12 of the best college movies and what we learned from them

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best college movies

Touchstone Pictures

Movies have a way of both reflecting culture and shaping it at the same time. Nowhere is this truer than in movies about college. For years, wide eyed freshman have arrived on campus expecting to see scenes reminiscent of those from their favorite college movies. They try to emulate them -– whether consciously or subconsciously –- in an effort to live out those wild, debauched times immortalized on film. They throw toga parties, they drunkenly dance in basements to “Shout” and they live life like they’re actors in some giant movie. That’s why we’ve gathered here today to celebrate these twelve college movies. And since college is all about education -– at least a little bit, anyway -– we figured it would be a good idea to take a look at what we learned from each one of these masterpieces. Shall we?

The Plot: The quintessential career student and party animal wards off the evils of the real world through a series of never-ending parties with the help of his friends and his damn near sociopathic devotion to having a good time. At least until the money ship stops sailing, he falls for an uptight girl and the realization that college must end someday forces him to... grow up? Naaaaaah.

What We Learned: That if you just smile and bullshit your way through life, everything will work out fine. Also, throwing parties is spiritually rewarding and will eventually land you the girl of your dreams. Just like real life!

The Plot: Everyone hates each other on the most militant college campus in the world, resulting in chaos, rape and despair. Fun for the whole family!

What We Learned: College is basically the Middle East, only with more gunfights, racial tension and date rapes.

The Plot: A retarded dude channels years of abuse into primal rage, which he then uses to propel a backwards-ass hick school into college football glory. Also, he has an odd relationship with his mother. Oh, and he hates haughty professors.

What We Learned: If you bully your team’s water boy he will later show up inexplicably playing for your arch rival and rupture your spleen. Also, going to class is for suckers. Just tackle your professor and you’ll be fine.

The Plot: An old man realizes his life is bullshit and decides to go back to school in an effort to bond with his uptight dork of a son. Hijinks ensue.

What We Learned: If you’re trying to make your college’s swim team it helps to know the Triple Lindy. Also, make friends with the rich kid because there’s a chance his dad will show up and turn your dorm room into a swank penthouse. Oh, and don’t mess with Rodney Dangerfield.

The Plot: A bunch of amoral hedonists at a small liberal arts school in the Northeast have lots of sex and do lots of drugs. Oh, and did we mention that one of the main characters is the younger brother of Patrick Bateman of American Psycho fame? And that’s he’s played by James Vanderbeek a.k.a. Dawson from Dawson’s Creek? And that if you ever wanted to watch Dawson play a complete sociopath, here’s the perfect opportunity? Because those are all things that are totally true.

What We Learned: That guy or girl you’re in love with probably doesn’t even know you exist but it doesn’t really matter because, apparently, nothing matters. Also, everyone in the world is bisexual. Oh, and if Dawson tries to have sex with you, you should probably run.

The Plot: A bunch of geeks work on a project at the behest of the asshole EPA agent from Ghostbusters. Unbeknownst to them, he has some ulterior motives aside from their education. Oh, and Val Kilmer teaches an ubernerd how to enjoy life and maybe, if he’s lucky, get laid.

What We Learned: Don’t be so damn serious all the time. Have fun once in a while and if you’re a real genius then you should prank the shit out of your uptight professor, preferably with something involving popcorn and Tears For Fears. I mean, come on, use that giant brain for something useful. Oh, and if a disembodied voice tells you stop masturbating, don’t freak out, it’s probably just your friends messing with you. Either that or you’re having a severe psychotic episode. Or maybe that really is God telling you to quit playing with yourself. Who knows?

The Plot: A high school senior takes a campus visit to a school overrun by political correctness. He winds up in the company of a dude roughly in his sixteenth year of college (Jeremy Piven basically playing the proto-Van Wilder) and his burnout friends and together they raise hell and fight back against the school’s uptight mores.

What We Learned: Apparently a dude in his mid-thirties suffering from male pattern baldness can get away with being a college student. Also, when life starts to suck, the administration wants to kick you out of school and take your house, do the only thing you can do: throw a giant party. Oh, and those angry chicks who look and smell like a used Lollapalooza tour bus don’t like to be called chicks. They’re womynists, damn it, and your phallocentric tyranny is at an end!

The Plot: A burnt out professor and one time successful novelist struggles to complete the follow-up to his award winning debut. Along the way, he deals with his own marriage issues, breaks up another marriage, smokes a lot of weed, fends off the advances of an alluring coed played by a pre-zombified Katie Holmes and tries to save the soul of another one of his students, played by Spider-Man, who ends up having an affair with Iron Man. Got all that?

What We Learned: Follow your heart and let inspiration into your life. Also, chicks dig a tortured genius. And most English Lit majors are pretentious jackoffs who will suck your soul dry. But most importantly, we learned that Iron Man will seduce Spider-Man the first chance he gets.

The Plot: Two nerds show up on campus expecting their lives to change. Instead, they are terrorized by the jock fraternity, abused by the hot girl sorority, and even have their dorm room stolen. The two then band together with the rest of the nerds on campus, start their own fraternity and proceed to run wild all over campus in a reign of terror not seen since the Mongol Empire. They stage a late night black ops assault on the sorority, sabotage the jocks’ football equipment, cheat their asses off to win the Greek Games and therefore steal the campus government, and Lewis even resorts to raping a chick in a moon room. Somehow -– I’m guessing through sheer exhaustion and fear -– the rest of the campus tells the jocks to go to hell and celebrate with the nerds and Lewis and his victim fall madly in love.

What We Learned: If you follow the example set in this movie, you will end up in federal prison. Also, exposing yourself to a blind person is known as mopery. Oh, and if you need backup, align yourself with a militant black fraternity because even Ogre can’t stand up to those guys.

The Plot: A trio of dudes experiencing mid-life crises band together to form their own fraternity even though they aren’t enrolled in college. Their wild parties and general debauchery become so popular amongst the real students that they soon find themselves awash in pledges to their new frat, both old and young. Persecuted by the local establishment (Jeremy Piven, with more hair here as a middle aged Dean than he had as a college student in PCU –- how does that work?) the new frat is forced to defend their honor and their survival. Along the way, they fall in love, they get divorced, and people even die. Poor Blue. Never forget.

What We Learned: College is fun for all ages and if your nickname is “The Tank” your destiny probably involves getting bombed and eventually streaking through campus. Also, if someone knocks on your door and says “I’m here for the gangbang” you might want to reevaluate your life. Oh, and most importantly, don’t let old men wrestle two topless chicks in a pool filled with K-Y Jelly. Not unless you’re prepared to sing at a funeral.

The Plot: An awkward genius of a college student creates Facebook and in the process ends up feuding with virtually every person on the face of the earth.

What We Learned: Screw school, just come up with a billion dollar idea, move to California and hang out with Justin Timberlake (and presumably the roughly one billion women who follow him around on a daily basis.) Also, hot Asian chicks who will blow you in a public bathroom on the first date probably aren’t the most stable prospects for a long term relationship. (They sure are fun though. Well, at least until they set your room on fire anyway.) Oh, and all Harvard Crew members are apparently Aryan cartoon characters.

The Plot: If you don’t know the plot to Animal House then I’m pretty sure you were either born in Bhutan or you are the most culturally sheltered human being alive. In which case, this Web site probably just blew your mind.

What We Learned: College is the most debauched time in your life, class (all definitions of the word) is secondary to having a good time, nothing is more fun than getting shitfaced with all your friends and a few hundred hot, horny strangers and if you chug a fifth of Jack Daniels in under a minute and terrorize that hot coed who doesn’t close her curtains you will one day end up a Senator. Oh, and if a giant black dude asks if he can dance with your date, by all means, let the man dance with your date.

(Originally published on September 15, 2011.)

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TAGSAnimal HouseArbitrary RankingsBack to SchoolBest college moviescollege moviescollege movies listfeaturedLife lessonsListsOld SchoolReal GeniusRevenge of the NerdsThe Social NetworkThe WaterboyVan WilderWonder Boys

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