Best College Movies of All Time
Discover the greatest college movies that capture the wild, funny, and nostalgic essence of campus life.
Best College Movies of All Time
Whether they delve into the hilarious antics the students, explore their friendships and romances, or challenge societal norms, these college movies resonate with viewers who have experienced the rollercoaster ride of higher education.
Whether you're still in school or reminiscing about your own college days, these iconic films will continue to leave their mark.
Revenge of the Nerds
Year released: 1984
Director: Jeff Kanew
Box office: $60.4 million
A group of "nerds" — super-smart, socially awkward college students — are perpetually picked on by the jocks from the Alpha Beta fraternity. The nerds never let it get them down — instead they sett up their own frat and and make a plan to give the Alpha Betas a taste of their own medicine.
Some of humor in "Revenge of the Nerds" is problematic today, but the movie still has its charming moments and shows how finding your own people makes all the difference in the college experience.
Year released: 2012
Director: Jason Moore
Box office: $115.4 million
Who knew an a cappella group could be the coolest people on campus? In 2011, the all-girl Barden Bellas lost the national championship to their male rivals, the Barden Treblemakers, but find their shot in the arm in Beca (Anna Kendrick), a rebel with a talent for DJing and mixing.
Through Beca, the Bellas must work together, both musically and personally, to take on the Treblemakers and win the a cappella championship. With catchy tunes, sing-offs, and lots of laughs, this feel-good movie was successful enough to spawn two sequels.
Year released: 1985
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Box office: $91,666
"Fandango" is film virtually no one saw, but it has since become a cult classic in its own right. The film follows the Groovers, a group of frat brothers at Texas University looking for one last adventure upon graduation in 1971.
All the Groovers are somewhat ready to move on to adulthood, with the exception of Gardner Barnes (a tux-wearing Kevin Costner), who isn't quite ready for what lies ahead. Instead, he intends to dodge the draft and flee the country, but before he does, he convinces a few of his friends to drive with him down to the Mexican border to dig up something he refers to as "Dom."
Barnes soon finds he's not the only Groover to have been drafted. Beneath the fun and adventure the boys embark on, there's a nagging awareness of lost love and possible mortality.
Year released: 1997
Director: Mike Leigh
Box office: $2.4 million
"Career Girls" shows that the people you meet in college affect the rest your life, for better or worse.
College roommates Annie and Hannah reunite six years after college ends and spend time talking about how they've evolved over years. While together, they run into people they knew in college — these reunions are not without sadness.
The film weaves together flashbacks to their college days (and their fascination with The Cure) with their present-day interactions, highlighting how both women have changed and yet remain connected even though they are no longer really in each others lives.
Starter for Ten
Year released: 2006
Director: Tom Vaughan
Box office: $1.7 million
"University Challenge" is a trivia quiz show that's aired in the U.K. since 1962. (You may have seen in spoofed on "The Young Ones.")
Brian Jackson (James McAvoy), a working-class kid attending the University of Bristol, is a trivia whiz with dreams of being on the university's team on the show. The movie follows Brian as he navigates the challenges of school life, love, friendship, and trying to fit in with the elite crowd.
The '80s soundtrack and nostalgic vibes alone make "Starter for Ten" a trip down memory lane worth taking.
Year released: 1993
Director: David Anspaugh
Box office: $22.8 million
"Rudy" is the based on the story of real-life college football player Rudy Ruettiger.
Rudy (Sean Astin) wants to play football for Notre Dame. However, he's not exactly a natural talent; he faces a bunch of setbacks, including his small size and academic struggles. But he's got determination and a big heart. His hard work pays off when he gets finally gets to become a walk-on for the Fighting Irish.
If you're looking for a college-themed tearjerker and a real-life inspirational story about never giving up on your passions, "Rudy" is the movie for you.
Year released: 2003
Director: Todd Phillips
Box office: $86.7 million
When three middle-aged guys (Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn) decide to go back to campus and relive their youth by starting a fraternity, hilarity ensues. Their goal is to recapture the wild and carefree days of college life, complete with parties and pranks, but this idea tests their friendship in ways they hadn't counted on.
The film is known for its raucous humor and over-the-top antics — who can forget Frank the Tank's (Ferrell) streaking through the quad?
Back to School
Year released: 1986
Director: Alan Metter
Box office: $86.7 million
Nearly 20 years before "Old School," "Back to School" saw another middle-aged man head to campus, but for much different reasons.
Rodney Dangerfield stars as Thornton Melon, a rich man who missed out on college. To bond with his son and show him the importance of education, he decides to enroll in the same college as his son does.
Melon's extravagant lifestyle shakes things up on campus, leading to plenty of laughs and life lessons about the value of getting a degree ... and my goodness, that Triple Lindy.
Year released: 1967
Director: Mike Nichols
Box office: $104.9 million
The themes of alienation and the disillusionment of being a full-fledged adult typically plague recently graduates, which a movie like the "The Graduate" does well to depict.
Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) has just graduated from college and has no idea what to do with his life. He spends his days in an aimless haze, floating in his family pool.
While his parents pester him to find a path in life, he instead starts an affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), the wife of his father's business partner. The affair becomes even more challenging when Benjamin falls in love with Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine.
The Social Network
Year released: 2010
Director: David Fincher
Box office: $224.9 million
Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) co-founds a social media site called "FaceMash," where students can rate the attractiveness of their peers (think "Hot or Not".) "FaceMash" gains both attention and controversy for Zuckerberg, leading to a meeting with a wealthy and charismatic entrepreneur, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who personally invests in his next project.
"The Facebook" later turns into just "Facebook," and the rest is history. Zuckerberg (and the site) became global phenomenons, but leave a trail of old friendships and business relationships in their wake. "The Social Network" explores ambition, friendship, betrayal, and the blurred lines in between.
Year released: 2014
Director: Damien Chazelle
Box office: $49 million
Does Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) the ruthless and intense music teacher) drive an aspiring jazz drummer named Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) to madness, genius or a little bit of both?
"Whiplash" is a college movie that's not for the faint of heart. The story revolves around the intense and emotionally charged relationship between the two characters while exploring themes of obsession and the the cost of pursuing one's passion.
Simmons won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the abusive music teacher in 2015, and the film was also nominated for Best Picture that year. "Whiplash" is quite our tempo.
Year released: 1985
Director: Martha Coolidge
Box office: $13 million
"Real Genius" is the quintessential '80s college comedy, down to its use of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," but it has some serious elements, too.
A group of brilliant students, led by a pre-"Top Gun" Val Kilmer, live life to fullest at Pacific Technical University but soon find out their work on a classified laser project is being used for nefarious purposes by an unscrupulous professor in support of the military-industrial complex. In other words, it can be used as a weapon. With the help of their friends, they hatch a plan to sabotage the project.
Surprisingly, "Real Genius" is based on real-life experiences and projects at Cal-Tech in the 1960s and '70s. (And look for Jon Gries, later of "White Lotus" and "Napoleon Dynamite" fame, as Lazlo Hollyfeld, an eccentric genius who lives in the underground steam tunnels on campus.)
Year released: 2001
Director: Robert Luketic
Box office: $141.8 million
The story centers on Elle Woods, a fashion-conscious sorority girl played by Reese Witherspoon, who enrolls in Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend.
Initially underestimated due to her appearance and demeanor, Elle proves her legal acumen and determination while navigating the challenges of law school. The film is about female empowerment, breaking stereotypes, and the importance of being true to oneself. In other words, never judge a book by its cover!
National Lampoon's Animal House
Year released: 1978
Director: John Landis
Box office: $141.6 million
"Animal House" takes place in the early 1960s and follows the adventures of a misfit frat as they party and frequently clash with the college's strict dean, Vernon Wormer, who is determined to shut their house down.
It made SNL star John Belushi a household name, and while some of its humor doesn't land like it did, it is still the blueprint for college comedy films — and real-life college — today. (Toga parties were popularized by the movie and are still a staple of Greek life.)
Good Will Hunting
Year released: 1997
Director: Gus Van Sant
Box office: $225.9 million
Will Hunting (Matt Damon), a janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), possesses an exceptional knowledge of math. When he solves a complex problem that stumps the university's professors, he attracts attention.
Through the guidance of therapist Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), Will confronts his past and emotional issues in an attempt to reach his potential. The film, written by and starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, won Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Willams.)