i’m new here: the best movies that capture that first day of school feeling

Celebrating cinema’s high school newbies.

by Oliver Lunn
08 September 2017, 9:25am

There's a new kid in town. You know this kid. Their parents moved because their dad got a new job. They stir shit up at their new school because boy do they hate their new town. Then they meet The Boy or The Girl. Then they say: Hey, you know what, maybe this town doesn't suck after all. This 'new kid' is a teen movie trope – think James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause or Jen from Dawson's Creek. To watch them is to remember what it is to be the new kid, to make new friends and new enemies, and above all, to learn where not to sit in the canteen. As IRL new kids enter school hallways this month, we're saluting The New Kid.

Kate Libby, aka Acid Burn, is and isn't the girl you wanna meet on your first day. She'll show you where the cafeteria is, sizing you up with those dreamy eyes. Then she'll tell you about the "Olympic size swimming pool on the roof", which of course you're gonna check out because those dreamy eyes. Then you find yourself on the roof, locked out, no swimming pool, as a hard rain soaks you to the bone. First days don't come much worse than this.

The Beautiful Person
Léa Seydoux plays new girl Junie, fought over by two bookish French dudes. One is head over heels in love with her, saying melodramatic things like "I pledge myself to you." The other basically just wants to sleep with her. It's a tale of love and lust that the French do best. As for the title, it's hard to know which "beautiful person" it's referring to, Léa Seydoux or Louis Garrel? I mean, the whole goddamned cast is beautiful.

Mean Girls
Cady Heron learns a lot on her first day, like where the 'Asians nerds' sit in the school cafeteria. "I'm new, I just moved here from Africa," she tells Regina George, everyone's favourite backstabber and leader of the Plastics. "So you've never actually been to a real school before? …Shut up!" The Plastics embrace Cady. She embraces their pink uniform. But the friends you make on first day aren't always the ones you'll sit next to on graduation day. Such is life. "Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimised by Regina George."

The OC
Who can forget Ryan's "I'm whoever you want me to be" line, said in the Cohen's driveway, as he lays eyes on Marissa Cooper for the very first time? He's new, he wears a white vest, and yeah, he will definitely stir shit up between Marissa and her Abercrombie boyf, Luke. The show's creator lifted the plotline from Rebel Without a Cause, Ryan looking every inch the James Dean bad boy. No wonder the first season -- aka the only season worth re-watching == felt so timeless. Welcome to The OC, bitch.

10 Things I Hate About You
Cameron James is a newbie at Padua Stadium High, and yet he has balls of steel. How else could he hatch a plan to get the girl of his dreams by bribing bad boy Patrick to date said girl's older sister. On his first day, when he's being shown around by an audiovisual geek, he spots Bianca. "What group is she in?" he asks. "The don't-even-think-about-it group," comes the reply. His tongue remains out, even when he overhears Bianca utter the words: "I like my Sketchers but I love my Prada backpack."

"It's my first day of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache," says Kristen Stewart's Melinda Sordino. She's just started her freshman year and isn't too thrilled about it. Other students throw food at her and call her a 'squealer'. Then it becomes clear why. In a series of flashbacks, you see her dial the police during a summer house party where, it transpires, a boy had raped her. Speak chronicles the aftermath of the sexual abuse, the silence and fear of opening up about it, and the slow rebuilding of confidence that comes with new friendships.

California Man

The first day of high school is ten-times harder if you're a caveman whose jaw drops at the sight of a lighter. Yes, that's the premise of this goofy classic: some kids find a caveman preserved in ice and, after giving him a modern day teen makeover, decide to enrol him at their LA high school. How exactly? He's an "Estonian exchange student." Of course! If you think they didn't think this through properly you're 100% right. Probably shoulda guessed that that field trip to the natural history museum would trigger a heavy case of PTSD.

After Lucia
When 17-year-old Alejandra and her dad move to Mexico City, Alejandra starts a new school. Her first mistake is sitting in another girl's seat. Then she fails the school drug test and has the most awkward conversation with her dad about smoking weed. Then she has sex with her classmate who, it turns out, was surreptitiously filming her, the footage of which circulates at school the following day. Things don't get much better for her. It's a pretty brutal film about grief and losing a parent during your formative years. It's also a reminder of how brutal high school can be.

Bring It On
Cliff is the new transfer kid proudly sporting a Clash T-shirt. He meets Kirsten Dunst's cheerleader, Torrance, who has no idea who The Clash are because, hey, she's just a cheerleader! "Is that your band or something?" she asks. "Uh, no. It's a British punk band, circa 1977 to 1983-ish, original lineup anyway." "How vintage!" Cue a flirtatious friendship in which Cliff risks finding himself in the friend zone. To be honest, this one is more of a guilty pleasure. How it spawned 5 sequels -- all of which went straight-to-video -- I'll never know.

Tai is the iconic high school newbie, with her goofy grunge look and those puppy eyes. Cher and Dionne think "she's so adorably clueless" and decide to give her a makeover. Turns out that wasn't the best idea. Tai, with her newfound popularity, starts acting really shitty. "You're a virgin who can't drive," she glares at Cher. While a factually correct statement, it's not exactly something you should say as a recently enrolled student at a high school where reputation is everything. Take note, new kids.

The O.C.
Mean Girls
10 Things I Hate About You
bring it on
the beautiful person