After four years, several all-nighters and an embarrassing amount of ramen, Hot Pockets and Dr. Pepper for dinner, I – alongside thousands of others across the country – am finally making the triumphant walk across the graduation stage from childhood to adulthood, snagging a diploma along the way.
It’ll be sad to leave college – the friends, the freedom, the free stuff (so much free stuff!) – but real life calls. Plus, if I ever get nostalgic for the university lifestyle, I can pop in one of these great college movies.
"National Lampoon’s Animal House"
Well, of course. 1978’s "National Lampoon’s Animal House" is one of the great all-time tributes to bad behavior and having fun. The inspired lunacy, debauchery and shenanigans of the Delta Tau Chi house are the stuff of cinematic comedy legend, from their raucous toga party to their chaotic sabotage of the homecoming parade. The best moment – and picking one is near impossible – would have to be Neidermeyer’s horse having a handgun-induced heart attack in Dean Wormer’s office. It’s one of the great moments in freeze-frame history, and Bluto’s stunned two-word response is the perfect punctuation. The Deltas may not have the GPAs to graduate, but their hijinks put this snobs versus slobs battle at the top of the class.
2006’s "Accepted," about the Apple guy (Justin Long) making his own college when the big schools reject him and his friends, may not have the same ribald rebelliousness of an "Animal House," but it still has a whole lot of fun. The story is yet another snobs versus slobs battle, but the cast, featuring a pre-"Superbad" Jonah Hill and rant-tastic comedian Lewis Black, is charming and constantly amusing, and the occasionally preposterous plot actually makes a surprisingly potent statement against the high-pressure world of higher education. I wouldn’t take it too seriously though; after all, the made-up school is called the South Harmon Institute of Technology. Check the acronym.
"The Social Network"
David Fincher’s "The Social Network" may not be exclusively about the college experience, but at least half of the movie does take place at a university (Harvard or Stanford). After all, where do the Winklevoss twins and Divya Narendra find out about Mark’s new project? The campus paper. And where do they go in their desperation to expose Mark’s thieving? The dean. Plus, what’s more crucial to the modern college experience than Facebook?
Writer Aaron Sorkin’s script – arguably one of the best of the past ten years – is outrageously snappy and witty, making you wish you were that clever back in your college days. It fits star Jesse Eisenberg like a glove, and Fincher was wise to cut back on his usual visual theatrics to put the spotlight on the rapid-fire wordplay. Even so, it still has the director’s famously particular eye for framing, lighting and shadows. Harvard has never looking so beautiful and oddly menacing … except maybe during finals week.
Mike Nichols’s era-defining dramatic comedy is more about life after college than college life itself (if you want a different one, my runner-up is "Legally Blonde" starring recent TMZ-star and self-proclaimed U.S. citizen Reese Witherspoon). The 1967 classic, however, really does capture the kind of aimless alienation of life after school, with Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman, a 30-year-old at the time playing a 21-year-old, though you’d never know it) trying to find where he’s going in life while distracted by both Mrs. Robinson and her daughter.
The love triangle and resulting soapy melodrama may have made the film famous, but "The Graduate" is more than just quotable. It really captures that awkward, confused period right in between college and adulthood, when the rest of one’s life and the decisions that will define it seem so close yet still so far away.
"Back to School"
The late Rodney Dangerfield’s one-liner-heavy routine hasn’t aged the finest over the years, but his 1986 college comedy "Back to School" is still A-grade funny (and I’m not just saying that because it used the University of Wisconsin as a backdrop). Dangerfield is very entertaining as the wealthy "Tall & Fat" entrepreneur Thornton Melon, who returns to college in order to encourage his son to stay in school. It’s the rest of the cast of characters that helps make "Back to School" stay funny. There’s legendary comedian Sam Kinison as a manic history professor, a young Robert Downey Jr. stars as the only friend of Thornton’s son, and Kurt Vonnegut even shows up in one of the best cameos in comedy history. I won’t spoil Vonnegut’s appearance for those who haven’t seen how it turns out, but suffice to say, Mr. Dangerfield, it’s very worthy of respect.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.