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The Best College Movies of All Time

College is a time of friends, fun, relationships and of course, movies. Films are a big part of our culture and they have become a significant part of college life. Over the years, Hollywood has produced many movies that have incorporated institutions as the prominent theme and backdrop. Here is a selected list of 10 college movies that are classic and can be enjoyed by students and non-students alike. We recommend seeing all of them before going back to school so you don’t get made fun of by your friends. Entertaining essays on film such as this are among the many writing services offered by Ultius.

1. National Lampoon’s Animal House

A film about a group of fraternity members from Delta Tau Chi and Omega Theta Pi, who challenge the dean of their school, Faber College, National Lampoon’s Animal House has remained one of the funniest and greatest movies of all time. Following the misadventures of Otter, Boon, Bluto, D-Day, Hoover, Flounder and Pinto, it can be summed up plainly in the exchange near the climax:

Bluto: Was it over when the Germans bombed Pear Harbor? Hell, no!

Otter: The Germans?

Boon: Forget it, he’s rolling.

The United States Library of Congress called the movie culturally significant and it was preserved in 2001 in the National Film Registry. Starring John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Kevin Bacon, Karen Allen, Donald Sutherland and a whole host of actors and actresses, National Lampoon’s Animal House is a must watch for all college students who want not only enjoy what is known as the gross-out genre of movies, which speaks to controversial humor, but who want to continuously laugh at the antics that ensue.

2. Revenge of the Nerds

A chronicle of a group of nerds, Revenge of the Nerds deserves a place on this list. Starring Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards, the movie is about a group of nerds, Gilbert, Lewis, Wormser, Booger, Poindexter and Lamar (played beautifully by Larry B. Davis) who form their own fraternity after being expelled from the freshman dorms and in hopes of halting the constant harassment by an all-jock fraternity known as the Alpha Betas. In a memorable scene, the nerds band together with the rallying line:

“Their action tonight demands an immediate retaliation. And, if we don’t, we’re nothing but the nerds they say we are.”

Mayhem ensues, coeds are exposed and the film culminates in one of the most memorable music performances ever committed to film. In the end, the nerds demonstrate that staying true to who you are is the coolest thing of all. College students will get a kick out of this nerd frenzy classic.

3. Back to School

Thornton Melon, obnoxious, self-made business tycoon, becomes the “world’s oldest living freshman” as he enrolls in college to spend more time with his son and impress upon him the importance of an education. Played by the incomparable Rodney Dangerfield, Melon tromps through the collegiate experience in his first week, throwing wild parties, romancing the head of the English department (played by the sultry Sally Kellerman), employs NASA to complete his midterm exams and makes an enemy out of the stodgy Dr. Barbay who eventually holds Melon’s academic future in his curmudgeonly grasp. With appearances by Keith Gordon, Robert Downey, Jr., Rocky‘s Burt Young, comedian Sam Kinison, the band Oingo Boingo and the comic legend, Ned Beatty, this film represents everything we remember about going wild during freshman year.

4. Real Genius

It wasn’t Val Kilmer’s first comedic role, but it’s likely his best. As Chris Knight, Kilmer stars as one of the ten finest minds in the country to which he proclaims “someday I hope to be two of them” humorously expressing one of the eccentricities which sets him apart from normal folk. Set in fictional Pacific Tech, the film follows the adventures of Chris, new kid on campus (literally, as he is fifteen) Mitch Taylor played by Gabe Jarret, the hyperkinetic Jordan played by Michelle Meyrink and social recluse Lazlo Holyfeld played by Jon Gries. Chris and Mitch represent the classic collegiate odd couple, with Chris’s introduction to Mitch spreading nuggets of wisdom such as:

“All of my filth is in alphabetical order. For instance, this is under ‘H’ for ‘toy'”.

As teenagers with astronomical IQs, they are misled into creating a weapon capable of assassinating people from space by the deliciously wicked Dr. Hathaway played beautifully, as always, by William Atherton. Chris and Mitch eventually catch wind of the plan and foil the demonstration of the weapon to the military, turning Hathaway’s dream home into a popcorn ball for good measure. The film is centered around laser science and is a great watch for both comedy and science fans alike.

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5. PCU

A film where fraternities have been banned completely on a college campus, PCU stars Jeremy Piven, David Spade, Chris Young and Jon Favreau. The movie is a perfect example of what can happen, when certain activities and social outlets are outlawed, and the reactions that occur as a result. Through adventures with the anti-discriminatory über-feminist “Wymynysts”, tossing meat at protesters and confining the members of a faculty party to a room devoid of liquor and subjected to the Starland Vocal Band, these rowdy undergraduates reach the brink of being tossed off campus. Finally, however, the conniving dean (played by the incomparable Jessica Walter) is given her comeuppance and her sycophantic lackey, played by Spade, is thrown to the mercy of the warring PC factions on campus. All college students will appreciate this movie.

6. National Lampoon’s Van Wilder

In addition to Animal House, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder deserves a place on this list of best college movies because it is outright hilarious. National Lampoon has a knack for making movies that are satirical, and while this one is not belly aching, fall out of your chair funny, it has many laughs and is the epitome of the events, scenery and times that college is about. The movie stars Ryan Reynolds as Van Wilder and his adventures at Coolidge College. Wilder is unique to the university as he does not seem to be pursuing a two-year degree or even a four-year degree, but is following his own seven-year program. The film culminates in the message of the fear of leaving a comfortable place in order to face the harsh realities of the world, but with faith in oneself, these fears can be soundly overcome.

7. Old School 

Released in 2003, Old School is about thirtysomethings, Mitch, Frank and Beanie trying to relive their college days through founding a fraternity in order for Mitch to maintain his residence on the college campus. Starring Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Jeremy Piven (this time as the dean, rather than the ringleader) and Will Ferrell, the movie is hilariously put together and acquaints audiences with the tribulations that mid-life crisis sufferers encounter on their nostalgic road. The movie has some very funny and memorable scenes and music including an appearance by Snoop Dogg, coping with a rigorous series of exams exacted by Piven’s grudge-harboring dean and Ferrell’s immortal declaration: “You’re my boy, Blue!”.

8. The Social Network

An iconic film about Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, the social networking website that would become known as Facebook,the fallout that ensued and the impact it would eventually have upon society. The Social Network provides interesting insight into Zuckerberg’s creation and a lawsuit that occurred as a result of the birth of Facebook from two brothers who claimed Zuckerberg stole their idea. It is worth a watch because of its portrayal of how what many consider small ideas become big ones with tenacity and determination despite criticism. The film is a perfect example for all college students to go for their dreams at all costs.

9. The Freshman

An often forgotten college film starring Matthew Broderick and Marlon Brando, one could call this one a missed classic. Why? The story revolves around Broderick’s character who has recently become a freshman at a film school in New York City and tries to cope with the increasing cost of a college education. Broderick’s character encounters Brando’s reprisal of a Vito Corleone-like character. If you have seen Brando’s performance in The Godfather, imagine the classic Coppola film as a comedy. There is comedic genius in The Freshman and every college student needs to see this at least once, if not multiple times.

10. Rudy

A sports film that is an account of the life of Daniel Ruettiger, better known as Rudy, who had aspirations of playing football at the University Of Notre Dame, and perhaps one of the best sports movies of all time. It has frequently topped sports movie lists as well as movies of an inspirational and motivational nature. The main character, Rudy, has hopes of achieving success with college football in spite of mediocre grades and a lack of money to attend Notre Dame. The film draws on the theme of overcoming obstacles and speaks to all college students to persevere and never give up on their dreams and goals.


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