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The 15 Best College Movies of All Time

Whether you’re in school now, a graduate, or have never even attended, the enduring popularity of movies about university is undeniable. Many elements of film that are so prevalent they verge on cliche were born in the college movie genre, and Animal House started it all.

Rather than a mishmash of movies that happen to take place in universities, these films exemplify some of the funniest and most inspiring aspects of college life and college students anywhere – Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska – can appreciate them.

15. Legally Blonde

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While this film’s inclusion in the list may leave some fellows scratching their noggins, let’s look at it from an objective standpoint. Legally Blonde is the best girl power college flick ever filmed. It’s funny, heartwarming at times, and a lot smarter than the subject matter suggests. The characters are over the top on purpose, but even then, we can all say we’ve known someone like Elle Woods.

14. Good Will Hunting

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The film that put Ben Affleck and Matt Damon on the map, Good Will Hunting is a tale of a janitor who has a secret gift for mathematics. The film explores the boundaries between academics and those from blue-collar backgrounds, something which Damon’s character struggles with as he learns he has to leave his neighborhood and best friend behind–something all students and grads can relate to.

13. Urban Legend

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For many of us, spooky storytelling and late-night horrorfests are as integral a part of our college experience as beer and toga parties. Urban Legend brings together some of the most memorable tales we’ve all heard swapped around, and then shamelessly, brutally executes them upon a gaggle of unwitting students who were just trying to spook one another out. Whoops.

12. The Skulls

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Continuing with the creepy theme, we come to our next film, which details the secret and horrific inner workings of a campus secret society. The Order in the film is an ape of Yale’s real life Skull and Bones Society, whose members include George W. Bush. Secret societies are another classic slice of university lore, even if real ones don’t usually feature murder and duels on a regular basis.

11. Wonder Boys

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Based on Michael Chabon’s novel of the same name, this film focuses on a creative writing professor desperate to have his latest book published and his enigmatic, suicide-obsessed student. Their journey together is darkly quirky, and reminds us of just the sort of professor that made us consider grad school. Until we worried we might end up like him.

10. Rudy

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Rudy is the first sports film and the biggest tearjerker on this list by far. The film follows the journey of Daniel Ruetteger as he follows his dreams to play football for Notre Dame, despite mediocre athletic performance, a poor background, and the fact that he is only half the size of the other players. Even if you couldn’t follow a game of football if you tried, this one isn’t to be missed.

9. The Rules of Attraction

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From the mind that brought you American Psycho, this flick covers the unusual and delicate ground of a love triangle between a virgin, a drug dealer, and a bisexual classmate. Everybody loves somebody, everybody’s screwing somebody, and some people are desperately trying to prove they aren’t gay. Sound like your college love life?

8. St. Elmo’s Fire

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A group of spoiled, self-centered graduates struggle with getting over college life and trying to put a foot through the doorway of the real world. Though the characters in this film are sometimes so obnoxious it hurts, the depiction of that floundering stage between college and adulthood hits you where it counts.

7. Dead Man on Campus

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A college classic. It’s an urban legend old as the Ivy League that the roommates of students who kill themselves are granted straight A’s, which leads two buddies in danger of flunking out to seek a suicidal roommate. Despite their best efforts, their plans end up going horribly wrong. Unfortunately, most of us are already aware that bereavement passing is just a myth.

6. Back to School

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While having a millionaire dad may be a popular daydream, your dad showing up to go to school with you is undoubtedly a worst nightmare. Rodney Dangerfield does just that in Back to School, where he tries to excite his son about school by attending alongside him. Predictably, he finds himself more than a little distracted by partying, and unlike his son, he can just pay professionals to do his classwork for him.

5. With Honors

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Hey, remember Brendan Fraser? In this movie, he plays a smug Harvard undergrad who’s convinced he’ll graduate with flying colors… until his prized thesis ends up in the position of a homeless man played by Joe Pesci. While the premise is a little questionable, this college flick deals out a heaping helping of amusement along with some valuable life lessons, as Fraser’s character soon finds out.

4. The Graduate

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Where do you go after school? What do you do? If you’re smart, you’ll probably get a job instead of going home, getting depressed, lazing by the pool, and having an affair with your friend’s mother. While not a college movie in the strictest sense, no other film captures the lethargy and frustration of the post-college years quite like this one, where we watch a young Dustin Hoffman try to sort through the values of the world he’s been dumped into upon graduating.

3. Revenge of the Nerds

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Another classic, this college movie takes us back to the day when being a nerd was not an acceptable thing. Some of you probably don’t even remember back that far, but that’s all right–if you were ever ostracised, made fun of, dissed, or dumped because you knew your way around a computer, then you’ll feel a small share in the triumph of the Lambdas as they give the jocks their just deserts.

2. The Social Network

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This recent film takes us into the mind of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose world-spanning creation began humbly in a Harvard dorm. Regardless of all the partying, football, murder, and mayhem on this list, this film is a keen reminder of how college students have the potential to effect the entire world.

1. National Lampoon’s Animal House

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Simply put, this is the gold standard by which all other college movies are measured. It would be sacrelige to not cap off the list with this frat classic. The low-class Deltas and their inspiring, hilarious underdog struggle against the school’s elites remains an inspiration for anyone making college movies today.

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