Essential Viewing: Dr. Michael Howarth’s Latest Book Compiles Films Every High-School Student Should See

As he compiled the entries for his latest book, there were certain criteria Dr. Michael Howarth wanted films to meet in order to be included in “Movies to See Before You Graduate from High School.”

“I was looking for films that respect what it means to be a young adult,” he says. “They needed to accurately portray the problems, issues and emotions that young adults face – such as wanting to be independent, dealing with friends, dating, or wanting to separate from your hometown and do your own thing.”

The book, which will be published Dec. 15 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, represents a year of work for Howarth, an associate professor of English and director of MSSU’s Honors Program.

“Every film on the list I watched at least once. Most I watched twice,” says Howarth. “The first time was to get a feel for the film itself. The second time I watched with a notepad so I could pause the movie to take notes on certain scenes and ideas.”

The 60 films included in the book represent a broad range of genres – from classic dramas such as James Dean’s “Rebel Without a Cause” and ‘The Last Picture Show,” to contemporary releases such as “It: Chapter One,” “Ready Player One” and “Call Me By Your Name.”

“I started by making a list of probably 150 films,” he says. “There were several I knew had to be in the book, such as ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High,’ ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and ‘The Breakfast Club.’ But I wanted films from different genres and different time periods … films that will appeal to a wide audience.

“Sometimes you’re looking for a film that’s inspirational; other times you want a film that’s ridiculous and fun.”

Each entry in the book includes basic information about the movie, such as its writer and director, cast members, rating and runtime. “The Gist” breaks down the plot and why the film is important for young audiences to see.

“I also recommend another film for a double feature, which is not one of the 60,” says Howarth. “So there’s actually 120 movies, if you think about it.”

The appendix includes several “Top-Five Lists,” such as the Top Five Breakups and the Top Five Coolest Parents.

The soon-to-be-released book isn’t Howarth’s first. In 2014, he published “Under the Bed, Creeping: Psychoanalyzing the Gothic in Children’s Literature, and two years later his first novel – “Fair Weather Ninjas” – was released. His latest effort already has him thinking about another project in a similar vein.

“This book didn’t include anything from television,” he says. “You could write a whole other book on coming-of-age TV series.

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