The 411 Movies Top 5 01.13.12: Week 304 - Top 5 College Movies
Posted by Trevor Snyder on 01.13.2012
From Horse Feathers to Revenge of the Nerds, from Social Network to House Party 2, 411's Trevor Snyder and Bryan Kristopowitz pick the best college themed movies of all time.
Though sometimes it can be a struggle to think of the topic for this column every week, this time I had an advantage. Because this week I applied to Grad school, and while I put the final touches on my application and portfolio, it occurred to me that while we've done Best High School Movies before, we never moved up to the next level of our Top 5 studies. So here, finally, is a look at the best college-themed movies, from myself and Bryan Kristopowitz. I knew there would be at least movie that would make both our lists, but it turns out there's another classic college comedy that neither of us could ignore. Care to take a guess? I'll give you hint - it's a movie that might not get a lot of respect.
THE TOP 5 COLLEGE MOVIES
5. Horse Feathers (1932)
This spot almost went to the Sean Astin football tale Rudy, until I remembered this Marx Brothers classic, which actually also focuses on college football (maybe Rudy would have fared better if I knew it didn't play so loose with the real-life story that inspired it, an issue the completely fictional Horse Feathers doesn't have to worry about). The Marx Brothers are always at their best when messing with snooty establishments, so really it was only natural for them to turn their sights on college. Here, Groucho plays Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the new president of Huxley University. Instead on concentrating on all the real day to day duties of a college president, Wagstaff turns all his attention to hiring ringers for his school's football team, in order to win a game against their biggest rival. Unfortunately, he accidentally hires the wrong ringers, in the form of Chico and Harpo, and the usual Marx Brothers anarchy ensues.
4. Back to School (1986)
Rodney Dangerfield's best work in a lead role finds him as a millionaire businessman who decides to attend college for the first time, mostly so he can be closer to his student son. Dangerfield at first thinks throwing money at the school will allow him to skate by on his studies and simply party all the time, but in true Hollywood fashion he eventually gets his act together and learns you're never too old to actually learn some new tricks. Besides the infamous triple-lindy diving scene and an amazing performance from Sam Kinison as a hot-headed professor, this one also features one of the greatest cameos of all time, as Dangerfield hires the real-life Kurt Vonnegut to write his paper on…Kurt Vonnegut.
3. The Rules of Attraction (2002)
I know it might be hard to believe, but people don't always act like saints at college. In fact, many will argue that drinking, partying and experimentation – both of the sexual and chemical nature – is just as much a part of the true college experience as is the studying and test-taking. This adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' novel follows the intertwined lives of a handful of shallow, narcissistic students that might all believe they are looking for a real human connection, but are too oblivious to see the damage left in their wake. Believe it or not, the show-stealer in this gleefully demented black-comedy is James Van Der Beek, pulling a complete 180 from his Dawson's Creek days as the dangerously self-loathing drug dealer Sean Bateman (who, interestingly enough, is also the brother of Christian Bale's American Psycho character).
2. The Social Network (2010)
David Fincher's hit film about Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook might not immediately come to mind when thinking about college movies. But, c'mon, where does it take place? And let's not forget that Facebook started out as a site aimed only at college students. This film chillingly recreates those early days of the site, chronicling both Zuckerberg's genius in creating it, and his cold, impersonal ability to cut out the best friend who helped him every step of the way. More than just a "movie about Facebook," The Social Network is also a fascinating look into college politics and the inner workings of Harvard society.
1. National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)
Well, what else could it be, really? I don't think anyone who goes to college doesn't think of and reference this film at least once during their time there. That's because like all the best comedies, this one is full of classic moments, whether it be the giant food-fight or Belushi's epic speech about the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor ("Forget it, he's rolling"). This tale of a rag-tag fraternity of lovable misfits is one of the funniest comedies of all time, and is still so highly considered today that anytime a new college-themed comedy is released today, you know they've already accepted the eventual statement, "eh, it was OK, but it was no Animal House."
5. Accepted (2006)
The great thing about this college themed comedy is that it features characters trying to create their own college. They're all potential freshmen who either didn't get accepted at the college of their choice or didn't apply for college because of whatever. And the college they create, the South Harmon Institute of Technology (ha), is all about whatever the students want: they create their own classes ("Taking a Walk and Thinking About Stuff" is a class I would have taken had it been offered at my college) and act as their own teachers. It's probably not the most practical college, but at least on paper it sounds like a great idea. The movie also features one of Jonah Hill's best performances, as the proper college bound Sherman Schrader. I loved how he helped Justin Long's Bartleby to create the fake college's website. If you have a website that must mean you're real, right?
The S.H.I.T. Sandwiches is also one of the greatest school mascots of all time.
4. House Party 2 (1991)
The general premise of House Party 2 is the same as the first movie: Play, of Kid 'n Play, wants to stage a big ass party. In the first movie, Play is putting the big party together at his house because his parents are going away on vacation. In the sequel, Play is putting on a big party, a sexy pajama party, to help his buddy Kid pay his college tuition bill. Play took Kid's tuition money, a scholarship put together by Kid's church because of his father's sudden death, and lost it in a big record producing scam. So, Play owes Kid. Not having the necessary funds to finish a semester is something oodles of college students can relate to because it happens all of the time. And as we see what happens to Kid when the college finds out that he doesn't have the money to pay his bill, college is your friend until you can't pay. When you can't pay, the college calls you a deadbeat and then, like a bookie, tells you you have a certain amount of time to pay or it's going to "break" your future. Now, granted, the pajama party idea didn't pan out (Play ended up selling his sports car and gave that money to Kid for his tuition bill), but it's the thought that counts, right?
The point here? Never go to college unless you have the money to do so. Otherwise, your life is just going to be one big pain in the ass.
3. Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
College is supposed to be socially different from high school. Presumably, in college everyone is relatively mature and serious about their future because that's what they're in college for: to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their life. The reality, of course, at least in the world of Revenge of the Nerds, is that college really isn't all that different than high school. The douchebag jocks run the place, all of the hot girls want to hang out with the jocks, and the only people who socialize with the nerds are other nerds. To say that life isn't pleasant for the nerds would be a supreme understatement. However, instead of just taking life's crap, the nerds eventually figure out how to fight back, gain their revenge, and take over the world. That's reassuring, isn't it?
Yeah, it's reassuring, and inspiring, but how likely is it that the nerds would win and capture the imagination of general society in real life? I'll tell you how likely it is: not very. Louis Skolnick could build a super intelligent robot and cure cancer and still the most important thing going on at Adam's College is the football team's bowl chances. Will the team make it to a big game?
Have fun living in the gym.
2. Back to School (1986)
This classic Rodney Dangerfield comedy is chock full of great "college" stuff. You've got the stuffy economics class, the terrifying history class, and the literature class that comes off as laid back but is really incredibly hard. The flick also has wild parties, bar fights, a liberal hippie type with blue hair, a rich guy donating a building, a college president that only cares about money, Kurt Vonnegut, a monkey that eats pizza while watching pro wrestling, douchebag jock types, and a diving competition (you know, college sports). This movie just never gets old. It's still just as funny as the first time I saw it, the events depicted are still happening in colleges all over the world, and final exams still suck. Although, it would probably be kind of neat to have a guy like Sam Kinison as your history professor, at least for a few weeks. Just how many times is that guy going to flip out in the middle of class?
1. National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)
A disgusting yet lovable fraternity full of drunks and degenerates ends up battling the college dean and the student council over general decency. You root for the frat of drunks because they're cool, and you hate the dean and the student council because they're a bunch of smug, stuffy racists. I don't think anyone's college experience is quite like that today, but today's students no doubt use the events depicted in the movie to help parody their own college experience. Especially the heavy drinking stuff. There's a reason students the world over have posters in their dorm rooms of John Belushi's Bluto wearing that "college" sweatshirt. That, and the fact that the movie is still hysterical to this day, is the reason Animal House is, and likely always will be, the best college themed movie. It was inspired by real events, and the movie inspires real events today. It's timeless.
Agree with our choices? Disagree? Be sure to share your thoughts and your own Top 5's below. And don't forget to include suggestions for future Top 5 columns...we're always looking for the next great list.
Till then, for more of my movies views, check out Night of the Living Trev, my personal movie review page, as well as all the other great reviews and columns here at the Movies section of 411.