Submitted by Aimee Laurence
Ah, college. That first taste of adult life away from home: dorms, parties, beer pong, and all-nighters. Heartbreaks and love affairs. There’s nothing quite like that formative part of our life, and the best college movies channel that feeling of freedom and youth. When time was still on our side, and the promise of a bright future full of endless opportunities lay ahead!
It’s a great theme and setting for a film, and some college movies are pure cinematic gold – they let their characters indulge in every whim, experiment and try everything, usually without any truly serious repercussions (apart from maybe, bad grades). The college movie has an undeniable appeal – they are full of clichés and created so many tropes, from the wild frat party to the studious nerd looking for acceptance. This is what makes screenwriters and directors turn to the college campus again and again: college is the perfect time to experience your hearts true desires, and maybe, find out who you really are.
So, read on for the best college movies. These aren’t just films set on a college campus, but movies truly about the college experience of self-exploration, youth, and the crazy things that happen in the meantime. Some are relatable, some are ironic, and others are daft enough that they are scarily accurate to what college is really like!
1. Legally Blonde
One of the best girl power films of our time, Legally Blonde is all about a girl who follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School and, against all expectations, makes top of the class! It’s funny, often silly, but also a very heartwarming film about believing in yourself. Reese Witherspoon stars as the relentlessly cheerful, strong-willed and somewhat ditzy main character Elle Woods, trying to win back her ex Warner Huntington III, who dumped her for not being intelligent enough. Along the way, she challenges both his and the audience’s perception of her as a blonde airhead, and discovers a love for law and education. Elle Woods’ triumph over patriarchal perceptions is unlike any other college movie, so it deserves first place!
2. Good Will Hunting
The film that made Ben Affleck and Matt Damon famous, both in terms of acting and writing the film, Good Will Hunting is the tale of a janitor with a gift for mathematics. It explores the boundaries between academia and low-paid labor jobs and the social classes involved. Damon’s character struggles with the college experience of leaving his hometown and growing up – something most college students can relate to!
3. Pitch Perfect
Pitch Perfect is the story of an all-female a capella group told in comedic fashion, with Anna Kendrick as Beca, a wannabe DJ who hates college yet finds her calling with the Bellas, the a capella group at her college. With Beca’s zest for DJing and music, she revamps their lackluster routine and together they become winners!
4. With Honors
Brendan Fraser plays a know-it-all Harvard student who is set to graduate with flying colors – until his thesis ends up in the hands of a homeless man! It’s a comedy with some touching life lessons about class privilege, entitlement, and the use of academia in everyday life. The audience follows Fraser as he discovers that not everything important in life can be learned through classes and studying.
5. Dead Man on Campus
A classic college movie based around the old urban legend that if a student dies, all students in their year are granted straight A’s. Two best friends about to fail seek out a suicidal roommate to try to fix their grades – but everything, of course, goes horribly wrong!
6. The Rules of Attraction
By the author of American Psycho, this college film is a lot darker and ‘out-there’ than other movies. It’s an unusual love triangle between classmates and a whole load of other crazy occurrences – we’ll say no more than that!
7. The Social Network
The college movie about the rise of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. This takes the traditional college nerd storyline and adds a twist as he becomes a billionaire – but at a cost to his friends and relationships. As director David Fincher delves more and more into the life of the tech giant, it becomes a darker and sadder tale than most college rags-to-riches stories. Best of all, it’s based on a true story!