Three O'Clock High

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Three O'Clock High
Three o clock high p.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPhil Joanou
Written by
Produced byDavid E. Vogel
CinematographyBarry Sonnenfeld
Edited byJoe Ann Fogle
Music byTangerine Dream
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • October 9, 1987 (1987-10-09)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$5 million
Box office$3.6 million[1]

Three O'Clock High is a 1987 American teen comedy film directed by Phil Joanou. The script, about a meek high schooler who is forced into a fight with a volatile new transfer student, is based on the high school experiences of screenwriters Richard Christian Matheson and Thomas Szollosi. It was shot in Ogden, Utah.


Meek high school student Jerry Mitchell and his sister Brei have the house to themselves while their parents are on vacation. Jerry's day begins badly when he wakes late and gets worse when he nearly wrecks his car while driving his sister and his school friend Franny to Weaver High School. The students this morning are gossiping about the new student Buddy Revell, a violent delinquent who has just transferred to Weaver from a continuation high school.

Jerry's first hour is spent at the school newspaper, where his best friend, Vincent Costello, is the editor. Their journalism teacher has the idea of doing an article about Buddy to welcome the "new kid", and she assigns Jerry to do an interview. Jerry sees Buddy in the restroom and clumsily attempts to introduce himself, bringing up the article idea. Through a series of poorly chosen statements, Jerry realizes he is only making Buddy angry and decides to cut his losses, telling Buddy "...Why don’t we just forget this whole thing and pretend this never happened", giving Buddy a friendly tap on the arm. Buddy, who does not like to be touched by anyone, responds by tossing Jerry against a wall and stating that he has made him mad and he now needs to do something to “work it off” and tells Jerry the two will now fight after school at 3 o'clock in the parking lot.Buddy also tells Jerry that running away or reporting the incident to a teacher will only make the situation worse.

With little more than six hours to go, Jerry tries different strategies to avoid the fight. Trying to reason with Buddy doesn't work. Vincent suggests that he plant a switchblade in Buddy's locker to get him kicked out of school; Brei advises him to simply skip school, but when Jerry tries to leave, he finds the switchblade he planted now stuck in his car's steering wheel, and his ignition wires cut. Trying to run, Jerry is caught by overzealous school security guard, Duke, who finds the switchblade and takes Jerry to the office of Mr. Dolinski, the Dean of Discipline. Seeing an otherwise perfectly clean record, the suspicious Mr. Dolinski tells Jerry that he will be keeping his eye on him from now on, and lets him go.

Jerry makes several other attempts to avoid the fight: he steals money from the school's student store, which he manages, and uses it to pay an upperclassman to "take care of" Buddy; he tries to get thrown into detention by making a pass at his English teacher; he lets Buddy cheat by copying Jerry's answers during a math quiz. All attempts fail, and the clock continues to tick down.

After Buddy rebuffs Jerry's plea to "just be friends", he offers him the stolen cash to call off the fight. Buddy accepts, but Jerry still fails to earn Buddy’s respect as he scornfully tells Jerry "You’re the biggest pussy I ever met in my life". Jerry, now seized with self-loathing and anger, decides to confront Buddy, and demands the money back. When Buddy refuses, Jerry insists that he is no coward and declares that their fight is back on.

The clock finally reaches the appointed hour, and the fight begins with hundreds of eager students looking on. Principal O'Rourke, Mr. Dolinski, Duke, Franny, and even the guilt-plagued Vincent attempt to intervene, but Buddy easily disposes of them. Jerry, though out-matched, stands his ground while being knocked down. His sister picks up Buddy's dropped brass knuckles and slips them to Jerry. He uses them in a desperate move to stun and knock-out Buddy; during the excitement that follows, Buddy vanishes.

The next day, many students show their admiration and support to Jerry for such a great fight. They begin buying individual sheets of paper for $1 from the school store to help Jerry make up the store's missing cash. Buddy suddenly shows up, silencing the crowd. He openly returns the $350 to Jerry, begrudgingly showing his respect. Weaver High is now filled with new gossip, as Jerry replaces Buddy as the school's hot discussion topic, with rumors having a wide and humorous range from the actual truth.



Three O'Clock High
Three O'Clock High.png
1987 U.S. CD cover
Soundtrack album by
GenreElectronic music
LabelVarèse Sarabande
Tangerine Dream chronology
Three O'Clock High
Near Dark

The film's soundtrack is the thirty-first major release and ninth soundtrack album by Tangerine Dream. Additional music was provided by Sylvester Levay.[2] The song, "Something to Remember Me By", was written and performed by Jim Walker.

Track listing[edit]

1."It's Jerry's Day Today" 0:44
2."46-32-15" 0:47
3."No Detention" 1:01
4."Any School Bully Will Do" 0:33
5."Go to the Head of the Class" 3:10
6."Sit"Sylvester Levay0:47
7."The Fight"Sylvester Levay2:35
8."Jerry's Decision"Sylvester Levay4:28
9."The Fight is On"Sylvester Levay4:39
10."Paper"Sylvester Levay1:28
11."Big, Bright Brass Knuckles" 1:18
12."Buying Paper Like it's Going Out of Style" 1:35
13."Dangerous Trend" 0:54
14."Who's Chasing Who" 0:59
15."Bonding By Candlelight" 1:35
16."You'll Never Believe It" 2:19
17."Starting The Day Off Right" 1:16
18."Weak At The Knees" 2:34
19."Kill Him (The Football Dummy)" 1:04
20."Not So Quiet in the Library/Get Lost In A Crowd" 1:34
21."Something to Remember Me By"Jim Walker4:12
22."Arrival"Rick Morotta and David Tickle2:10



Box office[edit]

The film opened in 849 theaters nationwide on October 9, 1987 and earned $1,506,975 on its opening weekend, 40.9% of its total gross. The total lifetime gross is approximately $3,685,862, against the original budget of $5,000,000.[citation needed]

Critical response[edit]

The film has a rating of 57% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 14 critical reviews.[3]

Roger Ebert gave the film one out of four stars, declaring the plot to be "pretty stupid" and lamenting that the bully Buddy Revell, "the most interesting character", was underdeveloped.[4]

In a retrospective review from 2016, critic Rob Hunter called the film "a wildly inventive and energetic look at the failures and successes of a typical high school day, and it shapes the daydreams and anxieties into an exaggerated delight."[5]

The dark tone of the film contrasted with other teen films of the time—so much so that executive producer Steven Spielberg removed his name from the credits.[6] In 2017, Adrian Halen wrote that Three O'Clock High was released in "an era when The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, National Lampoon’s Vacation and Weird Science were the general norm for moviegoers."[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Three O'Clock High (1987) - Box office / business
  2. ^ Berling, Michael (29 September 2016). "Three O'Clock High". Voices in the Net.
  3. ^ "Three O'Clock High". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2022-07-14.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (1987). "Three O'Clock High," 09 October 1987, retrieved 18 July 2020
  5. ^ "Three O'Clock High Blends Anxiety and Daydream with Perfection". Film School Rejects. 2016-11-03. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  6. ^ "Why Three O'Clock High is a much better movie than you remember". The HotCorn. 2018-11-05. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  7. ^ "Film Review: Three O'Clock High (1987)". HNN | 2017-09-28. Retrieved 2019-12-03.

External links[edit]