The Top 16 College Movies of All Time
When the American Film Institute dropped its 100 greatest films back in 1998, it included nary a college flick. The list apparently was compiled without consulting a person under the age of 45. Ever sit through the appropriately titled From Here to Eternity (No. 52)? Tried enduring The Birth of a Nation (44)? Neither has SIOC. We have, however, seen The Best Years of Our Lives (37) -- and it has about as much to do with college life as Star Wars (15).
In an effort to improve, and significantly vitalize, the quality of your lazy Saturday afternoons, SIOC watched every movie about the real Best Years of Our Lives, from the half-baked (How High) to the over-baked (Higher Learning), to come up with our very own list of the top 16 college movies ... as well as the worst ever.
You may notice a sports flavor to our nominees. Face it: The tensions of curve-breaking and roommate squabbles just don't keep audiences' attentions. And that "What's the deal with loofahs and mini fridges?" bit has been done to death, leaving writers and directors tapping the sports well till it's run ... well, have you seen The Waterboy?
15. WONDER BOYS
Michael Douglas lets his hair down -- literally -- as a creative-writing prof who can't tie up the loose ends in his own book ... or in his life. His wife has left him; his book is well over 2,000 pages; a sultry student (Katie Holmes) is in love with him; his editor (Robert Downey Jr.) needs a manuscript; his prize pupil (Tobey Maguire) needs guidance; and his boss and girlfriend-on-the-side (Frances McDormand) is preggers with his baby.
SIGNATURE SPORTS MOMENT: Douglas's department head waxes philosophical on the Monroe-DiMaggio marriage.
14. HORSE FEATHERS
The Marx Brothers, the Wayans brothers of their day, team up in this old-timey, satirical condemnation of higher education and football. The quartet sets about correcting a college agenda that has for too long "neglected football for education." The troupe bungles its attempts to hire ringers and kidnap the opposition, finding itself in precarious positions -- like on the ravishing Thelma Todd's lap.
SIGNATURE SPORTS MOMENT: In the pigskin finale the comedy team outwits the opposition, slipping would-be tacklers with banana peels and galloping to the end zone in a horse-drawn chariot.
12 & 13. THE PROGRAM/BLUE CHIPS
They're basically the same movie, aren't they? Coach at State U. feels pressure to return his team to its winning ways -- at any cost. Put the children to bed before popping in The Program, which gives screen time to every vice imaginable. Blue Chips plays more family-friendly: Recruits get lured into a world of point-shaving and grade-bending in a true cameo-whorer flick.
SIGNATURE SPORTS MOMENT: The Program: Heisman hopeful Joe Kane is slain on the tennis court by the original Buffy (Kristy Swanson). Blue Chips: Coach Bell's recruiting trip takes him to see Shaq ballin' in the Bayou, Penny in a dilapidated gym.
THEY SAID IT: "All the partying is a little over the top. I'm not a Joe Kane character. He met [his girlfriend] in the weight room, though, which is not too far off. I meet a ton of girls in the weight room that I've never met before."
Angelo Pizzo (of Hoosiers fame) fudges facts all over the script but reminds a younger generation that -- no lie -- the Irish used to have a decent football squad. This heartwarming little pic about a little guy from a little town making it on college football's grandest stage is still shown to underdog teams before big games and has played a crucial role in landing Irish recruits, including current QB Brady Quinn. No matter what you think of the Golden Domers, it's hard not to get at least a little verklempt when the five-foot-nothin', 100-and-nothin'-pound Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) gets carried off the field. Almost makes a grown man wanna cry. O.K., we cried. Hard.
SIGNATURE SPORTS MOMENT: Ruettiger nets a sack in the season finale -- and is financially set for the rest of his life.
THEY SAID IT: "It makes you want to go out and play instantly."
10. WITHOUT LIMITS
The second of two nearly identical biopics on Oregon runner Steve Prefontaine. (The earlier Jared Leto version simply blew.) Billy Crudup's mustache alone warrants an Oscar. Precision casting includes a top-of-his-game Donald Sutherland as coach Bill Bowerman and up-and-comers such as Monica Potter (Saw), Matthew Lillard (Scooby-Doo) and Jeremy Sisto (Six Feet Under).
SIGNATURE SPORTS MOMENT: Sutherland tinkers with the waffle soles of running shoes, a hobby that later led to a small family-owned business called Nike.
9. ROAD TRIP
Where have you gone, Tom Green? Last we saw, the Canadian cutup's second MTV show tanked hard. Lesson learned: Green is best served in small portions. Road Trip doles him out in perfect doses as narrator Barry Manilow, emcee of a 93-minute Ithaca College walking tour-road trip story recantation. His tale features a topless Amy Smart, a talking dog named Corky, a sex tape sent to the wrong girl and a cross-country trip that leaves little to the imagination. College at its best: when you're not there.
SIGNATURE SPORTS MOMENT: Horatio Sanz sticks French toast in his underpants, then feeds the sullied toast to a gleeful DJ Qualls. O.K., not sporty. Just funny.
8. BREAKING AWAY
Animal House for the community college/10-speed set. Four Bloomington Cutters (the nickname refers to stonecutting, a blue-collar job popular among locals) clash with Lee Corso-era Hoosiers meatheads and barge in on their Little 500 bike race, a long-standing IU tradition. Mike (Dennis Quaid) is the angsty athletic one. Cyril (Daniel Stern) is the lanky nut job. Moocher (Jackie Earl Haley) is the slack-jawed yokel. And Dave (Dennis Christopher) is the kooky one.
SIGNATURE SPORTS MOMENT: Dave races a moving van on a 50-mile highway stretch and later athletic-tapes his feet to his pedals for the 500.
7. NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VAN WILDER
EVERY FRAT-PARTY-LOVING 22-year-old with 12 credits to go before his life turns into a walking, talking Office Space can relate to Wilder's extreme case of super-senioritis. Extra kudos to Ryan Reynolds for overcoming gratuitous use of Tara Reid and bulldog testicles.
SIGNATURE SPORTS MOMENT: Then Clippers Michael Olowokandi, Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson cameoed as dunkalicious Coolidge College Chickadees.
THEY SAID IT: "It's my generation's Animal House -- which, I hate to say, I haven't even seen. Anytime you take a comedic look at college, it's an easy hit."
6. REVENGE OF THE NERDS
In this classic jocks (Alpha Betas)-versus-nerds (Tri Lambdas) battle, the underdogs triumph over the typically arrogant and overprivileged frat pack. It's the anti-John Hughes flick, and a pretty good Animal House knockoff to boot. Cliché dweebs with cliché names (Booger, Poindexter, Wormser) take on cliché college football bullies with cliché names (Ogre) and cliché cheerleader girlfriends. The head nerd ultimately seduces the quarterback's gal while wearing a Darth Vader mask. What? That's not your college experience? We should also mention that Adam Brody (The O.C.) is producing a remake.
SIGNATURE SPORTS MOMENT: The Alpha Betas put on a musical, gender-bending football skit, only to be topped by the Tri Lambs' geeked-out '80s jam session.
You're more likely to draw peppermint schnapps from a cow's teat than drama from a marching-band pic. But this offbeat wonder marches to the cadence of a different (and cornrowed) drummer: Nick Cannon as a stick twirler with a thing or two to learn about teamwork. Bonus points for a band brawl, Zoe Saldana as a dance-squad leader and a lack of "This one time, at band camp ..." gags.
SIGNATURE SPORTS MOMENT: The climactic BET Southern Classic spectacle, with Free and AJ Calloway (106 & Park), Blu Cantrell and Petey Pablo, makes Paul McCartney's Super Bowl halftime show look like -- well, we all know what it was.
SUPER BONUS: Real-life Battle of the Bands powerhouses such as Grambling performed, and the authenticity shows.
4. NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE
The original college-shenanigans movie. Deltas Otter, Boon, Bluto et al. lead pledges on a debaucherous journey through Semester One at Faber College. From "Toga!" parties to homecoming hijinks, the Delts continue to inspire misbehaving college students (not to mention a few movies on this list). Thirty years later you still find more John Belushi-in-college-sweater posters hanging on dormitory walls than Mona Lisas and Water Lilies combined. Props to ex-Oregon president William B. Boyd: He allowed the film to be shot on campus after he uppities at Missouri pooh-poohed hosting.
SIGNATURE SPORTS MOMENT: Otter and Boon work on their golf game with Neidermeyer's head serving as a target.
THEY SAID IT: "For a college athlete who lacks the true college experience, it's a great reminder of what the college experience is truly all about."
3. GOOD WILL HUNTING
Hunky bff's Matt Damon and Ben Affleck cowrote a brilliant screenplay about a genius MIT janitor struggling with love, life and an aggression problem that rivals those of most college coaches. Damon's NSA speech was a first glimpse of his acting chops, the boys got shiny Oscars, and every girl wanted to be Skylar (Minnie Driver). How 'bout dem apples?
SIGNATURE SPORTS MOMENT: Robin Williams and Damon leap to their feet as they discuss Carlton Fisk's 1975 World Series Game 6 dinger.
THEY SAID IT: "I especially like the scene at the Harvard bar when Matt Damon totally punks the Harvard student who was making fun of Ben Affleck."
If the concept of PC weren't so passé, one could make a serious argument for Jeremy Piven's masterstroke at No. 1. Still, this cult classic is required viewing for any high school student with college on the brain. David Spade's at his weaseliest, Jon Favreau's at his fattest, and Piven lends his best pre-Entourage performance as Droz Andrews, a frat-house flunky showing a potential frosh the college ropes: "Classes? Nothing before 11. Beer? It's your best friend; you'll drink a lot. Women? You're a freshman, so it's pretty much out of the question."
SIGNATURE SPORTS MOMENT: Says Spade of the Hippy Olympics Ultimate game: "It doesn't matter who wins, because they're all losers."
1. OLD SCHOOL
Not since Bobby Knight crash-landed on college basketball has anything existed so deliciously for the purpose of being quoted. This wonderfully sophomoric farce about a group of lackadaisical, middle-aged men starting their own college fraternity has quickly become a younger generation's must-see movie while clearly bewildering the Ebert set ("This is not a funny movie," blah, blah, blah). And did we mention the quotes? They taste so good when they leave your lips -- again and again. "Boy-band ass." "Earmuffs." "You're my boy, Blue!" Does it get old? Yeah, just like sex and chocolate and Bobby Knight get old.
SIGNATURE SPORTS MOMENT: Beanie (Vince Vaughn) coolly puffs a cig while doing the iron cross.
THEY SAID IT: "You can sit down and watch it a million times and always