Back to After-School: Hollywood’s Nine Best Extra-Curricular Activities

Because it's no fun to watch a movie about people just sitting in class

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Richard Dreyfuss conducts an orchestra in a scene from the film 'Mr. Holland's Opus', 1995.

Back-to-school season is upon is us—which, of course, means extra-curricular activity season is back too.

As current and former students know, those experiences offer kids a way to see academics in a new light, find a passion to help people, keep in shape or just hang around in the interest of padding a college application. But which activity should you choose? Debate or dance team? Cheerleading or chemistry club? French, fencing or football?

Let these nine cinematic looks at the benefits of extra-curricular involvement help you decide. After all, no matter which activity you end up with, the Hollywood version will be more fun to watch than a movie about someone sitting in class.

Coach Carter, basketball

Before you can begin your quest, you must learn that participating in extra-curricular activities is a bonus, a privilege. Your grades and actions need to reflect that. Coach Carter knows this and was willing to lock out his entire basketball team to prove the point. This 2005 movie follows the real-life story of Ken Carter and debates the roles sports play in an academic institution.

Akeelah & The Bee, spelling competitions

Trying something new can open up a world of possibilities, as Akeelah Anderson learns in this 2006 movie about a young girl from a rough background who finds a new place within the world of competitive spelling.

Mr. Holland’s Opus, music

As you pick your newfound favorite extra-curricular activity, keep in mind that what you may glean from the experience could be completely different than what you expected. Glenn Holland found that out—as a teacher. In this classic 1995 drama, Richard Dreyfuss learns that changing the lives of those around you can prove the most profound activity of all. Yeah, that’s probably not the reason you signed up, but it could be the reason you stay.

To Sir With Love, engineering

Can’t play an instrument? You can have a life-changing interaction with your advisor even if you don’t know the difference between an eighth note and an English horn. But you should remember to reciprocate by opening up to your teacher, and not just so you can get a college recommendation. As 1967’s To Sir With Love shows, if you join the engineering club and it goes well, a good way to do so is by writing a song for him.

School Ties, football

Not that everything is always fun in the land of extra-curriculars. Even on a sports team, as you get to know people and open up about who you really are, not everyone will automatically accept you. David Greene (Brendan Fraser) found that out the hard way in the 1992 movie School Ties, where religious differences and bigotry (from a young Matt Damon) showed Greene that just because he helped the team win at football didn’t mean he was going to be fully embraced by his teammates.

Friday Night Lights, football

Football is so good at teaching you to learn from life’s obstacles that we couldn’t stop at one movie that makes that point. You may rise to the pinnacle of success only to see it wash away with an injury or a horrible mistake. But Remember the Titans (sorry, we already had too many football movies in here to give this one its own entry) and persevere, just like the Friday Night Lights boys do.

Dead Poet’s Society, literature club

OK, so it should be clear by now: the point of extra-curriculars, in Hollywood at least, is to make youngsters learn weep-worthy lessons from their kind-hearted elders and a motley crew of fellow students. Now that you’ve learned that extra-curriculars can teach you life lessons, you might want to join a club where spouting profound tidbits isn’t out of place—like a society devoted to the aforementioned dead poets.

Never Been Kissed, all the clubs at once

And let Drew Barrymore teach you this: a second chance to change your life through extra-curricular activities happens only in the movies, so it’s best to get your activities in while you can. Nowhere in real life can a 25-year-old reporter return to high school to find the love of her life, experience all things new again (and with years of experience to guide them) and go fully unnoticed for quite some time.

Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, truancy

If all else fails, create your own extra-curricular activity. Just ask Ferris Beuller.

(MOREBack to School Essentials: 9 Pop-Culture Tips for Making a Good First Impression)