Three O’Clock High (1987) — Countdown to a beatdown

“Now THAT’S what I call a book report!”

Justin’s rating: Do all teachers like book reports THIS much?

Justin’s review: Hello, and welcome to Obscure Eighties Movies 402. Please take your seat, and pull out your notebook and writing utensils. The learning is about to commence.

Jerry (Casey Siemaszko) is a nerd. If he were in a modern teen movie, he’d most likely fulfill the essential role of Background Party Geek #4 or even Pre-Death School Chum. However, this being back in the era where nerdery and geekdom raged hard, Jerry is our main fella. He’s likable, even if he looks like he recently arrived from 1954, and he’s got the nicest younger sister ever seen in movie history, a fiercely loyal best friend, and an attractive weirdo girl to hang out with. Life isn’t bad.

Not bad, that is, until Jerry accidentally makes mortal enemies with the new school bully and is challenged to a fight at three o’clock that very day. Looking helplessly at his stringy muscles and oh-so-delicate complexion, Jerry wises up and realizes that this might just be the last day he ever sees. What to do? Run away? Hire a bodyguard? Tattle? Frame the jerk? Seduce a teacher with a growled-out book report? Why pick one when you can have all of the above?

Three O’Clock High ran low under my ’80s radar for many a year, which makes it a pleasant surprise to uncover. I consider the ’80s the golden era for comedies, and even though Three O’Clock High can’t boast much in the way of originality, this movie gives us good reason to mourn what we’ve since lost in this genre. It’s wonderfully weird.

For me, the best part about many ’80s comedies is that they’re carefree and out to give the viewers a good time. That might mean rifling through all the tricks in the book, from sped-up shots to slapstick to highly unrealistic setups, but as long as we got entertained, all is forgiven. In my opinion, if you want to know the main difference between ’80s and modern teen comedies, I’d say to examine how the movie leaves you feeling.

While Three O’Clock High indulges in plenty of the period’s comedy traits, it does skirt the line between ludicrous and serious in a way I didn’t expect. The bully situation Jerry faces isn’t dealt with lightly. In one darker scene, Jerry’s bodyguard gets his finger broke and face smashed in just to prove how deadly the bully is. Jerry obviously didn’t deserve this trouble, but he can’t run from it either.

A great running gag throughout the flick is the constant references in classes and the pep rally to the imminent violence. There’s probably a commentary here on how we can’t always run from our troubles — sooner or later, we’re forced to face some of them.

I wouldn’t have thought that mixing elements from The Karate Kid and Better Off Dead would be a good thing, but hey, even perfectionists like myself have 350 off days a year. Revisit a time when nerds ruled the planet. See it. Love it. Own it.


  • The weird camera movement in the opening shot
  • Sniffing your clothes to see if they’re good
  • Washing Machine Cam
  • Microwaves are versatile
  • Diet Coke is good to rinse out after brushing while driving
  • Red means stop
  • Hey, it’s Yeardley Smith (the voice of Lisa Simpson) as a cheerleader!
  • Every high school has a supermodel. They come standard now.
  • Ethan, the spirit guide
  • The Wonderful World of Insects! Chapter 8!
  • This school sees a lot of violence, particularly with its cheerleaders
  • Skinner from X-Files as the campus cop
  • The noises as the camera focuses on the wall decorations in the dean of discipline’s office
  • Stitches category — heh
  • How not to break into a cash register
  • Yay, dominos!
  • Teachers like to be seduced by hot book reports
  • Jerry has three girls hitting on him within five minutes… what a player!
  • The Vertigo shot
  • A buck a sheet

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