It hardly seems possible, but the fall semester is almost over. Throughout the next week, students at CCC and NAU will be cramming through the night before stumbling, bleary-eyed, into their final exams. It’s a time of anticipation, anxiety and academic saturation compounded by winter weather and holiday planning. Need a break, young scholars? Take a couple hours of downtime, grab some pizza and settle in for one of these classic college comedies.
National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) The more things change, the more they stay the same. This 1978 quintessential farce about the proud members of Delta Tau Chi at Faber College, circa 1962, who must ace their finals (or steal the answers?) to make it through Dean Wormer’s double secret probation continues to influence new generations of toga-clad youth. From food fights to parade hijinks, Animal House is the standard by which other coed comedies are judged. In 2001, the United States Library of Congress ordered its preservation in the National Film Registry, citing it as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Anything to make you feel better about procrastinating, right?
Revenge of the Nerds (1984) Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards made it cool to be uncool with their portrayals of Lewis and Gilbert, best friends who are mercilessly mocked as college freshmen. When they’re displaced from the dorm, the geeks go Greek, recruiting a house full of dorks to form their own fraternity and battle the jocks. This is pure ‘80s, and that’s OK.
Legally Blonde (2001) Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is a sorority girl at a sunny California university, obsessed with fashion, shopping and that little dog of hers, too. But when her snooty boyfriend breaks up with her instead of proposing, pointing to his need to find a more serious woman who will fit in with his studies at Harvard Law, Elle decides to apply to the same program. Though the basic plot can be somewhat formulaic and predictable, director Robert Luketic and writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, working from Amanda Brown’s book, make some powerful points about empowerment, stereotyping and privilege. And Witherspoon’s performance is fantastic, leading to a 2003 sequel and a reported 2020 follow-up.
Old School (2003) Mitch (Luke Wilson) has an unfaithful girlfriend; Frank (Will Ferrell) is newly married; and Bernard (Vince Vaughn) is living the dad life, missing the guy time of his younger days. So after an epic housewarming party at Mitch’s new place near campus, why not turn the old house into a fraternity? It’s a silly movie with a plot that devolves into Meatballs-y competition, but Ferrell’s unbridled enthusiasm (“Let’s go streaking! Bring your green hat!”) and some classic slapstick elevate Old School into classic college movie territory.