Academic Alpha Bitch: Taylor McKessie is the president of the science club at East High and a member of the school's national decathlon team. She wants Gabriella to join the team to beat their rivals in West High and be involved in nothing else.
Adorkable: Troy and Chad during the entirety of 'The Boys Are Back'. Troy attempts to sneak away to the auditions in #1 also count.
Aesop Amnesia: Sharpay suffers from this, having apparently seen the error of her ways at the end of the film, only to become nasty again at the beginning of the next one. Repeat, twice.
Her Aesop in the first movie is basically due to a few lines inexplicably wishing Gabriella luck as the lead while the entire third act of the second contains her Aesop, only to be thrown out by the third.
Another subversion is that she doesn't actually seem to have any friends. Ryan's the only one who hangs out with her, and even he switches over to the wildcats side in #2. In fact with the way the basketball team talks about her, she actually comes across as incredibly unpopular. This is played with, since in the "What Time Is It" song, at the beginning of the second film, she seems very popular with a lot of adoring fans (other students) wanting her signature in their yearbooks.
In the third movie, they pair him with Kelsi...then have him appear on stage wearing pink trousers...
One of the first outfits he wears in the second movie is mostly pink with little stripes.
Fun fact: Lucas Grabeel actually played a closeted gay on Veronica Mars, and he seemed straighter than Ryan.
It's not even ambiguous in the stage version. There, when all the other boys have pictures of girls in their locker, he has other boys. And then, of course, there's the part where he literally swoons when Troy walks by him.
Ambition Is Evil: Many of Sharpay's Villain Songs play up her ambitions as a major trait of her character. In order, we have "Bop to the Top", "Fabulous" and "I Want it All". The titles should all be dead giveaways, though.
All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Averted. There aren't any major cheerleader characters until #3, and even then, the only reference we get to a date with a cheerleader (in this case, Jason wanting to date Martha, the hip-hop loving nerd) is in a deleted scene.
Almost Kiss: Troy and Gabriella at the end of the first film before the Crowd Song, and then in the entire second movie.
Angry Black Man: Chad seems to exist largely for the purpose of angrily over-reacting to things.
Beta Couple: Chad and Taylor, who go through a lot less drama than Troy and Gabriella. Subverted in that its implied they break up, albeit amicably, at the end of the third film, while Troy and Gabriella stay together.
Birds of a Feather: Ryan and Kelsi in the third film, who bond over composing and choreographing the musical together, are two of the sweetest, most easy-going characters, and were previously bullied by Sharpay.
Bully Hunter: Troy and Gabriella .Troy in #1 encourages Kelsi to stand up to Sharpay, and in #2 Gabriella takes it even further when she outright confronts Sharpay and warns her to stop hurting the other wildcats.
Character Development: A surprising amount: Troy starts making his own decisions rather than pleasing everyone else, Gabriella becomes more outgoing and makes some real friends, Taylor and Chad both loosen up, Kelsi learns to be more confident and Ryan steps out of Sharpay's shadow.
Even the teachers get on it, with Ms Darbus going from Sadistic Teacher to Cool Teacher, and Jack Bolton seeing Troy as his son rather than a basketball star.
The Cheerleader: A mild version, but yet a scene in the first movie depicts cheerleaders as shallow, concerned only on having strong fingernails and guy's looks. (Or at least, depicts the perception Taylor has of them.)
Corrupt the Cutie: This was very nearly the entire plot of all three movies. #2 especially had Sharpay pulling out all the stops in an attempt to lure Troy away from his buddies, via "Look what I could do for you with all my nifty social connections."
Easily Forgiven: All over the place. We never even see Troy and Gabriella getting angry at Chad and Taylor for their Zany Scheme that devastated both of them. (See also: With Friends Like These...). And it takes less than a scene for Troy and the wildcats to forgive Sharpay for manipulating him and making their lives hell. note And that's not even considering the Double Standard of her borderline sexual harassment and blackmail of Troy.
E = MC Hammer: Of course Gabriella has to be able to do the ridiculously complicated equation on the board in her head. And then the teacher looks at the calculator for maybe two seconds before looking back up...
Establishing Character Moment: Troy and Gabriella have ones when they both protest about going to the party: Troy is playing basketball with his Dad and Gabriella wants to finish her book alone. Of course the rest of the film is about subverting these impressions by showing they want to be more than the basketball guy and geeky girl.
Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Sort of justified, however, in that it started out as a Disney TV movie that they didn't expect would be so popular. Had they any inkling, it probably would have been released to theaters.
Fate Drives Us Together: Troy and Gabriella. A stranger pushes them to sing together in Colorado, and then they end up at the same high school, (heck even the same form class), in Albuquerque. Someone really wanted them to get parts in that musical.
Follow the Leader: The success of HSM led to Nickelodeon's blatant ripoff, Spectacular.
The Succes likely also paved the way for the similar yet different show Glee wich may have never been picked up without the success of Highschool Musical as another musical series Viva Laughlin was canceled after two episodes not long before Glee premiered.
Give Geeks a Chance: The super-popular Troy is instantly smitten with (albeit attractive) Gabriella, who reads at parties and is on the scholastic decathlon team. Chad and Taylor also move into this territory.
Gone Horribly Right: Chad and Taylor's plan to get Troy and Gabriella up to focus on basketball and academics (instead of each other) works perfectly... Until both Troy and Gabriella both become too miserable to focus the championship game or the academic decathlon - exactly what they were trying to avoid happening in the first place, Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
Grand Finale: Subverted. The end of the third movie seems to end the franchise for good, until you find out about the production of a spinoff movie starring Sharpay.
Happily Married: For all their faults, Ryan and Sharpay's parents are this. Troy's parents also count: In #3 watching them together only makes him more miserable about being separated from Gabriella.
Heel-Face Revolving Door: Sharpay and Ryan. They seem to become "good" at the end of the first film, then Sharpay is suddenly worse than before in the second film and Ryan just becomes good, then Ryan is back on Sharpay's side in the third film and they both go good again in the end anyway!
Heterosexual Life-Partners: Troy and Chad, which is why Chad takes Troy's interest in singing so badly. Gabriella and Taylor to a lesser extent.
High School Dance: Subverted in the third movie: There is buildup—so much so that an entire song is devoted to it in the ''Senior Year musical...then Gabriella leaves early. Troy winds up spending Prom Night in California with her (as opposed to the movie's New Mexico setting), and the actual dance is confined to a single Imagine Spot (reprising the song "Can I Have This Dance"). The movie's actual climax is at the musical performance.
The Best Of Times, so Why Leave Them Behind, why can't the rest of my life
Be Like My, High School Musical,
Who Says We Have To Let It Go?
It's The Best Part We've Ever Known
High School Sweethearts: Hard to avoid. There's Troy/Gabriella, Chad/Taylor, , Kelsi/Jason (in # 1 and # 2), and in #3 Kelsi/Ryan and Jason/Martha. Most of the couples are implied to be pretty casual, with Chad even admitting that with him and Taylor going to different colleges, he doesn't plan on taking the girl with him after high school. Troy and Gabriella are the only pair who stick it out after graduation.
Hollywood Nerd: Every single character who's part of the "brainiac" table is this. Even Kelsi had to hidden under hats and glasses (which she doesn't even need), and she's still very attractive.
Honey Trap: Ryan, on Sharpay's orders, to Kelsi in the HSM 3.
Insane Troll Logic: "Look at this! That Gabriella girl just dumped her lunch on me! On purpose! It's all part of their plan to ruin our musical. And Troy and his basketball robots are obviously behind it! Why do you think they auditioned? After all the work you've put into this show... it just doesn't seem right!"
Ivy League For Everyone: Gabriella goes to Stanford, Troy goes to Berkeley, Taylor goes to Yale, Ryan and Kelsi go to Juilliard. For a group of young people whose school work appears to solely consist of singing, their universities are basically a laundry list of very prestigious universities, with the exception of Sharpay and Chad, who settle for the (nonexistent) University of Albuquerque.
Somewhat justified in Troy's case, since college admissions tend to be more lax when it comes to athletes. And Gabriella is expressly described as a Teen Genius and Taylor is shown to be very intelligent, driven student, so their college acceptances aren't that unrealistic. Ryan and Kelsi make no sense however, as their specializations (choreography and modern composition) aren't even offered at Julliard.
Like Brother and Sister: Troy and Kelsi in the second and third movie. Gabriella and Chad also seem to have this dynamic.
Like Goes With Like: Chad and Taylor are both black. Each one is a best friend of one of the two main characters. They spend time together and go on a date in the first movie, flirt in the second movie, and go to prom together in the third movie.
Male Gaze: See Sharpay's entrance in the third one...
Maybe Ever After: Troy and Gabriella in the first film. They have an Almost Kiss and their feelings are strongly hinted in the final song, but don't officially get together or admit they like each other. By the second film they've had a Relationship Upgrade and the third film gives them a definitive Happily Ever After as they head off to College together.
Nice Guy / Nice Girl: Troy and Gabriella. Also Kelsi, Zeke, and from the second film onwards, Ryan.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Chad and Taylor's Zany Scheme to con Troy into confessing he doesn't care about the callbacks for the musical, and forcing Gabriella to watch while he does so. Their intent, ostensibly, is to get Troy to focus on the upcoming basketball game, Gabby on the scholastic competition. What ensues is nearly the termination of the One True Pairing.
Oh God, with the Verbing!: Jack Scott in the stage version. "A skaterdude was even seen mixing with the string section. Oh, the humanity... THE HUMANITY!"
Only Sane Man: Troy and Gabriella in the first film as the only two people in the school who think its ok to have more than one hobby. Of course everyone else thinks they're the crazy ones: Just watch 'Stick To The Status Quo'.
Teacher Favoritism: Ms Darbus blatantly favours drama club presidents Sharpay and Ryan in the first film, even changing the callbacks to suit them. At the same time she picks on Troy purely because he's the basketball captain and her rival's son. She gets better in later movies.
Popularity Food Chain: Played with, the social groups operate in separate spheres rather than on a hierarchy. Each group looks down on the other equally: Sharpay the Alpha Bitch of the drama club, Taylor starts as an Academic Alpha Bitch of the nerds, Chad is a Jerk Jock and dominates the basketball team.
Psychologist Teacher: Ms Darbus in #3, when she counsels Troy about choosing between basketball and theatre.
Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Played disturbingly straight with Sharpay's obsession with Troy. She wants him purely because he's - in her words - "East High's Primo Guy" and pursues him relentless for the status he'll give her. No wonder Troy has a complex about being the 'basketball guy'.
Played with concerning Gabriella. When they first met, Gabriella had no idea the whole school idolized Troy and a main point of their relationship is not being the stereotypeseveryone thinks they are. Her position is actually...
Single Woman Seeks Good Man: She's noticeably more interested after seeing him comfort Kelsi over Sharpay's bullying, and seems put off by his more popular side, particularly when he acts like a jerk to please the basketball team.
Gabriella: "I saw you with Kelsi at the audition yesterday. Do your friends know that guy?"
Troy: "To them I'm the playmaker dude."
Gabriella: "Then they don't know enough about you."
Shipper on Deck: The wildcats go from actively plotting against Troy and Gabriella to this by the second film. (Well except Sharpay obviously). They even instigate their big reunion in 'Everyday'.
Take a Third Option: Troy in the final film he's torn between pursuing basketball at the University of Albuquerque and theatre at Julliard. He picks Berkeley where he can do both, and stay closer to Gabriella.
The first film also does this, when it looks like Troy and Gabriella have to choose between doing the callbacks or the championship game/decathlon. They manage to delay the game and decathlon so they have time to audition.
Terrible Interviewees Montage: The first film features one of these as a variety of terrible wanna-be actors try out for the school play. This is supposedly to show how talented Ryan and Sharpay are. However, as their competition are people who can't sing on key, people who forget their lines, people who are creepy, and people who lock up with stage fright, it actually creates the impression that the only reason they keep starring in school plays is because they are the only people who are vaguely competent at acting or singing.
Took a Level in Dumbass: Inverted with Ryan, who goes from not being able to spell 'drama club' in #1, to being far more capable in #2 and #3, Including winning a scholarship to Julliard.
Took a Level in Jerkass: Sharpay wasn't nice in the first movie, sure, but the second movie blew her negative qualities up to ridiculous proportions. She's back to a more reasonable level of "evil" in the third.
Took a Level in Kindness: Chad, Taylor, Ms Darbus and Jack Bolton by the end of the first film and onwards. Ms Darbus in particular goes from refusing to let Troy and Gabriella audition because they're one minute late, to counselling Troy during his break down about his future.
True Companions: The 'Wildcats', though the main gang is Troy, Gabriella, Chad, Taylor, Kelsi, Zeke, Jason, Martha and sometimes Ryan and Sharpay.
It also helps that the songs are rearranged to downplay the Squick factor; the love song "What I've Been Looking For" is sped up and performed to fit a brother-sister bond, and "Bop to the Top" is clearly addressed to the audience, not each other.
On the flip side, there's an awful lot of fanfiction out there that pair the two. A few explain it away as Ryan and Sharpay not actually being related, though most keep the relationship intact. Of course, many fics lean towards the angsty, tortured side.
With Friends Like These...: Chad and Taylor for Troy and Gabriella in the first film. Chad, who has been Troy's best friend since childhood, starts a bullying campaign against him singing and sabotages his chances with the girl he really likes. Taylor befriends the already shy and insecure Gabriella, just to get her on the scholastic decathlon, and then tricks the guy she likes into hurting her, leaving Gabriella devastated. They do however, redeem themselves in the second half of the film. In the second film, Taylor spends most of her time questioning Gabriella's choice to be with Troy, while Chad only complains about the job Troy got him, specially when Troy gets a promotion and Chad guilt trips him into renouncing.