13 Times Movie Characters Summed Up Their Story With A Climactic Essay Or School Presentation

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Even the very best teen movies sometimes rely on cliches. One of the most common is the Big Moment, in which a character gives a presentation, makes a speech, or writes an essay that overtly sums up the emotional journey we've just spent two hours watching them take. 

Such scenes are tricky to pull off. When done right, they reveal how much the protagonist has grown over the course of the story. This can send viewers away feeling satisfied. Done poorly, these moments just feel repetitious, like they're beating us over the head with something that should be obvious to anyone who wasn't asleep during the film.

The Big Moment can come in a variety of forms. Sometimes it's done via a school presentation, such as a report in front of the class or a graduation speech. Other times, the character is writing an essay for a college application and uses the story's events as their subject. A few movies find original twists to put on the trope. Regardless of how it's presented, hammering home the theme with a climactic exposition dump has been done many times in film. 

  • In John Hughes's seminal The Breakfast Club, five teens from different cliques are brought together for Saturday detention. Over the course of the day, they break down the social barriers between them and realize they have more in common than any of them thought. They vow to return to school on Monday as friends, regardless of what their individual groups have to say about it.

    The Breakfast Club ends with the mean principal reading the essay Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) wrote on behalf of the crew, which the audience hears in voiceover. In it, he chides the principal for seeing them only as labels: princess, athlete, brain, basket case, and hoodlum. It is here that the movie offers its most subversive idea - that high school cliques thrive because teachers and the administration put destructive labels on students just as much as students put them on each other. 

    44 votes

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  • In Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, the lovably dim Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves) need to get an A+ on their history report or else they will fail the class. Fortunately, they gain access to a phone booth time machine that allows them to not only visit noted historical figures, but also bring them back to the present. Through their travels and the ensuing complications, the dudes learn about history, plus the value of working together in a diverse group.

    For their climactic presentation, Bill and Ted showcase all of their historical friends, and let Abraham Lincoln close out the performance. The former president of the United States delivers a message to the student body that sums up their experience: "Be excellent to each other, and party on!" The message is enthusiastically received by the audience. 

    19 votes
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower is about Charlie (Logan Lerman), a teenager dealing with mental health issues. He has just been released from an institution and is nervous about starting high school. Like many people dealing with mental health issues, he isolates himself. Then Charlie meets two seniors, Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson). They get him to come out of his shell, and suddenly he starts to enjoy life a little bit. However, he begins to have flashbacks of a prior trauma, which causes him to spiral back down into mental anguish. 

    In the movie's final two minutes, we hear a voiceover of Charlie reading a letter he wrote as he, Sam, and Patrick ride through a tunnel in a pickup truck. The words sum up his feelings about his friends, the way they helped him understand what it means to be alive, and how important it is to always live in the moment. His message is that strong friendships can help you overcome any obstacle. 

    17 votes

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  • Accepted stars Justin Long as Bartleby, a guy who gets rejected from every college to which he applies. To prevent his parents from finding out, he creates his own college. Some friends help him pull off the ruse of the fictional university. It's so convincing that, thanks to an error with the phony online registration form, a swarm of students show up, thinking they're attending an actual university. The scheme cannot be maintained forever, though, and South Harmon Institute of Technology (note the acronym) is exposed as a fraud.

    Bartleby isn't done, though. He files for accreditation to make his pretend college real. At the hearing, he stands up and delivers a heartfelt speech about how conventional colleges put too much pressure on students, allow unhealthy activities like hazing, and are too focused on teaching young people how to adhere to the system rather than to think for themselves. The moment earns rousing applause from the crowd - and a one-year probationary term from the board that allows South Harmon to open its doors again. 

    14 votes

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  • Proms are inherently dramatic events. Josie Geller (Drew Barrymore) learns that the hard way in Never Been Kissed. She's a 25-year-old reporter who poses as a high school student for an article she's writing. To say she screws things up would be an understatement. At the behest of her editor, Josie betrays the unpopular students who initially befriend her by dumping them for the cool kids. She puts a male teacher in an awkward position by pursuing her romantic interest in him. And going back to high school triggers memories of her own adolescence, a time of great insecurity.

    At the prom, Josie finally snaps from all the pressure. She reveals her true identity, then delivers a lecture to the students, telling them that the way people perceive you in high school doesn't matter once you get into the real world. She encourages them to figure out who they are and learn to be comfortable with it. The message mirrors her personal arc, as her return to high school gets her to leave the geeky adolescent Josie in the past and focus on the adult Josie.

    She doesn't stop there! Josie then writes her article, which now has a very confessional tone. It encapsulates all the lessons we've just seen her learn. At least she gets to kiss the teacher on the pitching mound at a school baseball game after it's published. 

    15 votes

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  • Julia Stiles plays Kat, a teen girl with a gruff personality in 10 Things I Hate About You. She's so difficult to like that someone has to pay Patrick (Heath Ledger) to date her. There's a whole complex backstory about why, but the bottom line is that she and Patrick have a rough relationship, despite some undeniable feelings bubbling up between them. When it's revealed - at prom, no less - that Patrick initially only dated her for money, Kat is angry and hurt. 

    The big speech comes in the form of a poem she is required to write by a teacher. In front of the entire class, Kat gets up and does her own version of a Shakespearean sonnet, in which she confesses that she loves Patrick, despite all they've been through. Her emotional confession prompts him to confess his love in return. He also gives her a guitar that he bought with the money. 

    21 votes

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