There are hundreds, maybe thousands of movies about life in college, and for good reason: it’s a transformative experience.
It’s the perfect backdrop for stories about characters progressing through a range of emotions, generally ending with a positive outcome in a conveniently packaged story arc.
Here are some of our favorite movies set in that amazing, exciting, yet confusing and triumphant time of life.
This movie is a classic tale about an underdog who remains true to his passion, follows his dreams, and comes out on top.
Overcoming physical obstacles such as dyslexia, coupled with a comparatively small stature, Sean Astin’s character is accepted to the prestigious Notre Dame University and eventually fulfills his dream of playing on the Fighting Irish football team.
Seated in a bed of fluffy pop tunes and cheesy choreography, this aca-drama is another tale of self-discovery and the importance of teamwork.
While it may be labeled as a “chick flick”, both guys and gals alike can’t help but laugh out loud at the collegiate antics peppered throughout this movie.
This film’s main character starts out as a self-involved, superficial young woman, who, through the course of the movie, comes to realize her own intelligence and independence as well as the importance of helping others.
Beyond the clichés lies a timeless message about the value of hard work, self-reliance, and selfless giving that transcends the late 1990s/early 2000’s obsession with fashion.
Although this movie is geared towards children, the whole family will enjoy watching Mike and Sulley’s outrageous antics as their friendship develops and the story progresses.
We learn that if monsters from all backgrounds band together to overcome their pride, they will succeed. The results are both heartwarming and hilarious!
A perennial favorite that’s not as much about school as it is about friendship, love, and beating the odds.
Who can forget the streaking or the house party with a cameo by Snoop Dogg? And what about the superfluous Andy Dick scene? Underneath the Vince Vaughn monologues and Will Ferrell antics, this film is a must-watch tale of good guys winning.
Dead Poets Society
What is there to say about Dead Poet’s Society that hasn’t been said? A true classic, its inclusion on this list was a given.
Whenever most people hear ‘O Captain, my Captain”, they think of Robin Williams’ iconic character, Mr. Keating. Go out and Carpe Diem, everyone!
After a computer malfunction, Brendan Fraser‘s character is extorted by Joe Pesci’s character into exchanging food, shelter, and other services for the only extant copy of his thesis, one page at a time.
Pesci’s character develops a deeper relationship with Fraser and his friends, and the group learns lessons they couldn’t get in the classrooms at Harvard.
Paul Rudd and Tina Fey star in engaging dramatic roles, and we get a peek at the admissions process for an ivy-league college. There’s far more to this love story than romance.
Good Will Hunting
Robin Williams turns up for the second time on our list in a dramatic role.
This film takes place partly at MIT, but largely deals with the development of Matt Damon’s character as he, despite being a genius, struggles with personal relationships and his fear of getting close to others.
The Social Network
Dramatized or not, this story of the beginnings of Facebook is a good watch. Maybe there’s not a moral to this story, though it might be a cautionary tale about business practices or why being a jerk usually leads to bad karma.
A common theme of these movies, and of college itself, is figuring out who you are. Of course, these films also show drunken antics, love mishaps, inevitable conflict with family and friends, a little trouble with the law, and many other escapades, but underlying all that is self-discovery.
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