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Best College Movies of All Time
Few American coming-of-age eras have become mythologized quite like one’s college years. For some, they are a time to awaken your mind to new people, new lessons, and new experiences. For others, they’re a time to put those critical thinking skills to bed and party for about four years straight. No matter your experience, there’s a movie for it.
Since college is often a young person’s first time living as an independent adult, it can serve as a time to carve one’s path in ways they’d never imagined. And it’s only right that the college movie genre embodies this choose-your-own-adventure variety. From intellectual dramas, to drunken antics-driven comedies, college sweetheart rom-coms, and more, you’re sure to find your niche. Just remember to close the yearbook once you’re done reminiscing about your big man on campus days. These are the best college movies of all time.
Perhaps one of Reese Witherspoon’s most iconic roles, Legally Blonde follows the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl-turned-Harvard law student. Originally pursuing her law degree to win back her ex-boyfriend, Elle quickly proves that there is more to her than just sleek blonde hair, an impeccable fashion sense, and signature tricks like the bend and snap.
A biographical retelling of the story of Daniel Reuttigier, Rudy tells of Reuttigier’s obstacle-ridden path to pursue his life dream of playing football for the University of Notre Dame. If Reutiggier’s new title as a motivational speaker tells you anything, the story is an inspirational one.
Good Will Hunting
Another not-so-typical college film, Good Will Hunting stars Matt Damon as a janitor at MIT whose luck takes a turn when a professor discovers his hidden mathematical genius. When he runs into trouble with the law, the professor makes a deal to get him leniency if he’ll begin seeing a therapist, played by none other than the ever-wise Robin Williams.
The House Bunny
Sure, The House Bunny is not exactly critically acclaimed, but anyone who has seen Anna Faris’s comedic genius in this film will tell you it’s a must-watch. Faris stars as a Playboy Bunny who, after turning the ripe age of 27, is told that she is too old to live in the Playboy mansion. Kicked to the curb, she seeks refuge in Zeta Alpha Zeta, a sorority of social outcasts played by Emma Stone, Kat Dennings, Katharine McPhee, and Rumer Willis. When Faris’s character learns that they need to attract new pledges in order to remain a sorority, she realizes she might be their saving grace.
In this classic Will Ferrell comedy, Luke Wilson stars as an attorney who receives the devastating news that his girlfriend has been cheating on him. When he moves into a new place nearby a local college, his best friends, played by Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn, are convinced that the antidote to his blues is to convert the house into a party spot.
22 Jump Street
The sequel to Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill’s beloved adaptation of 21 Jump Street, a police procedural series, 22 Jump Street lands the buddy cop duo in college. On a mission to infiltrate a drug ring, the two men quickly become sidetracked by the old college trope … finding themselves.
The Express: The Ernie Davis Story
On the field, no one could stop running back Ernie Davis… hence his nickname as “the express.” However, his life was certainly not an obstacle-free fast track to success. The Express tells of Ernie Davis’s story at Syracuse University, and how he became the first Black football player to win the Heisman Trophy.
The Social Network
Love or hate Mark Zuckerberg (we have our opinions), this biographical drama about the Facebook founder’s rapid rise from his undergrad years at Harvard has gone down as one of the best films in the 21st century. And, with writing from Aaron Sorkin, a score from Trent Raznor and Atticus Ross, and a stellar leading performance from Jesse Eisenberg, the acclaim is practically algorithmically guaranteed.
Dear White People
Dear White People follows Samantha White, a Black student at the fictionalized Ivy League Winchester University, as she makes her voice heard across campus on her radio show “Dear White People.” As wry as it is insightful, the critically acclaimed film features performances from Tessa Thompson, Tyler James Williams, Teyonah Parris, Brandon P. Bell, Marque Richardson, and Dennis Haysbert. Note: The Netflix spin-off series is also a must-watch.
So, technically this one is a post-college flick. But, as any graduate will tell you, there’s nothing more universal about the college experience than the existential limbo that occurs once you’ve stepped off-campus and into the real world. For Dustin Hoffman’s character Benjamin Braddock, this comes in the form of a dizzied rendezvous with his family friend Mrs. Robinson, played by Anne Bancroft. Coo coo, ca-choo.
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