Nostalgia is a hard thing to get right in movies. When done poorly, it can seem like a whole film can be predicated on the sentiment, “Huh. I remember that,” with little fanfare or effort. When done properly, nostalgia can overcome the characters and the audience, transporting them back to a bygone time with powerful emotion.

However, that sentiment can be difficult to convey in 90 minutes with characters we’re just meeting. Thus, film franchises can often play to nostalgia with ease, as the characters have already been developed, so we can get right to the plot, as is done in the upcoming American Reunion movie. However, establishing a film franchise isn’t as easy at it sounds, so many of the most memorable (good, bad, or otherwise) reunion films are stand alone, taking us back to high school, college, or even grade school.

These are their stories.

(cue Law & Order music)

The Big Chill

Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion

The name says it all. High school reunions are often dreaded by those who were once popular and now aren’t, as well as those who weren’t popular and still aren’t. In fact, the only people that really should like reunions are the rags to riches story, but they’re generally above the competition having achieved success later in life.

While Romy and Michelle certainly didn’t become world beaters, they want to convince everyone that they are, even claiming that they invented Post-It notes for 3M, which is pretty damn funny. Of course, their resiliency pays off, and they end up with the reunion of their dreams, even flying off in a helicopter.

And, of course, the whole thing is soundtracked with some killer 1980’s songs. This film is worth it for the “Time after Time” interpretive dance alone.

Grosse Pointe Blank

In this dark comedy, a hit man returns home…to attend a high school reunion. The cynical, alienated assassin, Martin Blank, is forced to confront all the weirdos in high school, most of whom have become weirdos in real life, save for Minnie Driver’s character, who had stayed in town and became a DJ for an impossibly awesome radio station that plays the likes of the English Beat, The Clash, and Johnny Nash.

A universal aspect of the reunion movie, as you might be able to tell from the list thus far, is the soundtrack, which is ostensibly supposed to make the audience feel as nostalgic for the era as the characters do. To me, it often seems like a cheap gimmick, but one has to admit that the conceit is certainly in line with how they do things at reunions, so points for realism.

This would be the reunion film made for all the kids for whom high school was not the best time of their lives, so get over the triple pun in the title and check it out.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

When faced with the success of all their friends, Zack and Miri are forced to take a long, hard look at their lives to figure out how to turn their run of bad luck around. And it ain’t easy. While this film isn’t so much a reunion movie, as it is a tale of two people desperate to turn their lives around, it features a pretty painfully honest (and hilarious) reunion scene.

While Romy and Michelle wanted to be something they weren’t at the reunion, Zack and Miri have some fun being themselves, a couple folks in the service industry that are more or less comfortable with their station, as long as they’re able to keep the lights on.

The Tao of Steve

In this indie film, Dex (played by Donal Logue) is a chubby slacker who seems to just have an aura about him that makes him a hit with the ladies. So all is well in the universe of Dex until he goes to his college reunion (who really goes to proper college reunions anyway?) and comes in contact with more than a few of his former flings.

Dex doesn’t appear to have changed too much from college, still maintaining a Lebowski-like existence, clad in a robe, constantly stoned, but that doesn’t stop Syd, a former conquest, from remembering him. It’s a tricky situation, one that will only be helped by smoking a ton of weed.

Grown Ups

Ugh. This dubious entry on the list serves as the only junior high reunion movie. After their coach dies 32 years after they won their middle school basketball title, the members of the team all find their way back to the lake house he took them to. The gang reminisces, pees in swimming pools, and basically do all the things that you would expect Kevin James, Adam Sandler, and Rob Schneider to do in their movies.

Please note that I never said these were all “good” films, but only films about reunions. I don’t want anyone thinking I thought Grown Ups was good. Dear God.

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