The 10 Most Memorable Student/Principal Rivalries in Movies

Monsters University - Student/Principal Rivalries

School is starting for millions of kids around the country, which will once again bring students and principals under the same roof. It’s one thing to not get along with one of your teachers or professors, but it’s totally another when the head of your school has holds a grudge just for you. That’s the difference between a few uncomfortable semesters of class and having to prove your worth to a nemesis, over and over again, throughout your entire academic career.

Principals hold a lot of power over students and, not surprisingly, some of the students on this list do not have much respect for authority. Maybe the rivalry or grudge came out of nowhere, maybe it’s been festering for several years, but these principals and students just do not get along.

Here is Screen Rant's list of The 10 Most Memorable Student/Principal Rivalries In Movies. Jeremy Piven gets extra credit for appearing as both a student and a Dean in films on this list.

10 Animal House (1978)

John Belushi in Animal House - Student/Principal Rivalries

Animal House is one of the most beloved (and most outrageous) films about college life. So it’s not surprising that the Dean Vernon Wormer (John Vernon) is such a memorable character.

Wormer is on a crusade to get rid of the Delta Tau Chi fraternity due to their unseemly behavior and poor grades. The most grotesquely-belligerent brother, John "Bluto" Blutarsky (John Belushi), has a remarkable 0.0 grade point average, proving that the Deltas will take just about anyone. But the Deltas don’t do anything halfway, and that includes revenge. After a Delta has sex with Wormer’s wife at their toga party, things escalate quickly in one of the most entertaining back and forth rivalries on film.

Wormer: “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

9 Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979)

The Ramones in Rock 'n' Roll High School - Student/Principal Rivalries

The students at Vince Lombardi High School are good at getting rid of principals in this Roger Corman musical comedy. The kids love their rock 'n' roll at Vince Lomardi, especially the Ramones, and education is a bit of an afterthought.

When the school’s new principal Miss Togar (Mary Woronov) takes away a student’s ticket to a local Ramones concert, it starts a war between principal and students that leads to a variety of hilarious events, culminating in a full-scale coup when the students take over the school. To no one’s surprise, The Ramones side with the students.

Togar: “Do your parents know you're Ramones?”

8 The Breakfast Club (1985)

Breakfast Club Movie

First things first. Vernon (John Gleason) is actually the assistant principal of Shermer High School, but he is an essential part of this list. During an eight hour Saturday detention, Vernon appears delighted to rule over a group of five high school students, who all come from wildly different backgrounds and social circles. Vernon isn’t impressed with any of them, but he dislikes Bender, a trouble-making burnout from an abusive family, the most.

Vernon can barely hold back his disgust of Bender, and Bender has equally cutting words for Vernon (notably, cracking a joke about his sartorial resemblance to Barry Manilow). There's nothing to like or admire about Vernon’s character, as he seemingly has no respect for any of the students at Shermer High.

Vernon: “We'll keep going. You want another one? Just say the word, say it. Instead of going to prison you'll come here. Are you through?”

7 Back to the Future (1985)

Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future - Student/Principal Rivalries

Do you know what Principal Strickland (James Tolken) has no taste for? Slackers. In fact, he is leading a one man war against the high school students at Hill Valley High, who he deems to be, you guessed it, slackers. And Principal Strickland thinks that the entire McFly family fits this slacker bill.

Strickland was the principal at Hill Valley when George McFly (Crispin Glover) was a student, and he's still around a generation later when Marty goes to high school. Strickland believes that Marty is wasting his life hanging out with Doc Brown and making music with his band, but Marty knows that he is destined for something better.

Mr. Strickland: “You're too much like your old man. No McFly ever amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley!”

6 Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Student/Principal Rivalries

How do you describe how Principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) feels about his least favorite student Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick)? Hatred seems a bit tame. What makes Jones’ portrayal of Rooney so enjoyable in this classic 1986 teen comedy is just how exuberant he is trying to catch Ferris Bueller in the act of skipping school, going above and beyond (far beyond) his duty to capture him, whether by accosting lookalikes at an arcade or by sneaking into the Bueller household.

While the film follows Ferris and his pals on just one day, Ferris and Rooney’s rivalry has clearly gone on for quite some time. A principal who comes to the home of a student to bust him has clearly gone off the rails, and this kind of outrageous behavior just adds to the audiences' delight in seeing Ferris get away with more and more of his antics.

Rooney: “Les jeux sont faits. Translation: the game is up. Your ass is mine.”

5 Pump Up the Volume (1990)

Christian Slater in Pump Up the Volume - Student/Principal Rivalries

The 1990 film Pump Up the Volume once again pits student against principal. But in this case, the student is being targeted for pointing out the hypocrisies of the school rather than any destructive behavior. Christian Slater plays Mark Hunter, a new student who creates the alter ego “Hard Harry” on a pirate radio station.

Using this outlet, Hunter expresses all of the forbidden thoughts and feelings about the oppressive culture of the local high school and gains quite a following among his peers, even the ones who ignore him or bully him on the school grounds. When the principal of Hunter’s school, Loretta Creswood (Annie Ross) is found to be expelling students to keep her school’s SAT scores high, Creswood and Hard Harry end up on opposite ends of a conflict that involves the entire student body and the FCC.

Creswood: "You can't run a top school with troublemakers in the mix."

4 PCU (1994)

Jeremy Piven in PCU - Student/Principal Rivalries

Clearly inspired by its predecessor, Animal House, PCU stars Tom Lawrence as Chris Young, a “pre-frosh” who wants to get a taste of college life by spending the week at a fraternity house at Port Chester University. Unfortunately (depending how you look at it), the house he picks is no longer a traditional frat house, but is now called The Pit.

At The Pit, students like James “Droz” Andrews (Jeremy Piven) enjoy a hard partying lifestyle that irks the university's president, Ms. Garcia-Thompson (Jessica Walter), a ball-buster obsessed with political correctness. Walter tries to kick out the residents of The Pit and of course Droz and his fellow partiers make it their mission to stay.

Garcia: “You passed out cigarettes for a smoke-a-thon on Earth Day. You installed speed bumps on the handicapped ramps and, most recently, you dumped 100 pounds of... MEAT on a peaceful vegan protest!”

3 Matilda (1996)

Matilda - Student/Principal Rivalries

In Matilda, the adults are more likely to be cross and cruel than warm and cuddly. In addition to having uncaring parents, Matilda (Mara Wilson) must also suffer having one of the worst principals a little girl could imagine. Principal Trunchbull (Pam Ferris) is a larger than life villain at Matilda’s school, who is as likely to hurl a child (literally) as she is an insult.

The former shot putter seems more interested in scaring and punishing children than helping them gain an education. When Matilda starts to use her newly found telekinetic powers to exact revenge on Mrs. Trunchbull, the sparks really start to fly.

Truchbull: “When you are having fun, you are not learning.”

2 Old School (2003)

Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson in Old School - Student/Principal Rivalries

Sometimes old rivalries get rekindled. That'ss the case in the 2003 comedy Old School, where three men going through early mid-life crises (Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn) are reunited with Dean Gordon "Cheese" Pritchard (Jeremy Piven).

Piven takes issue with his three former classmates when they buy a house that is designated for campus housing. To skirt the rule the guys turn their house into a “non-traditional” fraternity house and battle the school in an effort to keep their house a part of the school system.

Pritchard: “Half these guys don't even go here and that one guy is like ninety.”

1 Monsters University (2013)

Monsters University - Student/Principal Rivalries

In the 2013 animated hit Monsters University, Sully and Mike Wazowski go to school University with the intention of learning how to scare children and harvest energy from their screams. But becoming a ‘scarer’ isn’t as easy at it looks for Mike Wazowski, who is more cerebral than scary. Sully on the other hand, is plenty scary, but is just sliding through classes and assuming his legacy status will ensure his graduation.

When Mike and Sully break Dean Abigail Hardscrabble's beloved "Scream Can," both monsters end up on her bad side and are expelled. Mike and Sully join up with some other misfit monsters to try and win the "Scare Games," which will ensure them re-admittance to Monster University, but Dean Hardscrabble remains a thorn in both monster’s sides until the end of the film.

Dean Hardscrabble: “It's my job to make great students greater, not make mediocre students less mediocre.”


Which of these movies has your favorite student/principal rivalry? What films did we miss? Let us know in the comments section!


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