As kids head back to campus, thoughts of chilly football stadiums, keggers, all-nighters and mid-terms fill the imagination.
While the reality of the college experience for most people is likely more about studying and surviving than partying, we’ve collected five iconic movies that fulfill every stereotype about college life. Two of our featured flicks take us onto Harvard’s campus. Although very few of us ever get to experience Harvard Yard, movies for generations have used the Ivy League backdrop for comedies.
Before Anthony Edwards became known as Dr. Mark Greene on the popular drama “ER,” he played second fiddle and Super Nerd in another of our choices. And, of course, what review of college movies is complete without the most-quoted, hilarious fraternity movie of the last century?
Hint: “Seven years of college down the drain!” says the chubby protagonist.
So, without further ado, let’s hit the books …
The Triple Lindy Comes To Grand Lakes University
Back-To-School Movie No. 5: “Back To School” (1986)
Millionaire Thornton Mellon (Rodney Dangerfield) didn’t go to college and wants his son Jason (Keith Gordon) to experience what he did not.
The only problem? Young Jason isn’t wildly interested in either the academic or the social life. So the owner of Thornton Mellon’s Big and Fat Stores decides to enroll right along with his son.
The plot memorably involves Dangerfield’s character, accompanied by the sweet but tough limo driver/masseuse/assistant Lou (Burt Young of “Rocky” fame), clashing with the college establishment, romancing his literature professor (Sally Kellerman) and bringing a diving victory to Grand Lakes University.
Oh, and both Mellon Sr. and Jr. learn valuable lessons — of course — by the time the credits roll. The movie offers three interesting cameos: the group Oingo Boingo, comedian Sam Kinison as a crazy professor, and writer Kurt Vonnegut as the ringer Mellon Sr. hires to write a paper on his own novels only to be told whomever wrote the paper “doesn’t know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut.”
On To Harvard And A Very Bad Tan
Back-To-School Movie No. 4: “Soul Man” (1986)
In the 25 years since “Soul Man” premiered, we’ve had a female black secretary of state and elected a black president. While “Soul Man” pretends to make a social statement about an affluent white student (played by C. Thomas Howell) acting as a poor black student at Harvard Law School, the plot is transparent.
The movie is somewhat funny, but was widely criticized for its taint of racism. Howell bungles through life with predictable hair gags, and eventually ‘fesses up when caught in the lie by his Caucasian parents and his black girlfriend Sarah Walker.
Rae Dawn Chong in the role of Howell’s girlfriend is a bright spot in the movie, along with her interactions with her son George, played by Jonathan Leonard.
Movie fun fact: A young Ron Reagan (i.e. the son of then-President Ronald Reagan) played the role of Frank.
Harvard Again, But This Time In Heels
Back-To-School Movie No. 3: “Legally Blonde” (2001)
“Legally Blonde” tackles sexism at Harvard Law School with student Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) also admitted under suspect circumstances. At the beginning of the movie, Woods is California sorority girl concerned with looks and pursuing her MRS degree. Woods’ other big goal is to get back the boyfriend who dumped her.
Along the way she discovers a propensity for law as well as a junior law professor played by Luke Wilson.That’s all fine and good, but the best part of the movie is the sub-plot between manicurist Paulette Bonafonté (Jennifer Coolidge) and “UPS Guy” (his actual name in the script), played by Bruce Thomas.
Witherspoon, donning horn-rimmed glasses, visits Bonafonté’s ex-husband in his tiny trailer home with the goal of retrieving some very special joint property. After Witherspoon spits out a mouthful of legalese, Coolidge’s character grabs the dog and defiantly states, “I’m here to get the dog, Dumb***!”
The Tri-Lambs Seek Revenge
Back-To-School Movie No. 2: “Revenge Of The Nerds” (1984)
When Adams College freshmen Lewis Skolnick (Robert Carradine) and pal Gilbert Lowe (Anthony Edwards) arrive on campus, there’s a housing shortage. They end up bunking in the gymnasium, along with a group of other displaced freshman.
Fortune strikes when fraternity rush leaves an eclectic band of self-proclaimed nerds left in the gym. Wanting to fit in, the nerds join the black fraternity on campus, and are subsequently harassed by the “cool” fraternity men.
The balance of the movie involves the “nerds” seeking revenge on the “cool” kids, including an old-fashioned panty raid and a finale at the Greek Games. The “nerds,” thanks to their extensive computer knowledge, put on a show with electronically generated music that brings the house down.
And in this dream sequence, the nerd leader gets the beautiful blonde cheerleader.
The Ultimate College Movie
Back-To-School Movie No. 1: “Animal House” (1978)
Two generations of movie goers know the plot — not to mention most of the lines — of “Animal House” by heart. But here goes anyway: In 1962, Delta House is the lowest of all Faber College’s fraternities. When Dean Vernon Wormer (character actor John Vernon) targets the squirrely-yet-hard-partying Deltas for elimination all kinds of hijinks and hilarity ensue. John Belushi became iconic as Bluto, the lovable slob in his “College” T-shirt, and was backed by the likes of Tom Hulce (later an Oscar nominee for “Amadeus”) and other famous faces including Kevin Bacon, Karen Allen, Tim Matheson, Peter Riegert and Donald Sutherland.
The movie is inane, stupid, silly and full of bad puns and strange scenes like when Belushi destroys the guitar of cameo-making musician Stephen Bishop. But all in all, “Animal House” is a classic that can be watched again and again, if only for the trivia.
Question: How did Otter’s alleged fiancee from the women’s college die?
Answer: Fawn Lebowitz, Fort Wayne, Ind., died in a kiln accident.
Published August 2012 at koco.com – KOCO-TV – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.