled parents."

"Edit: We don't go to school at 10 am, the sun is almost never up until after we arrive. And yes, we do get 2-3 hours of homework most days."

– CJgreencheetah

"I remember one time in school, I was walking down the hall with my books in my arms. A random bully ran down the hall and slapped them down, hard, sending all my stuff flying everywhere."

"In a movie, everyone would point and laugh. In movies, that sort of obvious bullying of a nerd would be treated as funny and normal."

"In reality, the other kids gasped, and a few random kids stopped and helped me gather up my things. I remember one girl saying, "That was so mean.""

– rotatingruhnama

On A Mission

"The fact that Superbad spent a whole movie trying to obtain alcohol is totally realistic. We absolutely had whole evening adventures trying to get booze. The Hawaii driver's license was definitely a thing in the mid 1990s. California IDs had holograms earlier and couldn't be faked anymore. Several people at school at fake Hawaii IDs back then. I'm sure one of the writers must be my age from CA."

"I watched this movie with an ex (South American), and he was confused because they all just bought booze from the tiendas when they were like 13."

– ninjaparking

The Most Important Meal Of The Day

"No family eats breakfast together before school/work."

– Sea-Sport7982

"And nobody goes out for a big sit down breakfast before school, either."

"I remember laughing because The OC always showed the characters going out for a nice breakfast in a restaurant before class, as if teenagers get up that early."

– rotatingruhnama

"This always drives me nuts in tv & movies. I don’t know ANYONE whose mom makes a huge spread like that for breakfast every day. Pancakes? Sure - but just pancakes, not also fresh cut fruit and orange juice and toast and etc etc etc. No one sits down to a huge meal like that every morning."

"AND, it’s usually dark out when most people are leaving for school/work. Only in the summer is bright that early."

– karmaandcandy

No One Is Just One Thing

"Friend groups are more porous than they make. For instance, there were football players that also acted in school plays, or wrestlers also in the math club."

"The bullying is less dramatic. Nobody is actually getting locked in a locker."

"We did actually use those red cups at parties that you always see in movies, my non-American friends were always shocked when I told them that."

– The_Nomadic_Nerd

Teenagers Only

"IRL there are far fewer 35 y.o. HS students."

– getbeaverootnabooteh

In Awe Of No One

"No one cares that much about the "popular" group of students, most people just mind their own business if they aren't with their friends."

– daaaa_meemer

A Regular Hangout

"We had 2:30 in between class periods. We did not have time to lean against the lockers and talk. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it snows, sometimes the wind blows; we had to go to school then too."

"In the winter it was very cold, in the summer it was unbearably hot. I bet they've fixed that because the expensive electronics would cook themselves. A school didn't need anything like that when they built the building."

"Usually there was some construction crew outside banging and hammering on something. There was no restaurant that we all hung out in. We did mob a pizza place a few times after the dances."

"They got mad because their employees were too busy, they didn't make enough money off of us and because the old people buying expensive food couldn't get through us. We caused numerous major traffic jams because we kept crossing the street."

"The cops showed up to direct traffic. The pizza place complained. The police went to the school and they told our parents that we had to stop. They let kept the rec center open later for us instead. They actually did put on a really good after party for the middle school dances after that. They just herded us all into there and told us we'd need to go home if we left or we'd get into trouble."

– Jaysnewphone

Just Dance

"I’m gonna take a guess that people don’t settle disputes with dance-offs"

– Cal1094

"well how disappointing"

– siciowaThe9

"When I was back in high school, break dancing was undergoing a small come back before getting swallowed up by Capoeira becoming the hot new thing."

"I witnessed several dance-offs. Only one was about a date. Most were about who was "da'best.""

– zenprime-morpheus

As a horrible dancer, I’m quite relieved we never did this!

Couple sharing soda and popcorn in a theater
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