The 8 Best Movies About College

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Movies: Colleges Star on the Silver Screen

Hollywood loves college kids - both as an audience and a movie topic. So it's no wonder that movies featuring colleges, set on college campuses or starring rampaging psycho roommates are so very popular. Even Indiana Jones was a college professor, after all.

So if you're planning a DIY college film festival or just looking to delight your college kid by tucking a classic DVD in a care pacakge, here's a quick look at movies about college, from classics like "Animal House" to Tina Fey's "Admission."

Animal House

This is the classic college flick, with toga parties, rabble rousing frat boys, babes and keggers, all centered around the infamous Delta Tau Chi fraternity house. John Landis directed the 1978 film, Harold Ramis co-wrote the script, and John Belushi played his most famous role as John "Bluto" Blutarsky, wearer of togas and provocateur extraordinaire. Also in the cast, Kevin Bacon, Tom Hulce and Karen Allen.

It's the movie that spawned many parents' worst nightmares about their sons joining fraternities. Needless to say, Bluto does not participate in any of the philanthropic efforts or team-building activities that mark the rosier side of fraternity and sorority life. He does, however, bring new enthusiasm to the term "food fight."

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Ten Things I Hate About You (1999)

Ten Things I Hate About You
Touchstone Pictures

Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" gets a total makeover - and a college twist - in "Ten Things I Hate About You" (1999). Here, Julia Stiles plays Kat Stratford, the older sister who has eyes only for her college goals. She dreams of going to Sarah Lawrence. Meanwhile, little sis Bianca, played by Larisa Oleynik, yearns to date, but she isn't allowed to until Kat does as well. The film co-stars Heath Ledger, as bad boy and prospective beau Patrick Verona.

By the film's end, Kat's Sarah Lawrence dream is realized. And in a cool, real world twist, turns out that Oleynik ended up graduating from that university in 2004.

College dreams loom large in other movies as well. Hilary Duff's character in "A Cinderella Story" dreams of attending Princeton, despite her evil stepmother's machinations. And Mia Thermopolis, the hero of "The Princess Diary" movie and books, ends up at Sarah Lawrence on the printed page, at least.

Of course, real world college admissions 101 is plenty dramatic enough on its own, without the addition of villains and plot twists.

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Legally Blonde (2001)

Legally Blonde
Actress Reese Witherspoon in a scene from Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Pictures' comedy "Legally Blonde.". Photo courtesy Tracy Bennett/MGM Pictures

OK, so getting into Harvard Law School is not nearly as easy as Reese Witherspoon's heroine makes it look, but any audience will thrill to the tale of sorority girl - and legal eagle - Elle Woods anyway. "Legally Blonde" was such an irresistible bit of fluff, it proved not only a cinematic box office hit, but a Broadway phenomenon as well.

Don't look to Elle for tips on conquering the LSAT. And whatever you do, don't let your kid submit a pink, scented resume anywhere. But the plot about a bright young blonde, dismissed as an airhead, who goes on to lawyerly glory, is a gem. 

P.S. The role of Harvard University was played by the University of Southern California.

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Accepted (2006)


College apps season is a terribly stressful time - and there's always that lingering fear that maybe, your kid won't get in anywhere. Which is why it's so important to get that reality check about what's a reasonable college expectation and not let the parent in you drive the process. Because the comedy "Accepted" (2006) very vividly and hilariously depicts what happens when those rejections come piling in, and Dad is not the forgiving sort.

Here, high school senior and slacker extaordinaire Bartleby Gaines, played by Justin Long, hides his rejection letters and instead creates his own university, South Harmon Institute of Technology. It might have been a good idea, if not for the fabulousness of his fake website, which lures all sorts of other rejected seniors. Soon, Bartleby finds himself having to create an actual school on the grounds of a psychiatric hospital.

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Toy Story 3 (2010)

Toy Story 3
Actor Tom Hanks arrives at the premiere of Walt Disney Pictures' "Toy Story 3" at Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Everyone knows about Pixar's beloved and famous toy cowboy, Woody, and his sidekick Buzz Lightyear. But "Toy Story 3" (2010) reaches new depths - and heights, to infinity and beyond - of emotion in its tale of the little boy who grew up. As Andy packs up his room and prepares to leave for college, his old toys accidentally end up at a child care center, where various hijinks ensue. But for parents and college kids, the tears start flowing at that moment of departure, when Andy's mother suddenly places a hand on her heart and realizes that he's really and truly leaving.

It's a charming, wonderful movie, filled with the voices of the stars who own those parts - Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen as Buzz, and all those other beloved characters. But it's those themes of the impending empty nest, the farewell and even the little sister's emotions that truly resonate.

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The Roommate (2011)

The Roommate
Actresses Minka Kelly (left) and Leighton Meester arrive at the screening Of Screen Gems' "The Roommate.". Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Between "Single White Female," and "Misery," psycho roommates seem to be their own little cinematic genre. The latest entry in that category is "The Roommate," a Screen Gems/Sony horror movie that landed in theaters in early 2011. The film stars Minka Kelly, from "Friday Night Lights," and Leighton Meester, who plays the Machiavellian Blair Waldorf on "Gossip Girl," as college roommates. Meester plays the role of Rebecca, the decidedly unbalanced freshman who takes an obsessive interest in her roommate, Sara, played by Kelly. Brrr.

Adding to the fun, several scenes from the film were shot on location at Southern California's gorgeous Loyola Marymount University and the equally stunning University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Of course, there are plenty of non-cinematic nightmare roommates out there. But Blair, er, Rebecca takes it to a whole new level.

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Liberal Arts (2012)

Josh Radnor
"Liberal Arts" producers Claude Dal Farra and Brice Dal Farra, co-star Allison Janney, producer Lauren Munsch, and actor and director Josh Radnor at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images For BCDF

Kenyon College takes a starring role in Josh Radnor's "Liberal Arts," a 2012 Sundance Festival darling that won hearts and laughs with its depiction of a 35-year-old New York college admissions counselor, who finds love - or at least mad flirtation - when he goes back to his alma mater for a favorite professor's retirement dinner.

Radnor, who co-stars on CBS-TV's "How I Met Your Mother" and directed "Happythankyoumoreplease" as well as this film, is a Kenyon alum. So is Allison Janney (class of '82) whose professorial portrayal is based on her favorite Kenyon drama prof. And much of "Liberal Arts" was filmed on the Gambier, Ohio campus.

The rest of cast includes Elizabeth Olsen, who plays sophomore Zibby, Radnor's 16-years-younger love interest. Richard Jenkins takes on the role of the rumpled English prof whose retirement is being feted, while Zac Efron plays a campus hippie. Catch it in theaters later in 2012.

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Admission (2013)

Tina Fey
Tina Fey, Lily Tomlin and Paul Rudd celebrate at an after-party following the New York premiere of "Admission," their new movie based on the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images Entertainment

Tina Fey, of "30 Rock," "Mean Girls" and Saturday Night Live fame, stars in "Admission," a movie based on Jean Hanff Korelitz's novel of the same name. "Admission," which opened in March 2013, is the tale of Portia Nathan, a Princeton University admissions officer, whose emotions and secrets get spectacularly in the way one admissions season when she meets a particularly intriguing young applicant - who may or may not be the son she gave up for adoption - and the appealing head of his alternative school. The latter is played by Paul Rudd.

Half the fun of the book was the inside look at the Ivy League admissions process, through the eyes of an author who once worked as an application reader. The book was not a comic romp - it was a drama - but the movie, which was filmed on location at Princeton, offers plenty of humor and several plot differences. It co-stars Wallace Shawn as Portia's boss and Lily Tomlin as her mother.