Before enrolling in College for the first time American’s get mixed messages about what to expect when they get there: there’s the boozy world of the on-campus fraternities which either lead to comedy or drama, there’s the academics who are either falling in love with their students or undergoing a personal crisis, through to some more serious stories about students finding themselves through study and College sport.
There’s probably tidbits of truth across the broad range of College movies, and here’s ten of the top movies featuring College Life.
10 . A Beautiful Mind
This 2001 movie staring New Zealand born Russell Crowe tells the story of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economic.
The movie starts with the brilliant, but delusional Nash arriving at Princeton University having been awarded the Carneige Scholarship for mathematics. As the story continues, it features Nash meeting other students and developing friendships along the way. Through his struggles with his growing paranoid schizophrenia, Nash develops his ideas, and is offered a position at MIT.
Without giving away the full story, the movie (which also starred Ed Harris) went on to win the Academy Awards Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. It was also nominated for Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup, and Best Original Score.
It’s a serious movie on a serious subject; not for everyone but a fascinating and moving story none the less.
9. Revenge of the Nerds
This 1984 comedy in centered on the social life of a College campus in an old fashioned tale of jocks vs nerds.
Starring Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards (of ER fame) the movie pits the jocks Alpha Betas and their associated sorority Pi Delta Pis against the freshman dorm that features our so-titled nerds.
The movie progresses with the Nerds seeking their revenge in various different ways.
It hasn’t dated particularly well but still offers some laughs, if you can look past the Hollywood stereotypes portrayed in the film.
8. Road Trip
Todd Pihillip’s 2000 comedy features a rather unexciting cast (the only names I recognize are Sean William Scott and Tom Green) but has become a cult classic at some colleges.
The movie follows a group of college buddies driving across the country trying to beat the postal service.
Josh (Breckin Meyer) recorded a message to his girlfriend Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard) who attends a different college across the country because he hadn’t heard from her in awhile. Because he’s a touch paranoid he naturally convinces himself that Tiffany has been cheating and hooks up with Beth (Amy Smart) who tapes their bedroom antics. The sex tape then “accidentally” gets mailed instead of the intended video. This opens the door to the Road Trip of the films title as Josh heads of with his friends and ends up experiencing a range of mishaps and adventures.
7. Legally Blonde
2001′s Legally Blonde made $141.77 million at the box office on an $18 million budget, and there’s a reason why.
The movie features Reese Witherspoon playing Elle Woods, a high school sorority president who majors in fashion merchandising and is hopelessly in love with her boyfriend Warner, who is off the Harvard Law School the following year.
After concluding that she might lose him if she doesn’t follow him, she takes the Law School Admission Test, applies and is accepted to Harvard.
The story follows her experiences as she encounters hostility from her classmates and develops as a person before an ending we won’t spoil for you here.
It’s a feel good movie that has spawned a sequel and even a Broadway Musical!
6. Back to School
No list of College movies would be complete without throwing in at least one Rodney Dangerfield classic, and we’ve gone with 1986′s Back to School.
The plot is summed up from IMDB as “To help his discouraged son get through college, a fun loving and obnoxious rich businessman decides to enter the school as a student himself” but that doesn’t do it full justice.
This is a Dangerfield movie after all, so you need to add in some stupidity, crude jokes, puns, wink winks and some more on top… it sounds bad and a modern movie couldn’t get away with it but this is the master, America’s (slightly cleaner) version of Benny Hill. You’ll either love him or hate him, but he was good at what he did.
Also featured in Back to School is a young Robert Downey Jr.
5. Old School
2003′s Old School isn’t strictly a “College” movie as the plot features around ex students trying to recreate their College days, but it features enough College related material we’ve thrown it in.
Staring Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Jeremy Piven as depressed thirty-somethings who seek to re-live their college days by starting a fraternity, and the tribulations they encounter in doing so.
The movie (like most Will Ferrell movies) you’ll either love or hate, but the all star cast does give it that something special. Ideal for both College students and former College students alike who loved/ love their College days.
4. Dead Poets Society
Peter Weir’s 1989 movie Dead Poet’s society bought us the inspirational story of an English teacher who inspires his students through the teaching of poetry.
Starring Robin Williams as teacher John Keating, and with a supporting cast of Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke, the movie takes the viewer through the world of the conservative and aristocratic Welton Academy in Vermont in 1959.
The movie inspires even years later, and is arguably Robin Williams’ best role on the big screen.
The movie was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Best Direct, Best Actor, and Best Picture, but sadly only picked up Original Screenplay against strong competition.
On a budget of $16.4 million it made $235.86 million at the box office.
3. National Lampoon’s Van Wilder
2002′s National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (know simply as Van Wilder in some markets) is a comedy film starring a rather interesting cast: interesting in that some went on to much bigger and better things…while others didn’t.
The movie started Ryan Reynolds, Tara Reid, Kal Penn and Tim Matheson, and tells the story of a popular kid on campus who meets a beautiful journalist who makes him realize that maybe he’s afraid of graduating.
In traditional National Lampoon style the movie is rich with disgusting pranks, back love story, sex and more. There’s also a sub-plot around Kal Penn which adds a different dimension to the film.
Not for everyone, but it has an audience, and has its moments.
2. The Social Network
The only movie from this decade to be featured in our list, 2010′s the Social Network delivered an amazing film that while not spending its entire time focused on College life, did highlight college life for its opening half.
The movie tells the story of the rise of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.
Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) is at Harvard University when he creates an on-campus website called Facemash, a site that allows users to rate the attractiveness of female students.
If you haven’t seen it yet I won’t spoil it, but you’d be living in a cave if you didn’t know how successful Facebook ended up.
There are stand out performances by Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Rooney Mara. Unlike our number one pick this is a movie I’ve watched half a dozen times, and if you haven’t seen it yet I can’t recommend it enough.
1. Animal House
1978′s Animal House isn’t my personal pick, but it constantly rates across dozens of sites as the greatest College life movie ever.
The John Landis directed movie stared the late great John Belushi as John “Bluto” Blutarsky and focuses on the actor’s desire to join a fraternity, and their battles once they do.
Animal House has been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, was voted No. 1 on Bravo’s “100 Funniest Movies” and was ranked 36 on the AFI’s “100 years, 100 laughs” list. It has also been named on Empire Magazines top 500 movies of all time.
It cost all of $3 million to make, and made a staggering $141.6 million at the box office.