Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell), in If.... (1968)
Burning cause: Rejecting the authoritarian structures of the British public school system in an increasingly audacious campaign for free thought.
Outcome: Well, that depends on whether you think the final shootout sequence is really happening or just taking place inside Mick's head... though neither of those scenarios really feels like a proper victory.
Harry Bailey (Elliott Gould), in Getting Straight (1970)
Burning cause: Persuading the campus radicals to calm down before their protests get totally out of control and derail his graduate studies (and his personal time with activist girlfriend Candice Bergen). Okay, so it's not exactly a burning issue, but it does itch a little.
Outcome: Harry ultimately chooses to stand up to The Man rather than sell out his ethics. But The Man has riot police.
Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand), in The Way We Were (1973)
Burning cause: Taking up the Communist anti-war position as a student activist in the 1930s, and generally decrying injustice wherever she sees it.
Outcome: Not great. War breaks out in Europe despite her strident opposition, and though she marries WASP golden boy Robert Redford after the war, Joseph McCarthy's blacklist ultimately costs them their happiness. But they'll always have their memories of those student protests.
Riff Randall (P.J. Soles), in Rock 'N' Roll High School (1979)
Burning cause: Getting the Ramones to play a gig at Vince Lombardi High School.
Outcome: The school is rocked, and righteously. Suck it, Principal Togar!
Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), in Rushmore (1998)
Burning cause: Saving Latin, the better to steal his teacher, Miss Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), away from rival suitor Herman Blume (Bill Murray). Also, building an aquatic centre (or at least breaking ground for it) and staging several hit plays.
Outcome: Things do not work out as Max expects, but he ends up being a better person for it.
Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), in Election (1999)
Burning cause: Self-embiggenment, as defined by winning the student body election at George Washington Carver High... despite the valiant efforts of civics teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) to derail her campaign.
Outcome: Tracy Flick is an entitled sociopath, so of course she ultimately gets exactly what she wants. Someday she'll be governor of Alaska.
Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin), in Charlie Bartlett (2007)
Burning cause: Providing his fellow students the pharmacological therapy they so desperately need - by getting his therapist to prescribe the appropriate meds to fit their symptoms. Also, bedding the hot daughter (Kat Dennings) of the indignant principal (Robert Downey Jr.).
Outcome: Just peachy. The movie plays like Rushmore rewritten by someone who doesn't realize Max is kind of an asshole, so a self-absorbed little ferret like Charlie comes off looking like Ferris Bueller.