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Credit: 20th Century Fox/Focus Features/Warner Bros./Produzioni Atlas Consorziate/Paramount Pictures

Debate Club: The 5 best schools in sci-fi and fantasy

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Aug 28, 2019

Welcome to Debate Club, where Tim Grierson and Will Leitch, the hosts of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, tackle the greatest arguments in pop culture.

It's that time again: Millions of folks are heading back to school, carrying with them varying degrees of excitement and dread. A new school year is filled with unknowns, which can sure be anxiety-inducing, so it's no surprise that when movies feature characters hitting the books, it might stir up some old feelings of dread for audiences.

In this week's Debate Club, we celebrate cinema's most memorable schools and academies. (It killed us, but we decided not to include the boot camp in Starship Troopers since it's technically not a school.) All five of our picks are way more exciting than your boring old trig class.

Here we go.

The school from Brick (2005)

The brilliance of Rian Johnson's hard-boiled noir thriller is that high school is scary because it feels like it's life-and-death, even when it isn't. That's sure the case with the school in Brick, and even though Lukas Haas' boss has his mom give everybody cookies, there are real bullets, and real stakes.

We've got all five senses and we slept last night, that puts us six up on the lot of you.

The dance academies in Suspiria (1977/2018)

In the 1977 original, it was the Tanz Dance Academy. In Luca Guadagnino's 2018 remake, it was renamed the Markos Dance Company. Either way, this is the world's most prestigious — and, also, the freakiest — dance academy you'll ever see.

In both versions of Suspiria, an impressionable young American dancer makes her way to Germany, only to learn the school's dark secrets. The two movies are so different in the way they evoke horror that both deserve to be seen. Dario Argento's original treats the academy like a ghostly, psychedelic madhouse. The 2018 film is creepier and more brutal, depicting the school as a gorgeous but crumbling building with a sickness inside it.

Either way, we don't recommend attending these academies — the atmosphere can kill you

Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters

One of the main benefits that boarding school provides is the opportunity to find out who you are, what you're good at, and where you belong.

Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters of X-Men fame is a place where you discover what you truly can be, a place away from the judgmental, often terrifying real world. Plus, every once in a while, Wolverine comes by.

For the record, it's definitely for the best that Deadpool never enrolled here. (Yet.)

Starfleet Academy in Star Trek (2009)

J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot of Star Trek didn't just rejigger the timeline — it gave us a glimpse at how Starfleet Academy operates.

In 1982's Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, we heard the infamous story of how Kirk tricked the Kobayashi Maru exercise as a cadet, figuring out how to outsmart a no-win scenario. The 2009 film rewrote that narrative, but it also allowed the filmmakers a chance to establish the rapport between the future crew of the Starship Enterprise when they're all still relatively young. This Star Trek movie doubled as a college drama and was all the more fun because of it.

Hogwarts

We'll confess: We're not entirely crazy about the Sorting Hat. (Isn't partly the point of school that you figure out what you are, rather than being told?) That said, boy, Hogwarts really does feel like the most magical place a kid could possibly attend school. Imaginative, provocative studies. Endless opportunities for recreation. An expansive grounds for exploration. And every once in a while, they have to shut down school for a war.

True, this is a particularly dangerous school... but it's also possible you end up saving the world from the dark arts by the end of your term.

Grierson & Leitch write about the movies regularly and host a podcast on film. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.

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