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Back To School, Please! Fictional Institutions We'd Go To In A Heartbeat

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    Photo: Courtesy of The CW.

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    It doesn't matter whether you're still in school, just graduated, or did so a million years ago, the end of summer and beginning of "back to school" season still elicits a special mix of anxiety and excitement every year. You just can't undo all that conditioning, not to mention the fact that some of the best movies, TV shows, and books take place in the classrooms and echoing hallways of learning institutions.

    Many of our all-time favorite movies and TV shows are set in schools we'd rather just watch on-screen — the death toll at The Vampire Diaries' Mystic Falls High seems a bit risky, and all those John Hughes high schools are so huge and depressingly cliquey. But we'd even live through adolescence all over again if given the chance to enroll in some other fictional schools. There are all those ritzy prep schools that would brand us for success early on (even if we'd have to face down Gossip Girl herself). There are exceptional public schools with teachers and administrators we'd love forever (go, Dillon Panthers!). And, while we're in fantasyland, there are those institutions for gifted students (ahem, Hogwarts) that would be insanely fun, no matter how dangerous their hallowed halls.

    Just putting this list together gave us those night-before-the-first-day-of-school jitters. BRB, ordering our uniforms now.


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    The New York High School of Performing Arts (Fame, 1980)
    Okay, so we're starting out this list with a nonfictional school (now known as LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts), which in real life has turned out alumni like Robert De Niro, Jennifer Aniston, and Nicki Minaj. The original movie depicts a lot of tough struggles for these teenage dancers, musicians, and actors, but we'd still give anything for a single dance class with Debbie Allen.

    Watch Fame on Amazon.

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    Pacific Tech (Real Genius, 1985)
    The students at this university are so advanced, they can solve problems that even the CIA can't. Unfortunately, that means a corrupt professor has been having some of his top students (lead by Val Kilmer) work unpaid on a laser beam they don't even know will be turned into a weapon. Assuming that little problem has been taken care of, you've got a school whose student body can excel in class, while also having fun by pulling elaborate pranks — like turning a dorm into an ice skating rink.

    Watch Real Genius on Amazon.

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    Welton Academy for Boys (Dead Poets Society, 1989)
    Well, we want to go to this prestigious prep school, whose four pillars are "tradition, honor, discipline, excellence," only if one Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) is still teaching English there, or if the shakeup he gave those old dudes back in 1959 succeeded in giving the students a bit more freedom to be themselves. One thing's for sure, in our boring real schools, no teacher ever encouraged us to stand on our desks and give a barbaric "YAWP!"

    Watch Dead Poets Society on Amazon.

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    Rushmore Academy (Rushmore, 1998)
    It's not immediately clear what makes this elite Texas school so great, but in the eyes of Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), it's everything. The place has inspired him to take part in every extracurricular activity there is (chess, yearbook, Model U.N., stamp and coin club, astronomy society, beekeepers, fencing, etc.), and when his poor grades get him kicked out once and for all, he's devastated by the dearth of such programs at his new public school. Maybe he spreads himself a little thin, but we'd try to make the most of it, too, if given the chance.

    Watch Rushmore on Amazon.

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    Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters (X-Men, 2000)
    The merit of this exclusive school housed in Charles Xavier's lush Westchester mansion is not just that it provides a safe place for the mutants to learn about their gifts. It also teaches them not to lash out at the poor, unevolved humans who have mistreated them in the past — and will no doubt continue to do so in the future. That kind of compassion is hard to come by in the education system!

    Watch X-Men on Amazon.