Cooley High

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

83%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 12

89%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,355
User image

Movie Info

Michael Schultz directed this deeply felt recollection of adolescent life on Chicago's near North Side in 1964. Like American Graffiti, Cooley High deals with girl, school, and police troubles as a group of high-school seniors prepare for post-high-school life. The chums are Glynn Turman as "Preach," who loves to read poetry and history and wants to become a Hollywood screenwriter, but who has the worst grades in the school; and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Cochise, the high-school basketball star and suave lady-killer. Preach has to contend with love problems in the form of Brenda (Cynthia Davis), school problems with emphatic teacher Mr. Mason (Garrett Morris), and law problems with street toughs Stone (Shermann Smith) and Robert (Norman Gibson).

Watch it now

Cast

News & Interviews for Cooley High

Critic Reviews for Cooley High

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (2)

Audience Reviews for Cooley High

  • Nov 04, 2015
    This is one of those films that you don't really know what to expect going in, think the film is going one way, and then it takes you a completely different route. But I really appreciate what this film did for not only the black community, as a part of the black exploitation film era, but also what it did for Chicago as a city. Every now and then there would be a film centered in and filmed in Chicago, but Cooley High did a lot for the city in terms of revamping their stake in the movie business. Cooley High isn't really told in a typical 3 act structure. In fact, it's very episodic in that there's mini arcs within a bigger arc. For the most part, I enjoyed watching the film. We saw it in 70mm film for my cinema class and so I don't think I would have been aware of it otherwise, and I'm glad I got a chance to see it. Obviously being a white male, I'm not necessarily the target audience, but I think there's a lot of fun to be had with this group of kids from Cooley High. Not only is there a ton of great physical comedy (that holds up) but the writing makes you care about all of it's lead characters. I don't believe any of the actors became famous, but they worked really well together on screen. Which makes it even more heart-breaking when you see the entire film. It's pretty much my only main complaint with the film. 95 percent of the film is comedic and then all of a sudden the end of the film hits you like a shot in the dark. To me, that's almost manipulative and too jarring for an audience. It's a film you walk out in pure silence because you don't really know what you just saw. Having a pretty low budget, I'm sure they were constrained from filming in every location, but I do believe they could have used the Chicago landscape even more than they did. So overall, this film is pretty fun with great characters to watch and grow as high schoolers. The second half becomes a little uneven and the ending is very jarring, but it's definitely worth a watch for it's historical impact and it's comedic timing. +Really funny +Chemistry between the guys +Important in history -Jarring ending 7.1/10
    Thomas D Super Reviewer
  • Feb 01, 2010
    A 70's film about a 60's group of friends from the projects meandering through their last year of high school. The soundtrack is a gem, matching the soaring harmonica of Stevie Wonders fingertips to the exuberance of four boys playing hookey at the zoo. In these little-incidents-strung-together-into-a-whole kind of films, a lot of the impact depends on how much you care about the lead characters so I was hamstrung by finding Preach cocky and mostly charmless but hey, that's teenagers for you, the scamps.
    Lesley N Super Reviewer
  • Oct 25, 2009
    1 of my favorites.Everybody should see this movie
    Brody M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 07, 2009
    <div style="width:300px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/cooley-high-13664033"><img src="http://content7.flixster.com/photo/13/66/40/13664033_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a></div></div> <div style="width:300px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/cooley-high-13664030"><img src="http://content8.flixster.com/photo/13/66/40/13664030_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a></div></div> <div style="width:300px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/cooley-high-13664028"><img src="http://content6.flixster.com/photo/13/66/40/13664028_gal.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a> </div></div> <div style="width:300px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/cooley-high-13664029"><img src="http://content7.flixster.com/photo/13/66/40/13664029_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a><I>Cooley High</I></div></div> <I>COOLEY HIGH</I> (1975) DIRECTED BY: Michael Schultz WRITTEN BY: Eric Monte FEATURING: Glynn Turman, Lawrence Hilton- Jacobs, Garrett Morris, Cynthia Davis. Corin Rogers, Maurice Leon Havis, Joseph Carter Wilson GENRE: Comedy-drama TAGS: nostalgia PLOT: Nostalgic look at early '60's high school hjinks on Chicago's North Side COMMENTS: Gritty North Side Chicago locations highlight this effective nostalgia piece. <I>Cooley High</I> is writer Eric Monte's stock synopsis of the sorts of characters, folkways, mores, attitudes, and teenage dilemmas he remembers about growing up in Chicago's notorious Cabrini-Green (think <I>Candyman</I>, 1992) housing project. Monte lived there while attending the now defunct Cooley Vocational High School. <I>Cooley High</I> is deceptively titled because it isn't really a high school movie. It is more of a coming of age drama about a specific time and place. For the most part <I>Cooley High</I> consists of a series of blocked vignettes. A few of these deal with the pursuit of the unattainable girl, pulling pranks, getting high, getting laid, social posturing, dealing with neighborhood toughs, and white knuckle, seat -of -the- pants flirtations with minor disasters like a legal scrape over joyriding in a stolen car. The story is dotted with comedic episodes such as trying to shake down prostitutes for free sex by passing off a Lone Ranger novelty toy as a police badge, and being repeatedly chased from a diner by a motherly, but meat cleaver wielding proprietress. Ultimately though, the film has an undercurrent of destiny and inevitability. All of the adventures are backdropped by a looming graduation which heralds the bittersweet, inescapable reality that pals will be parting ways for uncertain futures. As the end of the school year draws near, the friends obsess over the viability of their ambitions. The lead characters are charismatic, but flawed in a way that causes mixed feelings about rooting for them. And while <I>Cooley High</I> is funny, there are grim, very real ramifications and consequences to the protagonist's irresponsibility. These incongruities provide the impetus for criticisms that the script is uneven. The film has also been criticized for being exploitive, low budget and poorly written. To the contrary, <I>Cooley High</I> does not play as though it was intended to be an exploitation film like <I>Car Wash</I>, to which it has been compared. The budget, while not lavish, is not inadequate. The script, while somewhat unconventional, is effective, engaging, and thoughtful. Monte so well conveyed the essence and atmosphere that he sought to capture that it made me want to say something about it. The film is noteworthy for the way it captures a feeling people have about looking back that rises above mere nostalgia. It makes you think about the very nature of memories, what-might-have- beens, and how we would do things differently if we could go back to times that can never be lived again. This quality of the storytelling transcends the narrow appeal of the subject matter and the film's shortcomings in a meaningful way. I like <I>Cooley High</I> not so much for it's story as for how it makes me think about the past. This aspect of the film is not a so much a feature of the plot, but rather occurs as a postscript after watching it. It arises from the viewing experience being contextually framed by the film's epilogue in which we learn the fates of the antiheroes and find out that "Preach" (Turman) did indeed make it out of the projects to write the screenplay. <I>Cooley High</I> is sometimes compared to <I>American Grafitti</I> in terms of tone and nostalgic emotional impact, The mood is more reminiscent of <I>The Hollywood Knights</I>. The setting, grittiness and the distinctive way that the film <I>looks back</I> at the fleeting nature of the past however, brings to mind Richard Price's much more serious <I>The Wanderers</I>. I avoided <I>Cooley High</I> for a time because I mistakenly thought it would be maudlin and relatively dull like <I>Lean On Me</I>. While the movie presents a world that holds little interest for me, to my delight, it kept my attention and was fun to watch. More importantly <I>Cooley High</I> is significant as a piece of filmmaking for being such an effective example of nostalgic storytelling. <div style="width:300px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/cooley-high-13664035"><img src="http://content9.flixster.com/photo/13/66/40/13664035_gal.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a> </div></div> <div style="width:300px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/cooley-high-13664036"><img src="http://content6.flixster.com/photo/13/66/40/13664036_gal.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a> </div></div> <div style="width:297px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/cooley-high-13664037"><img src="http://content7.flixster.com/photo/13/66/40/13664037_gal.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a></div></div>
    Pamela D Super Reviewer

Cooley High Quotes

News & Features