The Art (Sort of) of College Movies

This week, I select three college movies that every high school junior and senior should watch, either just for the laughs or the lessons.

OK, it’s Saturday morning and as I’m sitting in my room thinking of a decent movie to watch, the idea of creating a mini-list of worthwhile college movies for high school juniors and seniors to watch suddenly clicked in my noggin’.

Keep in mind these movies, as most Hollywood productions go, are an exaggerated image of the college experience and it is incredibly doubtful you will ever go through what these “students” endured.

Below I have selected three college movies for you to watch before you step foot on campus either this coming fall or the following. I will point out what is realistic about each movie’s plotline and what is embellished, which is quite a lot.

Also, feel free to add your own list of movies in the comment section, as I certainly have not seen every college-themed film out there.

Orange County (2002)

Starring Colin Hanks and Jack Black

Orange County is one of those movies that has always been stuck in the back of my mind when I think about college movies because it is hysterical, but at the same time you need to take it seriously because there is a chance that this plot-line can happen to anybody.

A slacker-turned-diligent student Shaun (Colin Hanks) lives in Orange County, California, and would like to become a novelist. His academic resume is quite impressive, and he is so confident in himself that he applies only to Stanford University.

After realizing he has been rejected by Stanford because his transcript has been mixed up with a much less affluent student, his lazy brother and his girlfriend try to set things right.

The fact that Shaun’s family is incredibly dysfunctional makes you feel even more sympathetic for him, but at the same time it helps lighten the mood when Jack Black prances around the house in his underwear.

Now, I’m not recommending you take a nighttime drive up to your prospective college’s campus and sneak into the dean’s office to switch out the correct paperwork, but I’d like to think this would be a fun story to tell grandchildren someday.

Watch the trailer here.

Accepted (2006)

Starring Justin Long and Lewis Black

This was the first movie that made me realize there is the chance I may not get accepted anywhere, and in that case, what in the world would I do?

Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) is rejected from every school he applied to, prompting him to create a fake college in his hometown for those who also didn’t get in anywhere. The “college” is nothing more than a huge party house where “Doing Nothing 101” is a class. Gaines and his friends desperately try to hide the school from their parents.

Only truly oblivious parents would let this kind of act go on for so long. In the event you are actually rejected from all the colleges you applied to, either taking a year off and trying again the following year or directly enrolling in community college to knock some credits off the board are two realistic (and legal) options.

Watch the trailer here.

Animal House (1978)

Starring John Belushi, Stephen Furst and Kevin Bacon

I think it’s safe to say that we have arrived at the Holy Grail of college movies. Animal House reminds all of us, young or old, that we can still have fun, but within reason.

The Delta fraternity at Faber College is notorious for its constant rowdy behavior and its poor academic performance. The dean is doing everything in his power to expel all of the Delta members, but the frat brothers are going to make sure they stay on campus, whatever it takes.

Animal House was a pioneer in college-themed films and is filled with all sorts of comedy -- from slapstick to sarcasm to innuendos -- and it is still viewed as a cult classic. I’m not sure how fraternities worked back in the 1960s (when this movie was set), but I know for certain that if any of fraternity or sorority were to act the way the Delta house did, they would be expelled so fast it would make your head spin. Don’t expect college to be one big Delta house.

Watch the trailer here.

And, like I mentioned above, if you have any other suggestions for good college movies, feel free to write them down below.

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Kristen Chase April 29, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Fun article Kyle. I like the movie Old School with Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn & Will Ferrell. It is about a group of older guys starting a fraternity so their friend can keep his house that is on campus grounds. Sort of college related. Lol.
Stephen Greenwell April 30, 2012 at 06:59 AM
I agree with Kristen - When I was actually in college from 2002 to 2007, we probably watched "Old School" about 500 times. While it's mostly about older dudes, it does have a very "college" feel to it. "PCU" with Jeremy Piven is also a good college movie - I think it's from the late 1980s or early 1990s.


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