Geeks in Cinema: Back-to-School Edition

The air is growing thinner and the days are growing shorter – we’re entering the back-to-school season.  I’m no longer in school, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still shop for clothes “for the next year,”  or feel renewed by a good crisp breeze.  In honor of back-to-school season, why not hold your own movie-and-TV marathon?  Here are a few featuring geeks, freaks, nerds and the occasional greaser. 

My So-Called Life

This TV show only lasted one season, but it managed to impress itself upon an entire generation during its short run.  Angela Chase is not as dorky as her old friends, nor as cool as her new; in fact, she’s completely average in how desperately alone she feels.  If you’re looking for “a time,” watch this show, or even just the first episode, and get sucked into the intense vortex that is teen life.  Bonus: see if you can spot all the 90s fashions that are currently making a comeback.

Real Genius

Long before Val Kilmer was Batman or even The Saint, he played a genius college student… who just happened to act “normal” and look like Val Kilmer.  I like this film because, as a child, it made me think college would be fun – not due to sororities or constant partying, but good old-fashioned nerdy hijinks. And when I got to college, that’s pretty much the way it went for me – minus the house exploding with popcorn, of course.

Ten Things I Hate About You

True Story: this movie came out somewhere around the middle of my time in high school, and became a huge, huge hit amongst most of the female population of my class.  I actually witnessed a party where a girl popped the tape (!) into the VCR (!!) and proceeded to speak the lines along with the movie.  And she was considered popular and I was a geek.  I will never understand that one.

Seriously, though, this is a cute movie, covering the late-90s generation (a time of boy bands and ska, not to be confused with the grunge of My So-Called Life).  The movie is loosely based on The Taming of the Shrew and the whole thing is chock-full of homages to Shakespeare.  It’s good, fluffy, slightly literary fun.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Sarah Jessica Parker might not be wearing her giant Square Pegs glasses in this movie, but her character Janey is undoubtedly a geek – albeit a geek for dancing.   When her retired-Army father settles the family in Chicago, Janey is thrilled, “because that’s where they make Dance TV.”  Good-girl Janey breaks out of her Catholic schoolgirl-shell and defies her parents to try out for the show.  This movie has everyone – Helen Hunt, Shannen Doherty, Jonathan Silverman – and more than a few surprisingly funny lines.


This TV show has become huge in the last few years – and it has a cast comprised almost entirely of misfits.  Attractive misfits who can sing and dance.  If you haven’t seen this yet, give it a shot – it may be half-musical, but it’s also got some amazing comedy writing (and some pretty good drama, too).

Grease and Grease 2

If you haven’t had your fill of musicals, try this one-two punch that tells us that the nerdiest nerds are just one black Spandex outfit away from being the coolest cats in town.  Each movie takes place over the course of a school year, and revels in high school nostalgia.  Spoiler: the supposedly cool kids are really just as goofy as everyone else, if not more.   Is this the anti-geek movie?  Not really – just bring it up at any high school drama club meeting and you’ll probably get an a cappella rendition of “Summer Lovin.”  Personally, though, I’ll be singing the phrase “Back to schoo–ooo–ool again” for the rest of the night.


Now, why didn’t I include a few obvious choices, like, say, Revenge of the Nerds?  Well, I suppose because this is a list for geeks, by a geek – and I’m not super-interested in watching one entirely based on caricatures, even if that movie is funny under the right circumstances.  Still, I’m sure I probably missed a few good choices.  So…

What about you?  What movies or TV shows would you add to celebrate back-to-school geekiness?  


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