The 25 best movies about college

The 25 best movies about college

The college setting has been a popular one when it comes to Hollywood. Movies based around the college theme, whether sports or academics, comedies or dramas, have always been popular.

Here's out ranking of the 25 best college movies of all time.

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25. National Lampoon's Van Wilder (2002)

National Lampoon's Van Wilder (2002)
Artisan Entertainment

Coolidge College is such a fun place that "Van" Wilder (Ryan Reynolds) has been there for seven years. That said, the goofball has a good heart and actually offers some useful knowledge to pass along to his fellow undergrad students. While critics were lukewarm to the movie, it did spawn two more less popular films in the series (a sequel and straight-to-video prequel). 

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24. Sydney White (2007)

Sydney White (2007)
Universal Studios

This one probably flew under many radars, but enjoyed some popularity thanks to cable television. Amanda Bynes stars as Sydney , a tomboyish freshman at the fictitious SAU, has a run-in with sorority queen bee Rachel (Sara Paxton) and befriends a group of seven geeky classmates (see the Snow White kind of theme), who help her get some revenge on the matter and generate her own popularity -- for the better of all.

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23. The Waterboy (1998)

The Waterboy (1998)
Touchstone Pictures

This is certainly one of Adam Sandler's most memorable characters. He stars as Bobby Boucher, a socially-challenged, slow-witted adult waterboy for the dysfunctionally pathetic University of Louisiana football team. Bobby eventually takes his pent up rage from being bullied throughout his life out on the team's quarterback with a vicious hit, eventually enrolls in college, joins the team and helps turn the program's fortunes around.

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22. The Program (1993)

The Program (1993)
Touchstone Pictures

A favorite with college football fans. This James Caan vehicle explored the dark side of the sport. Steroids, cheating, emotional and mental distress -- all the effects of the win-at-all-costs program at powerhouse ESU. The film was not without controversy. A lying-in-the-middle-of-the-road traffic scene was deleted from showings shortly after release. 

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21. Necessary Roughness (1991)

Necessary Roughness (1991)
Paramount Pictures

This is just a fun movie, nothing more. Scott Bakula stars as a 30-something farmer recruited to fulfill his once-lost college football dreams at former powerhouse Texas State, which now must rebuild with a group of misfits lacking talent following severe violations to the program. Stars of the 1980s and '90s like Sinbad and Kathy Ireland also deliver solid performances that even football fans can appreciate.

6 of 25

20. The Rules of Attraction (2002)

The Rules of Attraction (2002)
Lions Gate Films; Concorde Filmverleih

Based on another of Bret Easton Ellis' great novels. There's plenty of heat and steamy intrigue at Camden College. Especially when it comes to drug-dealing Sean (James van der Beek), virgin Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon) and the bisexual Paul (Ian Somerhalder). Like Less Than Zero and American Psycho, this is another example of an Ellis book that translated well onto the screen. 

7 of 25

19. With Honors (1994)

With Honors (1994)
Warner Bros.

The first of several films on this list with Harvard University as its setting. A group of good-looking classmates -- Brendan Fraser, Patrick Dempsey, Moira Kelly and Josh Hamilton -- eventually befriend a homeless man (Joe Pesci), who forms a true bond with Monty (Fraser). It's good-hearted film, about friendship, purpose and regret. Typical of 1990s comedy-dramas, but definitely not time wasted.

8 of 25

18. Higher Learning (1995)

Higher Learning (1995)
Columbia Pictures

The late John Singleton had quite the cast to work with (Omar Epps, Tyra Banks, Michael Rapaport, Ice Cube, Jennifer Connelly, Kristy Swanson, Regina King, Laurence Fishburne) with this college drama. With fictional Columbus University as the setting, the film follows three incoming freshmen -- track star Malik (Epps), the wholesome and shy Kristen (Swanson) and confused Remy (Rapaport). While not as strong as Singleton's classic Boyz n the Hood, Higher Learning has the right amount of dramatic intensity to satisfy. 

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17. Blue Chips (1994)

Blue Chips (1994)
Paramount Pictures

Pete Bell (Nick Nolte) is one of the best college basketball coaches in the country. However, his Western University Dolphins just endured the worst season of Bell's tenure. How does he improve the program? Well, by doing something he never thought he'd stoop as low to do. Nolte is solid in this Bobby Knight-esque role, while former NBA stars Shaquille O'Neal and "Penny" Hardaway also shine.

10 of 25

16. School Daze (1988)

School Daze (1988)
Columbia Pictures

Starring Laurence Fishburne and Tisha  Campbell, this is one Spike Lee film that might not get the credit it deserves. This  musical comedy and drama follows fraternity and sorority life at historically black Mission College. Like pretty much every other Lee film, there are plenty of messages regarding social, political and conformist platforms. Similar to what's found at just about any four-year college campus in America.

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15. Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
Paramount Pictures

An underrated gem from Richard Linklater. One thing we know of the talented director is that he likes sports and music in his storylines. Set in the fall of 1980, there is plenty of late 1970s-early '80s rock (Cheap Trick), pop (Blondie) and punk (Stiff Little Fingers) to help tell the story of a group of college baseball players navigating their way through the game, school and love and lust.

12 of 25

14. Back to School (1986)

Back to School (1986)
Orion Pictures

Rodney Dangerfield was a mega-star during the 1980s and Back to School was one of his better films. Though not nearly as hilarious as Caddyshack and Easy Money, there are plenty of laughs to be had when millionaire clothing-store mogul Thornton Melon (Dangerfield) attends college with his son at Grand Lakes University. The movie also influenced many a kid to attempt -- for better but usually for worse -- a "Triple Lindy" at their local public swimming pools. 

13 of 25

13. Drumline (2002)

Drumline (2002)
20th Century Fox

The movie that turned Nick Cannon and Zoe Saldana into big-time stars. Being part of the marching band, and especially the drumline, at fictional Atlanta A&T is a big deal. Of course, Devon (Cannon) learns the hard way just what it takes to stay on the "line." A sequel followed, but was really no comparison to the movie that takes a well-detailed look into how much marching bands make up the experience at historically black colleges.

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12. Glory Road (2006)

Glory Road (2006)
Walt Disney Pictures

Josh Lucas stars as legendary college basketball coach Don Haskins. In 1966, Haskins guided Texas Western University (now known as University of Texas at El Paso or UTEP) to the national championship with a starting lineup featuring five black players. That was a complete rarity at the time, but how those players dealt with college life off the court is what adds to the intensity and emotional aspect of the story.

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11. Monsters University (2013)

Monsters University (2013)
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

This is the prequel to the 2001 hit Monsters, IncMonsters University  follows the hilariously volatile Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) to college, where he's majoring in Scare and meets eventual co-worker and best buddy "Sully" (John Goodman) to begin their adventurous friendship. The film made more than $740 million and holds up just as well as the first film. 

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10. Pitch Perfect (2012)

Pitch Perfect (2012)
Universal Pictures

There are three films in the Pitch Perfect franchise, but the first installment remains the best. The wonder of a capella greatness at Barden University is plain fun, thanks in part to stellar performers from versatile stars Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Skylar Astin and Ben Platt. The rivalry between the Barden Bellas and The Treblemakers is fierce, and highly entertaining. 

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9. Real Genius (1985)

Real Genius (1985)
Sony Pictures; Columbia Pictures; TriStar Pictures

Another classic from the 1980s. Val Kilmer stars as a care-free undergrad genius from Pacific Technical University who, along with wunderkind Mitch (Gabriel Jarrett), are roped into working on a laser project for a greedy professor. There's more to the project, but before getting the final say on the matter, Chris and Mitch have some fun that most smart college kids would envy.

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8. Legally Blonde (2001)

Legally Blonde (2001)

Reese Witherspoon's played some memorable roles during her career and has an Oscar to prove it. However, one of her most memorable ones came as Elle Woods, the former undergrad sorority diva who manages to gain acceptance into Harvard's prestigious law school. It's rough at first, but Elle pulls through enough to not only eventually graduate with honors but also earn a sequel. 

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7. Good Will Hunting (1997)

Good Will Hunting (1997)
Miramax Films

Harvard (again) and MIT are at the forefront in the movie that truly made Matt Damon and Ben Affleck household names . A delinquent slacker mathematical genius (Damon) works as a janitor at the most prestigious technical school in the world and falls in love with a Harvard beauty (Minnie Driver). He also gets drunk, starts fights with his Southie buddies and learns about life from a shrink (Robin Williams). It's one of those movies that when it's on, we just have to watch.

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6. The Social Network (2010)

The Social Network (2010)
Sony Pictures; Columbia Pictures

Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay and David Fincher directed this critically acclaimed film about Mark Zuckerberg's creation of Facebook while at Harvard . Jesse Eisenberg earned an Oscar nomination for his starring role, while Armie Hammer, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Rooney Mara are all quite impactful in supporting the cause. It's kind of easy to see why Zuckerberg's takes a lot of heat -- even today.

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5. Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Columbia Pictures

Julia Roberts got paid $25 million to play Katherine Ann Watson, a graduate student who shapes the minds and hearts of a group of young woman while teaching art history at Wellesley College. Katherine's teaching methods are somewhat unorthodox, but she offers her students a new approach to critical thinking, while also instilling a sense of empowerment. Julia Stiles, Kirsten Dunst and Maggie Gyllenhaal also deliver quality performances.

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4. Old School (2003)

Old School (2003)
Dreamworks Pictures

Todd Phillips' movies are not for everyone, but Old School is one that certainly delivers. Adults starting their own fraternity that ultimately draws students to a house just off the campus of the fictional Harrison University? That proved to be comedy gold, thanks in large part to Will Ferrell's Frank "The Tank."  Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson also put forth memorable performances, but Ferrell is the undisputed star of this film.

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3. Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
20th Century Fox

Back in the 1980s, there was no finer college comedy than the one that unfolded at Adams College. A group of underdog geeks -- led by computer nerds Lewis (Robert Carradine) and Gilbert (Anthony Edwards) -- band together to not only form their own fraternity, but also take down all those jocks and face men. Not to mention, that highly entertaining talent show performance. 

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2. Rudy (1993)

Rudy (1993)
Sony Pictures; Columbia Pictures; TriStar Pictures

Not only one of the best college movies of all time, but near the top when talking inspirational sports films. Sean Astin stars as the undersized, overachieving "Rudy" Ruettiger, the real-life Chicago-area resident who worked his way into Notre Dame as a student and ultimately a walk-on member of the Irish football team. Need a lift? This is one movie that's certain to get the job done.

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1. National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)

National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)
Universal Pictures

One does not have to be or have been in a fraternity to appreciate this legendary comedy about the dysfunctional yet hilariously entertaining Delta Tau Chi house at Faber College (Remember, "Knowledge Is Good"). This John Landis classic also provided one of the memorable highlights of John Belushi's brilliant, yet short, acting career. And no, it "wasn't over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor." So, put on some "Louie Louie," grab a brew and enjoy.

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

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