Real High Schools In the Movies

December 5, 2018 · CLASSMATES FUN

Movies centered around school – especially high school – have always been popular. Everyone can relate to the trials and tribulations of being a teenager. (And you can reminisce about being a teen as you watch — and be glad that you’re not that age any longer!) And most of us have a tug of nostalgia about going to school (even if not for school itself but for the memories that were made there).

Even if most of the action takes place indoors, any movie about high school inevitably needs to have an actual school appear onscreen. Some of these exteriors are an integral part of the story.

Remember seeing everyone get dropped off at that rather cold-looking mid-century school entrance at the beginning of The Breakfast Club? That scene just wouldn’t be the same with a classic 1920s building.

Have you ever wondered about the real high schools used in your favorite classic teen movies?

We did a little research, starting in our yearbook archive. From Grease to Napoleon Dynamite, here are a group of very famous fictitious schools – and their real-life counterparts.

Venice High School, Los Angeles, CA (Rydell High School) – Grease (1978)

Venice High School has been a popular location for filming. In addition to Grease, it can be seen in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Heathers, American History X, and Britney Spears’ video for “…Baby One More Time.” Notable Venice High School alumni include Beau Bridges, Teena Marie, and Crispin Glover.

Maine North High School, Des Plaines, IL (Shermer High School) – The Breakfast Club (1985)

Maine North, built in 1970, had already been closed as a high school by the time it was used for filming The Breakfast Club. The library where detention takes place was actually a set constructed in the gym.

The football field, of course, was real. Today, the building is used for Illinois law enforcement and government offices.

John Marshall High School, Los Angeles, CA (Meadowbrook High School) – Pretty In Pink (1986)

John Marshall’s Collegiate Gothic façade, constructed in 1930, has been used extensively in movies and television. Located in Los Angeles, it convincingly stood in as a Chicago high school in this film. You may also recognize it from Boy Meets World, Grosse Pointe Blank, Boston Public, School of Rock, and The Wonder Years.

St. Andrew’s School, Middletown, DE (Welton Academy) – Dead Poets Society (1989)

Filming for Dead Poets Society was done almost entirely at St. Andrew’s, which was established in 1929. The school is a good steward of its land, with a large percentage of its 2,200-acre campus a dedicated nature preserve. Loudon Wainwright III is an alumnus (as is his father, Loudon Wainwright, Jr.).

St. John’s School, Houston, TX (Rushmore Academy) – Rushmore (1998)

Rushmore’s director, Wes Anderson, reportedly scouted locations worldwide before realizing that St. John’s, his own alma mater, would be perfect for his film. Students and alumni even appeared as extras.

Stadium High School, Tacoma, WA (Padua High School) – 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Yes, there really is a high school that looks like this. For a movie based on a Shakespearean play, a location with a fantastic castle-like appearance seems very appropriate. A historic landmark, Stadium High School was originally intended to be a hotel. A fire gutted the building in 1898, and it was eventually repurposed as a school.

Preston Senior High School, Preston, ID (Preston High School) – Napoleon Dynamite (2004

Jared Hess, the movie’s creator, is actually a 1997 graduate of Preston High School (and, therefore, quite familiar with the town in which all the action takes place). All filming was done over a mere 23 days, in extremely hot weather. The school’s timeless façade works well for a story where it’s not totally clear what year these characters are living in.


Was your high school ever used as a filming location?


Source: Wikipedia

All yearbook photos from