The five best college movies

By Brian Jenkins, from

For many, college life is the last opportunity to get away with senseless acts and questionable taste. After graduating we are forced to live vicariously through adventurous misfits, like Bluto from Animal House.” Here’s my list of the five best college comedies ever made. If you haven’t seen any of these, you should update your Netflix queue!

National Lampoon’s Animal House

Just about every college-themed comedy gets compared to this classic. The wacky movie, set in the early 1960s, reminds us of the days when college life was much simpler, beer was cheaper, and girls were much harder to seduce. When the movie came out, critics called “Animal House” “raunchy” or “vulgar,” but compared to recent movies, perhaps the word “silly” is more appropriate. It’s certainly not a sophisticated comedy — the movie entertains you with craziness and overindulgence.

If you’ve ever seen the movie you still remember the big time partier Bluto, played by John Belushi, crushing a beer can against his forehead for no good reason or climbing a ladder to lustfully peak at a sorority pillow fight — yes, a pillow fight! Ah, the old days. Perhaps you remember the line from Dean Wormer: “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.” Yes, the movie is filled with silly pranks and foolish behavior, but it actually takes talent to produce this type of comic pitch.

Wonder Boys

Michael Douglas stars in this film as Gady Tripp, a perpetually stoned English professor and novelist with writer’s block. “Wonder Boys” is a humorous and touching story featuring everything you probably would not expect to see in a movie about a college professor: Marilyn Monroe memorabilia, a dead dog, adultery, guns, drugs, cops, and a stolen car. It’s not a silly movie, but a smart movie with intriguing characters and life lessons.

The movie is centered on one wild weekend on a real campus. One of the more memorable lines from the movie goes like this: “Now that is a big trunk. It holds a tuba, a suitcase, a dead dog and a garment bag almost perfectly.” “Wonder Boys” is a screwball comedy played at real-life speed. If you haven’t seen it, you’ll enjoy it.

Real Genius

The classic 1980s college comedy takes a different path than “Animal House” — it’s actually about a likeable, brilliant guy named Chris Knight, played by Val Kilmer, who goofs off to avoid burning out on his work. After all, not all college students are lobotomized sex maniacs as depicted in most college comedies. Many real-life college students resemble the students in “Real Genius”; smart, complicated, quirky, and somewhat socially awkward. It’s not your run-of-the-mill raunchy, unsophisticated college movie; a lot of the laughs come from the dead-pan delivery of Val Kilmer.

Revenge of the Nerds

This goofball classic features a few nerds attending a fictitious campus. This group of shunned, geeky students, including a guy who builds robots, a slob, and a pre-teenage genius, get harassed by football players from the Alpha Beta fraternity and ridiculed by the appealing women of Pi Delta Pi. The outcasts then start their own fraternity and begin to exact revenge. Yes, it’s simplistic, dorky and juvenile, but the movie has its funny moments. The film’s message is clear: Nerds are actually cool once you get to know them. If you like deceptively smart, dumb comedies, go ahead and rent this one.

Back to School

Rodney Dangerfield plays Thorton Melon, a self-made millionaire, who made his fortune from a chain of “Tall and Fat” stores. Thorton decides to go back to school with his son to get an education and get away from his cheating wife. It’s a good-natured movie with a cornucopia full of funny bits and gags.

The bad-mannered Thorton tries desperately to earn the respect of his son. Dangerfield looking for respect? Sounds about right. A typical Dangerfield joke spices up his graduation speech: “It’s a jungle out there, so my advice is don’t go.” The fun-loving, crass Thorton guzzles beer, loves parties and actually hires experts, such as Kurt Vonnegut Jr., to ghostwrite his term papers (there were no Internet term paper mills back then). If you like one-liners, this movie is for you.

Do you agree with my top 5? Did I leave any classics out? Leave a comment and get the discussion going!

Brian Jenkins writes about a variety of topics related to the college experience for

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