Oh, high school. With the exception of a few highlights — getting your driver's license, seeing your friends every day, prom (?) — it's actually a pretty dull time in your life.
At least, it sure feels that way when you compare your own school experiences with those we see on TV and in the movies. From all those top-notch musical theater programs our own schools definitely didn't have, to getting to earn the ol' GED someplace actually cool (like by the ocean, or in the sky), we'd trade in our high school years for the chance to enroll at an on-screen one any day.
Well, to a point. Not every fictional school is exactly ideal. When you're already dealing with the perils of puberty, who needs to add to that by having a stalker for a principal, or a faceless, carnivorous monster in your homeroom?
Below, we've compiled the best and worst high schools pop culture has to offer. Here are the ones we'd kill to go to — and the ones that would probably kill us.
Sunnydale High School — "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
I mean, sure, the school's built directly over a Hellmouth, making it easy access for demons, vampires, and the other monstrous types. And yes, as a Sunnydale student, your chances of being possessed, transformed into a Gill Monster, or succumbing to a variety of bloody, premature deaths are pretty damn high. But! There were also plenty of cool clubs to join, like the Scooby Gang and the Cult of Avilas.
You'll pass? Yeah, we don't blame you.
Westerburg High School — "Heathers"
The satire surrounding Westerburg High and its students makes for some excellent black comedy, but in terms of actually going to school there — nope, we're not buying. Christian Slater may be pretty fine (if psychotic), and those structured blazers are great and all, but going to a school where suicide is literally trending sounds less than appealing.
Thomas Ewen Consolidated High School — "Carrie"
So you've got a crackpot, ultra-religious mom who never taught you about menstruation, right? And you get your first period in the school locker room, so you pretty understandably panic and ask your classmates for your help. And THIS is the shit you receive for it?
Definitely a permanent hall pass on this one, thanks.
The unnamed high school in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"
This particular John Hughes high schooliverse may not have come with a specific name, but that's cool. We don't need one to know there's no chance in hell we'd go here (even if that means forsaking the chance to have Ferris Bueller as a classmate). Can you imagine having an overbearing, potentially psychotic and stalker-ish creep like Ed Rooney as your principal? No thanks.
Hawkins High School — "Stranger Things"
Oh, Hawkins. On the one hand, the cool kids have swinging "parties" (totaling five people), Barb is there (until she isn't — BARB), and maybe you could even score some after-school internship experience at the Hawkins National Laboratory? On the other, there's a nearby portal to the Upside Down and a ferocious, faceless monster on the prowl. I think we'll take a raincheck on that beer shotgunning shindig, Steve.
Rosewood High School — "Pretty Little Liars"
Never mind all that "A" crap. I'm vetoing Rosewood because who in the goddess' creation wants their senior year of high school to last three whole years? There's more life to live after high school, folks!
Middlesex High School — "Donnie Darko"
Drew Barrymore seems like a pretty cool teacher and all, but everything else about this schooliverse is undeniably bleak. That was likely done to provide contrast for Donnie's own, shall we say, atypicality, of course. But still, there's not much about the utilitarian Middlesex that has us clamoring to enroll (or maybe it's the sense of impending doom surrounding it that gives us cold feet?).
Lee High School — "Dazed & Confused"
Yeah, the music's great and so is the era. But we could do without all that freshman hazing involving merciless paddling, which, incidentally, the parents didn't really seem to care about. Were things really THAT different in 1976? At least now people have the decency to wait until college to haze, sheesh.
North Shore High School — "Mean Girls"
Math class might have been slightly more tolerable with Tina Fey at its helm, it's true. Still, even if social hierarchies are pretty constant among high schools, who'd want to go one with The Plastics in charge?
McKinley High School — "Freaks and Geeks"
This show is a faithful depiction of a pretty damn average high school, which is partly the appeal. Nothing renders it, as an institution, exemplary (besides the fact James Franco is a student, y'know). It would be cool to cut class to kick it with the Freak squad, yes, but if that's all it has going for it, we're still feeling pretty meh.
Bayside High School — "Saved By the Bell"
On the one hand, The Max would've been a way cooler place to hang after school than the parking lot, which was the gathering spot at my high school. On the other, it was just so dang wholesome — no cursing was allowed on-screen or on-set, and the show's ~drama~ was of such a vanilla nature. As with "Freaks and Geeks," we're pretty meh about it, but at least the fashion is better.
Laguna Beach High School — "Laguna Beach"
This is a toughie. Of course, the opportunity to live in sunny, beautiful Laguna Beach at any age is probably one worth taking. And Friday night beachside bonfires, cocktail parties, and Cabo spring breaks do sound like an appealing alternative to driving around stoned in your best friend's car with jack shit to do (the reality of many a high schooler across this great nation). But these kids had more petty drama and love triangles than you can shake a stick at. So, is going to school here a worthy compromise? We're not sure.
Sweet Valley High — "Sweet Valley High"
Another California high school-set show (and, of course, book series), another opportunity to trade in the perils of puberty for some long-term beach time. Do we dare?
In the books, there was some pretty heady drama, like: A drug-related death (RIP Regina), a girl getting crushed by a refrigerator (RIP Olivia), and an attempted rape that no one seemed to care much about (Bruce Patman #NeverForget). Jessica was way cooler than any member of the Laguna Beach squad, though — remember when she campaigned against the sexist Club X? — so it slightly wins out.
Constance Billard — "Gossip Girl"
We're not exactly sure how we feel about the prospect of being surrounded by such an uber-elite student body. These kids are the poster children of privilege, after all; they pay people to take their SATs for them, date royalty, and get literally whatever the hell they want. Then, there's that whole issue of student-teacher relationships...
That said, it *would* be pretty cool to eat lunch on the steps of the Met every day, and for someone with a creative talent (like Jenny), the ability to access New York's myriad internship opportunities would be invaluable.
"Sky High" — Sky High
Because who doesn't want to ride a flying bus to school? That whole business of sorting students into "superheroes" and "sidekicks" is less-than-cool, though.
John Adams High School — "Boy Meets World"
We'd attend John Adams if only to have a teacher — and later a principal — like Mr. George Feeny. He gave Cory, Shawn, Topanga, and (especially) Eric some killer life advice and seemed to genuinely care about his students.
HOWEVER the proximity of Feeny's home to the Matthews' does bump this school's appeal down a few notches. Who wants their parents living that close to their teacher?
West Beverly Hills High School — "90210"
We'd go here because A. Beverly Hills, and B. it doesn't seem like West Beverly Hills High's teachers assign homework? Like, ever? Plus, Donna Martin's classmates campaigning for her to be allowed to graduate after being busted for drinking at prom is a classic TV high school moment.
William McKinley High — "Glee"
We wanna go — IF, and only if, enrolling comes with a heaping dose of musical talent. (And we make it to regionals.) Otherwise, there kind of isn't a point?
Rushmore Academy — "Rushmore"
Is this school's ranking placement directly influenced by its promise to let us inhabit a Wes Anderson-visualized world? Well, duh. As an institution, though, it seems just fine. Plus, fun fact, this was Rory Gilmore's high school before Chilton ever was — Alexis Bledel is an uncredited extra.
Rydell High — "Grease"
Sandy who? We'd kill to be a Pink Lady squad member at Rydell High. Talk about aesthetic goals, amirite?
Also, drag-racing as an after-school extracurricular would've been pretty rad, if sometimes dangerous (see: "Rebel Without a Cause").
East High School — "High School Musical"
Who gives a flying wildcat about East High's drama program or its basketball team (though the fact they emphasize both is a good indicator of well-roundedness). They have a rooftop garden, and that is ALL we need to know. Sign us up!
Stadium High School — "10 Things I Hate About You"
Because how many high schools have concerts on the roof? I'm pretty sure they also had archery in gym class. Meanwhile, my gym teacher just made us run ~laps~ (which, FYI, is another word for IN CIRCLES) around the gymnasium.
East Compton — "Bring It On"
Because of course we want to go to the school where the fly dance routines are *actually* happening.
Horace Green — "School of Rock"
Dewey Finn is inarguably the greatest substitute teacher in all the land, and THAT is why Horace Green belongs high on this list. Technically, yes, it's a class of fifth graders being morphed into rock and roll minions. But as a prestigious preparatory school in America, it's most likely a university prep school, meaning for high schoolers, as well. Yup, that's our story and we're stickin' with it.
Bronson Alcott High School — "Clueless"
Is it justifiable to attend a school purely for its student body's fashion taste? Probably not, but in the case of "Clueless," we're tempted.
On a more real note — popular, blonde, and endlessly wealthy though she may be, Cher isn't like the other cool schoolgirls we see on TV and in movies. Like Regina George, she takes a new, inexperienced student under her wing. Unlike Regina George, she actually has the student's best interests (at least, what she believes those are) at heart. She may be characterized as flippant or silly at times, but catty she is not.
New York City High School for the Performing Arts — "Fame"
"High School Musical" and "Glee" ain't got nothin' on "Fame." That's because, unlike those Utah and Ohio-set numbers, the young proteges of "Fame" get to sing and dance to their lil' hearts' content in New York City, something Rachel Berrys the world-over would kill for. It's like "Gossip Girl," but with compelling talent.
Clone High — "Clone High"
Clone High — which, by the way, is coming back to MTV — is where the clones of famous historical figures kind of learn but mostly just fight over who gets to date Cleopatra. So, basically, if history and two-dimensional living is your thing, this is the place for you.
St. Benedict's Academy — "The Craft"
Sure, you and your pals might've spent some time in a used bookstore's occult section, but we're guessing your school still lacked an *actual* coven. Which would have been rad (unless you found yourself on the receiving end of a hex, like Laura Lizzie). Also, it goes without saying the girls' fashion in this schooliverse is on point.
New Trier High School — "The Breakfast Club"
Uh, please? Can we go?
Not that New Tier seems totally perfect outside of that one (glorious) Saturday detention, of course. Assistant Principal Richard Vernon is kind of an ass, and it's obviously pretty stratified socially. But just think what *could* have happened after all that empathy and new-found awareness — maybe these five took what they learned and made things better for all.
Or maybe nothing changed whatsoever. But it'd still be interesting to see how it all played out.
Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters — X-Men Comics
Professor Xavier, himself a high-level telepathic, founded this school to train young mutants to use their powers for the benefit of humanity. Meaning that superpowers are prerequisite to go here. Meaning we'd LOVE to qualify.
Pacific Coast Academy — "Zoey 101"
Finally — a dreamy, California high school (or in this case, a boarding school) that isn't dripping in drama. Or at least, nothing more than a tween can handle.
Side note: Was anyone else such a brat as a preteen that when their mother threatened to ship them off to boarding school, they retorted, "Please do," thinking that all such institutions must be like the oceanside dreamboat that is PCA? Anyone?
St. Trinian's School — "The Belles of St Trinian’s"
In this 1954 British comedy-turned-series, the headmistress of St. Trinian's (memorably played by Alastair Sim) explains that "at most schools, girls are sent out quite unprepared for a merciless world. But when our girls leave here, it is the merciless world which has to be prepared."
Essentially, this is a film about British boarding school girl-renegades who raise hell, ditch convention, and get to wear the cutest '50s uniforms while doing it. And we want to enroll NOW, thanks.
Chilton Preparatory School — "Gilmore Girls"
For the overachievers among us, going to a highly competitive school like Chilton would actually have been pretty damn fun. I mean, really — a high school where the student body is more interested in its debate team than they are in football? Where choosing to spend your lunch hour quietly reading (like Rory) doesn't equate to immediate social pariah status? Is it really too late to enroll here?
Hogwarts — "Harry Potter"
Hogwarts counts as a high school, right? It is, at least, an academic (magical) institution whose (magical) students are of high-school age. Thus making it a candidate for this list, thus making it the winner of this list. Because MAGIC.