Top 10 College Films of All Time
The Princeton Review
If you ever thought your crazy life at college would make a great movie, you're not alone. American filmmakers have long tapped into the drama and energy of the American college scene. Some of these flicks are better than others, of course, so The Princeton Review--in the tradition of its famous college rankings--has narrowed down the top ten college films. What's more, all of the movies described below feature colleges included in The Princeton Review's collection of The Best 361 Colleges. Learn more about each of these colleges by clicking the "Featured school" links.
(10) Mona Lisa Smile
Featured school: Wellesley College
Starring Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mona Lisa Smile (2003) explores the challenges and value of independent thinking. Setting the film at Wellesley, a small women's liberal arts school, seems a good choice: Students report that the Wellesley experience is "all about finding who you are, even when the world tells you something otherwise." In the film, set in the 1950s, art professor Katherine Ann Watson (played by Roberts) encourages her students to rethink the traditional roles they've been taught. It's professors like this who prompt today's Wellesley women to call their profs amazing and inspiring.
Featured school: Columbia University
Ever wonder just how tough it is to get into an Ivy League college like Columbia? Just ask Scott Feinstadt, a prospective Columbia student in this 2004 romantic comedy who has an illicit affair with an admissions officer, played by Laura Linney. Remember, this is just a movie. In real life, while just 11 percent of applicants to Columbia are accepted, students with good grades, high SAT scores, impressive arrays of extracurriculars, and that fire in the belly for learning stand a solid chance. Please note: We do not recommend the Scott Feinstadt approach.
(8) Outside Providence
Featured school: Brown University
In this 1999 coming-of-age drama, teen rebel Tim Dunphy gets into so much trouble that his father sends him off to the Cornwall Academy for Boys with the directive that he must graduate and keep himself out of trouble. While trying to balance the demands of school and steering clear of troublemaking, Tim falls for Jane Weston, a straight-arrow student soon on her way to Brown. What's the appeal of this Ivy? Well, for one thing, students report that "being at Brown means you will never again have to take a class if you don't want to." Think of it as an un-rebellious kind of rebellion. (Dating Tim Dunphy, on the other hand, may be just plain rebellious.) Real Brown students report that Providence is also a lovely place for romance, illicit or otherwise.
(7) With Honors
Featured school: Harvard University
In this 1994 film, a spoiled grad student named Monty (played by Brendan Fraser) somehow finds his thesis in the hands of Simon (played by Joe Pesci), a vagabond who lives in the basement of one of the university's libraries. Simon agrees to return the thesis--which Monty needs to graduate with honors--but insists he will return it just one page at a time in exchange for a series of favors. The unlikely pair strike up a friendship, and Monty learns some of his most important lessons not from his books, but from Simon. As far as book lessons go, though, Harvard students praise their school's "unparalleled" academics and note that there is always something going on. In fact, they say that the hardest part is balancing all of the work with all the other interesting options on campus. Oh, and speaking of university libraries, students boast that theirs are the best in America.
Featured school: Notre Dame
Based on a true story, this 1993 movie tells the story of Rudy Ruettiger, an unlikely football player who has long dreamed of playing on the famed Fighting Irish team at Notre Dame despite being relatively small for the position. He ultimately manages to transfer to the university from nearby Holy Cross and even secures a place on the team. Students at Notre Dame share Rudy's enthusiasm for the sport, reporting that football season is the most fun time of the year and that thousands of people come on football game weekends. They also remark that tradition--one that Rudy helped make--is the great strength of their school.
(5) Good Will Hunting
Featured school: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In this academic love story from 1997, Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon) goes from working as the janitor at the world-famous MIT to being inadvertently discovered for having one of the keenest mathematical intellects of the century. Students at MIT boast that it is "the ultimate academic powerhouse." To that end, the school is "hard to get into and hard to stay in." While Will has no problem proving his capacity to do the most cutting-edge math, he finds it harder to express his love for Harvard undergrad Skylar (played by Minnie Driver).
(4) A Beautiful Mind
Featured school: Princeton
This 2001 biopic about the mathematician John Nash (played by Russell Crowe) offers insights into mental illness, the mathematical analysis known as game theory, and of course, campus life at Princeton. Like Good Will Hunting, this film succeeds at dramatizing the unlikely combination of math and romance. The leading lady in this case is Nash's wife, Alicia (Jennifer Connelly), and though the two face a different set of troubles than Will and Skylar did, they share a similar strength of love, which blossoms on the New Jersey campus. At Princeton, undergrads like having access to Nobel laureates--like Nash--"who teach you and give you appointments" for their office hours.
(3) Animal House
Featured schools: The fictional Faber College is based on cowriter Chris Miller's experiences at Dartmouth College and was filmed at the University of Oregon.
"We can do anything we want. We're college students!" the characters in this classic 1978 film proudly declare. Although the college in Animal House is fictional, it's widely known to be based, at least to some degree, on real-life experiences. This is the movie that brought you the brothers of Delta and Omega and their many toga parties (which, after the movie's release, became increasingly popular at colleges across the country). While some administrators (Dean Wormer, for example) may object to this party-school mentality, many students think of Animal House as a model for how college ought to be.
(2) Forrest Gump
Featured school: University of Alabama
In this classic 1994 film (based on the 1985 book by Winston Groom), Tom Hanks delivers an Oscar-winning performance playing the title character. Despite his below-average IQ, Forrest finds himself in a number of truly remarkable situations: giving dance lessons to Elvis and meeting Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, for example. He's also drafted to play on the University of Alabama football team after his extraordinary running ability is discovered by the team's legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. (While at the school, Forrest also witnesses the famous desegregation of the campus as well as George Wallace's infamous blocking of the doors.) Today's 'Bama students confirm that the school's athletic tradition continues: "People really love sports here, especially football. It's a really athletic school with great recreational facilities."
(1) The Graduate
Featured school: UC-Berkeley
This classic 1967 film (based on the 1963 novel) starring Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman tells a tale of an illicit romance between Benjamin Braddock and Mrs. Robinson, the mother of Elaine (Katharine Ross), with whom Ben ultimately falls in love. He even follows Elaine to the University of California-Berkeley. But can his affection for her persuade Elaine to forgive him for his affair with her mother? We'll venture to guess it's not a question that most of today's Berkeley students ponder, even in the "amazing number and variety of classes" offered at the UC flagship campus. The profs there, if asked, might advise that having an affair with the mother of your girlfriend is not the best way to win her heart. They may concede that it does make a classic movie plot, though.
Aside from 3 or 4 of these movies, the rest of the list is complete crap. and isn't The Graduate more of a post-college movie?